BAGHDAD (AFP) — The US military had no choice but to arrest the Iranian whose detention last week infuriated Baghdad and prompted Iran to close its frontier with Iraq, an American general said on Wednesday.
"We have an obligation, it's our responsibility to operate against such individuals," US military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner told a news conference in Baghdad.
"He's a Quds Force officer who has been directly involved with a network that is providing resources, in training and funding sophisticated weapons that are targeting Iraqi people, Iraqi forces and coalition forces," said Bergner.
US troops raided a hotel last Thursday in Sulaimaniyah in Iraq's northern Kurdish autonomous region and seized Iranian Mahmudi Farhadi, claiming he was a member of the Quds Force, the covert operations arm of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.
Iran and the Kurdish regional government, however, say that Farhadi is a businessman who was part of a commercial delegation visiting Sulaimaniyah.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Tuesday called the arrest illegal and demanded his release, while Iran on Monday shut its frontiers with Iraq in protest, causing mayhem at the border and major economic losses to traders in the Kurdish region.
"We have great respect for President Talabani and the Iraqi leadership," Bergner said.
"We have an obligation to share and inform on what we have on this individual. We have updated the Iraqi leaders on what we have learnt about this officer, and I think there is an increase of awareness in the government of Iraq about who this individual really was and exactly what he was involved in."
The responsibility of the US military, the general added, was to "take the necessary means to improve, to help the government achieve a safe and secure environment."
There was an understanding in the Iraqi government, he added, "that there is Quds Force operation in Iraq that is fuelling Special Groups and other extremists, that are providing sophisticated weapons with destabilising effects," he said.
"It is clear that Quds Force officers are going to operate in Iraq. We have an obligation, it's our responsibility to operate against those who belong to these networks."
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