Geoff Elliott and Mark Dodd
US takes war to Iran, Syria / Iranians Detained After U.S.
Thu Jan 11, 2007 21:10

Iranians Detained After U.S. Raid In Iraq

BAGHDAD, Jan. 11, 2007(CBS/AP) Iraqi officials said Thursday that multinational forces detained as many as six Iranians in an overnight raid on Tehran's diplomatic mission in the northern city of Irbil.

The forces stormed the building at about 3 a.m., detaining the five staffers and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled north, 220 miles from Baghdad.

"There are reports that six people were detained but now we want clarification from the American side and from the Iranian side about these people and what they were doing there and whether they were employees," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said during a news conference. He added that the foreign ministry is contacting concerned sides "and then we can take an official stance on the matter."

In Tehran, Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Iraqi and Swiss ambassadors and "demanded an explanation" about the incident. Switzerland represents American interests in Iran, where there is no U.S. Embassy.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state-run radio that the raid was "against a diplomatic mission" since the "presence of Iranian staffers in Irbil was legal." Hosseini claimed the action by the U.S.-led coalition reflected "continuation of pressure" on Iran, aiming to "create tension" between Iraq and its neighbors.

A resident living near the mission said the foreign force used stun bombs in the raid and brought down an Iranian flag that was on the roof of the two-story yellow house. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, said the resident on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

"They took five Iranians with them and at about 7 in the morning they handed over the house to Kurdish peshmergas [fighters]," he said.

In the early afternoon, a number of Kurdish guerrillas could be seen around the building preventing people from getting close to the house and not allowing cameramen and photographers to take pictures.

In Other Developments:

# At a moving ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Bush on Thursday made a posthumous presentation of the nation's highest award for valor to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham. The 24-year-old lost his life two years ago in Iraq during hand-to-hand combat with an insurgent who released a hand grenade.

# Iraq's most powerful Shiite politician, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, has issued strong support for the country's new Baghdad security plan, saying the government should "strike with an iron fist" against anyone who endangers the "safety of people." He's also urging the militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to disarm, saying that restoring security in Iraq would allow foreign troops to leave. Al-Sadr's militia has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence that has killed thousands.

# Russia demanded Thursday that Iraqi authorities and U.S-led coalition forces do more to protect Russian diplomatic staff and property in Iraq, including taking "all necessary measures to strengthen the physical security of diplomatic missions," after the Russian embassy in Baghdad was sprayed with gunfire. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Iraqi ambassador and a U.S. Embassy official in Moscow on Thursday to complain after the Wednesday evening shooting, which the ministry said damaged the embassy building. No one was injured in the incident. Russia, a consistent critic of the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq, has no military forces in the country.

# U.S. and Iraqi troops raided a house in the Shiite area of Baghdad's Sadr city late on Wednesday, according to local residents, who alleged the troops blew open the front door, as widespread skepticism has greeted a new security plan. Many mortar and rocket attacks have been launched from the outskirts of Sadr City, and U.S. troops have been conducting raids on homes there in recent weeks. The civilian population of Sadr City, also targeted by Sunni militants, has itself suffered almost daily carnage.

# Suspected Sunni insurgents attacked and set fire to a large oil pipeline in northern Iraq on Thursday, about 155 miles north of Baghdad, interrupting the flow from the Kirkuk oil fields, an official of the Northern Oil Company said. The 26-inch pipe, which feeds into a line running to Turkey's Mediterranean oil terminal, was still burning late on Thursday morning, and U.S. forces had cordoned off the area.

# British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said the troop increase announced by President Bush demonstrates the U.S. and Iraqi governments' determination to deal with the deteriorating security situation. But she was also quick to distance the British government from the new U.S. move. "It is not our intention at the present time to send more troops," she told reporters at Downing Street. She said Britain was continuing to work "progressively" toward transferring security responsibility to authorities in Basra, southern Iraq, where it has about 7,000 troops.

The U.S. military issued a statement on the raid in Irbil, saying it had taken six people into custody but made no mention of a raid on the Iranian consulate. It declined further comment on the raid.

