The Iranian government has announced it will not participate at this time in a fourth round of talks with the U.S. and Iraq about Iraqi security. Iran says the talks "do not make sense," citing U.S. participation in an Iraqi government-led offensive against criminal militia forces in Baghdad and Basra.
Last year’s trilateral meetings were the highest- level talks involving U.S. and Iranian representatives in nearly three decades. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says that as far as the U.S. is concerned, the channel of communication for Iran and the U.S. to discuss issues related to Iraq’s security remains open:
"I’ve seen statements from the Iranian government saying that they don’t wish to engage that channel while the governments of Iraq and the United States are actively working to disarm militias that are operating outside the rule of law in Iraq. And I’m not sure exactly what the Iranian [government] complaint is with those actions. We do know they [Iranian officials] are actively working to provide assistance to those militias, whether it’s arms or training or other kinds of assistance."
U.S. officials have repeatedly charged Iranian authorities with providing lethal support to extremist Shiite groups that target coalition and Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the recent Iraqi government-led operations against criminal militia groups have disclosed, in what he calls, "very, very visible ways," Iran’s malign activities. Earlier this month, U.S. Air Force Colonel Donald Bacon, a spokesman for the Multinational Force in Iraq, also spoke about Iran’s destructive involvement. He said that Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group supported by Iran, has been training Iraqi extremists in camps near Tehran. The camps, he said, are operated by the Quds force, an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack noted that a high-level Iraqi delegation recently traveled to Iran to express concerns directly to the Iranian government about Iranian interference in Iraq. "That’s a significant step," said Mr. McCormack. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement, "We want Iran and Iraq to have good relations. The fastest way for that to happen is for Iran to stop supporting extremists in Iraq who kill innocent Iraqis and Americans."