Published on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 by McClatchy Newspapers

Joint Chiefs Chairman Sees No Evidence of Meddling by Iran's Regime

by Jonathan S. Landay

A day after the U.S. military charged Iran's government with shipping
powerful explosive devices to Shiite Muslim fighters in Iraq to use against
American troops, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that
he hasn't seen any intelligence to support the claim.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace's comment could make it harder for the Bush
administration, its credibility about Iran questioned because of its false
pre-war claims about Saddam Hussein, to make its case that Iranian meddling
in Iraq is fueling sectarian violence and causing U.S. casualties.

At a briefing Sunday in Baghdad, U.S. military officials said the al-Quds
Force, an elite Iranian paramilitary organization, is sending arms into Iraq
that include bombs that shoot molten metal jets through the armor of
American tanks and Humvees.

They said these "explosively formed projectiles," or EFPs, have killed 170
U.S. troops and wounded more than 600 others and are "coming from the
highest level of the Iranian government."

Asked about the briefing during a visit Monday to Canberra, Australia, Pace
said he couldn't substantiate the assertion that the clerical regime in
Tehran is shipping such devices to Shiite militias in Iraq.

"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran.
What I would not say is that the Iranian government per se knows about
this," Pace replied. "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it is clear
that materials from Iran are involved. But I would not say based on what I
know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."

Neither the White House nor the Pentagon responded to requests for an
explanation of the apparent contradiction between the nation's
highest-ranking military officer and his subordinates in Baghdad.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told McClatchy Newspapers that U.S.
intelligence agencies believe the al-Quds Force, a component of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps, couldn't conduct such a major undertaking without
the knowledge of top leaders.

"Based on our understanding of the Iranian system and the history of the
IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) operations, the IC (intelligence
community) assesses that activity this extensive on the part of the Quds
Force would not be conducted without approval from top leaders in Iran," the
senior intelligence official said.

The official requested anonymity because intelligence on Iran is highly
classified. But his remarks, translated from intelligence parlance, indicate
that the U.S. has no conclusive evidence that Iran's leaders have directed
the arms deliveries, as one briefer in Baghdad conceded on Sunday, but
instead has concluded that they probably approved them.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied Monday that Iran is supplying
weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq or stirring up violence by majority
Shiites against minority Sunni Muslims, contending that the U.S. military
presence is to blame for the bloodshed.

"We are asking for peace, we are asking for security," he said on ABC's
"Good Morning America." "We are opposed to any kind of conflict and also the
presence of foreign forces in Iraq."

"The U.S. administration and Bush are used to accusing others. The fact that
you are showing us some pieces of papers and you call them documents - they
do not solve any problem," said Ahmadinejad. "There should be a court to
prove the case and verify the case."

President Bush and his top lieutenants contend that Tehran is supporting
Shiite militias that have seized control of much of southern Iraq, attacked
American forces and driven minority Sunnis out of large areas of Baghdad in
response to Sunni insurgent attacks.

In response, U.S. forces have detained at least seven Iranian operatives in
Iraq, and Bush has ordered a second U.S. aircraft carrier task force into
the Persian Gulf.

Democratic lawmakers and other administration critics, including some former
senior U.S. officials, are worried that the White House may be exaggerating
its case against Tehran to justify a military strike on Iran's suspected
nuclear weapons facilities.

White House spokesman Tony Snow reiterated on Monday that the United States
has no plans to attack Iran.

"I don't know how much clearer we can be: We're not getting ready for war in
Iran," said Snow. "What we are doing is protecting our own people."

The administration and its European allies believe that Iran's nuclear
facilities are being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its
program is strictly for civilian power generation.