07 November 2005
Britain's Reid Says Iran Might Be Smuggling Explosives into Iraq
U.K. secretary of state for defense says Iran's recent behavior worrisome
By David Anthony Denny
Washington -- British forces stationed in southern Iraq are concerned that improvised explosive devices being used against them by foreign terrorists and Iraqi Ba’athists might be coming there from Iran, Britain’s senior defense official says.
John Reid, British secretary of state for defense, told journalists at a Pentagon briefing November 7 that officials believe the nature of devices being used against British troops in the Basra region "bear the hallmark of groups like Hizballah and may well be connected with elements within Iran."
The Iranian regime is known to be a sponsor of Hizballah in its long campaign of terrorist attacks against Israel from Lebanon.
The British do not have evidence of a transfer of such explosives being backed by the Iranian government, Reid said, but they have "made representations" to the Iranian government.
"[I]t would obviously not be right for a country to be publicly supporting democratic self-determination in Iraq at the same time as it was allowing or in any way encouraging the use of terrorism or violence," Reid said.
Reid cited recent actions by Iran – its noncompliance with nuclear nonproliferation obligations and the recent statement by the Iranian president about wiping Israel off the face of the earth – as contributing to international concern. "All of these items come together and they are worrying," he said.
The defense official described the global war against terrorism "a battle of our values. It is at heart an ideological struggle between those of us who adhere to 21stcentury values and those who are trying to impose seventh-century values in large sections of the world."
Reid said he disagreed with those who say that the failure of Iraqis "to achieve absolute unanimity within 18 months was indeed a failure." He noted that Britain has had 837 years of trying to resolve the question of Irish settlers in Northern Ireland and is still at it, while it took 300 years to settle similar problems in Scotland.
"I think the Iraqis have done damn well to get where they have in 18 months, quite frankly," said Reid.
In spite of initial differences about Iraq, the effort occurring now is "sanctioned by, inspired by, protected by the United Nations," he said. The world community is now on the side of the Iraqi democrats, and supports their quest for self-determination under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546, Reid said.
"[T]he question really is quite simple; either we will see democracy in Iraq destroyed by the terrorists, or we will see it built by the Iraqis themselves," said Reid. "We will see the job through," he added.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who briefed with Reid, said the Pentagon would be announcing more troop rotations for its forces in Iraq, but cautioned not to read more into it than was there. "This rotation is just that -- units identified to replace those whose tours in Iraq will be coming to an end," Rumsfeld said.
"We're aware of the interest in the press in the mid- to longer-term levels of U.S. forces and coalition forces in Iraq," Rumsfeld said, but "it would be a mistake to draw conclusions about such matters when reviewing the force rotation announcements."
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)