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Defense Department Spokesman Cites Irony in Iranian Charge

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2009 – It’s ironic that as Iranian leaders continue to arm insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, they accuse the United States of destabilizing Iran, a senior Defense Department spokesman said today.

In a news conference, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell also discussed the law governing homosexuals serving in the military and the possible effect on the U.S. drawdown in Iraq as a result of a change in the national election date there.

Morrell said the U.S. military is not taking part in any undertaking to undermine stability in Iraq. He added that coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to find Iranian weapons, including extremely potent roadside bombs -- armor-piercing devices the military calls “explosively formed penetrators.”

“EFPs of varying sizes were discovered as recently as last week in operations in Iraq -- large numbers of them -- in addition to the fact that we continue to see connections between terrorist groups in Iraq and training that they received in Iran,” Morrell said.

Iranians have been meddling in Iraq since 2003, Morrell said, has and have “consistently been trying to undermine the peace and stability that we are trying to bring to the Iraqi people there.”

Morrell also fielded questions about the so-called “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law enacted in 1993. The law prohibits leaders from inquiring about servicemembers’ sexual orientation in the absence of disallowed behavior, but allows action to be taken against those who disclose their homosexuality by word or action. President Barack Obama has not asked Congress to change the law, Morrell said.

“This building is operating under the assumption … that ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is the law of the land,” the press secretary said. “And we are committed to enforcing the law of the land.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have had initial discussions with the president about the law, Morrell said.

“They've both acknowledged that there is a lot on their plates right now, and they are aware of where the president wants to go on this issue,” Morrell said. “But I don't think that there is any sense of any immediate developments in the offing on efforts to repeal ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

The drawdown in Iraq may be affected by an Iraqi Federal Court decision to hold national elections at the end of January 2010 rather than the end of December 2009, Morrell said, and Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, may have to change U.S. withdrawal plans due to the change.

“Obviously, a lot of the planning was predicated on the notion that he wanted to keep the maximum footprint possible through the most volatile time period on the horizon, being the elections and the transfer of power that would follow, potentially,” Morrell said. Still, he added, it is too early to tell what effect this may have.

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