Hezballah training Shia militia in Iraq

NY Times:

A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr.

The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said.

Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria.

The claim about Hezbollah’s role in training Shiite militias could strengthen the hand of those in the Bush administration who oppose a major new diplomatic involvement with Iran.

The new American account is consistent with a claim made in Iraq this summer by a mid-level Mahdi commander, who said his militia had sent 300 fighters to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight alongside Hezbollah. “They are the best-trained fighters in the Mahdi Army,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The specific assertions about Iran’s role went beyond those made publicly by senior American officials, though Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, did tell Congress this month that “the Iranian hand is stoking violence” in Iraq.

The American intelligence on Hezbollah was based on human sources, electronic means and interviews with detainees captured in Iraq.

American officials say the Iranians have also provided direct support to Shiite militias in Iraq, including explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs, and training for several thousand fighters, mostly in Iran. The training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, they say.

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This suggest additional reasons why Hezballah must be destroyed. It is also another reason why talks with Iran are unlikely to be of any value. One of the things that has been clear since 1979 is that talking with Iran at best leads to trouble and not resolution of problems. They have been and continue to be at war with us and we should recognize that and declare war on Iran too.

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