"What we're seeing is an increase in the use of weapons by
Iranian-backed Special Groups," Smith told a briefing on Sunday.
Smith said the number of weapons caches — which included rockets and
improvised explosive devices — discovered in January 2008 was
the highest in a year. He said the Special Groups, directed by Iran's
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, were hoarding weapons for
strikes against the coalition.
"Many of these caches have been in Iraq for some time now," Smith said.
"And through, I guess, the vigilance of both our operations and that of the
tips by local citizens, we're uncovering more and more of these caches.
What's significant is that there are still attacks occurring daily by
Iranian-backed Special Groups against coalition and Iraqi security forces."
Officials said the Mahdi Army has maintained its ceasefire declared in
August 2007, a move that has resulted in a significant drop in Shi'ite
violence. At the same time, they said, Special Groups — supported, trained
and financed by Teheran — have increased their attacks.
"Iraqis go to Iran, receive the training, and return back to Iraq and
participate as both training other individuals in the conduct of those same
skills, but also organizing to conduct operations," Smith said. "The Special
Groups' activity has not decreased in recent months. They continue to be
probably the most violent of the extremist groups that we're seeing from
Shia sects. But the intent of Iran in supporting the training and financing
we believe continues."