Iran's secret talks with Iraqi militants spark fears of proxy war
Harry de Quetteville, The Telegraph:
Iran held secret talks with Shia militant leaders from Iraq and Lebanon only days before the country's nuclear negotiators threatened America with "harm and pain", independent sources in Teheran have revealed.
The Iraqi firebrand cleric, Moqtadr al-Sadr and the chief of the armed Shia group Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, held separate consultations with leading officials in Teheran.
Al-Sadr commands thousands of fighters in Iraq, with the power to destabilise further the country and target British and American troops, while Hizbollah's missile-wielding fighters are stationed on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. The revelation of their visits to Teheran has stoked fears that Iran's Shia clerical rulers are drawing up plans to wage a co-ordinated proxy war, using foreign Shia militias, in the worsening dispute with the West over its nuclear ambitions. READ MORE
In a statement 10 days ago to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran said that America could inflict harm and pain, before adding: "But the United States is also susceptible to harm and pain."
On Friday, Ali Larijani, a leading Iranian nuclear negotiator, said: "Iran has chosen the path of resistance till achieving full access to nuclear energy, because we consider it a legitimate right." Iran insists that its nuclear plans are for peaceful purposes, a claim disputed by the United States, which fears that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons.
The visits of al-Sadr and Nasrallah to the Iranian capital went unmentioned in state-controlled media, but were reported on the Iranian expatriate internet site, roozonline, widely regarded as a reliable source of information from inside the tightly controlled Iranian regime.
While Iraq and Lebanon are home to the most powerful Shia militias, the voice of Iran's ruling clerics also holds sway with Shia minorities and Iranian communities in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Its capacity to destabilise the Middle East also extends to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
• Iran's most prominent dissident journalist has been freed from jail after six years, much of which was spent in solitary confinement. Akbar Ganji was imprisoned in 2001 for investigating the murder of five dissidents by intelligence agents.