- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In reference to your story “Iranians held by U.S. were envoys” (Page 1, July 15), I appreciate your concern regarding this subject. However, your story includes some factual errors, false assumptions and mischaracterizations of circumstances that I would like to set straight.

Regarding the rights of diplomatic representatives and detainees in general, Multi-national Forces in Iraq (MNF-I) consistently complies with U.S. policy, international treaties and bilateral agreements with the government of Iraq. To do otherwise would be counterproductive to our efforts to support Iraqi rule of law — a necessary foundation for a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.

While there are Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) members serving as diplomatic representatives in Iraq, the five men covered in your story lacked diplomatic credentials or passports. These facts contradict your assertion, based on an unnamed source, that the detained men were envoys of the Iranian government.

More importantly, at the time of their detention they were not in Iraq under any official diplomatic role or program recognized by the government of Iraq. In fact, pursuant to the lawful authority that coalition forces had in 2007 to detain individuals posing a security risk to Iraq, MNF-I detained the five Iranians based on their activities against U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces and innocent civilians — as active Quds Force members.

Three of the QF personnel were arrested at a facility in Irbil in January 2007. The Iranian government claimed that the facility was an unofficial consulate. However, in their possession at the time of arrest was information detailing the reconnaissance of coalition force convoys, patrols and armor units. At least one of those detained had a record of activity linking him to violence against the coalition.

All five of the detainees were active IRGC-QF military personnel: two general officers, two intelligence officers and one aide to the QF Chief of Operations. As an elite arm of the IRGC, the Quds Force is responsible for intelligence collection, covert operations, and the training and equipping of Shia militant groups.

In Iraq, Quds Force officers are directly responsible for coordinating and facilitating lethal aid to militants, including explosively formed penetrators (EFP), which are the leading cause of casualties among coalition forces. They all admitted to training and equipping Shia militants with improvised explosive devices and EFPs used to target coalition and civilian personnel in Iraq. They also admitted to weapons smuggling and collecting intelligence on coalition force operations.

We go to great lengths to ensure our detainee operations are conducted in accordance with international law and with great care and discretion. Similarly, I realize your reporters seek the most credible and informed sources possible, and I appreciate the opportunity to provide factual information for your use.

LT. COL. JOSSLYN L. ABERLE

Army public affairs officer to the commanding general

Multi-National Force - Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq

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