On Sunday, anonymous administration officials presented evidence purportedly showing that weapons have been smuggled into Iraq with “the approval of senior Iranian officials.” The next day, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace seemed to contradict this claim, saying that he has not seen evidence that the Iranian government “clearly knows or is complicit” in the weapons smuggling.
As it turns out, we’ve seen this exchange before. In March 2006, Pace and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held a Pentagon press briefing, during which Rumsfeld warned reporters that Iran was “putting Iranian Quds Force-type people” into Iraq.
When a reporter asked Pace whether the Iranian forces in Iraq were “backed by the central government,” Pace responded frankly, “I do not know.” Rumsfeld was then asked the same question, and provided a very different answer: “Well, of course. The Revolutionary Guard doesn’t go milling around willy-nilly, one would think.” Read the transcript:
SEC. RUMSFELD: I will say this about Iran.They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq. And we know it, and it is something that they, I think, will look back on as having been an error in judgment. … They’re putting Iranian Quds Force-type people into the country. … The Quds Force. The Revolutionary Guard types. …
Q Do you believe it’s backed by the government, or are they individual elements not backed by the central government?
GEN. PACE: I do not know. …
Q Do you think this is backed by the central government in Iran? What’s your —
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, of course. The Revolutionary Guard doesn’t go milling around willy-nilly, one would think.
One year later, the Bush administration admits there is no evidence showing that officials in Iran’s central government are directing the weapons smugglers. “I do not know whether or not the Quds force was ordered from the top echelons of government,” President Bush said Wednesday. Yet the fact that Rumsfeld nonchalantly pushed that claim demonstrates once again how the most senior Bush officials have been willing to overlook facts to pursue their ideological agenda.