Bush authorized raids on Iranians in Iraq: Rice
Washington, Jan 13: Recent US military raids against Iraniansin Iraq were authorized by President George W Bush under an order for abroad offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, the New YorkTimes said on its Web site. ''There has been a decision to go after these networks,'' theTimes quoted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying in an interviewconducted yesterday before leaving on a West Asia trip.
She said Bush issued the order several months ago ''after a periodof time in which we saw increasing activity'' among Iranians in Iraq''and increasing lethality in what they were producing.'' The Bushadministration has long accused Iran of interfering in Iraq, includingproviding weapons and training to Shi'ite forces.
But US military officials and Iranian exiles say there isincreasing evidence that many of the most sophisticated roadside bombsbeing used against US troops are produced in Iran.
Bush, who also accuses Syria of fomenting violence in Iraq, onWednesday proposed sending 21,500 more US troops to try to restoresecurity nearly four years after the US-led invasion.
He sparked concern that the conflict may widen with his commentthat the United States would interrupt the ''flow of support'' fromIran and Syria and destroy the ''networks'' providing weaponry andtraining to US foes in Iraq.
US officials said their plan was to disrupt such networks whilestaying inside Iraq, but their comments did not appear to mollify somesenior US lawmakers.
American forces in Iraq this week conducted at least two raidsagainst suspected Iranian operatives, including an operation targetingan office in the northern town of Arbil.
The US military is detaining five people arrested in the Arbilraid and said it was investigating whether they were involved in''illegal or terrorist'' activity.
Iranian and US officials say the office did not have formaldiplomatic status, although Iran says it was a liaison officerepresenting the interests of the Tehran government and is seeking therelease of the five Iranians.
In December, US forces in Baghdad arrested a number of Iranians they said were suspected of planning attacks.