[Marxism] LATimes: US can't prove Iran link to Iraq strife

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Feb 4 09:27:48 MST 2007


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iran3feb03,0,2695314.sto
ry?track=tothtml

U.S. can't prove Iran link to Iraq strife
Despite pledges to show evidence, officials have repeatedly put off
presenting their case.
By Maura Reynolds
Times Staff Writer

February 3, 2007

WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials acknowledged Friday that they had
yet to compile evidence strong enough to back up publicly their claims that
Iran is fomenting violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Administration officials have long complained that Iran was supplying Shiite
Muslim militants with lethal explosives and other materiel used to kill U.S.
military personnel. But despite several pledges to make the evidence public,
the administration has twice postponed the release - most recently, a
briefing by military officials scheduled for last Tuesday in Baghdad. 

"The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we
sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts," national security
advisor Stephen J. Hadley said Friday. 

The acknowledgment comes amid shifting administration messages on Iran.
After several weeks of saber rattling that included a stiff warning by
President Bush and the dispatch of two aircraft carrier strike groups to the
Persian Gulf, near Iran, the administration has insisted in recent days that
it does not want to escalate tensions or to invade Iran. 

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seemed to concede Friday that U.S.
officials can't say for sure whether the Iranian government is involved in
assisting the attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

"I don't know that we know the answer to that question," Gates said. 

Earlier this week, U.S. officials acknowledged that they were uncertain
about the strength of their evidence and were reluctant to issue potentially
questionable data in the wake of the intelligence failures and erroneous
assessments that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. 

In particular, officials worried about a repetition of former Secretary of
State Colin L. Powell's February 2003 U.N. appearance to present the U.S.
case against Iraq. In that speech, Powell cited evidence that was later
discredited. 

In rejecting the case compiled against Iran, senior U.S. officials,
including Hadley, Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, confirmed
Friday that they were concerned about possible inaccuracies.

"I and Secretary Rice and the national security advisor want to make sure
that the briefing that is provided is absolutely accurate and is dominated
by facts - serial numbers, technology and so on," Gates told reporters at
the Pentagon. 

Another reason for the delay, as is often the case when releasing
intelligence, was that officials were concerned about inadvertently helping
adversaries identify the agents or sources that provided the intelligence,
Hadley said.

Hadley also said that the administration sought to delay the release of
evidence until after a key intelligence report on Iraq was unveiled, so that
Americans could place the evidence in the context of the broader conflict. 

That report, called a National Intelligence Estimate, was issued Friday,
concluding that Iraq was deteriorating and faces a bleak future that U.S.
efforts may do little to avert.

However, the report tends to downplay the role of Iran and Syria, another
target of U.S. criticism, in fomenting sectarian violence, while
acknowledging that Iranian involvement "intensifies" the conflict. 

"The involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver
of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining
character of Iraq's internal sectarian dynamics," says the report, compiled
by experts from the nation's 16 intelligence agencies. 

Few doubt that Iran is working to increase its influence inside Iraq, but
many of its beneficiaries have been political groups that also are allied
with the United States. 

So far, the U.S. government has provided scant evidence that the government
of Iran is directly supporting militant Shiite groups. 

U.S. military leaders in Iraq have said they have evidence that Iran is
behind the supply network of explosives. Military officials have blamed Iran
for the increasing casualties caused by the use of "shaped charge" explosive
devices that can penetrate armored vehicles. 

"What we are trying to do is . counter what the Iranians are doing to our
soldiers, their involvement in activities, particularly these explosively
formed projectiles that are killing our troops, and we are trying to get
them to stop their nuclear enrichment," Gates said. 

U.S. officials detained five Iranians in a raid in the northern Iraqi city
of Irbil last month, accusing them of planning attacks on Americans. 

Gates also acknowledged Friday that there was "a lot of speculation" about
involvement by Iranians in the abduction and killings of five U.S.
servicemen in Karbala last month. But he refused to say whether an
investigation had turned up any evidence that Iranians took part.

"I would just tell you flatly that the investigation is still going on, and
the information that I've seen is ambiguous," Gates said. "It's not clear
yet." 

In a major speech on Iraq last month, Bush accused Iran of "providing
material support for attacks on American troops" and vowed to "seek out and
destroy" weapon transport networks.

Since then, Air Force officials have said they are planning new missions
that could include flights along the Iran-Iraq border aimed at disrupting
weapons shipments.

Iranian officials challenged the Americans to produce evidence of their
charges, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, pledged last
week to do so. 

The increasingly harsh words from the Bush administration stoked fears of a
possible U.S. attack on Iran. In recent days, the White House and top U.S.
officials have sought to counter the concern. Gates became the latest
administration official to offer such reassurances.

"The president has made clear, the secretary of State has made clear, I've
made clear . we are not planning for a war with Iran," Gates said Friday. 


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----
maura.reynolds at latimes.com

Times staff writer Julian E. Barnes in Washington contributed to this
report.








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