Thursday, February 15, 2007

Backing off, a bit, on Iran

The White House is slowly backing away from some of the more pointed and explosive assertions it has made in recent days about Iran's involvement in Iraq.

On Sunday, U.S. officials in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity alleged that Iranian officials at the "highest levels" of the government, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were behind the smuggling of a deadly type of explosive device used against U.S. forces.

But during news conferences Wednesday in Washington and Baghdad, Bush and Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief military spokesman in Iraq, appeared to step back from that claim, just as Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did in interviews this week.

Further, the original claims about IEDs appear to be shakier than they looked at first:

Even the issue of where the weapons were manufactured is cloudy. A U.S. military explosives expert at the news conference in Baghdad acknowledged that there was no forensic evidence or labels linking the canister-shaped weapons to munitions plants in Iran.

Rather, Army Maj. Marty Weber said, the weapons were similar to those that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia used against Israeli forces during Israel's late-1990s occupation of southern Lebanon.

That directly contradicts the statements made by the Pentagon on Sunday. What was presented as fact turns out to be a guess -- a reasonable and informed guess, but a guess nonetheless.

Keep in mind, the dispute over the data obscures some fundamental truths. Nobody seems to deny that Iranian weaponry is finding its way into Iraq. The core of the matter is precisely what weaponry, which groups they're being given to and whether the Iranian government is involved.

But the administration has overreached to justify a war before; this incident points out how important it is to make sure of what we actually know -- as opposed to merely suspect -- before formulating policy.

Interestingly, there has been no follow-up on what would be the most damning evidence of direct Iranian involvement -- the capture of .50-caliber sniper rifles in Iraq, although the Austrian gunmaker says nobody has contacted it in order to compare serial numbers -- which suggests that the connection is, once again, conjecture rather than established fact.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure it's what the U.S. military officials in Baghdad believe. And it probably is so. But just because the White House knows we must have more than that to definitely say it was from the top of the Iran gov't....big deal. I think you are hard-pressed to find a quote of Bush's where he claimed it was. Here's what he said:

"Bush said the munitions were sent to Iraq by the Quds Force, an elite unit with close ties to the top levels of the Iranian government.

“What’s worse: that the government knew or that the government didn’t know?” Bush asked.

“Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds Force to do this, I don’t think we know. But we know that they’re there.”


2/15/2007 5:36 PM  

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