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Iraqi’s U.S. visit stirs ‘grave concern’

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A top House Republican has expressed "grave concern" to President Obama about a visit to the White House by an Iraqi official who led a militia that was financed and armed by Iran.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a letter late Tuesday to Mr. Obama that she had "grave concern" about the White House's decision to host Hadi Farhan al-Amiri, Iraq's transportation minister, during a visit Monday.

The Washington Times first reported Tuesday that Mr. al-Amiri, who was part of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's delegation to the White House, is a former commander of the Badr Corps, which was the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The council, which also received support from Iran, has since changed its name to Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

The Badr Corps was made up of thousands of former Iraqi officers and soldiers who had defected and Iraqi refugees who fled Saddam Hussein's regime. It received military and financial support from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the FBI has linked to a 1996 terrorist bombing that killed 19 U.S. servicemen in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. al-Amiri remained active in the Badr Corps during the late 1980s and 1990s, when he was working on resistance efforts against Saddam's regime.

"Al-Amiri should have no part in a successful future in Iraq, and is unfit to receive a presidential audience," Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, said in her letter to Mr. Obama.

Louis J. Freeh, who served as FBI director in the Clinton administration and in the early months of the George W. Bush administration, said in an interview that FBI agents would like to interview Mr. al-Amiri about what he may know about the purported Iranian role in the June 25, 1996, attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

No Iranians were named in the indictment, and the attack was blamed on the Saudi Hezbollah. Mr. Freeh said he was not aware of any evidence linking Mr. al-Amiri to the attack.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard has supported Shiite militant groups that have attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, according to Western officials.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said it was "extremely disturbing that the White House would see fit to welcome Al-Amiri to a discussion on the future of Iraq."

"If anything, he should be subject to questioning by the FBI and other appropriate U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies," she said.

"The victims of Khobar Towers and the families of thousands of U.S. troops who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq deserve no less," Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said in her letter, in which she questioned the vetting procedures that permitted Mr. al-Amiri entry into the White House.

President George W. Bush hosted SCIRI leader Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim at the White House in 2006.

On Tuesday, the Treasury and State Departments announced the sanctions against two Iranians, including Abdollah Araqi, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard ground force, for their role in human rights abuses in Iran. The other official is Hassan Firouzabadi, chairman of Iran's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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