A report in the New Yorker magazine said that US congressional leaders have agreed to a presidential request for up to $400 million in funding, for covert operations against Iran.
The capture of Iranian security officers and the backing of anti-Tehran armed groups were included in previous cross-border operations, said the report by the investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh (photo).
The article said that the operations have been taking place since last year.
Late last year, Bush’s request, made through a Presidential Finding document, was approved by US congressional leaders, including Democrats, said the report.
The document also explained that seizing members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and taking them across the border to Iraq for interrogation, is included in cross-border US operations against Iran.
The New Yorker, by citing current and former officials, said that the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which include the CIA, have now been significantly expanded.
Providing support to armed Sunni Muslim groups, opposed to the Iranian government, that is Shia, is also part of the operations.
A vicious organisation
Robert Baer, a former CIA officer is cited by the article saying that the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, is one of the groups inside Iran benefiting from US support.
Seymour Hersh has been told by Vali Nasr, an Iran analyst, that the group was a vicious organisation suspected of links to al-Qaeda.
A violent crackdown by Iran could be prompted by US support for the dissident groups, giving the Bush administration a reason to intervene, said the article.
Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq denied the alledations of cross-border operations on the CNN news channel, though he said that he had not read the article.
“I’ll tell you flatly that US forces are not operating across the Iraqi border into Iran, in the south or anywhere else”, he said in an interview from Baghdad on Sunday.
Previously, Mr Hersh has written about possible administration plans aiming at stopping Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, by going to war with Iran.
Strike against Iran
The New Yorker, in an April 2006 article, suggested that Bush’s ultimate aim was a “regime change” in Iran, whether by diplomatic of military means.
And Iran keeps on saying that its nuclear activities are only for peaceful energy purposes.
Mr Hersh told Al Jazeera that he believed that a possible strike against Iran was being planned by the US, with president Bush and Dick Cheney pushing for it.
“The president and the vice-president truly believe that the Iranians have [nuclear] bombs or will have them soon, no matter what their own intelligence says.”
In December, US intelligence agencies found, in a joint report, that Iran was less determined to develop nuclear weapons than was previously thought.
And if Barack Obama, the US Democratic presidential candidate, became favourite to win November’s presidential poll, Seymour Hersh also believes that a strike is more likely to happen.
And Mr Hersh added that the US president and Mr Cheny believed that their policies would be safe in the hands of the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.