The new Republican House member offered an explanation of her controversial quote in an opinion piece published today.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R.-Minn., has acknowledged that, contrary to a statement she made in February, she does not have knowledge of a plan by Iran and others to partition Iraq and set up a terrorist enclave on Iraqi territory from which to attack the United States.
In a piece written for the opinion page of the Star Tribune today, Bachmann wrote that when she said on Feb. 9 that such an agreement already existed between Iran and other unnamed parties, she meant that she believes "America's adversaries are in agreement that a divided Iraq benefits their objective to expel America from the region, resulting in Iraq being a safe haven for terrorists."
She also offered assurances that her statements were not based on any classified material, but on publicly available reports about the intentions of Al-Qaida and Iran. Bachmann's first statement was made in an interview with the St. Cloud Times and received wider attention when the Star Tribune published it last week. At the time, Bachmann declined interview requests and issued a statement alleging that her original remarks had been misconstrued.
In the new op-ed piece, Bachmann clarified that she had said something different from what she meant. Bachmann was flying home from Washington late Thursday and had not responded to a Star Tribune request for an interview to answer remaining questions on the matter when this edition went to press.
On Feb. 9, Bachmann told the St. Cloud paper:
"Iran is the troublemaker ...because they want America to pull out. And do you know why? It's because they've already decided that they're going to partition Iraq. And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be called ... the Iraq State of Islam, something like that. ... It's meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. There's already an agreement made. They are going to get half of Iraq and that is going to be a terrorist safe haven zone where they can go ahead and bring about more terrorist attacks in the Middle East region and then to come against the United States."
In her opinion piece, Bachmann cited a Reuters news story from October in which an Al-Qaida-linked group called for a separate state, the "Islamic State of Iraq," composed of Baghdad and predominantly Sunni Arab areas. She also cited statements by an Iranian ayatollah who welcomed the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq, although this appeared to be a reference to the current Shiite-dominated state, which recognizes Islam in its Constitution as its official religion and source of laws.
Bachmann also cited statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, encouraging all Muslims to envision a world without Israel or the United States.
Al-Qaida and the Iranian government are both strongly anti-American and anti-Israel. But because Al-Qaida is linked to Sunnism and treats Shiite Muslims as enemies, while Iran is the leading Shiite state, it is not established that they have a collaborative relationship.
In her new statement, Bachmann says Iran and Al-Qaida are working toward the same ends but doesn't state explicitly that Iran and Al-Qaida are collaborating.
"The United States faces very real and clear threats from both Al-Qaida and Iran," she says at the end of the op-ed. "We must stand strong in the face of terrorism and support our troops in Iraq."