from financial times: George W. Bush on Friday sought to deny widespread rumours his administration was preparing some kind of military action against Iran. Mr Bush confirmed a report in Friday’s Washington Post that he had authorised US troops to shoot and kill Iranian operatives in Iraq, but denied this was a prelude to stronger action.
“We believe we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically,” said the US president. “It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them.”
But the US president’s relatively emollient comments are unlikely to quell speculation about the reasons behind the recent escalation of White House rhetoric towards Iran. In his prime time address on the “new way forward in Iraq” two weeks ago, Mr Bush pledged to “interrupt the flow of support [for extremists in Iraq] from Iran and Syria…We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
In his State of the Union address to the joint houses of Congress on Tuesday, he lumped Iran with al-Qaeda. “It has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who…take direction from the regime in Iran. The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat.”
Last week, Mr Bush ordered a second US aircraft carrier to the Gulf and the deployment of more Patriot missiles in US military bases there. Richard Haass, former head of policy planning at the State Department in the first Bush administration, said the US president was leaving both the diplomatic and military option open…
Meanwhile, in a short statement to commemorate International Holocaust Day on Friday, Iran was the only country Mr Bush cited by name: “Remembering the victims, heroes, and lessons of the Holocaust is particularly important today as Holocaust denial continues, urged on by the Iranian regime, which perversely seeks to call into question the historical fact of the Nazis’ campaign of mass murder,” he said.