Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Iran supporting the Taliban?

Take this one with a grain of salt at least as large as that used when the U.S. made similar accusations about Iranian involvement in Iraq.

U.S. military officials raised worries of a wider Iranian role in Afghanistan on Tuesday when Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington that U.S. forces had intercepted Iranian-made mortars and plastic explosives intended for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Counterterrorism officials in Washington have said a handful of senior al Qaeda operatives who fled to Iran after the war in Afghanistan in 2001 may have developed a working relationship with a secretive military unit linked to Iran's religious hard-liners.

U.S. officials caution, however, that any Iranian link to fighting in Afghanistan, notably in providing weapons to Taliban fighters, remains cloudy.

As with suspected Iranian involvement in Iraq, it's a reasonable possibility. But as with Iraq, there are certain uncomfortable facts that need explaining, such as whether any such activity is condoned or controlled by the government, and why Shiite Persian Iran would go out of its way to arm Sunni Arab and Pashtun fundamentalists.

Especially considering how some of the earlier allegations turned out. Remember the Austrian sniper rifles? Supposedly 100 .50-caliber weapons sold to Iran were found in Iraq -- 100 literal smoking guns.

Except that turned out not to be true. The rifles' maker, Steyr-Mannlicher, called attention to an article in an Austrian daily, Wiener Zeitung, specifically debunking the story, then followed that up with a press release Tuesday driving the point home.

So while I can readily believe Iran is stirring the pot in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I require some decent proof before we take drastic action. CIA, get cracking. Or heck, just capture some insurgents or Iranians in the act of bringing weaponry across the border.

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