Bush team's Iraq ambassador briefs Washington Post editors and reporters on Iran


Nick Juliano
Published: Thursday September 13, 2007

The top US diplomat in Iraq sat down with the Washington Post Wednesday to push the Bush administration's case that harsher action needs to be taken against Iran because of allegations that country's leaders are funding and training militants in Iraq.

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, coming off two days of congressional testimony, told the Post that the administration was building support for a third United Nations resolution that would impose harsher sanctions against Iran. He accused Tehran of pursuing a "fairly aggressive strategy" on the ground in Iraq, according to the Post.

"We know what you're doing in Iraq. It needs to stop," Crocker told his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad, he said in the Post interview.

Next week, the United States will invite officials from Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany to discuss measures in a new UN resolution aimed at punishing Iran after its government has refused to suspend uranium enrichment. However, some of those countries have resisted sweeping new efforts to punish Iran, diplomats familiar with the debate told the Post.

Reports emerged Wednesday that Germany's unwillingness to back new sanctions in particular has pushed Washington to develop broader plans for a military strike against Iran.

A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, denied that Germany wasn't behind the plan for wider sanctions, although he told reporters Wednesday that specifics of a UN sanctions resolutions have not been finalized. McCormack offered few details about what such a resolution would entail, but he did raise the possibility of the United States unilaterally pursuing economic sanctions.

Crocker's sit-down with Post editors and reporters appears to be the latest step in what is emerging as a coordinated push against Tehran.

The ambassador spent Monday and Tuesday testifying in front of four House and Senate committees alongside Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq. The two officials invoked the Iranian threat in Iraq dozens of times in their testimony, which was meant to provide Congress with a progress report on President Bush's troop surge earlier this year.

They said Iran would "fill the vacuum" in Iraq if the US withdraws its troops, echoing a line advanced by others in the administration, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Attempts to link Tehran to improvised explosive devices -- specifically those known as explosively formed projectiles -- appears to be the manifestation of a US strategy RAW STORY exposed last month to build support for military action against Iran.

Officials have offered some evidence that Iran is meddling in Iraq. Petraeus said at a press conference Wednesday that Iranians were providing 240 mm rockets to Shia militias, and he said the US had recovered from Iranian fighters items from the wallet of a US soldier who was captured and killed in Karblala, Iraq.

However, the general denied that recently stepped up rhetoric was meant to lay the groundwork for an invasion.

"Certainly not," Petraeus said.