Trash Talkin’ Thursday – Iran, Con’t.

From Best Guess

Wednesday morning, President Bush held a press conference aimed at addressing Congressional debate on a Democratic House resolution that would do what the upper chamber of Congress couldn’t: repudiate the President’s escalation plan for Iraq.

During the press conference however, Bush paid a noticeable amount of attention to Iranian influence in Iraq, particularly administration claims Iranian government forces are arming Iraqi fighters that are attacking and killing US troops.

Before getting into the President’s statements, recent government assessments of Iran’s role in Iraq should be reviewed.

January’s National Intelligence Estimate, titled ‘Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead,’ addressed the effects Iraq’s neighbours were having on the war. In the unclassified executive summary, the report, a consensus opinion of all 16 American intelligence agencies, read,

‘Iraq’s neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events within Iraq, but 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. Nonetheless, Iranian lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants clearly intensifies the conflict in Iraq.’

The remaining classified portion has been described by members of Congress who have read it to continue in the same vein.

A recent Congressional Research Service report given to Congresspersons also reviewed Iran’s role in Iraq.

‘Iran’s influence over the post-Saddam government in Iraq is substantial and growing because the dominant parties in Iraq have long-standing ties to Tehran.’

‘Iranian influence in Iraq has added to U.S.-Iran tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and regional ambitions, such as its aid to Lebanese Hezbollah. U.S. and allied officials assert that Iran is providing financial and materiel support to the Shiite militias discussed above, although a few reports say some of the weapons might also be flowing to Sunni insurgents. In providing support to armed groups, Iran might be seeking to develop a broad range of options in Iraq that includes sponsoring violence to pressure U.S. and British forces to leave Iraq, or to bog down the United States militarily and thereby deter it from action against Iran’s nuclear program. On the other hand, Iran might not necessarily want attacks on U.S. forces because a U.S. departure from Iraq, if that were the result, might leave the pro-Iranian government in Baghdad vulnerable to collapse. Those who believe Iran is proceeding cautiously in Iraq tend to view Iran’s aid to Shiite militias as a means of increasing its influence over them.’

After listing similar claims made in the Defense Department’s Iran dossier (more on this later), the report threw caution to the allegations.

‘Some might argue that the U.S. accounts have some inconsistencies. High-explosive shaped charges are being used primarily by Sunni insurgents against U.S. armor, and far less so by Shiite militias who generally field light weapons and have not attacked U.S. forces often, to date. This raises the question of whether or not Iran, as a deliberate policy, is aiding Sunni insurgent groups as a means of harming U.S. forces, or whether these explosives are reaching Sunni groups without official Iranian involvement. Other questions have arisen over the quality of U.S. evidence; a U.S. briefing to detail evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq, planned for late January 2007, has been postponed repeatedly. Others question U.S. assertions that Iran might have helped insurgents conduct a January 20, 2007, attack on a U.S.-Iraq liaison facility in Karbala, in which five U.S. soldiers were killed.’

While the administration makes firm, absolute claims to the extent of Iran’s involvement in Iraq, many high-level government reports have yet to go as far as some in the White House have.

Read all of it here.

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