WASHINGTON – Iran has significantly escalated its involvement in Iraq, “raising the heat” by supplying more sophisticated weaponry that is used against U.S. targets and undermining progress made by the current U.S. troop increase, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said Friday.
The number of detained Iranian agents and intercepted Iranian arms shipments this year represents only the “tip of the iceberg” of Tehran’s activity in Iraq, al-Rubaie told editors and reporters at the Washington Post. “What we have arrested is a peanut,” he said.
Iran’s meddling has increased particularly since the United States and Iran reached a stalemate after tense talks in Baghdad in August, he said.
Al-Rubaie’s remarks came as U.S. forces killed at least 25 Shiite militants in an operation that targeted a cell suspected of smuggling arms from Iran. The airstrike was aimed at the commander of a militia linked to Iran’s Quds Force, which is accused of conducting clandestine military operations in Iraq.
Iran has repeatedly denied meddling in Iraq, and even some U.S. officials have questioned whether the activities of the elite Quds Force are specifically authorized by Tehran’s top policymakers. But al-Rubaie asserted that Iran’s top officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have approved of Iran’s current strategy.
Al-Rubaie said Iran’s war supplies to militants include upgrades from RPG-7s, a shoulder-fired, rocket-propelled grenade first used by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, to the much more deadly RPG-29, a larger, new generation anti-tank weapon with warheads capable of penetrating American tank armor.
Iran also has provided militants with 240-mm missiles that can hit targets 25 to 30 miles away, the longest-range missile now used against U.S. troops in Iraq.
Iran is now “everywhere” in Iraq – politically, economically, socially, culturally and in support of militants and insurgents, al-Rubaie said, adding that he also could not rule out Iran’s infiltration of Iraq’s fledgling intelligence agencies.