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On the Record

Questioning Iran’s Role in Iraq Insurgency

RENEE MONTAGNE, host: U.S. officials over the weekend laid out for reporters what they called evidence that Iran is supplying sophisticated weapons to Iraq’s Shiites. On a couple of tables, officials in Baghdad spread out rocket-propelled grenades with serial numbers that they said linked the weapons to Iranian factories; and also a particularly deadly roadside bomb called an EFP or Explosively Formed Penetrator. Iran has denied these accusations.

To sort through the evidence we turn to Bruce Riedel, he’s now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and formerly he was a CIA officer.

Thanks for joining us.

Mr. BRUCE RIEDEL (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution): Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Let’s just get right down to it. You’ve seen pictures of the weapons. Are they really made in Iran?

Mr. RIEDEL: Well I know the forensics that we would use to review this kind of data, and it’s very good kind of information we can produce. Now no one has gotten a chance to study the forensics so far. What we have at this point is the briefing provided and the conclusions drawn from that by the military intelligence analysts in Baghdad.

Normally, military intelligence should be able to do a fine job of producing that kind of evidence. The problem the Bush administration has is that it distorted intelligence so many times in the past, no one is going to give them a free pass on this.

MONTAGNE: What is the evidence that exists that are on weapons from Iran have come into Iraq?

Mr. RIEDEL: British army sources have been saying for over a year that they have found evidence of explosives and weapons coming in to support some of the Shia groups in the south from Iran. I think the British evidence has shown up to be pretty credible so far. But what it has suggested is a very small percentage of the over all attacks on coalition forces, since most to the attacks come from Sunni groups. We haven’t seen any information from the administration that suggests the Iranians are supporting this Sunni insurgency.

If they are now suggesting that the Shia are becoming increasingly active against our forces, that’s bad news as well. Because that means we are now really caught between both sides of a civil war.

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