Rice says Bush authorized raid on Iranians in Iraq: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Recent US raids against Iranian interests in Iraq were conducted under an order from President George W. Bush authorizing a military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, The New York Times has reported, citing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"There has been a decision to go after these networks," Rice was quoted by the Times as saying Friday before leaving on a trip to the Middle East.
Rice said Bush had acted "after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity" among Iranians in Iraq, "and increasing lethality in what they were producing," the Times said in an article posted on its website.
Rice was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or IED¬s, being used against American troops were made in Iran, the newspaper said.
Rice was vague as to when Bush issued the order, but said his decision grew out of questions that the president and members of his National Security Council raised in the fall, according to the report.
Rice¬s willingness to discuss the issue seemed to reflect a more aggressive stance towards Iran that was first evident in Bush¬s speech to the nation on Wednesday, in which he accused Tehran of providing material support for attacks on American troops and vowed to respond, The Times said.
Until now, despite a series of raids in which Iranians have been seized by American forces in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, administration officials have declined to say whether Bush ordered such actions, the paper said.
Administration officials now describe Iran as the single greatest threat the United States faces in the Middle East, though some administration critics regard the talk about Iran as a diversion, one intended to shift attention away from the spiraling chaos in Iraq, the report said.
In the interview, Rice described the military effort against Iranians in Iraq as a defensive "force protection mission," but said it was also motivated by concerns that Iran was trying to further destabilize the country, The Times said.
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