Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday that he could not explain the apparent contradiction between a military dossier on Iranian interference in Iraq and comments by the Pentagon’s top general.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said that he had phoned Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and that there was no disagreement.
A military official on Pace’s staff said the general stood by his comments.
At issue was a weekend news briefing in Baghdad at which three senior U.S. military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the “highest levels” of the Iranian government had ordered roadside bombs to be smuggled into Iraq.
Pace told reporters Tuesday in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, that U.S. forces had arrested Iranians in Iraq and that some of the materials used in roadside bombs were made in Iran.
“That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this,” Pace said.
He had made similar comments earlier in Australia.
Claims about Tehran’s involvement have drawn skeptical responses from some U.S. lawmakers and critics of President Bush who are wary of an administration that based the invasion of Iraq on faulty intelligence.
Asked if Pace had vetted the information that went into Sunday’s briefing, the official on his staff said the general was aware of what was going to be presented in Baghdad, but that the comment about involvement at the highest levels of the Iranian government was not included in the material Pace was given.
Asked in a CNN interview Tuesday whether he thought Iranians were shipping weapons to Iraq, Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, the top commander in the Middle East, said he didn’t know.
“I have no idea who may be actually hands-on in this stuff, but I do know that this is not helpful to the situation in Iraq,” Fallon said.
Snow told White House reporters that Pace agreed with the basic scenario spelled out by U.S. military officials Sunday -- that weapons are moving into Iraq through an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
“The Quds Force is, in fact, an official arm of the Iranian government and, as such, the government bears responsibility and accountability for its actions, as you would expect of any sovereign government,” Snow said.