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US Democratic Senators Skeptical Of Iranian Weapons Claim

The Misagh-1.
by Maxim Kniazkov
Washington (AFP) Feb 12, 2007
Top US Democrats have expressed skepticism about US government claims that Iran is secretly channeling weapons to militants in Iraq, arguing the issue is best resolved through negotiations rather than confrontation. The comments followed a US press conference in Baghdad, during which senior defense officials insisted that Iranian-built bombs smuggled into Iraq had killed at least 170 US and allied soldiers since June 2004 and wounded 620.

A compact disk distributed at the press conference contained photographs of alleged Iranian weapons seized in Iraq -- a Misagh-1 ground-to-air missile, explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs, and mortar shells made in late 2006.

The disclosures came less than a week after Congress released a scathing report by acting Pentagon Inspector General Thomas Gimble, in which he argued that former US undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith had manufactured "inappropriate" intelligence reports linking Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda to bolster the case for an invasion.

And several Democratic senators said Sunday these circumstances were fueling their suspicions about the motives behind the Bush administration's latest claims about Iran.

"I look at this with a degree of skepticism, based on the record that these intelligence operations have provided us in the past," said Christopher Dodd, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has expressed an interest in running for president in 2008.

Dodd told CBS television he had no doubt that Iran played a role in the current developments in Iraq, but believed the issue should be resolved through diplomatic initiatives.

"It seems to me until we engage them in some way on a multiple of issues, including this one, it's only going to get worse," the Connecticut senator noted.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry expressed a similar view, acknowledging that he had no doubt that there were "Iranian instigators, agents in Iraq."

But Kerry told ABC News that Iran needed to be diplomatically engaged rather than confronted because "every leader in the region and every observer, every expert here in our country, tells us that Iran does not want a complete and total implosion in Iraq."

The Massachusetts senator assured the administration's new claims of Iranian meddling will be met by "a skeptical Congress, and appropriately so, because of the last experience with Iraq."

Meanwhile, Jack Reed, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, openly called the alleged evidence presented in Baghdad "confused."

"The question is, is this a deliberate policy of the Iranian government at the highest levels," he said in an interview with Fox News.

"Is it rogue elements within the government? And then the other question is to what extent are there countervailing signals that the Iranians actually are trying to, not control, but not to further raise the stakes in Iraq."

Monday's issue of Newsweek magazine quotes a former White House official as saying that some advisers to President George W. Bush secretly want an excuse to attack Iran.

"They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something" the United States "would be forced to retaliate for," Hillary Mann, the administration's former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs, told the weekly.

Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst colonel Pat Lang said on CNN television that Iranians have been involved in Iraq "for months and months and months," and the US decision to turn the tables now bore "an eerie resemblance" to the lead-up of the Iraq war.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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