BAGHDAD – A senior U.S. general said Sunday that about 50 members of an elite Iranian military unit are training Shiite militias south of Baghdad, the first time the U.S. military has alleged that Iranians are aiding insurgents from inside Iraq.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. operations south of Baghdad, said the men were sent by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps – a military branch that the U.S. has decided to label a “specially designated global terrorist” – to train Shiite insurgents in firing mortars and rockets.
Iran’s government has consistently denied any connection between the Revolutionary Guard Corps and insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq, and some military intelligence analysts have concluded there is no concrete evidence of such a link. But U.S. military leaders in Iraq have repeatedly maintained that Iran is providing money, weapons and training to so-called special cell militia groups, citing information from interrogations.
Lynch said that no Iranians have been captured in his area of command and that U.S. troops have never found any illegal weapons in two months of patrolling 125 miles of the Iran-Iraq border.
But he said that the number of Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators – sophisticated roadside bombs built to puncture the armor on Humvees – has increased dramatically in recent months, while the accuracy of Shiite extremists’ bombs and mortars has improved significantly.
“The enemy is more aggressive than it used to be and, candidly, in many cases he is more lethal,” Lynch said.