Bush: Target Iranian Operatives in Iraq

26 January 2007

President Bush is reported to have authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq.

The Washington Post quotes U.S. officials as saying the move is part of a strategy to weaken Iran's influence in the region and to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear activities.

When asked about the report, Mr. Bush said Friday, that U.S. policy is to "protect" American troops. He added that it would be wrong to presume that means expanding the conflict beyond Iraq's borders.

The U.S. accuses Iran of providing training and material support to Iraqi insurgents, and several Iranian officials have been detained in U.S. raids in recent weeks.

Iran has condemned the raids and urged Iraq to secure the release of its citizens.

The Washington Post says that for more than a year before the decision to target Iranian agents, U.S. forces in Iraq have been secretly detaining suspected Iranian agents.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Pukin’ Dogs” of Strike Fighter Squadron 143 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command area of responsibility, Jan. 10.

The report said U.S. forces held the agents for a few days, taking DNA samples as well as photographs and fingerprints.

The Post says the "catch and release" policy was designed to avoid escalating tensions with Iran and yet intimidate its emissaries.

President Bush also had strong words for members of Congress who oppose his new Iraq strategy, saying "I am the decision maker" on sending more troops.


The president said some lawmakers are condemning the plan before it has had a chance to work, and added that they have an obligation to come up with their own plan.

Mr. Bush spoke to reporters after meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and top military commanders at the White House Friday. The president thanked the U.S. Senate for confirming Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus to become the new top U.S. commander in Iraq.

The vote in the Senate approving the nomination of General Petraeus was unanimous, at 81-0.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a non-binding resolution declaring the deployment of additional troops to Iraq is not in the national interest. That resolution is to go to the full Senate for debate as early as next week.

Mr. Bush's new Iraq strategy includes sending an additional 21,500 troops into Iraq to bolster security.

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