CBC News & Will Dunham / Reuters – 2006-03-15 23:02:24
Bush Blames Iran for Some Bombs in Iraq
“The battle lines in Iraq are clearly drawn for the world to see and there is no middle ground.”
– US President George W. Bush, March 13, 2006
Iran has been supplying explosives to those intent on wreaking violence in Iraq, US President George W. Bush said Monday. He told an audience in Washington that his administration has proof that Iran is producing lethal, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that have been found in Iraq.
“Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran,” the president said.
“Such actions, along with Iran’s support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, are increasingly isolating Iran, and America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.”
Bush’s administration has been critical of Iran, accusing Tehran of trying to build nuclear weapons.
It has been threatening to bring the issue to the United Nations Security Council to seek possible sanctions.
Iran, whose hardline Islamic government fought a bitter war against Iraq in the 1980s, says it has a right to develop a peaceful nuclear program aimed at generating power.
Bush on New PR Offensive
Bush’s speech was billed as the first in a series intended to rebuild public support for the US military’s presence in Iraq, in the wake of an AP-Ipsos poll last week that showed the president’s approval rating had dipped to an all-time low.
The poll suggested only 39 per cent of Americans support Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq, where 133,000 US troops are currently stationed.
“We will not lose our nerve,” Bush said in Monday’s speech, pledging that the United States would continue to face off against militants in Iraq.
“I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not. There will be more tough fighting and more days of struggle, and we will see more images of chaos and carnage in the days and months to come.”
US President George W. Bush gives the speech at George Washington University in Washington on March 13, 2006. (AP photo)
Bush said the militants were trying to shake Americans’ resolve and force a retreat, but he vowed not to let them succeed.
“The battle lines in Iraq are clearly drawn for the world to see and there is no middle ground. The enemy will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated.”
1 in 10 of British Troops Leaving
On a related note, Britain said Monday that it intends to decrease the number of troops it maintains in Iraq by 10 per cent, amounting to 800 soldiers.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been Bush’s strongest ally in the international coalition that has been trying to maintain order in Iraq in the three years since a US-led invasion ousted former leader Saddam Hussein.
“Our commitment to the coalition remains certain,” Defence Secretary John Reid said in a speech to the British House of Commons.
Britain is reducing its contingent of troops because Iraqi security forces are ready to take a greater role in policing the country, Reid said.
US General Says:
No Proof Iran behind Iraq Arms
Will Dunham / Reuters
WASHINGTON (March 14, 2006) — The United States does not have proof that Iran’s government is responsible for the presence of Iranian weapons and military personnel in Iraq, the top US military officer said on Tuesday.
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also said the United States may slightly increase its troops in Iraq from the current 133,000 to provide more security for an upcoming Shi’ite pilgrimage amid worry about further sectarian violence.
President George W. Bush said on Monday components from Iran were being used in powerful roadside bombs used in Iraq, and Rumsfeld said last week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel had been inside Iraq to stir up trouble.
Asked whether the United States has proof that Iran’s government was behind these developments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing, “I do not, sir.”
Rumsfeld said that there was evidence, which he did not specify, that Revolutionary Guard troops “have been and/or are in Iraq,” and that it would be reasonable to suggest Iran’s government was responsible.
“It’s entirely possible there are rogue elements and they’re just there on their own or they’re pilgrims. Not likely,” Rumsfeld added.
US charges about Iranian weapons and personnel in Iraq have added to tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Difficult to Prove
Rumsfeld said it was difficult to prove Iranian government involvement.
“As to equipment, unless you physically see it coming in a government-sponsored vehicle or with government-sponsored troops, you can’t know it,” Rumsfeld said. “All you know is that you find equipment, weapons, explosives, whatever, in a country that came from the neighbouring country.”
“With respect to people, it’s very difficult to tie a thread precisely to the government of Iran,” Rumsfeld added.
He noted, for example, that Iranian Shi’ite Muslims make pilgrimages by the thousands to Shi’ite holy places in Iraq.
Bush said on Monday, referring to improvised explosive devices, “Some of the most powerful IEDs we’re seeing in Iraq today includes components that came from Iran.”
Ahead of the Shi’ite religious holiday Arba’een, Rumsfeld said that Army Gen. George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, “may decide he wants to bulk up slightly for the pilgrimage.” Rumsfeld did not indicate that a decision had been made or how many US troops may be added.
The United States has reduced the size of its force from about 160,000 in December.
Just days before the third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld said that “it’s clearly a very difficult situation.” He argued that there were positive indicators, including Iraqi public support for democracy and U.S.-trained Iraqi government security forces taking on more responsibility for the security of their country.
Pace added: “The path to civil war is available to the Iraqi people. And the path towards freedom and representative government is available to them. And they are standing at the crossroads right now. And they’re looking down both paths.”
“And right now, it appears to me that, for sure, the Iraqi people want to go down the path towards prosperity and freedom,” Pace added.
Asked how long Americans should expect US troops to be fighting in Iraq, Rumsfeld said: “Now, the implication to your question is: do we think we’re going to be there four or five years more in terms of large numbers of US ground forces? And the answer is no, I don’t think so.”
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