Wednesday, May 28, 2003
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. administrator Paul Bremer Wednesday reported "troubling" Iranian activity in Iraq and said it could result in serious problems if it went too far.
"We have seen a rather steady increase in Iranian activity here, which is troubling," Bremer said in the interview with ABC News, excerpts of which were released Wednesday.
His comments were the latest in a series of critical U.S. statements about Iran, lumped by President Bush in an "axis of evil" with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in remarks published Tuesday the United States would not allow Iraq's neighbors to create an Iranian-style Islamic republic in the country.
"What you see at the most benign end of it is Iranian efforts to sort of repeat the formula which was used by Hizbollah in Lebanon," Bremer said in the interview, due to be broadcast in full Thursday.
"(That) is to send in people who are effectively guerrillas and have them get in the country and try to set up social services and decide that these social services are their ticket to popularity," Bremer said.
"And then they start to arm themselves and you wind up with a serious problem if you let it go too far."
Bremer said he was also worried about die-hard loyalists of Saddam's Baath Party who were trying to reorganize and make a comeback after the U.S.-led invasion in March toppled them from power.
Bremer also addressed criticism that the United States had not planned adequately for the aftermath of the war.
Bush appointed Bremer earlier this month in what was seen as an acknowledgment that the first U.S. post-war administrator, retired Gen. Jay Garner, was failing to instill confidence in Washington's ability to put Iraq back on its feet.
Bremer said planning had been "extensive" but had not anticipated the swift fall of Saddam's government.
"Now I don't know who these geniuses are who think we could have done this better," Bremer said. "I'm sorry they're not here helping us, frankly."
He acknowledged that many Iraqis were puzzled by how the United States could "win a war in a couple of weeks, and still not have the power on."