Bush declares his pretext for conflict with Iran


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

February 15, 2007

Bush Declares Iran¹s Arms Role in Iraq Is Certain

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 ‹ President Bush said Wednesday that he was certain that 
factions within the Iranian government had supplied Shiite militants in Iraq 
with deadly roadside bombs that had killed American troops. But he said he did 
not know whether Iran¹s highest officials had directed the attacks.

Mr. Bush¹s remarks amounted to his most specific accusation to date that Iran 
was undermining security in Iraq. They appeared to be part of a concerted effort
by the White House to present a clearer, more direct case that Iran was 
supplying the potent weapons ‹ and to push back against criticism that the 
intelligence used in reaching the conclusions was not credible.

Speaking at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Bush 
dismissed as ³preposterous² the contention by some skeptics that the United 
States was drawing unwarranted conclusions about Iran¹s role. He publicly 
endorsed assertions that had until now been presented only by anonymous military
and intelligence officials, who have said that an elite branch of Iran¹s Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force has provided Shiite militias 
in Iraq with the sophisticated weapons that have been responsible for killing at
least 170 American soldiers and wounding more than 600.

³I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government,
has provided these sophisticated I.E.D.¹s that have harmed our troops,² Mr. Bush
said, using the abbreviation for improvised explosive device. ³And I¹d like to 
repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top 
echelons of the government. But my point is, what¹s worse, them ordering it and 
it happening, or them not ordering it and its happening?²

The House of Representatives is debating a resolution disapproving of Mr. Bush¹s
plan to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. [Page A16.] And so Mr. 
Bush used his appearance to defend that decision as necessary in the face of 
deteriorating security in Baghdad. Asked about a possible American response to 
Iranian interference, he said, ³We will continue to protect our troops.² With 
skeptics asking why the intelligence about Iran¹s meddling is coming to light 
now, a number of possibilities have been raised, including the increase in 
attacks and American casualties in recent months.

American intelligence officials have said they think that top leaders in Iran 
must have approved of the attacks on the American forces, in part because the 
Quds Force has historically reported to the country¹s top religious leaders. But
aides to Mr. Bush, mindful of the criticism about its use of intelligence before
the Iraq war, said the White House wanted to be careful not to make that kind of
accusation without hard proof.

As Mr. Bush discussed Iran in Washington, the chief American military spokesman 
in Baghdad provided a more detailed, on-the-record account of how the 
administration believed the weapons, particularly lethal explosive devices known
as explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.¹s, got to Iraq. The spokesman, Maj.
Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, was also careful not to link the actions of the 
Quds Force directly to Iran¹s top leaders. He said American assertions about a 
link between the weapons and the force were based on information obtained from 
people, including Iranians, detained in Iraq in the past 60 days.

³They in fact have told us that the Quds Force provides support to extremist 
groups here in Iraq in the forms of both money and weaponry,² General Caldwell 
said. He added: ³They have talked about how there are extremist elements that 
are given this material in Iran and then it is smuggled into Iraq. We have in 
fact stopped some at the border and discovered it there, coming from Iran into 

The coordinated messages out of Baghdad and Washington were an effort by the 
White House to tamp down reports of divisions within the American government 
about who in Iran should be held responsible for the weapons shipments. A senior
Defense analyst said at a briefing in Baghdad over the weekend that the effort 
was being directed ³from the highest levels of the Iranian government.² But Gen.
Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a contradictory 
account this week, telling The Associated Press that while some bomb materials 
were made in Iran, ³that does not translate that the Iranian government, per se,
for sure, is directly involved in doing this.²

At Wednesday¹s news conference, Mr. Bush suggested that it did not matter 
whether senior leaders were involved. ³What matters is, is that we¹re 
responding,² Mr. Bush said. He said that if the United States found either 
networks or individuals ³who are moving these devices into Iraq, we will deal 
with them.²

Some experts said the question of Iran¹s responsibility remained important. 
³There¹s a big difference between saying that there is a rogue element doing 
things and then asking the Iranian government to rein it in, as opposed to 
saying this is a calculated deliberate strategy of the Iranian government,² said
Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. ³That has 
very different implications in terms of how do you hold Iran culpable.²

The administration¹s claims about Iran have been met with intense skepticism, 
from Democrats in Congress and from experts like David Kay, who led the search 
for illicit weapons in Iraq. Some critics have said the White House is using 
Iran as a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and some have suggested that the 
administration, which has been trying to pressure Iran into abandoning its 
nuclear program, is laying the foundation for another war.

On Wednesday, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president, 
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, took to the Senate floor to call on 
Mr. Bush to seek authorization for any military action against Iran. ³We cannot 
and we must not allow recent history to repeat itself,² she said.

Mr. Bush has said that he has no intention of invading Iran and that any 
suggestion that he was trying to provoke Iran ³is just a wrong way to 
characterize the commander in chief¹s decision to do what is necessary to 
protect our soldiers in harm¹s way.² But experts say that the ratcheting up of 
accusations could provoke a confrontation. Gary Sick, an expert on Iran at 
Columbia University, said there was a ³danger of accidental war.² He said, ³If 
anything goes wrong, if something happens, there¹s an unexplained explosion and 
we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get 
out of control.²

Mr. Bush has also refused to meet with Iran¹s leaders, and he said Wednesday 
that he did not believe that it would be an effective way of persuading the 
Iranians to give up their nuclear goals. ³This is a world in which people say, 
ŒMeet! Sit down and meet!¹ ² he said. ³And my answer is, if it yields results, 
that¹s what I¹m interested in.²

Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported from Washington, and Marc Santora from Baghdad.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


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