Iran intelligence claims: Deja vu all over again?


Unfounded intelligence claims that paved the way for war in Iraq blew back like a ghost last week to haunt US charges that Iran is arming Iraqi extremists.

021807iraq.jpgPresident George W. Bush and his top aides had to admit by week’s end that they did not know whether Iran’s leaders knew that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was supplying Shiite militias with sophisticated bombs and training.

And “for the umpteenth time,” as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, they denied that the United States was trying to prepare the ground for military action in Iraq.

But the flap exposed how deep public suspicion of US intelligence claims runs nearly four years after the United States went to war with Iraq on the strength of erroneous intelligence that it had weapons of mass destruction.

“I think this controversy is traceable to one big problem,” said Loren Thompson, director of the Lexington Institute, a private Washington research group.

“The US intelligence community does not have an adequate network of agents in Iraq or Iran. Because of that, everything is guesswork,” he said.

“We accumulate a lot of disconnected details, and we try to form a pattern out of those details, but we never have that final definitive piece of intelligence that proves the connection,” he said.

Officials said US intelligence spent weeks vetting the accuracy of the information before it was briefed to reporters in Baghdad on Sunday.

Reporters were shown examples of weapons, including an armor-piercing bomb known as an “explosively formed penetrator” or EFP, that the US military said are being supplied to extremists by Iran.

Briefing slides contained photographs of EFP caches, passive infrared triggers, blocks of TNT and a blasting cap, mortar rounds, a man-portable surface-to-air missile, and rocket-propelled grenades — all allegedly made in Iran.

It said Iranians arrested in a recent raid in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil were members of the Iranian Republican Guards, and that its paramilitary Qods Force was providing advice, training and weapons to extremist groups.

The briefing slides cited markings on some of the weapons that indicated they were Iranian-made.

Gates, a former CIA director, told reporters that he had insisted on factual statements with no adjectives or adverbs, only declarative sentences that “make it exactly clear what we know and what we don’t know.”

The reason, he indicated, was because he expected there would be doubts about the intelligence.

“I mean, we’re sensitive to that skepticism,” he said Thursday.

“And it’s one of the reasons why we were so concerned that the briefing on these materiels be factual and be able to be substantiated by evidence, so it wasn’t hypothesis, it wasn’t assumption, it wasn’t assessment.”

But an unidentified briefer apparently went further and was reported to have said the support was sanctioned by the “highest levels” of the Iranian regime, sparking the intense round of speculation about US intentions.

“I think there’s no question that the skepticism has less to do about competing explanations than just generalized doubt about the administration’s judgment,” said Thompson.

“You really can prove that the munitions in question came from Iran. But the question is what interpretation to make of that. And on that score the public really doesn’t much trust the White House’s interpretation of events,” he said.

The allegations themselves were not new, which suggested to some analysts that the briefing was timed to step up pressure on Iran at a time when a diplomatic confrontation over its nuclear program is reaching a critical stage.

Bush had already ordered a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf and stepped up raids in Iraq on networks supplying Iranian arms to Iraqi militias.

“I think it has to do with a whole new policy toward Iran which is more confrontational,” said Vali Nasr, an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, in an interview carried on its website.

“Putting Iran in the spotlight in Iraq is a part of a policy of escalating pressure on Tehran, as well as also potentially preparing the American population for more drastic action against Iran by trying to single out Iran as the problem in Iraq, whether or not that’s actually true,” he said.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.Org, said the briefing aroused controversy because “it really looks like Mr. Bush is getting ready to bomb Iran.”

But there were other reasons as well. The evidence was unconvincing and “their credibility was shot after the intelligence failure around Iraq,” he said.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse


  1. JimZ

    When you think about the potential escalations of war with Iran, we might pay a big price, but obviously NEOCONS DON’T MIND USING NUKES! No matter what anyone else thinks, or internationl law says, these guys are doing “GOD’S WORK” so, it will all get straightened out by the horsemen of the apocalypse, I guess. It’s almost like these guys get a hard-on with big killing machines. I could see Rumsfield get orgasmic over nukes. Gates, well, who knows. I don’t trust him either. He who “forgot” Iran-Contra or was “out of the loop” pretty much ruins it for me.

    Actually, Iran/Contra was the beginning of the end of my more or less voting straight Republican in my life. Now THAT was treason.

  2. Phil

    So? Even if Iran was personally supervising, arming, training and directing the Iraqi resistance, that still makes no possible justification for action against that nation as well. None at all.

  3. Kent Shaw


    These constant wars are going to continue, sad to say, until the US finally gets a damn good ass kicking. I hate to see it. I hate to see the young troops deaths and horrible injuries, especially because it is not their fault. They believe they are protecting our freedoms. What do they know? They are so young and idealistic. But until the US gets a total unequivocal drubbing its going to continue. Maybe if after the attack on Iran that country responds by sinking three or four aircraft carriers and several of their support ships that might send a message. But again its the troops that will pay, not Bush and Cheney and Gonzalez and all the rest of the neocons who are really the ones who should literally feel the pain. But with that kind of horrible loss the people here may rise up against the government. Or not. I hate to see it happen but that is what it is going to take.

  4. Wayne K Dolik

    It will really hit the fan when Congress begins to investigate the fraud perpetrated upon the U.S. Public by Defense Contractors in Iraq. When we all learn about defense fraud that will be the thing that puts a stop to World War 3. In case you are curious. There have been instances of torture.