There's very little more serious than accusations that another country's government is arranging the killing of American soldiers. But now the U.S. says it didn't mean it.
On Sunday, a senior U.S. military intelligence analyst told the world's media at a long-awaited briefing about accusations that the most lethal roadside bombs in Iraq could be traced back to "the highest levels" of the Iranian government. Today, the U.S. military spokesman told the same reporters that wasn't what they meant to imply.
And President Bush, asked at his first news conference of the year about the apparent contradiction, said they didn't know how far up the orders went and that it didn't really matter.
When asked what assurance he can give Americans that the intelligence is accurate, Bush replied, "What we do know is that the Quds Force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that.
"And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did.
"But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know. And what matters is that they're there."
The Quds (Jerusalem) force is an elite group of Iran's Republican Guard.
U.S. officials, who insisted on remaining anonymous, on Sunday detailed accusations that the deadliest kind of roadside bomb, EFP's - Explosively Formed Penetrators -- were being manufactured in Iran and smuggled across the border to Shiite extremist groups to use against U.S. soldiers.
The intelligence analyst, an Iran expert, said the "highest levels" of the Iranian government would have known of those actions. But that was Sunday.
On Tuesday, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disputed that assertion. "That does not translate to that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this," he said.
Earlier Wednesday in Baghdad, another military official weighed in.
"There is no intent to make any inferences or assertions," Major General William Caldwell said. He said the point of the briefing Sunday was to highlight the increased threat to U.S. soldiers from weapons coming from Iran. He said they had decided to go public after exhausting other, less direct means of asking Iran not to allow the manufacture and smuggling of the bombs.
It was another statement from Bush though that had many people wondering what will come next.
"My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we're going to do something about it, pure and simple."
Not quite that simple.