Al Taif, Asharq Al-Awsat- Despite the US army’s statements that Saudi Arabia and Syria are cooperating in the prevention of militant infiltration into Iraq, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Mansur al Turki stated that concerning the decrease in figures of Saudi infiltrators into Iraq that, “[the information] is inaccurate and this area necessitates further research and investigation.”
Brigadier al Turki added that infiltration did not take place directly from within Saudi Arabia into Iraqi territory, “because Iraq is an open country and it is linked to other neighboring countries through its geographical borders, not just Saudi Arabia,” he said.
In his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he stressed that, “Saudis may be recruited through these [neighboring] states,” and added “the issue of increasing or decreasing figures is not a matter that the Saudi Interior Ministry should be questioned about; rather, the source that made these statements should be questioned in whichever relevant country.”
Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, US military spokesman in Iraq announced in a press conference held in Baghdad yesterday that Saudi and Syria, “have taken several steps to curb the flow of foreign combatants making their way to Iraq.”
Smith stated, “We believe that the number of weapons coming from Iran has significantly decreased but we do not think that training activities have decreased in any way, and funding has not been reduced.”
According to Reuters, he also added that Iran continues to have a “negative influence” on Iraq since militias were still getting trained in Iran until the end of last year, after Tehran had made a pledge to the Iraqi government to support efforts to end Iraqi violence.
Rear Admiral Smith said that attacks using powerful Iranian-made bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, have fallen off in recent days after a sharp but brief increase in the first half of the month.
Late last year, the military said the flow of EFPs into Iraq had slowed, but Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander, said last week that attacks with the weapons had risen by a factor of two or three in the first half of this month.
Smith said the increase fell off again last week.
“The number of signature weapons that had come from Iran and had been used against coalition and Iraqi forces are down dramatically except for this short uptick in the EFPs in the early part of January,” Smith said at a news conference.
“There was an increase, we don’t know why precisely,” he added. “There was an increase clearly of that weapon and now they’ve returned to normal levels.”
Smith said the US is trying to understand the various ways in which Iran exerts influence inside Iraq, including training of and financial support to militias as well as the smuggling of weapons.
“We don’t think that the level of training has been reduced at all. We don’t believe that the level of financing has been reduced. It’s uncertain again what is happening in Iran that’s leading to that occurrence.”
The remarks were the latest in the verbal sparring between the two rival countries as Washington accuses Iran of fuelling the violence in Iraq by funding and arming Shiaa militias. Tehran denies the charges and says it wants only to stabilize its fellow predominantly Shiaa neighbor.