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U.S. Seeking To Disrupt Weapon Supply Networks in Iraq

16 February 2007

General Pace urges careful assessment of degree of Iranian involvement

Washington -– Defense Secretary Robert Gates says every effort is being made to disrupt the supply network of weapons -– including lethal hand-tooled explosives -- being used to kill coalition soldiers in Iraq.

“Our goal is to ... bring about an end to the use of these improvised explosive devices and ... explosively formed projectiles that are killing our troops,” the secretary told reporters at the Pentagon February 15.

Gates said it is not clear whether senior Iranian political leaders are involved and have approved activities carried out against U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces by the paramilitary al-Quds Force or if the group is acting independently.

Marine General Peter Pace, speaking alongside Gates, pointed out that twice Iranians were picked up in Iraq as part of explosive network disruption efforts.  They were part of the al-Quds Force, he said, which is subordinate to the Iranian Republican Guard Corps.  (See related article.)

At the same time, both Gates and Pace were careful to say they do not know if senior Iranian government leaders are directing the supply of weapons and components into Iraq or are orchestrating deadly attacks.

Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pace emphasized the importance of sifting through established facts and then drawing the correct assessment based on them.  “We know that there are explosives and weapons being used inside Iraq that were manufactured in Iran,” he said, but there is no proof that “the senior leadership in Iran is directing these activities.”  Gates said it would be hypothetical to draw any other conclusion.

He reiterated sentiments that both he and President Bush have stated previously. “We are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran.  We are not planning a war,” he said.

Gates also said he would like to see Iran freeze its missile technology development program.  If he could be reassured that “Iran will not be able to buy ballistic missile technology from others that would give them greater capabilities,” the secretary said, he might rest easier at night.

Gates also was asked about comments reportedly made by the Russian army chief of staff indicating that Moscow might consider abrogating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which stipulates the elimination of all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles in the 500- to 5,000-kilometer range.

While indicating that Russia’s withdrawal from the bilateral INF Treaty would pose a problem for the United States and various European countries, he also suggested the unofficial Russian comments might well be prompted by concerns about possible ballistic missile threats emanating from Russia’s southern and eastern borders.

The secretary said the suggestion of a possible Russian withdrawal from the INF Treaty cannot be attributed to U.S. plans to put elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic within the next six years.  “They know perfectly well that the ballistic missile defense that we’re contemplating and proceeding to negotiate in Europe is no threat ... to Russia,” Gates said, describing such a connection as “a false issue.”  (See related article.)

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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