And as expected, it falls far short of a "slam dunk" case. The anonymous briefing at which no recording devices were allowed involved a lot of claims and not a whole lot of actual evidence.
U.S.-led forces in Iraq presented on Sunday what officials said was "a growing body" of evidence of Iranian weapons being used to kill their soldiers, as U.S. anger at Tehran's alleged involvement in the war rises.And the BBC's version:
US claims the bombs were smuggled from Iran cannot be independently verified.ABC News managed to excerpt only the first two paragraphs of the Reuters flash, missing out all the caveats, while the AP manages to add that:
The officer said American intelligence analysts believe the EFPs are manufactured in Iran and smuggled into Iraq on orders from the top of the Iranian government. He did not elaborate.The Bush administration just failed the most basic benchmarks for credibility in their claims. No-one willing to stand up for the data by putting their name to it. no evidence put forward for smuggling, no evidence put forward for origin, no evidence put forward for Iranian government involvement, no description of sources for information (like the MeK for instance), no explaining why alternative and more likely explanations have been discarded.
As for the statement that "Iran is the only country in the region that produces these weapons", it is probably a deliberate attempt to mislead that this statement is unclear about exactly what weapons are being referred to. Whichever it is, they are being "economical with the truth".
Mortar shells of all calibres are ubiquitous in the Middle East, being manufactured by Iran and others including Israel and Turkey as well as imported from the US, Russia China and elsewhere. Likewise with RPG rounds. Other regional nations keep up-to-date stockpiles of such items. Iraq pre-invasion had received shipments from neighbours including U.S.-made munitions transferred there by other regional buyers such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is not inconceivable that this could be happening again - especially when the black market for arms in the region is booming.
IED's, even sophisticated explosively-formed projectile (IFP) types, have a long and inglorious history. No-one has ever suggested that the IRA was supplied by Iran and no-one seems to have a problem with the idea that the IRA made it's IFP's locally and without sophisticated means of production. Hizboullah have also used such devices, as have the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Given the previous history of the Bush administration, fresh in the public's mind because of recent Congressional hearings, the only rational response is to view both this breifing and the "evidence" it has presented as being woefully short of even the minimum mark.
Update AFP has some more detail.
The men spoke on condition of anonymity for their security and cameras and recording devices were barred from the briefing, where an array of mortar shells and booby traps were laid out for inspection.The Misagh-1 is an Iranian copy of a Chinese copy of the Russian SA-7 man-portable surface to air missile and has been in production since 1993. The rest of it is still a dollar short of credible, mostly for the reasons I gave above. No-one ever doubted there was arms smuggling from Iran, just as there was from Syria, Saudi Arabia and points farther afield. The idea was to prove Iranian government knowledge and direction and that has failed. There's no proof that the Quods guy or SCIRI are involved with the smuggling of IED's at all that I can find as being presented. There's no proof Quods is in fact involved in anything more than helping out their allies who now run the Iraqi government at the behest of the occupying Coalition. Let's not forget Hakim was Bush's new bestestest friend in Iraq only recently and that the same Quods guy had appointments with President Talibani and PM Maliki. I also find the ban on cameras and the issuing of a disc deeply suspect. What was wrong with the reporters taking their own pics of the items displayed? You can do anything in photoshop, as the uber-right are always keen to remind us whenever the subject of the Associated Press comes up.
Update 2 Larry Johnson of No Quarter emailled me pointing out that, by today's briefing's admission, 170 out of 2265 American soldiers killed in Iraq since June 2004 have been killed by EFP weapons and 620 out of 17,788 wounded. That amounts to 8% of fatalities and less than 4% of wounded attributable to these weapons.
Now one is one too many, which is why progressives have been saying the U.S. should withdraw for some time now, but there's a couple of realizations buried in those figures even if it were conclusively proven that such attacks were being orchestrated by the Iranian government.
The first is that, no matter what the uber-right would like us to believe, these attacks are not the difference between success and failure in Iraq. If these attacks suddenly stopped, Iraq would still be a quagmire.
The second is that no-one is giving figures for the number of deaths attributable to weapons smuggled from Saudi, the UAE, Syria or even Pakistan. Maybe Iran is a lesser problem compared to those but who can tell? Should we decide that Iran has given us a "causus belli" without that information as well as without real prooof of Iranian government direction?
Lastly, suppose it's all true, exactly as the Bush administration and the neocon pundits say it is. That would mean that almost the entire democratically elected government of Iraq, including its President, Prime Minister and bi-partisan leadership, had thrown it's lot in with Iran. (A couple of the Iranians arrested had just left the home of the leader of one of the major Sunni factions too.) At that point, do we declare war on Iran or do we leave them to what they would want, Iraq and Iran both? Who are we to occupy a nation and enforce at gunpoint what it's own democratic government is obviously against?
Update 3 Check out the first picture from the disc so thoughtfully provided to reporters by the U.S. at the briefing today. Spot the obvious question?
Update 4 Eason Jordan on the "anonymity" question:
But, wait, one of the three supposedly unnamed US officials apparently has been outed by an Iraqi news service, Voices of Iraq, whose report on the Baghdad news conference identified one of the three speakers as Major General William Caldwell, whose portfolio includes public affairs and who holds frequent news conference and grants one-on-one interviews. So, if the VOI report identifying Caldwell is correct, why did every other news organization apparently agree to grant anonymity to the general who's the official spokesman of the US-led Multi-National Force in Iraq? Why would Caldwell insist on not having his name associated with these allegations today?