Iran's involvement in Iraq may not have increased
April 26, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Some US intelligence and administration officials believe that while Iranian arms shipments to Iraq continued in recent months, they have not necessarily increased, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said Tehran has shifted tactics to distance itself from a direct role in Iraq since the US military captured 20 Iranian operatives in December 2006 and January 2007.

Since then, Iran seems to have focused instead on training Iraqi Shiite fighters inside Iran, the report said.

At the same time, Tehran has sought to retain political and economic influence over a variety of Shiite factions in Iraq, the paper said.

"They don't want to be identified with activities that might be seen by the international community as illegitimate," The Times quoted a senior US official as saying.

Iran has also sought to spread its influence inside Iraq through legitimate economic assistance, in particular across the oil-rich Shiite south, the paper pointed out.

At the same time, the Iranians supply weapons to militias fighting the Shiite-led government in Baghdad as well as to militias supporting that government, the report said.

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