The motive for the raid was not known, but it came as tensions are high between Iran and the United States. The Bush administration has accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and of helping fuel violence in Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, is trying to expand Iran's role in Iraq as a counter to U.S. influence in the Gulf region.

The new strategy declared by U.S. President George. W. Bush in the past hours ignored key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which in December called for a new diplomatic offensive and an outreach to Syria and Iran. Instead, he accused both countries of aiding terrorists and insurgents in Iraq.

"We will disrupt the attacks on our forces," Mr. Bush said. "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria."

Speaking on how bad relations between the United States, Iran and Syria affect Iraq, al-Dabbagh said "for sure any improvement (of relations) between the United States and these two countries will make us avoid many problems."

"Some times we pay the price for the tension in relations between Iran and the United States and Syria and the United States, therefore it is in our interest as Iraqis that these relations improve but not at the expense of Iraq," he said. "For that reason, we hope, encourage and are playing a role in getting the points of view closer between" them.

Late last month, U.S. troops elsewhere in Iraq detained at least two Iranians and released two others who had diplomatic immunity.

US takes war to Iran, Syria

* Geoff Elliott and Mark Dodd
* January 12, 2007

GEORGE W. Bush has defied popular opinion, top generals and Congress with a plan to escalate US military involvement in the Middle East by sending more troops into Iraq and threatening attacks against terror cells in Iran and Syria.
The US President yesterday admitted mistakes in the war in Iraq but warned that withdrawal would cause mass killing "on an unimaginable scale".

Instead, he committed to boosting American troops involved in the long-running war by another 21,500 to more than 150,000, with most to be sent to tackle the heart of sectarian violence in the capital, Baghdad.

Delivering a much-anticipated address in Washington yesterday, Mr Bush accused Iran and Syria of aiding the insurgent attacks on US troops in Baghdad.

And he vowed to "seek out and destroy" any terror networks supporting the insurgency, saying the move was an essential step towards securing victory in the war, which has claimed more than 3000 US lives and cost more than $US400 billion ($511 billion).

The US appears to have already moved to carry out its threat, with American troops yesterday raiding the Iranian consulate in northern Iraq, detaining five staff.

John Howard yesterday backed Mr Bush's strategy and refused to rule out boosting Australia's Iraqi force of 800 troops. The Prime Minister said defeat in Iraq would be an "unbelievable boost to terrorism", carrying "enormous consequences for the stability of the Middle East".

"The alternatives the President faced were either to announce what he announced or effectively indicate that the West could not win in Iraq and start making arrangements, however it might be camouflaged, for a withdrawal," Mr Howard said.

Many in the foreign policy elite in Washington - including the bipartisan panel known as the Iraq Study Group - had recommended Mr Bush step up a diplomatic push to try to engage Iran and Syria for assistance in helping secure Iraq's future.

Yesterday he said succeeding in Iraq required defending its territorial integrity and stabilising the region in the face of extremists.

This, he said, began with addressing Iran and Syria, which were allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq.

"Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops," Mr Bush said. "We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Sounding sombre but defiant in his nationally televised speech, Mr Bush accepted responsibility for mistakes made in Iraq but made no apologies.

He admitted efforts to secure Baghdad had failed and made clear the US involvement was not "open-ended", calling on Iraqi authorities to meet their promises or risk losing the support of the American people. He also unveiled a $US1 billion package of economic incentives to help encourage the Iraqi leadership.

His plan to boost troop numbers puts him on a collision course with an increasingly anti-war Congress, controlled by Democrats after the party's poll success in November but also home to more Republicans willing to speak out against the war. But he said: "To step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi Government, tear that country apart and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale".

He told Americans to expect more US casualties and did not specify how long the additional troops would stay.

Mr Howard said Australia would stay the course alongside "our most important ally and friend". He said Australian troops were continuing to do useful work in Iraq, helping provide training and security in the south of the country.

Mr Howard added that he still believed it was the right thing tohave gone into Iraq and attacked Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's demand for an Australian pullout.

Mr Rudd said Mr Bush's speech indicated the war in Iraq was being lost. And he repeated his call for Mr Howard to explain to Australians the Government's policy on the Iraq war.

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