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Bush OKs force against Iranians in Iraq

Bush OKs force against Iranians in Iraq

American troops in Iraq have authority to kill or capture Iranian agents deemed to be a threat, officials said in describing a tougher stand toward Tehran and its suspected meddling in the nearly four-year-old war.
The more aggressive policy - evolving over a period of months - was described on Friday as the result of mounting evidence that Iran is supporting terrorists inside Iraq and is a major supplier of bombs and other weapons used to target U.S. forces.
U.S. President George W. Bush has said the remote-controled bombs, called improvised explosive devices, are the greatest threat to U.S. troops and the future of a peaceful Iraq.
"Our forces are authorized to go after those who are trying to kill them," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. "And we are trying to uproot these networks that are planting IEDs that are causing 70 percent of our casualties. And if you're in Iraq and trying to kill our troops, then you should consider yourself a target."
The United States and Iran have regarded each other with distrust and suspicion since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by militant students. Most recently, tensions have flared over U.S.-led efforts to isolate Iran and force it to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.
National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that the president and his national security team have received a stream of information over the last several months pointing toward Iranian involvement.
"As a result American forces - when they receive actionable information - may take the steps necessary to protect themselves as well as the population," Johndroe said.
Bush said he made it clear to Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, that "our policy is going to be to protect our troops in Iraq.
"It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them," Bush said in an Oval Office meeting with Petraeus, Gates and General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Bush signaled a tougher stand toward Iran and Syria in his January 10 address in which he announced a buildup of 21,500 troops in Iraq. He did not sign any order authorizing new actions, the White House said. Rather, a policy decision was made that U.S. forces could take whatever actions were necessary for protection.
While promising tougher action, the White House said the United States does not intend to cross the Iraq-Iran border to attack Iranians.
Bush, at his appearance with Petraeus, said the tougher policy did not mean that "we want to expand this beyond the borders" of Iraq. "That's a presumption that simply is not accurate."
"We believe that we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically and are working to do that," the president said. "As a matter of fact, we're making pretty good progress on that front."
U.S. forces have detained Iranians in Iraq on two recent occasions. U.S. forces still are holding some Iranians who were detained earlier this month in a raid on a liaison office in Kurdish-controlled Irbil. The U.S. has linked those still in custody to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents and militias in Iraq.


Updated : 2021-07-24 20:24 GMT+08:00