WASHINGTON - US soldiers have been authorized to kill or capture Iranian operatives found in Iraq, the Washington Post reported Friday, citing US government and counterterrorism officials.
The authorization covers Iranian Revolutionary Guard and intelligence officers found in Iraq, but not Iranian civilians or diplomats, the Post reported.
The newspaper describes the policy as "part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program."
For more than a year US forces have been secretly holding dozens of suspected Iranian agents for up to four days in a "catch and release" policy designed to intimidate them while avoiding escalation.
Before being released US forces collected DNA samples from some of the Iranians, took retina scans of others, and fingerprinted and photographed all of them.
In mid-2006 top US government officials concluded they needed to be more confrontational.
"There were no costs for the Iranians," an unnamed senior administration official told the Post. "They are hurting our mission in Iraq, and we were bending over backwards not to fight back."
President George W. Bush authorized the new "kill or capture" program in the fourth quarter of 2006, the Post reported.