Iranian rebels based in Iraq have deployed heavy weaponry to try to prevent incursions by Iran-based Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim forces, their commanders said on Saturday. The People’s Mujahideen, classified as a terrorist group by the United States, has moved tanks, rocket launchers and artillery as close as 15 kms (nine miles) to the Iranian border. The United States bombed Mujahideen bases at the start of the war against Saddam Hussein, but decided last month to let the rebels keep their weapons in “non-combat” positions. “We are obviously in combat positions here, but we are not against the U.S. forces,” Mitrah Bagherzadeh, a Mujahideen commander, told Reuters, within sight of Iranian peaks. “We had to establish these bases near the border to defend ourselves against incursions and provide a shield against the Iranian regime,” the 42-year-old woman fighter said. The United States and the Mujahideen have a common interest in stopping Iraqi fighters of the Tehran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) from returning to their homeland to fill the power vacuum left by Saddam’s removal. Mujahideen commnanders said they have skirmished almost daily with members of SCIRI’s Badr Brigade and Iranian troops in the area, which is about 150 km (95 miles) northeast of Baghdad. U.S. military officials have declined to comment on reports of infiltration by Iranian forces, denied by Tehran, but Washington has warned Iran over cross-border operations by its proxies, thought to be a reference to the Badr Brigade. Full Story
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