Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Col. Boylan On EFP's

By Cernig

Yesterday, we posted an email interview with Colonel Steven Boylan, press spokesman for General Petraeus, who gave his personal take on some non-softball questions regarding the U.S. presence in Iraq. One of the matters he addressed was alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq, specifically the origins of EFP devices, the improvised bombs which are so effective against even the heaviest armor. Col. Boylan wrote:

The EFPs come from Iran. We interdicted shipments of them from Iran, we have records that have been captured in targeted raids that inform us that they are from Iran, and we have taped interviews from those that have been captured as well. They have said that they could not do what they are doing without the help and assistance from Iran. We have physical evidence that we have shown over and over again to the media in Baghdad on how we know these weapons come from Iran. Now, Iran has pledged to the Iraqi government to stop the flow of arms into Iraq. We hope that they honor that pledge and we are looking for that to happen so now we have to wait to see if in fact that will happen.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Col. Boylan's personal view matches exactly with the official line. Yet there are several points contained in that official line which are simply not supported by the facts.

"We interdicted shipments of them from Iran." That, as far as I'm aware, is simply untrue. I keep a pretty close eye on the news where EFP's and Iran are concerned and the closest that can be said in truth is that U.S. forces have seized EFP shipments which were assessed as coming from Iran - there has never, ever, been a case of an EFP shipment (or indeed any other weapons shipment) being seized at the border. The assessment (intel-speak for 'guess') that these seized EFP's came from Iran is premised entirely on...the assessment that all EFP's come from Iran. There are lots of good reasons to suspect that premise isn't true - mainly the finding of manufactories for EFP's inside Iraq by U.S. forces. If the U.S. military were saying that elements in Iran facillitated Iraqi groups getting the know-how to make EFP's, via Hezboullah, they would probably be right. But they insist on a stronger narrative for which their actual presented evidence is far too weak.

"We have records that have been captured in targeted raids that inform us that they are from Iran." These raids were, according to reports, targeted on the say-so of informants from the MeK terror group and found computer laptops holding the kind of information only a moron would put on a laptop if they were indeed genuine. Unfortunately, in the past the MeK has been suspected of perpetrating forgeries of anti-Iranian evidence on laptops in other matters, notably Iran's nuclear program. Col. Boylan writes elsewhere in his interview responses that he is unaware of and therefore "would not be able to comment" on those reports of MeK involvement in U.S. intelligence gathering efforts in Iraq.

"We have taped interviews from those that have been captured as well. They have said that they could not do what they are doing without the help and assistance from Iran." Yeah, I haven't seen those tapes and I suspect the Colonel hasn't either. I've been meaning to post about these captured EFP smugglers. Again, there are credible reports that the MeK has been providing interpreters/interrogators for U.S. forces in such cases and that other interrogations have been conducted by Iraqi Army personnel - in all cases with a "hands off" posture from the U.S. military - entirely so that "robust" interrogation techniques forbidden by the military justice code can be used.

Then there's the detainees themselves. The most prominent of them are the alleged heads of a Mahdi Army splinter group who, when captured, confessed exactly as described by Col. Boylan. But they'd already confessed - twice - to the Associated Press after seeking out AP to tell their story. For supposedly super-secret proxy agents of Iran's machinations, they're truly terrible secret keepers. Their account to the AP got some really unusual confirmation - it was backed as truthful (from a transatlantic distance) by the US spokesman for the anti-Iranian MeK terror group, FOXNews contributor Alireza Jafarzadeh.

Finally - Col Boyland writes that "Iran has pledged to the Iraqi government to stop the flow of arms into Iraq." We've only the Iraqi government's word for that - Iran has never made a formal statement. And there have been reasons aplenty to think that the Maliki government will say whatever it feels it needs to if it means keeping the U.S. happy while at the same time still keeping close ties with Iran.

On this one, Colonel Boylan's opinion is unconvincing to me.