ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
There has been a sharp decline in roadside bombings in Iraq. The Bush administration says one reason is that Iran is using its influence to rein in Shiite militias who were planting the bombs. Just a few months ago, American officials were blaming Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq.
This new assessment from the State Department was reported in today's Washington Post by Karen DeYoung, and she joins me now.
In your article, you quote some very senior U.S. officials. Who were they, and what did they tell you?
Ms. KAREN DeYOUNG (Staff Writer, Washington Post): I spoke to David Satterfield who's a senior adviser to Secretary of State Rice, and also he's the Iraq coordinator. He is the senior guy dealing with Iraq. And I also spoke with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.
Basically, they're not giving Iran credit for having changed its attitude towards Iraq. No one is saying that the flow of weapons has stopped. They actually don't know this, you know, that Iran, according to the administration, is responsible for most of these sophisticated roadside bombs that have been a huge cause of U.S. casualties in Iraq.
Again, they are not saying that the weapon shipment has stopped. They're saying that the tactics by the Shiite militias that use them appear to have changed.
SEABROOK: Did they say why they think Iran is acting in a more positive way or in this way?
Ms. DeYOUNG: Yes, that the Shiite militia seemed to have overplayed their hand a bit beginning with an attack in late August in Karbala at a Shiite religious festival. There were more than 50 pilgrims killed. And this caused a lot of outrage in Iraq, lot of anger. And I think that the Iranians thought and even the militias thought that this was not the direction they wanted to go and then they started pulling back.
SEABROOK: Now, you also write that Secretary Gates and others at the Pentagon are not quite so sanguine on Iran?
Ms. DeYOUNG: Well, I don't think they necessarily disagreed, but Secretary Gates said the jury is still out. They're not ready to draw that conclusion, and part of that is because they really just look at facts on the ground. They say - as the State Department says that there's no real evidence that these weapons aren't still coming and that the Iranians are not still training some Shiite militia members in Iraq. But they're not quite ready to get to the point of saying, well, this had to have been a decision by the Iranian government.
SEABROOK: Karen DeYoung, I want to ask you to read the tea leaves here in Washington a little bit. I mean, just a couple of months ago, we were still hearing tough talk about Iran. Then the National Intelligence Estimate comes out and says that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program, the weaponization part - anyway, years ago. Now, the State Department says Iran is tamping down violence in Shiite militias in southern Iraq. What's going on here?
Ms. DeYOUNG: Well, I don't think they know what's going on yet. You know, there's another round of talks scheduled in Baghdad between the Iranian ambassador and U.S. Ambassador Crocker that will take place supposedly within the next few weeks. And I think they're waiting to see whether the Iranians try to take advantage of this fall in fighting and kind of acknowledge it and say, well, we've done this and so now, what are you going to do for us.
They don't know if the Iranians are going to actually claim credit for it, and say, you know, let's have some serious talks here because we have been accommodating some of your concerns.
SEABROOK: And what's going on here in Washington? I mean, the stance certainly seems to be changing.
Ms. DeYOUNG: Again, I don't think we're sure yet. You saw Secretary Rice on Friday had a news conference, and she was a little bit less severe in talking about Iran. Secretary Gates, on the other hand, had a news conference and he was pretty tough on Iran.
So I think that they're waiting to see what happens in these next talks in Baghdad. They're waiting to see what happens on the nuclear front. And there is, I think, a willingness to go ahead if they can get some demonstrable, almost admission from the Iranians, certainly on the Shiites.
Now, you could say, isn't it enough that they've just stopped. Why do you need them to sort of say, okay, we did this because you pressured us, so we did this because you wanted us to do it? But I think that they do want some acknowledgement from the Iranian government that this is happening.
SEABROOK: Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post.
Thanks very much for speaking with us.
Ms. DeYOUNG: You're welcome.
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