Page 2 of 2 US's smoking gun on Iran
misfires By Gareth
to official sponsorship of
cross-border weapons smuggling but to private
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
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
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
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?
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.