Inside U.S.-Iranian Tensions Gen. David Petraeus, the top American general in Iraq, told CNN last week that there is "no question" that Iranian arms are ending up in the hands of Iraqi insurgents.

Inside U.S.-Iranian Tensions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15327415/15327406" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

And now we turn to Iraq's neighbor, Iran. General David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq, told CNN last week that there is no question that Iranian arms are ending up in the hands of Iraqi insurgents.

For more on the tensions between Iran, Iraq and the U.S., we turn to NPR diplomacy correspondent Mike Shuster.

Hi, Mike.

MIKE SHUSTER: Hi, Farai.

CHIDEYA: So you were in Iran this past July. What did you learn about these allegations that Iran is fueling the insurgency?

SHUSTER: Well, it's hard to learn about the truth of those allegations in Iran. All you'd run up against is government officials who will say, no, this is not what we want. We want stability. We want to see the United States be able to leave Iran. And we would be foolish to smuggle in this kind of explosives and other weapons for use against U.S. forces and potentially against those in power in Baghdad who are our friends. That's the view from Tehran.

Nevertheless, the U.S. military has been making these allegations more and more, specifically for the last year and a half or so. And they have seized some of these explosives. They call them explosively formed penetrators, which are particularly lethal against armored U.S. vehicles, including tanks and Humvees. And it's certainly possible that some elements in the Iran Revolutionary Guards have smuggled some of these explosives and other weapons into Iraq.

But I think we have to note, at the same time, that Iraq was an enormous arsenal before the United States invaded. There were millions of tons of explosives and weapons all across Iraq, and obviously, some are using those weapons in this insurgency now more than four years old.

CHIDEYA: Some people hear the drumbeat of war from U.S. statements, particularly a speech that the president gave at a - in Nevada to foreign veterans. Do you hear the U.S. ramping up to go into Iran?

SHUSTER: Well, there's certainly a lot of talk about this. I think that the rhetoric from the Bush administration, I think we have to say, is relatively controlled. There are some alarmist points of view especially expressed on the Internet that this - that people feel that this is similar to the campaign of information and argument and debate five years ago that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

I think that the United - the Bush administration is split on whether to use military force against Iraq. At the moment, those who favored - against Iran, sorry. Those - at the moment, those who favor diplomacy to try to achieve U.S. goals with regard to Iran, specifically to stop Iran from enriching uranium in its nuclear program, I think, those who favor diplomacy have the upper hand.

But those who favor a more robust approach, possibly military activity, like the vice president, haven't given up. And I think this will be an ongoing debate in the administration. And it's unclear which direction it will actually take.

CHIDEYA: You mentioned the uranium. There is a question of how much enriched uranium Iran is making and for what purposes. How is that being resolved at this point?

SHUSTER: Well, what we know about their enriched uranium program comes from the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who have pretty good access to their - the Iranian facilities, who go there regularly, who are -have put a number of those facilities under monitoring. I've been to two of those facilities and I've seen the monitoring cameras that keep an eye on these facilities.

And I think that - I think the international public has a reasonable understanding of the extent of the uranium enrichment in Iran. It's going about slowly. It's running into technical problems. They haven't enriched a great deal of it. And as far as the IAEA knows, it's also been enriched to a very low level, not nearly the level that would be used for nuclear weapons, only the level that would be used for fuel in a nuclear reactor and nuclear power plant.

We can't discount the possibility that there are secret operations that the IAEA doesn't know about. The IAEA endeavors to try to find out as much as possible about their nuclear activities. And that's where it stands.

CHIDEYA: Finally, President Ahmadinejad of Iran came to the U.S. Do you think he made more enemies than friends on that swing?

SHUSTER: I don't think he made any friends in the United States, and it didn't seem that the media, the government and the public at large was open to having - to seeing a better relationship with President Ahmadinejad or more widely, the government of Iran. That his reception was somewhat hysterical, it seemed to me, in New York.

But - his appearance at Columbia University was a very interesting one. And that exchange probably was one of the most - the deepest and most profound exchanges between Ahmadinejad and Americans since he's taken office.

CHIDEYA: Well, Mike, thanks so much for the update.

SHUSTER: You're welcome.

CHIDEYA: Mike Shuster is NPR's diplomacy correspondent and joined us in our NPR West studios.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.