The U.S. military are denying that an Iranian they have taken into custody is innocent, and using a spokesman with a high-powered past to do so.
Military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox denied an Iranian detained by U.S. forces on Thursday was a businessman, saying he was a member of an elite force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who was smuggling bombs into Iraq, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators known as EFPs.Note that no actual evidence was presented that this man was in any way involved - and that after a year and more of trying, the U.S. has still not seized a single proveable Iranian aiding insurgents in Iraq, not seized a single shipment of weapons crossing the border and still hasn't proven that the Iranian leadership is involved in any arms smuggling.
"In recent months we have seen Iran smuggle advanced weaponry into Iraq," Fox said, citing rocket-propelled grenades, EFPs, 240 mm rockets and a surface-to-air missile as among the weapons found that have been linked to Iran.
Tehran, meanwhile, said it was reconsidering whether to hold another round of talks with the United States on Iraq after the arrest.
"For another round of negotiations to take place, we have to review this event that has taken place," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters in his weekly news briefing.
Hosseini said the man, who he identified as "Mr. Farhadi," was in charge of border transactions in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah and went to Iraq on an official invitation. He said Iran expects the Iraqi government to provide security for Iranian nationals there.
"Occasionally Americans do this sort of operation or abduction, which is against international norms," he said. "This U.S. behavior would affect Iran-Iraq relations."
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has demanded that the Americans release the Iranian who was detained in a raid in the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.
However, the MNF-I spokesman, Rear Admiral Mark I. Fox, is worth a few words of his own. Until October last year he was Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Military Office (WHMO), responsible for overseeing all military support to the President. Now, he's been moved to Iraq to fill the position of Communications Division Chief for Strategic Effects at the military's U.S. Embassy annex in the Green Zone.
There, he is partnered by Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, who was another senior White House military aide before being sent to Baghdad recently as the military's primary spokesman. Prior to his new assignment, Bergner was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq and before that Deputy Director of Political-Military Affairs (Middle East) at the Department of Defense.
That such high-flying talent has been moved from the White House and Pentagon to Iraq - something I suspect is an anomaly in the expected career paths for such officially blessed officers - shows just how serious the administration is about controlling every message they can in order to fix the facts around the policy.
Update Maliki isn't happy and Iran has closed some border crossings in protest.
Al-Maliki also condemned the Iranian's arrest, saying he understood the man, who has been identified as Mahmudi Farhadi, had been invited to Iraq.No charges have been filed against the diplomats arrested in Erbil in January either, they've just been detained without habeas corpus rights despite local Kurdish authorities saying that the U.S. arrested them purely on the say-so of the MeK terror group.
"The government of Iraq is an elected one and sovereign. When it gives a visa, it is responsible for the visa," al-Maliki told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday in New York. "We consider the arrest ... of this individual who holds an Iraqi visa and a (valid) passport to be unacceptable."
Last week, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, demanded the Iranian's release and warned in a letter to America's top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, that Iran had threatened to close its border with Iraq's Kurdish region over the case.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Sunday that Farhadi was in charge of border transactions in western Iran and went to Iraq on an official invitation.
The U.S. military said the suspect was being questioned about "his knowledge of, and involvement in," the transportation of EFPs and other roadside bombs from Iran into Iraq and his possible role in the training of Iraqi insurgents in Iran. No charges against the Iranian have been filed yet.