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    Middle East
     Feb 15, 2007
Page 2 of 2
US's smoking gun on Iran misfires

By Gareth Porter

to official sponsorship of cross-border weapons smuggling but to private arms-trafficking networks.

The slide, which can be viewed on the Talking Points Memo website, includes the curious statement that information from detainees "included references to Iranian provision of weapons to Iraqi militants engaged in anti-coalition violence". That formulation carefully avoids stating that any of the information implicated

Iranian officials. Furthermore, the slide's six bullet points, representing the concrete "highlights" of the information, fail to make reference to any official Iranian role in the smuggling of weapons across the border.

In fact, the slide reveals that the smuggling is handled by what it calls "Iraqi extremist group members", not by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The oral presentation accompanying the PowerPoint indicated that the smuggling had been carried out by "paid Iraqis", without specifying who was paying them, according to the New York Times report.

The final bullet point of the slide says, "Quds Force provides support to extremist groups in Iraq by supplying money, training and propaganda operations." But its silence on the question of supplying weapons to groups in Iraq represents a serious blow to the credibility of the Bush administration's line.

The EFPs used against US and British troops in Iraq were the centerpiece of the briefing. But the anonymous US officials did not claim that the finished products have been manufactured in Iran. Instead they referred to machining of EFP "components" - referring to the concave metal lids on the devices - as being done in Iran.

That position parallels the testimony by General John P Abizaid last March 16 to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which claimed only that "sophisticated bomb-making material from Iran has been found in improvised explosive devices in Iraq".

It also raises an obvious question: If Iran has the technical ability to supply the complete EFPs, why are only components being smuggled into Iraq?

The absence of shipments of complete EFPs suggests that the components that have been smuggled in have been manufactured in small workshops outside the official system. Knights, the most knowledgeable and politically neutral source on the issue, says these components could have been manufactured by a "small handful of external bomb-makers". He notes that the only source to claim that the Iranian defense industry is the source of the EFP components is the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The US briefers argued that EFPs are not being manufactured within Iraq. The New York Times quoted a "senior military official" as saying that they had "no evidence" that the machining of components for EFPs "has ever been done in Iraq".

But Knights presents evidence in Jane's Intelligence Review that the Iraqi Shi'ites have indeed manufactured both the components for EFPs and the complete EFPs. He observes that the kind of tools required to fabricate EFPs "can easily be found in Iraqi metalworking shops and garages".

He also notes that some of the EFPs found in Iraq had substituted steel plates for the copper lining found in the externally made lids. Knights calculates that the entire production of EFPs exploded thus far could have been manufactured in one or at most two simple workshops with one or two specialists in each - one in the Baghdad area and one in southern Iraq.

"I'm surprised that they haven't found evidence of making EFPs in Iraq," Knights said in an interview. "That doesn't ring true for me." Knights believes that there was a time when whole EFPs were imported from outside, but that now most if not all are manufactured by Iraqis.

Taking into account both the false notes struck by the anonymous officials, the damaging admissions they made and the absence of information they needed to make a case, the briefing appears to have been a serious setback to the Bush administration's propaganda campaign. It will certainly haunt administration officials trying to persuade Congress to support its increased aggressiveness toward Iran.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national-security policy. His latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in June 2005.

(Inter Press Service)

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