Fox News chief White House correspondent Carl Cameron repeated President Bush's claim that Iran has helped Iraqi insurgents build deadlier improvised explosive devices (IEDs), but omitted the fact that Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that there's no proof to back up such a claim.
In two reports on March 17, Fox News chief White House correspondent Carl Cameron repeated President Bush's claim that Iran has helped Iraqi insurgents build deadlier improvised explosive devices (IEDs), but Cameron omitted the fact that Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that there's no proof to back up such a claim. In a report on the March 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume in which he claimed that "the U.S. believes Iran is harming, not helping, in Iraq," Cameron replayed Bush's March 13 statement , in which the president said that "Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devices in Iraq." And on the March 17 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Cameron reported that "[e]arlier this week, the president said that a lot of the IEDs, the roadside bombs in Iraq, have components that appear to come from Iran."
However, in neither report did Cameron mention that, at a March 14 Pentagon press conference with Pace and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pace said, in response to a question apparently asked by Reuters reporter Charlie Aldinger, that he had no proof that the Iranian government was sending the improved IEDs to the Iraqi insurgency. From the press conference:
Q: Well, I would like to ask you about Iran, sir.
Q: You and General Pace and, indeed, the president and others have had intimated strongly in recent days that Iran is stirring -- actively stirring up violence in Iraq. You said that Revolutionary Guards and IEDs and weapons are moving across the border from Iran. What you have not said conclusively is whether the government of Iran and the mullahs are sponsoring that activity. Do you have proof that they are, indeed, behind this, the government of Iran?
PACE: I do not, sir.
RUMSFELD: The -- let's disaggregate the question so that it's answerable with reasonable precision.
Q: As in "avoided."
RUMSFELD: As to equipment, unless you physically see it coming in -- in a government-sponsored vehicle, or with government-sponsored troops, you can't know it. All you know is that you find equipment -- weapons, explosives, whatever -- in a country that came from the neighboring country.
With respect to people, it's very difficult to tie a thread precisely to the government of Iran. As we all know, there are pilgrimages where Shi'a come from Iran and around the world to go to holy places in Iraq, and they come by the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands. And so, that is also a difficult -- in fact, there's one coming up very soon, a pilgrimage to the holy places there, in the next week or two, as I recall.
Now if, on the other hand, you have evidence, intelligence or physical evidence, that Revolutionary Guard or Qods Force people are in Iraq, you again can't -- it's entirely possible they're rogue elements, and they're just there on their own, or they're pilgrims. Not likely. And in this case, there has been evidence that Qods Force/Revolutionary Guard people have been and/or are in Iraq. And I think that it's -- a reasonable-man test would suggest that they're not freelancing and they're not pilgrims.
From the March 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
CAMERON: But the U.S. believes Iran is harming, not helping, in Iraq, and the diplomacy and symbolism for any Iran/U.S. meeting are dicey. The U.S. considers Iran the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad all have Iranian benefactors. Several Shiite militias in Iraq are led from Iran. This was the president earlier this week.
BUSH: Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devices in Iraq.
CAMERON: And this was his national security adviser just yesterday.
STEPHEN J. HADLEY (national security adviser): Iranian activity in Iraq, which is giving comfort and, in some case, equipment to terrorists that are killing Iraqis and killing coalition forces.
From the March 17 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:
CAMERON: It's probably too early to say. It's not clear whether or not these meetings will ever take place. The White House is tremendously skeptical. They note that Iran has sort of a history of cheat-and-retreat politics, making an offer and then retracting it or saying they'll negotiate and then not.
This is not the first time that the U.S. has actually had contact with Iran. Zalmay Khalilzad, who was the ambassador to Afghanistan, now the ambassador to Iraq, has actually had meetings with Iran about Iran's incursions into Afghanistan, and this offer of the U.S.'s has been out since November of last year, and the Iranians have basically ignored it.
The administration is really downplaying the significance of this, suggesting in effect that what Iran is doing is a political stunt designed to show that it's willing to talk to the United States in an attempt to lessen some of the pressure over its nuclear program that's coming from the international community. The White House really kind of doubts that Iran will accept this invitation, because the administration has made it very clear what they want to do is essentially berate Iran for its activities in Iraq.
Earlier this week, the president said that a lot of the IEDs, the roadside bombs in Iraq, have components that appear to come from Iran. There are a number of armed Shiite militias in Iran, which are led from various different communities in Iran. All of this amounts to a tremendous amount of suspicion by the United States that Iran really wants to agitate and create problems in Iraq. And they're -- notwithstanding their verbal acceptance of an invitation to talk about it.
The Iranians have also said that what they want to do is try to point out the error of the U.S. ways and end this suppression of the occupiers. So both sides sort of talking past one another here, even though they've agreed at least in principle to get together and talk about the situation in Iraq. U.S. wants to complain, the Iranians want to complain, and there's been no date or time for this.
JOHN GIBSON (host): Carl Cameron at the White House. The U.S. and Iran will begin talks, evidently. Carl, thanks.