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US Defense Secretary Expresses Concern About Iranian Involvement in Iraq

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he is concerned to find Iranians involved in some of the explosives aimed at coalition troops in Iraq. But he added that he does not know whether the Iranian government is behind it. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

Defense Secretary Gates told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday there is evidence of Iranian involvement in sophisticated explosive devices that have been used against coalition troops in Iraq. Specifically, he pointed to the Quds force, which is the elite brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

"We know that the Quds force is involved. We know that the Quds force is a paramilitary arm of the IRGC. So, we assume that the leadership of the IRGC knows about this," he said.

At the same time, he stressed that he does not know whether the highest levels of Iranian government are giving the orders.

"Whether or not more senior political leaders in Iran know about it, we don't know. And frankly, for me, either way it's a worry. Either they do know, and have approved it, or they don't know and the IRGC may be acting on their own, in Iraq," he said.

Gates said the number of explosives with Iranian involvement actually make up a small percentage of the so-called improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that coalition troops in Iraq encounter. But he said the United States is looking at a bigger picture.

 "So, our focus is more broadly on disrupting these IED networks throughout Iraq. The Iranian responsibility for one set of them is a concern. We are taking action to try and deal with that, but it's part of a much larger problem," he said.

In response to a reporter's question about whether the Pentagon is worried that the public is skeptical about U.S. intelligence claims, Gates said he has only presented information that is "factual" and "able to be substantiated with evidence."

"These are hard facts based on the technologies and the actual weapons themselves. I think that that evidence speaks for itself and I hope that the people will see the evidence in that respect. We are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran. We are not planning a war with Iran," he said.

These comments follow a recent briefing by U.S. military officers in Iraq, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and are reported to have claimed that senior Iranian officials are directly involved in providing powerful bombs to Iraqi insurgents.

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