Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Scaring Up The Hawks Over Iran?

I am taking with a huge pinch of salt the claim, reprinted in the Washington Times, that the Iranian army has taken over control of that nation's nuclear policy - which if true would undermine Iran's claim that the program is intended for civilian use.

The reason I am sceptical is that the claim comes from the Paris-based opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran. NCRI is the political wing of the People's Mujahedeen (Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK)which has been fighting the Iranian government for many years. Although NCRI was taken off the State Depertment's list of terror groups just before the invasion of Iraq, MEK itself is still considered a terrorist group by the USA.

Although a couple of years ago NCRI/MEK were providing some good intelligence, more recently questions have been asked:

"I can no longer trust their information," says David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector and director of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. "It is like a barrage they are throwing up, making all of these accusations. That highly enriched uranium came from Pakistan. That there are two enrichment projects that are active. That bomb designs came from AQ Khan. There is not a single bit of evidence that has been offered to back any of this." While the MEK does provide important intelligence, Albright says that their claims now reflect "a political agenda."

Its fairly obvious what NCRI's agenda is - to help start a US-led invasion of Iran and then put themselves in the same position as Chalibi and his cronies did in Iraq. The "intelligence reports" sound horribly familiar in tone to the reports from Iraqi opposition groups ringled by Chalibi before the Iraqi invasion - and we all know how the hunt for WMD's turned out in that case.

Likewise, I am cynical about a British report accusing Iran of passing intelligence to the Mahdi army, led by Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, which led to Shia insurgents making shaped-projectile explosives.

British intelligence are saying that the technology came from Hezbollah in Lebanon via Iran and produced an "explosively shaped projectile". Those weapons were then used to attack coalition armor.

The trouble is, the Brit spooks aren't showing any evidence for their claim and the basic ideas of expolsively shaped projectiles are so well known they have even made it to Discovery Channel. It isn't too difficult to make a crude device of this kind - just line a shaped charge with copper and detonate. The explosive melts the copper into a white-hot penetrating plasma, shapes it into a thin stream and fires it through a target.

The Iranians, of course, have denied any knowledge.

Color me cynical, but it all smells waaaaayyyy too much like the trumped-up reports that led to Colin Powell's famous UN speech.

Update The Glasgow Herald has a bit more detail on the British allegations although there's still no actual evidence for Iranian involvement being cited.

Recent attacks on British troops, believed to be the work of Shi'ite militia groups, had used armour-piercing explosives and infra-red controls "which basically you would need specific expertise to use".

It seems the bomb detonates when an infra-red beam is broken.

Yup, you definitely need specific expertise to use such a device - the expertise available to a few million anti-theft alarm installers worldwide. Will technicians for ADT now be put on terror watchlists?

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