Gen. Pace repudiates administration's accusations against Iran

For the second time in two weeks, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff negates a key administration talking point.

Published February 13, 2007 9:26PM (EST)

Associated Press on Saturday:

High-tech roadside bombs that have proved particularly deadly to American soldiers are manufactured in Iran and delivered to Iraq on orders from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, a senior intelligence officer said Sunday.

White House Press Spokesman Tony Snow, today:

And there is a core of information that everybody agrees upon. Number one, there is weaponry that is of Iranian manufacture that's in Iraq killing Americans. There are Iranians involved, there are Iranians on the ground. Our intelligence indicates that the explosively formed penetrators, the EFP, in fact, are directly associated with Quds forces, which are part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which are part of the government.

The Quds force is, in fact, an official arm of the Iranian government and, as such, the government bears responsibility and accountability for its actions, as you would expect of any sovereign government.

Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - today

A top U.S. general said Tuesday 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.

As Cernig documents in this excellent post, Gen. Pace has been consciously and deliberately disassociating himself from the Bush administration's attempts to link the Iranian government to attacks on U.S. troops inside Iraq. As Cernig noticed yesterday, Gen. Pace even explicitly disavowed any knowledge of the military briefing given by anonymous officials in Baghdad over the weekend and, in that interview, said: "I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."

This is quite a bizarre, and clearly significant, spectacle. The White House and intelligence officials are continuously feeding the press accusations that the Iranian Government is behind the attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, and yet the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is expressly denying that there is evidence for that, and even going so far as to insist that he is unaware of the intelligence briefings being given to reporters on this topic.

Even the White House press corps recognized how extraordinary were these discrepancies in the claims from various Bush officials on such a key question, and they relentlessly pressed Snow today throughout the briefing until Snow finally admitted:

What [Pace] was thinking is, are you trying to lay this at the feet of members of the Supreme Governing Council; are you trying to lay this at the feet of particular individuals? The answer is, no, we don't have the intelligence that makes it that specific.

Snow's admission (forced after 10 minutes of hostile questioning) that they have no evidence that the Supreme Governing Council in Iran has anything to do with these activities directly contradicts the principal claim at the intelligence briefing in Baghad that the weapons were provided "on orders from the 'highest levels' of the Iranian government." But even worse, Snow's attempt to explain away Pace's comments by claiming that Pace only meant that they could not link the activities to any specific faction in the Iraqi Government is a total falsehood, since Pace said as clearly as he could -- both yesterday and today -- that the attacks could not be linked to the Iranian Government at all: "I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."

What seems to be happening here is clear. Numerous high officials in the Bush administration (current and former) are in the process of having their reputations and credibility completely (and justifiably) destroyed as a result of their participation in disseminating the false pre-Iraq-war claims to the American public. Gen. Pace does not want to be the Colin-Powell-with-his-slideshow-at-the-U.N. of the Iran War -- who would? -- and he is thus making it a point to repudiate the highly precarious (if not entirely baseless) accusations being peddled by Bush officials regarding Iran.

Interestingly, it was also Gen. Pace who, last week, emphatically denied what had been the central Bush rhetorical tactic for advocating the "surge":

A top Pentagon leader weighed in yesterday on the war debate and appeared to undercut the argument advanced by the White House and many GOP lawmakers that a congressional debate challenging the Bush plan would hurt troop morale.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. He added that potential enemies may take some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have a clue how democracy works."

It is clear that at least key factions in the Bush administration are intent on a military confrontation with Iran. They were able, more or less easily, to push the country into invading Iraq. But with so many people having watched as they severely damage our country in countless ways over the last six years, there is likely to be substantially more resistance to the next war they seem to be pursuing. Not being able to keep their stories straight on such a critical question, at such high levels, is an umistakable sign of real disarray and division.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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