Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 15 /Trend T.Konyayeva/
American military officials continue to regard Iran as a force destabilizing the Middle East region, the AFP quoted a top Pentagon official as saying.
"Iran does contribute to the violence we're seeing in the region and Iranian-backed militia groups are really the primary source of violence against both US forces and Iraqi forces," said General Russ Handy, head of the US air forces in Iraq.
"These groups... clearly are receiving some backing from Iran. There are those in Iran who would like to see the government of Iraq weakened and not strong," he added.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials said military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations to eliminate the Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Officials declined to provide details about the kinds of covert operations under consideration, but said they could include more aggressive interdiction efforts at the Iraq-Iran border and stepped-up measures to stop Iranian arms smuggling after the reduce of the American contingent.
In Iraq, U.S. officials say they have evidence that Iran has been providing Shiite militias with more powerful weapons and training, helping to increase the lethality of their attacks against U.S. forces-in particular, with the crude but deadly IRAM, or improvised rocket-assisted munitions.
The United Nations has prohibited Iran from exporting arms. However, defense officials say, Tehran continues to supply weapons parts to Shiite militias in Iraq.
Iranian officials have repeatedly denied that they have played any role in arming militants in Iraq or worked to destabilize other Arab nations. Tehran has claimed the U.S. has leveled charges of arms smuggling to justify a continued American military presence.