Gates: Bombs Tie Iran to Iraq Extremists
Friday, February 9, 2007; 11:07 PM
MUNICH, Germany -- Serial numbers and other markings on bombs suggest that Iranians are linked to deadly explosives used by Iraqi militants, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in some of the administration's first public assertions on evidence the military has collected.
While the Bush administration and military officials have repeatedly said Iranians have been tied to terrorist bombings in Iraq, they have said little about evidence to bolster such claims, including any documents and other items collected in recent raids in Iraq.
National security officials in Washington and Iraq have been working for weeks on a presentation intended to provide evidence for Bush administration claims of what they say are Iran's meddlesome and deadly activities.
The materials _ which in their classified form include slides and some two inches of documents _ provide evidence of Iran's role in supplying Iraqi militants with highly sophisticated and lethal improvised explosive devices and other weaponry. Among the weapons is a roadside bomb known as an "explosively formed penetrator," which can pierce the armor of Abrams tanks with nearly molten-hot charges. One intelligence official said the U.S. is "fairly comfortable" it knows where the explosives came from.
The Iran dossier also lays out alleged Iranian efforts to train Iraqis in military techniques.
Yet, government officials say there is some disagreement about how much to make public to support the administration's case. Intelligence officials worry the sources of their information could dry up.
Among the evidence the administration will present are weapons that were seized in U.S.-led raids on caches around Iraq, one military official in Washington said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Other evidence includes documents captured when U.S.-led forces raided an Iranian office Jan. 11 in Irbil in northern Iraq, the official said. Tehran said it was a government liaison office, but the U.S. military said five Iranians detained in the raid were connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents in Iraq.
The assertions have been met with skepticism by some lawmakers still fuming over intelligence reports used by the administration to propel the country to war with Iraq in 2003. Gates' comments came as a new Pentagon inspector general's report criticized prewar Defense Department assertions of al-Qaida connections to Iraq.
Speaking with reporters in Seville, Spain, on Friday before traveling to Munich, Gates told reporters that markings on explosives provide "pretty good" evidence that Iranians are supplying either weapons or technology for Iraqi extremists.
"I think there's some serial numbers, there may be some markings on some of the projectile fragments that we found" that point to Iran, he said.
Gates' remarks left unclear how the U.S. knows the serial numbers are traceable to Iran and whether such weapons would have been sent to Iraq by the Iranian government or by private arms dealers.