Iran is continuing to supply weapons to insurgents in Iraq with the goal of creating an Islamist government, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
“I see intelligence reports and we know that we’re finding Iranian weapons inside the country,” Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters on his way to visit Paraguay earlier this week. “They don’t just get there by accident. They don’t fly there.
“And we know that Iran has a system of government it would like to replicate in Iraq. And we know the system of government they have with a handful of clerics running the place and telling everyone what to do is fundamentally inconsistent with the kind of a constitution that’s currently being drafted in Iraq,” he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld made his comments Tuesday in response to a question about a Time magazine report based on a military intelligence document. The Pentagon yesterday released a transcript of his remarks.
The Time article stated Iran has set up a network of insurgents backed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Tehran’s shock troops that have been linked to support for terrorists such as Hezbollah.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he had not seen the intelligence report.
In a related development, Army Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of the multinational troops in northwest Iraq, yesterday said Islamist extremists have been caught coming into Iraq from Syria.
“I can tell you the people that we have caught were involved in some of the suicide bombings over the last several months,” Gen. Rodriguez said.
“Most of the suicide bombings, we believe, have been by foreigners who have infiltrated the country, mostly from Syria.”
About 70 foreign terrorists have been caught in the past three months and another 100 have been killed in bombings or by allied forces, he said.
Gen. Rodriguez agreed with Iraqi government estimates that as many as 150 terrorists are entering Iraq each month from Syria, specifically in the area of Rabiya.
Gen. Rodriguez said bombing attacks by insurgents in the northwest part of Iraq have decreased both in numbers and effectiveness by 20 percent in the past three months.
As for Iran’s efforts, the defense secretary said they are “making a mistake” by arming insurgents. “I think they’re going to have to live with their neighbors like any country does over time,” he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said a democratic Iraq “will stand in stark contrast to Iran.”
U.S. officials said an arms shipment from Iran recently was intercepted at the Iraqi border, prompting official protests to the Tehran government.
The incident in late July involved British troops that caught a group of arms smugglers from Iran crossing the border in Maysan province, a southern region where British forces are deployed.
Iraqi security troops fired weapons at the smugglers who fled back to Iran but left the weapons behind, including timers, detonators and bomb-making equipment.