Friday, May 04, 2007

More EFP Nonsense

By Cernig

It isn't too long ago that the New York Times was making protestations of scepticism (albeit faint) regarding US claims of Iranian complicity in EFP attacks in Iraq. It would seem that the Washington Post has no such standards, as today they printed a bit of blatant stenography with absolutely no attempt to fact-check or set the story in a context of changing claims.

In the WaPo's article, we are told that:
Attacks in Iraq involving lethal weapons that U.S. officials say are made in Iran hit a record high last month, despite efforts to crack down on networks supplying the armor-piercing weapons known as explosively formed projectiles, according to a senior U.S. commander.
At no point does the article, by staff writer Ann Scott Tyson, suggest the obvious conclusion - that either said crackdown is failing or it is aimed in entirely the wrong direction, at Iran instead of indigenous Iraqi efforts.

It continues:
The U.S. military in recent weeks captured the Iraqi leader of a network that brings the projectiles into Iraq from Iran, as well as other members of extremist cells provided with funding, training and munitions by the al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, said at a news conference in Washington last week.

Also seized were computer documents and records detailing attacks against U.S. forces, presumably kept to justify financing by the Quds Force, Petraeus said.

While the captured head of the weapons cell "certainly reports to the very top," Petraeus added, there was nothing that would "absolutely indicate" knowledge or involvement by Iran's leaders.
Followed by the obligatory "fair and balanced" single sentence noting that Iran denies all involvement in EFP manufacture or smuggling.

Lets re-phrase that paragraph above, shall we? The US military captured some people who, after aggresive interrogation (i.e. torture) confessed what their interogators wanted them to. In an entirely seperate raid, acting on information provided by a terrorist goup, the MeK, computer records were seized which recorded attacks on US forces. Purely on the say-so of the MeK, the US military decided these records were to provide justification for finace by the Quds Force. But no-one is asking how the MeK knew those records would be there, or why anyone would be so stupid as to keep such records for such a covert operation, or even connecting the dots between this and previous MeK-provided computer evidence that turned out to be utterly made up.

Then, there's this:
Iraqi fighters have been making their own versions of the weapons, but so far none has been effective against U.S. forces, Odierno said. The Iraqi-made projectiles, using brass and copper melted on stoves, have failed to fully penetrate U.S. armor and are more likely to be used against Iraqi forces, whose vehicles often have thinner armored protection than U.S. vehicles, U.S. military officials said.

"We have not seen a homemade one yet that's executed properly," Odierno said, adding that such weapons are not a major concern "as of yet."
First, the WaPo's stenographer could have noted that this statement is yet another step in the evolution of the US military's narrative on EFP's from Iran - and that at every stage the narrative only changes because independent experts point out how wrong the narrative is. Since January, we've moved from "only Iran can make these weapons" to "only Iran can make these weapons properly". Yet every independent expert says that Iraqis have plenty of experience and equipment to make their own - and all the EFP's so far seized have been inside Iraq already, including in Iraqi manufacturies, not coming across the border.

Yet the only criterion for deciding whether an EFP is Iranian or Iraqi-made applied by the US military is itself subjective - a biased guess. If it would work well, it is Iranian - if not, it's Iraqi. There's no proof for this, they just decide that's the way it is. The latest version of the spin, that Iraqis cannot mill EFP discs correctly and must instead rely on poured discs is just plain insulting of people's intelligence. Iraqis have a long history of oil exploration, and EFP's have a long history of being used to open the sides of wells to allow the oil to flow more freely. The milling, once you understand the principles and equations, can be done by any precision engineering shop, of which Iraq has plenty.

Oh...and stoves don't get hot enough to melt copper or brass without modification. A standard propane stove heats to around 900 degrees farenheit. Copper melts at 1981 degrees and brass is right on the borderline at 940 degrees. Melting and casting such materials needs, at least, a requires a high-temperature firebrick foundry, a big propane torch and a graphite crucible.

In other words, just more EFP nonsense.

Update Over at The Agonist, "jdbmo" notes that I misread the melting point of brass. It's 940 kelvin or 1724 farenheit. That's even more ridiculous.

Meanwhile, at Wired's Danger Room, David Hambling is as usual doing great work with a compilation of all his links detailling the debunking of the current EFP narrative. His commenters are also, as ever, well-informed and healthily sceptical.

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