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Iraqi former vice president accuses Iran of links with al-Qaeda

Tariq al-Hashimi alleges Iranian general admitted to him that Tehran had 'relations' with al-Qaeda and funded Shia militias
'I asked him: Do you have relations with al-Qaeda? He said: Yes' (AFP)

In an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, Iraqi former vice president Tariq al-Hashimi said he was told by Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in 2007 that Iran has ties with al-Qaeda.

“I asked him: ‘Do you have relations with al-Qaeda?’ He said: ‘Yes’,” al-Hashimi said, describing a conversation with Soleimani during a visit to Tehran. “Do you aid the resistance against the Americans? He said yes. Are you establishing Shia militias modelled after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards? ‘Yes, and today the funding for the Mahdi Army comes from Iran.’”

Mahdi Army was founded by the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003. It was heavily involved in the sectarian civil war after the US-led invasion, and it clashed with Iraqi government forces and American troops.

Al-Hashimi claimed that Soleimani cited fear of the Americans as the reason for intervening in Iraq.

When confronted about the bloodshed caused by Iranian policies, according to al-Hashimi’s account, Soleimani said: “This is the reality of the matter for us.”

Soleimani is the current commander of the Quds Force, a division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which was set up during the Iran-Iraq war between 1980-1988.

The Iraqi ex-vice president said he urged Iran to rethink its policies in Iraq or face hostility from Baghdad.

The Iraqi government issued a warrant for al-Hashimi’s arrest in December 2011. He was the most prominent Sunni member of the government of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

A year later, al-Hashimi was sentenced to death in absentia on murder charges after he was accused of being involved in assassinations and bombings.

Al-Hashimi says the charges were politically motivated. He now lives in exile in Ankara.

In the interview, al-Hashimi said he was personally targeted by Iran, alongside his three brothers whom he claimed were killed by the Iranians.

Mouayed al-Wendi, a professor in international relations, told Arabi21 news website that al-Hashimi’s “revelations” affirm what the Iraqi government has long denied: that Iran has been meddling in Iraqi politics.