Wednesday, February 14, 2007

America's top general contradicts White House, says no evidence Iranian government supplying Iraqi rebels

U.S. general: No evidence of Iran giving arms to Iraqis

February 13, 2007
The Houston Chronicle

Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A top U.S. general said today there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs, apparently contradicting claims by other U.S. military and administration officials.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces hunting down militant networks that produced roadside bombs had arrested Iranians and that some of the material used in the devices were made in Iran.

"That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this," Pace told reporters in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. "What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers."

His remarks might raise questions on the credibility of the claims of high-level Iranian involvement, especially following the faulty U.S. intelligence that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Three senior military officials in Baghdad said Sunday that the highest levels of Iranian government were responsible for arming Shiite militants in Iraq with the bombs, blamed for the deaths of more than 170 U.S. troops

Asked Monday directly if the White House was confident that the weaponry is coming on the approval of the Iranian government, spokesman Tony Snow said, "Yes."

Iran on Monday denied any involvement.

"Such accusations cannot be relied upon or be presented as evidence. The United States has a long history in fabricating evidence. Such charges are unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters in Tehran.


From The Times Online

February 14, 2007

General clashes with Bush on Iraq

Tom Baldwin in Washington and Stephen Farrell in Baghdad

America’s top general appeared to contradict claims made by the White House and other US military commanders yesterday that Iran was arming Shia militants in Iraq. General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not know if Iranian-made material used to assemble roadside bombs in Iraq had been supplied on Tehran’s orders.

"That does not translate that the Iranian Government, for sure, is directly involved in doing this," he said on a visit to Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. "What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers."

On Sunday US military officials in Baghdad said that al-Quds Force, an Iranian para-military organisation, was sending arms into Iraq. Weapons that they said were "coming from the highest level of the Iranian Government" included bombs that shot molten metal jets through the armour of American tanks, which had been responsible for killing 170 US troops and wounding more than 600. Last night a new Iraqi security crackdown was announced, which included closing the border with Iran.

General Pace’s public scepticism over the Iranian link is surprising given his record of intense loyalty to the Bush Administration, which has led him to be nicknamed in some circles "Perfect Peter".

His comments followed remarks he made the previous day in Canberra, Australia, that: "I would not say that the Iranian Government clearly knows or is complicit." Yesterday Tony Snow, President Bush’s press secretary, insisted that the Administration and General Pace were "not on separate pages".

Mr Snow said that the apparent differences were because the general, who was airborne yesterday and could not be contacted, had been very precise in his use of language.

While the US did not have a "signed piece of paper" from the Iranian leadership authorising the weapons supply, al-Quds was "part of the Army and part of the Government", he said.

But there has been widespread scepticism about the Administration’s claims among congressional Democrats and military experts. British officials, who had their fingers burnt over the dossiers detailing Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war, have also been urging caution about building another intelligence-led case.

Stephen Hadley, the President’s National Security Adviser, said this month that a presentation outlining the Iranian link had been postponed. There have been reports that it was intelligence chiefs, not the White House, who demanded that the briefing should be scrubbed of exaggerated claims.


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