Bush administration officials acknowledged Friday that they had yet to compile evidence strong enough to back up publicly their claims that Iran is fomenting violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.
Administration officials have long complained that Iran was supplying Shiite Muslim militants with lethal explosives and other materiel used to kill U.S. military personnel. But despite several pledges to make the evidence public, the administration has twice postponed the release — most recently, a briefing by military officials scheduled for last Tuesday in Baghdad.
“The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts,” national security advisor Stephen J. Hadley said Friday.
The acknowledgment comes amid shifting administration messages on Iran. After several weeks of saber rattling that included a stiff warning by President Bush and the dispatch of two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Persian Gulf, near Iran, the administration has insisted in recent days that it does not want to escalate tensions or to invade Iran.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seemed to concede Friday that U.S. officials can’t say for sure whether the Iranian government is involved in assisting the attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.