Friday, August 13, 2004

Iran Military Warns of New Vietnam in Iraq: "Iran Military Warns of New Vietnam in Iraq

Agence France Presse, Reuters, Arab News

TEHRAN, 13 August 2004 — Iran yesterday condemned the US “atrocities” in Iraq where American troops backed by Iraqi soldiers were locked in a deadly showdown with Shi'i cleric Moqtada Sadr’s militia. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi expressed Iran’s “extreme concern” and “disgust” over the “atrocities” being carried out by US forces in neighboring Iraq, news agencies reported.

He condemned what he called “the total lack of morality” on the part of the occupation forces and “the duplicity of those who speak of democracy” but were holding up any genuine return of sovereignty to the Iraqis. International organizations must “react without delay to the events in Najaf and stop the massacre of the innocent”, he said.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards militia, the predominantly Shi'i country’s ideological backbone, called for Iraqis to close ranks in their “resistance” to the Americans and warned of a new Vietnam for the United States. “The Iraqi people must unite in their resistance to the occupiers and put aside their difference,” it said in a statement.

“The day is not far when the occupiers will suffer the same humiliation as in Vietnam,” said the Revolutionary Guards, which the United States has accused of interference in Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

The Guards condemned the US “violations” of some of the holiest sites in Shi'i Islam, notably around the Imam Ali shrine that has been turned into a Mehdi Army stronghold. They called on Iranians to stage massive demonstrations after weekly Friday prayers to underline their “hatred for the occupiers and their solidarity with the oppressed people of Iraq”.

Foreign Ministry summoned Iraq’s top envoy in Tehran to protest the arrest of four journalists from Iran’s official IRNA news agency and kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat.

The IRNA journalists’ arrests on Monday by Iraqi police exacerbated tensions between the two neighbors who fought a bitter 1980-1988 war in which hundreds of thousands were killed.

Tehran has been angered by comments from some Iraqi and US officials that it is stirring up violence among the Shi'i population in Iraq. Iran says four Iranian business officials working to improve trade ties with Iraq have also been arrested in the past month by US troops who handed them over to Iraqi police. And an Iran consul to Karbala was kidnapped last week by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq.

IRNA said a Foreign Ministry official told Iraq’s Charge d’Affaires to Iran Khalil Salman Al-Sabihi that the journalists’ arrests were “illegal and unacceptable”. He asked for “a prompt investigation by Iraqi officials, the immediate release of the detainees, and clarification of the situation of the missing diplomat in Iraq,” the agency said.

A separate IRNA report, citing Iran’s Charge d’Affaires in Baghdad Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said IRNA’s Baghdad Bureau Chief Mostafa Darban and three local staff were being held at Iraq’s Interior Ministry. US troops last year arrested two Iranian state television reporters in Iraq and held them for four months.

Iran has denied the allegations spearheaded by Defense Minister Hazem Al-Shaalan, who has called Tehran the “No. 1 enemy” and accused it of aiding rebel militia holding out in Najaf.

On Tuesday, IRNA said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had officially invited to Tehran Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who has expressed his willingness to visit the Islamic republic. IRNA said Kharrazi had discussed Shaalan’s accusations with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, describing them as “surprising and unacceptable” and emphasizing that “the interim Iraqi government needs everyone’s cooperation and support, including Iran’s.”

According to IRNA, Kharrazi was assured by Zebari that the accusations “were not the official stance of the Iraqi government.” The two also discussed the fate of Jahani, IRNA said.

“Zebari reported on the continued efforts of Iraq’s government. Iraq will inform Iran as soon as it receives any news on the matter,” Kharrazi was quoted as saying."


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