The United States has warned Iran not to interfere as the Iraqi people move to set up a new government. The warning comes amid press reports that Iranian-trained agents have crossed into southern Iraq and are working in Najaf, Karbala, Basra, and other cities. The agents are said to include members of the Badr Brigade, an Iraqi exile group based in Iran, as well as some of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the U.S. has made it clear to Iran’s Shia Muslim clerical regime that the U.S. would oppose any interference in Iraq:
“Infiltration of agents to destabilize the Shia population [in Iraq] would clearly fall into that category.”
Since the liberation of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi Muslims, both Shia and Sunni, as well as Christians and others, have been able to practice their religion in ways that were impossible under the repressive Saddam Hussein regime. This religious freedom is one of the principles on which a free Iraq would be based, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:
“A country that is organized and arranged in a way that the various ethnic groups and religious groups are able to have a voice in their government in some form; and we hope, a system that will be democratic and have free speech and free press and freedom of religion.”
In Iran, said Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, “an awful lot of people” do not like the fact that a “small group of clerics” determine what takes place in their country. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that people in Iraq, including its large, capable, and diverse Shia community, would feel the same way about an Iranian-style clerical regime:
“And I think that any efforts by anybody outside of Iraq to try to create an outsider’s version of what should take place for the Iraqi people by the Iraqi people will not have much chance of success.”
The Iraqi people themselves will determine the future of their country.