Iran Rejects Reports It Has Transfered Missiles To Militias In Iraq
RFE/RL September 02, 2018
Iran has rejected a report by Reuters that it has provided ballistic missiles to its Shi'ite militia allies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to allow them to build missiles there.
"Such false and ridiculous news has no purpose other than affecting Iran's foreign relations, especially with its neighbors," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on September 1, according to Iran's IRNA news agency.
"This news is solely aimed at creating fears in the countries of the region," Qasemi added.
Reuters on August 31 cited three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources, and two Western intelligence sources in reporting that Iran had sent short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the past few months.
The report added that several of the officials said Tehran was helping the groups in Iraq to begin manufacturing the missiles themselves.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter on September 1 that he was "deeply concerned of reports" that Iran was transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq.
"Baghdad should determine what happens in Iraq, not Tehran," he added.
The Iraqi government and military declined to comment.
A Western source told Reuters that several dozen missiles had been shifted to Iraqi Shi'ite militias.
Reuters quoted an Iraqi source as saying it was difficult for Baghdad to persuade the groups to go against Tehran or to stop cooperating with their Shi'ite allies.
The Zelzal, Fateh-110, and Zolfaqar missiles have ranges of about 200 to 700 kilometers. That would put the capital of Shi'ite Iran's bitter Sunni rival Saudi Arabia and the Israeli city of Tel Aviv within range from western Iraq.
The overseas branch of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) -- the Quds Force – has bases in those areas.
The action, if confirmed, would increase already high tensions between Washington and Tehran.
President Donald Trump in May pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with six world powers, accusing Tehran of violating the spirit of the accord by continuing to test ballistic missiles and for supporting militant activity in the Middle East.
Tehran has denied the allegations.
A missile transfer could also anger France, Germany, and Britain, which tried unsuccessfully to persuade Trump to remain a part of the deal.
The three countries, along with Russia and China, have so far vowed to remain part of the nuclear deal, which provided Tehran with relief from some sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programs.
With reporting by Reuters
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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