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Iran's Malign Influence

At a news briefing in Washington, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that Iran is continuing to support terrorist activities in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"We have seen evidence in both theaters of ... Iranian efforts to supply weapons and training to those who wish to destabilize the security situation."

Mr. Morrell called the Iranian interference in Iraq and Afghanistan "terribly unhelpful." Since at least 2006, Iran has arranged frequent shipments of lethal aid to elements of the Taliban. In April and May 2007, 2 convoys carrying plastic explosives, small arms ammunition, several anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, artillery rockets, and rocket fuses were intercepted and seized in southern Afghanistan. Iran provided the weapons and arranged the shipments that were suspected to be supplying the Taliban.

Mr. Morrell made his comments days after Army General David Petraeus, Commander of U.S. forces in the region, expressed the hope that the United States and Iran could work together on certain issues, particularly in reference to Afghanistan:

"Clearly, there are some common objectives that no one, I think would disagree on, that Iran is concerned about the narcotics trade; it doesn't want to see Sunni extremists, certainly ultra, ultra fundamentalist extremists running Afghanistan again any more than other folks do."

"Having said that," said General Petraeus, "I'm sure there is an element that is determining how they can make life miserable for the coalition, the alliance, and Afghan forces as well."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has supported talking to Iran about its activities "at some level", and that the United States has done so in the past. But, according to Mr. Morrell, Secretary of Defense Gates, who will retain his office in the upcoming Obama administration, believes the best way to do so is "from a position of strength."

That, said Mr. Morrell, involves the international community exerting greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government, so that Iran's leaders start conducting "fruitful and serious conversations about not pursuing a nuclear weapons program [and] not destabilizing their neighbors."