President Bush said Wednesday he’s convinced that the Iranian government is supplying deadly weapons to fighters in Iraq, even if he can’t prove the orders came from the highest levels in Tehran.
More important, Bush said in his first news conference of the year, is protecting U.S. troops against the lethal new threat. “I’m going to do something about it,” Bush said.
And the president warned of “disastrous consequences” that would follow in the event of a U.S. military withdrawal.
“I concluded that to step back from Baghdad would have disastrous consequences in America,” Bush told reporters. And the reason why I say ‘disastrous consequences’ is, the Iraqi government could collapse and chaos could spread.”
U.S. officials have said that Iran helped on attacks on troops in Iraq, an assertion denied by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In comments Tuesday, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also appeared to question the assertions about Iran's role in Iraq. “That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this,” Pace said.
President dismisses resolution effort
Meanwhile, Bush shrugged off congressional debate on a resolution opposing his Iraq policy, noting that the measure was nonbinding and mostly symbolic. But he said U.S. troops are counting on lawmakers to provide them the funds they need to win.
Bush spoke as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives debated a measure opposing his decision to send some 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.
“They have every right to express their opposition and it is a nonbinding resolution,” he said of the House members, who were continuing a marathon Iraq policy debate on Capitol Hill even as he spoke.
Republican allies of the president are battling against the resolution sponsored by Democrats against the war.
“This battle is the most visible part of a global war” against terrorists, countered the House Republican leader, Rep. John Boehner. “If we leave, they will follow us home. It’s that simple.”
In his first news conference since Dec. 20, Bush said he received a briefing earlier in the day from Iraq from newly-confirmed Gen. David Petraeus, the new chief commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, who is now in Baghdad.
“We talked about the coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces,” Bush said. For now, he said, that coordination appeared to be good, although Bush said much work remains.
Noting discussions he has had with lawmakers, Bush said: “They have told me that they are dissatisfied with the situation in Iraq. I have told them that I was dissatisfied with the situation in Iraq.”
Bush also said that the Iraqi government “is following up on its commitment” to crack down on insurgents.
Bush also faced questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks Saturday that the United States “has overstepped its national borders in every way” and is fostering a new global arms race.
Putin told a conference in Germany of the world’s top security officials that his reason for his warning about the United States was its increased use of military force. Nations “are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations,” the Russian leader said.
“This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons,” he said.
His remarks were challenged by the White House. “His accusations are wrong,” said Gordon Johndroe, Bush’s national security spokesman.