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Iraq: US Raids Iranian Consulate

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Iraq and Iran have been closely connected for centuries, (geographically, culturally and politically)
One of the largest unintended consequences of the US-led invasion of Iraq has been the sterngthening of Iran as a regional power. It's opened up Iraq's border with Iran. It installed Iranian-funded Shia parties in the Iraqi government. And it's emboldened Iranian policy-makers that the US has no military option, while bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But recently, the diplomatic front appears to be heating up. In his speech last night, Bush said: “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops,” using language which suggests that Iran is a combatant under the so-called “Bush Doctrine”.

Last month, the U.S. arrested four Iranians during raids in Baghdad. One of the raids occurred at the compound of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakeem, the leader of the largest party in Iraq's parliament, SCIRI.

American officials claim that one of the men captured was a senior leader of the al-Quds Brigades, the branch of the Iranian Republican Guard which arms and trains groups outside Iran.

Both Iraq and Iran claimed the men had diplomatic immunity. The captured Iranians were released after about a week, even though American officials alleged that the Iranians had weapons lists, maps, and other “sensitive intelligence information.”

Today, it happened again. At 3 am (January 11, 2007), American troops entered the Iranian consulate in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Soldiers broke down the gate, detained five Iranian staffers and confiscated computers and documents, according to senior Kurdish officials.

A nearby resident described the Americans using stun-grenades as they entered the building and then taking down the building's Iranian flag.
The Pentagon says it was not a consulate and didn't have any diplomatic protection.

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