Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Lady And The Attack Dogs

By Cernig

Newsweek has a long and revealing article up this week about the relationship between the Condi and Cheney foreign policy factions within the Bush administration, which says that Cheney's attack dogs are working hard to undermine the State Dept.'s diplomatic efforts and looking for every excuse to pursue further bloodshed on the American dime and with American lives. It's all worth a read for D.C. KremlinWatchers, but particularly relevant today is this passage:

NEWSWEEK has learned that the veep's team seems eager to build a case that Iran is targeting Americans not just in Iraq but along the border of its other neighbor, Afghanistan.

In the last few weeks, Cheney's staff have unexpectedly become more active participants in an interagency group that steers policy on Afghanistan, according to an official familiar with the internal deliberations. During weekly meetings of the committee, known as the Afghanistan Interagency Operating Group, Cheney staffers have been intensely interested in a single issue: recent intelligence reports alleging that Iran is supplying weapons to Afghanistan's resurgent Islamist militia, the Taliban, according to two administration officials who asked for anonymity when discussing internal meetings.

Historically, Iran and the Taliban have been more often bitter enemies than allies...In early April, however, British forces operating under NATO command in Afghanistan's wild-west Helmand province stopped a convoy carrying what appeared to be ordnance of Iranian origin intended for delivery to the Taliban. The explosives bore suspected Iranian markings similar to those found on weapons confiscated from Shiite militias in Iraq—and the Brits intercepted another shipment a month later.

An official familiar with the interagency group's deliberations said that Cheney's aides kept asking what sounded like leading questions, demanding to know whether there was any Iranian entity other than the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—the state security force Washington accuses of arming Iraqi insurgents—that could be responsible for the arms shipments. Cheney's aides, the official added, appeared less interested in other more mundane items on the Afghanistan policy committee's agenda. British officials who asked for anonymity because of the nature of their work emphasize that they lack hard evidence linking the shipments to the Revolutionary Guards, and that the weapons could just as easily have been bought on the black market in Iran. But according to one official familiar with the intelligence on Iranian interference in Iraq, Cheney earlier this year began exhibiting particular interest in any evidence detailing Tehran's aid to anti-American insurgents there. Asked about the vice president's allegedly keen interest in Iran's activities in Afghanistan, Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn said, "We do not discuss intelligence matters or internal deliberations."
With that in mind, let us now turn to the Washington Post today and an article by offtimes administration mouthpiece Robin Wright.
Iran has increased arms shipments to both Iraq's Shiite extremists and Afghanistan's Taliban in recent weeks in an apparent attempt to pressure American and other Western troops operating in its two strategic neighbors, according to senior U.S. and European officials.

In Iraq, Iranian 240mm rockets, which have a range of up to 30 miles and could significantly change the battlefield, have been used recently by Shiite extremists against U.S. and British targets in Basra and Baghdad, the officials said...The 240mm rocket is the biggest and longest-range weapon in the hands of Shiite extremist groups, U.S. officials said. Remnants of the rockets bear the markings of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and are dated 2007, those sources said.

In Afghanistan, British forces have intercepted at least two arms shipments from Iran to Afghanistan's Helmand province since late April, the officials said. Such shipments reflect an unlikely liaison between two historic rivals, the Shiite theocrats in Iran and the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan, they said.

Both shipments were carried out after Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly put Iran on notice in mid-April that the United States was aware it was sending arms to the Taliban.

...The intercepted shipments to Afghanistan included 107mm mortars [Huh? - Cernig], rocket-propelled grenades, C-4 explosives and small arms, identical to shipments to Iraqi militias around Basra in March, according to the U.S. and European sources, who track arms movements. The C-4 explosives in both shipments have fake U.S. markings, a common deceptive tactic, the sources added.

"We're concerned about what appears to be an escalating flow of Iranian arms shipments to extremists operating in Iraq and about Iran's stepped-up efforts to supply weapons to Taliban militants in Afghanistan," said a senior U.S. official who monitors Iranian activity in the region.
These anonymous officials know that the rockets in Iraq are Iranian because they bear Iranian markings (in English, probably) but know the C-4 is Iranian because it bears fake US markings? So why not put fake markings on the rockets too, if this is all supposed to be some great and covert plot orchestrated by the Iranian leadership rather than the usual, run of the mill, middle-eastern profiteering from private arms-dealing enterprise?

Note too that the WaPo piece makes no note whatsoever of any British thoughts, as explained by Newsweek, that private enterprise may in fact be the explanation for Iran-made arms in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

I guess we now know which faction at the White House is leaking to the Washington Post's Robin Wright.