U.S. Detains 6 Iranians in Irbil Raid
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S.-led multinational forces detained six Iranians
Thursday at an Iranian government office in the northern city of Irbil,
Iraqi officials said, as President Bush accused Iran and Syria of aiding
militants and promised to "interrupt" the flow of support as part of his new
region but made no mention of a raid on the Iranian government office.
The forces entered the building about 3 a.m., detaining the Iranians and
confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials
said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the
A resident living near the building said the troops used stun bombs and
brought down an Iranian flag from the roof. As the operation went on, two
helicopters flew overhead, the resident said on condition of anonymity for
fear of reprisals.
At the Pentagon, a senior
consulate and did not have any diplomatic status. The six Iranians were
taken in a "cordon-and-knock" operation, said the official who spoke on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said
clarification from the
doing there and whether they were employees."
The regional Kurdish government condemned the arrests and called for the
immediate release of the Iranians. It added that the government "was not
aware in advance of the raid."
and "demanded an explanation" about the incident.
American interests in
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state-run radio the
raid was "against a diplomatic mission" since the "presence of Iranian
forces reflected a "continuation of pressure" on
Late last month,
released two others who had diplomatic immunity.
Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the
military would continue to target networks of individuals, regardless of
their nationality, that are providing weapons designed to kill American
"I think it's instructive that in the last couple of weeks two of those
raids that we conducted to go after these folks that are providing these
kinds of weapons - two of those raids had policed up Iranians. So it is
clear that the Iranians are complicit in providing weapons," he said.
The arrests come as tensions are high between
The Bush administration has accused
weapons and of helping fuel violence in
Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, is trying to expand
Al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, said any improvement in
relations between the
Sometimes we pay the price for the tension in relations between
relations improve, but not at the expense of
Bush's new strategy, however, ignores key recommendations of the Iraq Study
Group, which in December called for a new diplomatic offensive and an
aiding terrorists and insurgents in
"We will disrupt the attacks on our forces," Bush said. "We will interrupt
the flow of support from
Politicians and ordinary Iraqis, meanwhile, expressed skepticism Thursday
that Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq will quell the violence
in their country, but some offered weary acceptance of any effort to stop
the carnage after several failed past attempts.
The varied reactions underscore the challenges facing the Shiite-dominated
Iraqi government, which is under pressure to rein in predominantly Shiite
militias as well as Sunni insurgents as both sides have killed thousands in
spiraling sectarian attacks.
An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed the new strategy but
stressed that the government must take the lead in the military action. The
plan also envisions 10,000 to 12,000 Iraqi troops to secure
neighborhoods, and al-Maliki has announced plans for a new Iraqi security
operation, although similar past efforts have been unsuccessful.
"The failure in
the region and the world, including the
"The current situation is not acceptable - not only for the American people
but also for the Iraqis and their government. As Iraqis and as an elected
government we welcome the American commitment for success," he added. "The
Iraqi government also is committed to succeed."
A Sunni lawmaker rejected the plan to send more
instead for a timetable for them to withdraw, while other critics from both
sects said it wouldn't succeed because of the power of mostly Shiite
militias that have been blamed for much of the recent sectarian violence.
"Bush's plan could be the last attempt to fix the chaos created after the
contrary, there will be more bloodshed," said Sunni lawmaker Hussein
Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said the "plan will fail. Sending more
troops and financial support will not help if there is no sectarian and
Osama Ahmed, a 50-year-old Sunni who works in the Ministry of Higher
Education, said he got up early to watch the speech, which was broadcast
live at 5 a.m. Thursday on Iraqi state television.
said. "The violence will surge unless
militiamen who are part of the Iraqi government."
Abdel-Karim Jassim, a 44-year-old Shiite trader, said he had hoped Bush
would come up with something other than the troop increase.
"Sending more troops will not solve the problem," he said, although he
acknowledged that "Iraqis cannot handle security issue on their own because
of the sectarian divisions and the strong militias and insurgents."
Awad Mukhtar, a 35-year-old technician, said Bush's new proposals could be
"The security situation in
moment daily," Mukhtar said. "I see the new Bush strategy as the last chance
for Iraqis to save their lives ... we have no other choice, only to wait and
see the results."
Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to
this report in