BAGHDAD - There is no evidence the Iranian government is stirring trouble in Iraq, a U.S. general said on Monday, playing down suggestions that Tehran will retaliate for U.S. backing of Israel's war on Hizbollah.
"There is nothing that we definitively have found to say that there are any Iranians operating within the country of Iraq," Major General William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, told a news conference.
U.S. officials have previously said the war between Israel and Iran-backed Hizbollah might encourage Tehran to make mischief in Iraq to pressure the United States, which has some 130,000 troops in the country.
"Iran has got Hizbollah in Lebanon. Iran has got some forces here. There is the possibility they might encourage those forces to create increased instability here," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters last week.
Caldwell said recently-manufactured Iranian weapons and munitions had been found in Iraq.
"We do believe that some Shi'ite elements have been in Iran receiving training. But the degree to which this is known and endorsed by the government of Iran is uncertain," he said.
Several powerful Shi'ite militias, including the Badr Organization and the Mehdi Army, supporters of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, have long-standing ties with Tehran.
Caldwell said the contacts were via "third elements associated with Iran".
"We do know that weapons have been provided and IED (improvised explosive device) technology has been made available to these extremist elements," he said.
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