Saturday, June 16, 2007

Two for One Special

Breathless reporting by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz this morning. An international conspiracy is fueling both the Iraqi and Afghani insurgencies, coordinated by Iran and funded by China!!!!

New intelligence reveals China is covertly supplying large quantities of small arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, through Iran.
U.S. government appeals to China to check some of the arms shipments in advance were met with stonewalling by Beijing, which insisted it knew nothing about the shipments and asked for additional intelligence on the transfers...

Some arms were sent by aircraft directly from Chinese factories to Afghanistan and included large-caliber sniper rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs, as well as other small arms.

The Washington Times reported June 5 that Chinese-made HN-5 anti-aircraft missiles were being used by the Taliban.

According to the officials, the Iranians, in buying the arms, asked Chinese state-run suppliers to expedite the transfers and to remove serial numbers to prevent tracing their origin. China, for its part, offered to transport the weapons in order to prevent the weapons from being interdicted...

U.S. Army specialists suspect the weapons were transferred within the past three months. The Bush administration has been trying to hide or downplay the intelligence reports to protect its pro-business policies toward China, and to continue to claim that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism. U.S. officials have openly criticized Iran for the arms transfers but so far there has been no mention that China is a main supplier.

John Tkacik, a former State Department official now with the Heritage Foundation, said the Chinese arms influx "continues 10 years of willful blindness in both Republican and Democrat administrations to China's contribution to severe instability in the Middle East and South Asia."...

Apologists for China within the government said the intelligence reports were not concrete proof of Chinese and Iranian government complicity.

Let's unpack this. First let us assume that the central claim is true; Chinese manufactured arms are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not a big surprise. As I noted in February, any entity with access to arms is shipping them to the Middle East and Iraq specificly. The United States government is one of the larger suppliers of illicit small arms in Iraq. China also has a long standing history of supplying arms to different factions in Afghanistan as they were one of the big suppliers during the 1980s for the muj. And again, anyone with anything is offering it for sale to the Taliban.

But note that there are no serial numbers on the weapons and this is supposed to constitute proof of Chinese government support. There are no flight numbers being offered, no direct quotes from identified officials besides a Heritage Foundation staffer followed by a direct slam against "apologists."

This fits with Bill Gertz's writing style. His entire history at the Washington Times has him hyping the Chinese threat, and downplaying any ambiguity or shadow of a doubt in his presentation. This pattern of behavior has landed him a direct pipeline with PNAC and their leaks on Iraq, Iran, and everything else that they are concerned about. The neo-cons from PNAC are statists and their spending nightmares illustrate this as their model army is for major force on force confrontations. Remember, the neoconservatives biggest bugabear is not chaos in the Middle East, but a longing for another great power confrontation with China standing in for the Soviet Union as the enemy par excellence.

So what we have here is a mutual back scratching story where a double bugaboo can be addressed with a combination of anonymous sources, flimsy evidence, slams against the effete State Department and a direct dump into the right wing noise machine.

Par for the course then.

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