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Iraq Expels 2 Iranians Detained by U.S.
U.S. officials said they now had a treasure trove of data from computers and documents and the lists of weaponry recently shipped to Iraq.
"The materials they had will factor into additional planning for operations and will likely be very helpful," said a U.S. defense official. "But with weapons and advanced IEDs [improvised explosive devices] coming into the country, we've identified a major problem."
In a raid last week, U.S. forces stopped a vehicle in central Baghdad and detained three Iranians and one Iraqi, said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. Those detained had legitimate diplomatic credentials and were released.
In a second raid, U.S. forces entered Hakim's compound and detained 10 men, including Chizari and the other al-Quds commander. The eight other men were Iraqis, U.S. officials said.
According to a Bush administration official, Chizari or the other commander gave up his identity when talking to the Americans. The U.S. forces apparently were not aware whom they had caught, the official said.
Although the men were captured in Hakim's compound, U.S. officials said Hakim cooperated with the American military operation.
The raids deeply angered officials in the Iraqi government, which is hoping that building ties with Iran could help stem the violence in Iraq. They set in motion a flurry of diplomatic moves to secure the release of the two men.
"The story the Americans said is not true," said Sami al-Askari, a member of parliament and a close adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "They said these were military men with diplomatic status. But they failed to prove anything."
"Iraq is trying to have a solid relationship with its neighbors."
Iran has been providing arms and aid to the two largest Shiite political parties, Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa party, as well as renegade leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Shiite militias, U.S. officials say. The officials are sorting through the evidence to link the material and intelligence to attacks on U.S. forces. SCIRI and Dawa politicians have said Iran does not back them now.
Last month, Hakim met with President Bush and other administration officials. He said that his Badr Organization militia, which was formed in Iran, no longer operated as an independent militia and that SCIRI no longer received military aid from Iran.
Some U.S. officials on Friday saw the decision by Iraq to expel the two men as a positive development that reflected Iraq's independence.
Staff writers Josh White and Peter Baker in Washington contributed to this report.