Sun Feb 11, 5:02 PM ET
White House officials are taunting Iran into an action the United States could use as an excuse for an attack, a former security official told Newsweek, the magazine reported.
"They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something (the United States) would be forced to retaliate for," Hillary Mann, former director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, which reports to the White House, told the New York newsweekly.
US relations with Iran have chilled since President George W. Bush placed Iran on an "Axis of Evil," alongside North Korea and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, in a January 2002 speech.
Earlier on Sunday, Bush administration officials in Baghdad claimed that Iranian-built bombs smuggled into Iraq had killed at least 170 US and allied soldiers since June 2004.
US officials also claim Iran is enriching uranium to make nuclear bombs, while the Islamic Republic claims the nuclear fuel will make electricity.
The New York Times reported Friday that administration officials were concerned about especially lethal roadside bombs built in Iran, which borders Iraq.
The New York daily said its sources insisted they were not laying the basis for an attack on Iran.