Iran's role with the violence in Iraq remains a major preoccupation of the Bush administration, with the U.S. military now building a base, practically within shouting distance of Iran — an extraordinary step to curb what it says is the smuggling of advanced weapons into Iraq.
It will be called Combat Outpost Shocker, and it will hardly come as a pleasant surprise to Iran that the United States will have a new base just 5 miles from their border. Col. Mark Mueller, of the 3rd Infantry Division, said it is the first time the U.S. military will be that close to Iran.
"Obviously, they probably won't be very happy about it," Mueller told ABC's Terry McCarthy.
The U.S. accuses Iran of fighting a proxy war in Iraq, as it smuggles sophisticated roadside bombs and long range rockets into the region that kill Iraqis and American troops.
"While claiming to support Iraq in its transition, Iran has actively undermined it by providing lethal capabilities to the enemies of the Iraqi state," Ambassador Ryan Crocker said during his testimony on the state of the war to Congress Sept. 10.
The Shocker base will be home to about 200 soldiers, as well as to agents from the U.S. Border Patrol, at a location where about 300 trucks now cross the border each day.
At the moment, the United States can only fully search three or four of them each day, but with more manpower and technology, they will know better where to look for weapons transactions.
"As we get more coalition capability down here, we'll be able to develop some of that capability," explained Mueller. "We can get some of the cell phone conversations between the buyer and the seller, times, types of trucks. We're getting better at that all the time."
The new base is part of a bigger struggle for influence between the United States and Iran in Iraq.
In the past year, U.S. troops have detained at least 17 Iranians in Iraq for alleged weapons smuggling.
And while the United States and Iran are not engaged in a shooting war, a war of wills has already begun, and Combat Outpost Shocker will be right on the frontline.