The forces stormed the Iranian mission at about 3 a.m., detaining the five staffers and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled north, 220 miles from Baghdad.
The action came as President Bush on Wednesday night accused Iran and Syria of "allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq" during his speech announcing he would send 21,500 additional U.S. forces to Iraq.
"We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," he said. "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
Iraq's government welcomed Bush's new strategy and promised it was committed to making sure it succeeds. But ordinary Iraqis gave it mixed reviews, with many expressing skepticism that an increase in U.S. troops would quell the violence ransacking their country.
"The failure in Iraq will not only affect this country only but the rest of the region and the world, including the United States," said Sadiq al-Rikabi, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.
A Sunni lawmaker rejected Bush's plan to send more troops, calling instead for a timetable for them to withdraw and for direct negotiations with insurgents.
"Bush's plan could be the last attempt to fix the chaos created after the invasion of Iraq. Yet, sending more troops will not end the problem, on the contrary, there will be more bloodshed," said Sunni lawmaker Hussein al-Falluji.
Today, An Iraqi official said the government is waiting for more facts about the raid on the Iranian consulate before commenting.
"There are reports that six people were detained, but now we want clarification from the American side and from the Iranian side about these people and what they were doing there and whether they were employees," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said during a news conference.
He added that Iraq's Foreign Ministry is contacting concerned sides "and then we can take an official stance on the matter."
In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Iraqi and Swiss ambassadors and "demanded an explanation" about the incident. Switzerland represents American interests in Iran, where there is no U.S. Embassy.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, told state-run radio that the raid was "against a diplomatic mission" since the "presence of Iranian staffers in Irbil was legal." Hosseini claimed the action by the U.S.-led coalition reflected "continuation of pressure" on Iran, aiming to "create tension" between Iraq and its neighbors.
A resident living near the mission said the foreign force used stun bombs in the raid and brought down an Iranian flag that was on the roof of the two-story yellow house. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, said the resident on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.
"They took five Iranians with them and at about seven in the morning they handed over the house to Kurdish peshmergas," he said.
In the early afternoon, a number of Kurdish guerrillas could be seen around the building preventing people from getting close to the house and not allowing cameramen and photographers to take pictures.
The report, which first appeared on Iraq state television, also was confirmed by a Shiite official in the capital, who declined to be named for the same reason.
The U.S. military issued a statement saying it had taken six people into custody in the Irbil region but made no mention of a raid on the Iranian consulate. It declined further comment on the raid.
The motive for the raid was not known, but it came as tensions are high between Iran and the United States. The Bush administration has accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and of helping fuel violence in Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, is trying to expand Iran's role in Iraq as a counter to U.S. influence in the Gulf region. In other developments:
---The U.S. military announced Wednesday that four more American soldiers died of combat wounds in Iraq. A Task Force Lightning soldier assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division died Tuesday from a gunshot wound sustained in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.
Two more soldiers died the same day in Iraq's western Anbar province. One was assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, and one was assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
A 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed by a roadside bomb outside of Fallujah.
---Iraq's prime minister has told Shiite militiamen to surrender their weapons or face an all-out assault, part of the commitment Bush outlined on Wednesday to bring violence under control with a more aggressive Iraqi Army and 21,500 additional American troops.
Senior Iraqi officials said Wednesday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, under pressure from the U.S., has agreed to crack down on the fighters even though they are loyal to his most powerful political ally, the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Previously, al-Maliki had resisted the move.
A senior Shiite legislator and close al-Maliki adviser said the prime minister had warned that no militias would be spared in the crackdown.
"The government has told the Sadrists: 'If we want to build a state we have no other choice but to attack armed groups,'" said the legislator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the prime minister.
---Sunni militants continued to put up fierce resistance in fighting along Haifa Street in central Baghdad.
The neighborhood is only about 21/2 miles north of the Green Zone, site of the Iraqi government headquarters, the U.S. Embassy and base for thousands of American soldiers.
Eighty suspected insurgents were killed in the fighting -- 50 of them on Tuesday alone, in an assault backed by U.S. troops, fighter jets and attack helicopters.
---Police on Wednesday reported that at least 92 people had died violently or been found dead across the country.
In a single deadly attack, Sunni gunmen opened fire on a convoy of buses carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims home from the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia, according to police and Akeel al-Khazaali, the governor of the southern province of Karbala.
At least 11 people were killed and 14 wounded. Al-Khazaali told Iraqi state television that some of the slain pilgrims had been severely burned in the ambush, which occurred about 75 miles west of the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
Police said 60 bodies, many of them victims of torture, were found in Baghdad Wednesday. Seven more were discovered in the northern city of Mosul. Shootings, mortar attacks and bombings at various places around Iraq claimed another 14 lives.