WASHINGTON – Rep. Michele Bachmann, who claimed in a recent interview to know of an Iranian plan to partition Iraq and turn half of it into a "terrorist haven" to launch attacks in the Middle East, said Friday that she was "sorry if my words have been misconstrued."
"Although it is difficult to ascertain Iran's intentions toward Iraq, they are clearly not in the U.S. interest — for example, the Iranian weapons that have fallen into the hands of insurgents," Bachmann, a freshman Minnesota Republican, said in a statement after media coverage of her earlier comments.
"If Iran is allowed to freely operate in Iraq and continues to thwart the U.S. and the Iraqi government, then we may very well see a de facto partition in which the western Anbar province continues to house and develop terrorists."
That was well short of her earlier comments to the St. Cloud Times, in which Bachmann said: "Iran is the troublemaker, trying to tip over apple carts all over Baghdad right now because they want America to pull out. And you know why? It's because they've already decided that they're going to partition Iraq."
She told the paper that half of Iraq — the western, northern portion of the country — will be called "the Iraq State of Islam, something like that. And I'm sorry, I don't have the official name, but it is meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. There's already an agreement made."
Bachmann added in the interview: "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 attacks in the Middle East region and then to come against the United States, because we are their avowed enemy."
The Times posted a podcast of the Feb. 9 interview on its Web site a few days later, but Bachmann's comments weren't picked up by other media until Friday.
In Friday's statement, Bachmann neither backed off nor repeated the claim that Iran had "already decided" to partition Iraq. The statement also didn't specify how her earlier comments had been misconstrued. Bachmann's office did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
Instead, the statement focused on the history of the region and the reasons to suspect Iran would try to expand their territory.
"I am sorry if my words have been misconstrued, but it is well known that Iraq is a conglomeration of many groups of people that emerged" out of European colonization, Bachmann said, referring to Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites.
"In the case of Iran, there are multiple reasons to believe they would seek to expand their territory to include Shia Iraq — namely, their natural cultural ties, the long history of Iran and Iraq wars, and regional security," she said. "A fourth and powerful reason is that success in Iraq for the West could threaten the future of the current Iranian leadership and its Islamic revolution."
In the Times interview, Bachmann called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "a crazed, delusioned president of Iran. He's literally a madman." She said that Ahmadinejad seeks "the absolute obliteration of the United States."