President Bush has accused Iran of helping Shi'ite militias in Iraq build more effective roadside bombs, the most lethal weapon against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians. The president said Monday the U.S. government is intensifying its effort to fight the bombs.
President Bush blamed Iran directly for helping Iraqi insurgents improve their improvised explosive devices, or IED's - the weapon that is responsible for more than half of the 1,800 U.S. combat deaths in Iraq.
"Some of the most powerful IED's we're seeing in Iraq today include components that came from Iran," said President Bush. "Our Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, told the congress 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. Coalition forces have seized IED's and components that were clearly produced in Iran."
Speaking to an audience at George Washington University not far from the White House, the president said Iran's support for terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons will result in continuing U.S. efforts to lead the international community in confronting Iran.
The president's comments followed strong words about Iran last week from two of his senior cabinet members. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Iran of not only sending bomb technology into Iraq, but also of sending members of an elite force of its Republican Guards. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States faces 'no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.'
Regarding the improvised explosive devices in Iraq, President Bush said his administration is spending more than $3 billion this year to fund a multi-faceted effort to defeat the primitive but effective bombs.
Last year, the Defense Department office coordinating the effort was expanded and upgraded, and is now led by a four-star general, who was brought out of retirement for the job. The general briefed President Bush on his progress on Saturday.
The president said the effort involves hunting down bomb makers and other insurgents in Iraq, training U.S. forces on the latest insurgent tactics, and developing new high-technology to defeat the low-technology devices.
"We now have over 100 projects under way," he said. "For security reasons, I'm not going to share the details of the technologies we're developing. The simple reason is the enemy can use even the smallest details to overcome our defenses."
President Bush said a recent newspaper story about a technological breakthrough resulted in an insurgent Internet posting within a few days on how to defeat the new technology. A Pentagon spokesman would not provide details.
Still, President Bush said the effort to defeat insurgent bombs has cut the casualty rate per bomb attack in half in the last 18 months. But he said the intensive effort must continue because the enemy adapts to every step U.S. forces take.