BRAD BLOG's White House Correspondent Holds McClellan's Feet to the Fire...
Special to BRAD BLOG by BTC News White House Correspondent Eric Brewer
Today I finally got another chance to get Scott McClellan riled up. Ever since the last time I did it, back in January, he's been lucky enough or tricky enough to avoid having to call on me, but today, the briefing room wasn't quite as crowded as it has been, and I got my chance to ask a question that has been puzzling me ever since the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, testified to the Senate on http://www.btcnews.com/btcnews/1195\" target="_blank">February 2 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 with explosively formed projectiles similar to those developed by Iran and Lebanese Hizballah."
Among the many reasons (detailed by BTC News chief Weldon Berger in his article that I linked to above) that Negroponte's statement was odd are the following: 1) Iran-connected Shiites now dominate the U.S.-backed government in Iraq, 2) IED attacks have been coming primarily from the Sunni insurgency, and 3) Iran would have nothing to gain from helping its U.S.-supported allies in Iraq attack coalition forces with IEDs.
Then last Monday, President Bush repeated Negroponte's claim in a speech that appeared to be the opening round in a new "drumbeat to war" against Iran. But the administration is perhaps getting sloppier, for the next day it appeared that not everyone was on the same page. When Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace was asked about the claim with these words, "Do you have proof that they are, indeed, behind this, the government of Iran?", Gen. Pace replied, "I do not, sir." Immediately afterward, Secretary Rumsfeld also failed to endorse the accusation, saying:
"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."
So today I asked Scott if he could clear up this slight inconsistency. Our exchange follows...
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