According to Condoleezza Rice, President Bush authorized the recent seizure of Iranian operatives in Iraq. U.S. forces seized at least five Iranian officials from Iran’s consulate in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, prompting a confrontation with Kurdish forces.
Update: Iran has called the consulate seizures illegal and demanded that the prisoners be returned.
New York Times:
“There has been a decision to go after these networks,” Ms. Rice said in an interview with The New York Times in her office on Friday afternoon, before leaving on a trip to the Middle East.
Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush had acted “after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity” among Iranians in Iraq, “and increasing lethality in what they were producing.” She was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, being used against American troops were made in Iran.
Ms. Rice was vague on the question of when Mr. Bush issued the order, but said his decision grew out of questions that the president and members of his National Security Council raised in the fall.
The administration has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, providing weapons and training to Shiite forces with the idea of keeping the United States bogged down in the war. Ms. Rice’s willingness to discuss the issue seemed to reflect a new hostility to Iran that was first evident in Mr. Bush’s speech to the nation on Wednesday night, in which he accused Tehran of providing material support for attacks on American troops and vowed to respond.