AFP: A US failure in Iraq would empower Iran and threaten world peace, President George W. Bush said Sunday, warning Tehran that if any Iranians are caught in Iraq “we will deal with them.” WASHINGTON, Jan 14, 2007 (AFP) – A US failure in Iraq would empower Iran and threaten world peace, President George W. Bush said Sunday, warning Tehran that if any Iranians are caught in Iraq “we will deal with them.”
Bush’s tough language during an interview with CBS television echoed his Vice President Dick Cheney, who earlier told Fox network Iran should “keep their folks at home” and not try to destabilize Iraq.
His decision last week to “surge” US forces in Iraq by 21,500 troops, Bush said, was reached after considering other options like “doing nothing” and getting out of Iraq, both of which he ruled out, he said, because “we’d have a crisis on our hands in Iraq.”
“Failure in Iraq, would empower Iran, which poses a significant threat to world peace,” Bush said in an interview aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday.
Asked if he agreed with US military officers that Iranian agents were killing US troops in Iraq, Bush said: “I think what they’re saying … is that the Iranians are providing equipment that is killing Americans, and therefore, either way its’ unacceptable.”
And to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bush offered a warning: “If we catch your people inside (Iraq) harming US citizens or Iraqi citizens you know we will deal with them.”
Bush’s tough line on Iran came as US forces in Iraq held five Iranians who were detained in the north of the country last week, accused by the United States of being linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Iran insists the detainees are all consular officials.
Slammed for deciding to increase troop levels in Iraq against the advice of generals and some lawmakers in his own party, Bush said he did not see himself as stubborn.
“I think I’m a flexible open minded person. I really do,” Bush said. “Take this policy. I spent a lot of time listening to a lot of people.”
In the face of widespread opposition to his new Iraq strategy, Bush said he would press ahead. “Im not gonna change my principles … I’m not going to try to be popular and change my principles to do so.”
Asked about his push for war in Iraq on the premise Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which have never been found since the US-led invasion in 2003, Bush said he may have been wrong but not dishonest.
“Oh absolutely,” he told CBS. “Everybody was wrong on weapons of mass destruction and there was an intelligence failure … but I was as surprised as anybody he didn’t have them.”
During his interview, conducted over several days at the presidential retreat of Camp David and elsewhere, Bush said he reads a casualty report of US troops in Iraq every morning and that he signs every letter to the families of Americans killed in action.
The president was filmed shortly after meeting with a military family that had lost a loved one in Iraq, with Bush appearing subdued and clearly moved by what he had heard.
Bush also said that he was reading a book the television described as a historical paralell to Iraq, about France’s experience in its 1954-1962 war against independence fighters in Algeria.