BAGHDAD Ñ Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan said Iraq's neighbors have been supporting the insurgency
against Baghdad. He cited Iran as exercising "blatant interference" in
"They [Iranians] confess to the presence of their spies in Iraq who have
a mission to upset the social and political situation," Shaalan said yesterday in an interview with the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat.
"Since the establishment of the Iraqi state, Iranian intrusion has been vast and
The defense minister did not cite other states as supporting the
insurgency. But other Iraqi officials said Syria has failed to stop Al
Qaida-inspired volunteers from joining the insurgency. They said the Iraqi
government has invited its neighbors to a conference to discuss security
"We are prepared to move the arena of the attacks on Iraq's honor and
its rights to those countries," Shaalan said.
"We've spoken to them and confronted them with facts and evidence, but none
of them have taken any action to stop supporting terrorism in Iraq.
Iraq has been preparing to launch its military,
introducing new infantry, artillery and other units.
Iraqi officials said the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Alawi
will focus on developing the military over the next few weeks. They said the
military would focus on border control and supporting missions against
insurgents in Iraq.
"We will start to prepare the organized Iraqi Army starting from the
beginning of next month and we have already prepared a command," Shaalan said.
Officials said Iraqi Army will have 40,000 soldiers in the first stage,
comprising three light divisions. Battalions for the first division were
being trained and equipped.
Shaalan said the military was forming an air force, navy and artillery
corps. He said many of soldiers were former members of the military under
the Saddam Hussein regime.
"Iraq will have a modern and powerful air force, navy, artillery and
operating in accordance with advanced techniques to protect Iraq,"
Shaalan said. "Currently, we have surveillance aircraft in the National
Guard to monitor our borders from the air."
[On Wednesday, seven Iraqis and a U.S. soldier were killed in fierce
fighting with Sunni insurgents in Samara. A U.S. combat unit was pursuing
insurgents who entered houses and a mosque in the city, 125 kilometers north
Officials said Iraqi security forces have also completed their first
large-scale operation. The operation on July 18 included 90 members of the
Iraqi National Guard and 300 police officers in a search for insurgents.
In early July, Iraq and Syria agreed to launch a joint effort to stop
infiltration along their more than 500-kilometer border. But Iraqi officials
have been skeptical over whether the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad
would make the required effort. Alawi was scheduled to arrive in Damascus on
"We're talking about hundreds [of insurgents] if not in the thousands,"