NIE Undermines Administration Claim That Iran Is ‘Igniting’ Violence In Iraq

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"NIE Undermines Administration Claim That Iran Is ‘Igniting’ Violence In Iraq"

The Bush administration has repeatedly claimed that Iran is responsible for the surging violence in Iraq. But on multiple occasions, the Bush administration has “ordered a delay in publication of evidence” to support its claim. U.S. allies who have seen the evidence said that it “still falls short of an airtight case.”

In an inteview with CNN yesterday, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said that Iran is “stoking” and “igniting” sectarian violence in Iraq. But he was unable to actually offer any such evidence. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/02/burnsiran.320.240.flv]

Today’s new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) explains why Iran is not a driving force behind Iraq’s violence:

Iraq’s neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events within Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics. Nonetheless, Iranian lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants clearly intensifies the conflict in Iraq.

The NIE acknowledges that Iran is trying to cause trouble. But it also notes that sectarian violence — not Iranian support — is the most immediate threat. Moreover, as the New York Times wrote yesterday, “more threats and posturing are unlikely to get Iran to back down. If Mr. Bush isn’t careful, he could end up talking himself into another disastrous war, and if Congress is not clear in opposing him this time, he could drag the country along.”

Transcript:

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Joining us now, the undersecretary of state, Nicholas Burns.

Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in.

UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What evidence do you have, for example, that the Iranians are involved in killing American troops in Iraq?

BURNS: Well, Wolf, I think there’s incontrovertible evidence that the Iranians have been giving very sophisticated explosive technology to Shia insurgent groups for the better part of the last year and half. Those groups have used that technology, some of which is armor-piercing — to attack American soldiers and British soldiers and to kill them. It’s a very, very serious development.

Now, we have warned the Iranian government in past about this. We had not received an adequate response from them. And you have seen now President Bush, over the several weeks, having decided that we will detain those military and intelligence officials in Iraq who are responsible for this.

Obviously, we wish Iran to cease and desist. Iran is not playing the type of role that most other countries are in Iraq.

Most countries like the United States want to see Iraq stayed together as unitary state. They want to see the problems between the Shia and the Sunni be resolved. But Iran seems to be stoking those problems, igniting them.

And so that’s the basic — that’s the basic allegation that we’re making against the Iranians. And we hope they’re going to have a change of mind.

BLITZER: And the State Department, I take it, is putting together a dossier, a full report that will be declassified and made public going through your arguments, your evidence? Is that right?

BURNS: Well, obviously, we have been making the case for the last several weeks and will continue to make the case to the American people and to the international public that this is a problem. There really is no doubt about it.

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