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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

26 January 2007

U.S. Seeks Protection of Troops, Iraqis, not Escalation with Iran

Five Iranians detained in Irbil suspected of link to explosives network

Washington -- President Bush said the United States is working to solve its disputes with Iran through diplomatic means, but it has an obligation to take action in Iraq when U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens are being threatened by “outside influence.”

That policy does not signify that the United States wants to expand military conflict beyond Iraq’s border, Bush said in remarks with General David Petraeus January 26. (See transcript.)

“We believe that we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically, and are working to do that,” Bush said, mentioning the U.S. coordination with the international community in response to Iran’s continued uranium enrichment and reprocessing program.

Bush said he takes issue with Iran’s government, which he said is isolating its citizens and “denying the Iranian people their true place in the world.” (See related article.)

“[W]e want [the Iranian people] to flourish, and we want their economy to be strong. And we want their mothers to be able to raise their children in a hopeful society. And so we'll work diplomatically, and I believe we can solve our problems peacefully,” Bush said. 

In a January 10 speech, the president said Iran is providing “material support” for attacks on U.S. troops. (See related article.)

“We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq," Bush said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that policy applies to “any individuals” who seek to do harm to U.S. troops. 

“This is about force protection.  This is about protecting our troops, and certainly the United States does not seek confrontation with Iran.  We are going to defend our interests.  We are going to work in the interests of our national security and foreign policy.”

McCormack said “parts of the Iranian government are engaged in activities that have the end result of posing a threat” to U.S. troops in Iraq.  “[W]e are going to confront those individuals and groups inside Iraq that are posing that threat.”

U.S. forces took Iranians in Iraq into custody in two separate incidents, in Baghdad at the end of December 2006, and on January 11 in Irbil.

“In the first case, we worked very closely with the Iraqi government in terms of sorting those who had diplomatic status within Iraq.  They were in fairly short order turned over to the Iraqis and they were then asked to leave Iraq,” and then the others were turned over to Iran through Iraqi authorities at “a slightly later date.”

The five detained in Irbil “are still being questioned at this point.”  Those individuals “do not have diplomatic status and they were not working at a diplomatic facility,” he said.

“They were picked up because they were suspected of being connected in some way to these EFD [explosive foreign device] networks,” McCormack said, referring to a type of incendiary explosive device (IED) that is especially lethal due to its advanced technology and techniques, especially against various types of armor used by U.S. forces.

He said the Bush administration intends to release evidence of Iranian activities against U.S. troops pending its declassification and referred questions over specific evidence or materials that implicated the five individuals to the Multi-National Force in Iraq (MNFI), which is holding them.

McCormack also said the United States will be working with the Iraqi government with regard to the “next steps” in the processing of the five individuals.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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