A senior State Department official recently had a frank chat with Al Jazeera, saying: “I think there is great room for strong criticism, because without doubt, there was arrogance and stupidity by the United States in Iraq.” Though Alberto Fernandez denies using those particular words, the BBC has verified the statement.
The state department says Mr Fernandez was quoted incorrectly - but BBC Arabic language experts say Mr Fernandez did indeed use the words.
It comes after President George W Bush discussed changing tactics with top US commanders to try to combat the unrest.
Mr Fernandez, an Arabic speaker who is director of public diplomacy in the state department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told Qatar-based al-Jazeera that the world was “witnessing failure in Iraq”.
“That’s not the failure of the United States alone, but it is a disaster for the region,” he said.