A committee of the House of Representatives holds a hearing later Wednesday on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. The hearing also comes amid renewed concern by some lawmakers about what they call Iranian interference in efforts to stabilize Iraq.
The House subcommittee on the Middle East will hear from John Bolton, the State Department's top official for arms control. In previous appearances on Capitol Hill, he has testified about Iranian cooperation, or lack of it, with international efforts to monitor its nuclear program.
Also appearing will be Peter Rodman, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
Along with Iranian nuclear efforts, and proliferation concerns, some members of Congress are concerned about what they call Iranian efforts to stir up trouble in Iraq, as the U.S. coalition provisional authority prepares to hand over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on July 1.
One such lawmaker is Congressman Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican. He raised the issue with Bush administration officials during recent hearings on Capitol Hill:
"In my opinion, the bulk of what we are seeing in terms of unrest in Iraq, is being carried out both by Iranians, by those groups being supported by Iran's money, and by those organizations that are determined not to have Iraq be a stable nation," says Mr. Weldon.
Mr. Weldon says Iran, under its current leadership, sees the development of a free Iraq as a long-term threat, and says the Iranian government continues what he calls a crash program (intensified or rapid) to develop a nuclear weapon.
In response Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said that while Iran is still considered a supporter of terrorism,it may be exaggeration to focus primarily on Iran as a cause of instability in Iraq. "I think it is important to recognize that this whole problem is a multi-faceted problem," he says. "I agree with you Iran is important, I wouldn't say it is the key to everything."
The House hearing on Iran and proliferation comes two days after Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Bush administration might reconsider pushing for United Nations sanctions against Tehran if it fails to fully disclose its nuclear activities.
Iran has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and has denied allegations by the United States and others that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.