“Late Edition” 11 February 2007

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"BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I’m Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

New questions this week about intelligence before the war in Iraq, and now a new round of questions about intelligence concerning Iran. What is Iran doing right now and why?

Helping us sort all of this out, two guests: former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Colonel Pat Lang, retired U.S. Army, has long experience in military intelligence and special forces; and Ray Takeyh, he’s with the Council on Foreign Relations. He’s also the author of a new book, "Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic."

Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in.

Let me ask you, Pat Lang, first, to comment on this briefing that reporters in Baghdad were given today, suggesting that Iranians — whether the Iranian Republican Guard, the Quds division, whatever — are providing the most sophisticated explosives that can take out an Abrams battle tank, all the armor, to Shiite militias in Iraq. And those explosives have already killed well more than 100 American troops.

PAT LANG, FORMER DIA ANALYST: Well, anyone who has been studying this knows that the Iranians are playing a significant role in Iraq, because they are interested in the political outcome there. And the combat situation, of course, directly effects what the political outcome will be.

I think there is not much doubt that they probably have been supplying materiel of one kind of another to the Iraqi Shia. I don’t have a problem with believing that.

What I have difficulty understanding, and maybe Ray does, too — I don’t know — is the idea that all of a sudden, things which have probably been going on for months and months and months have taken on a whole new significance and now we are beating the drum over and over again about the degree of Iranian participation in the war and combat casualties amongst our troops when, in fact, the Iranians have been an ever-present factor from the beginning.

BLITZER: So I just want to get this straight. So you think there’s a political motive for releasing this information right now?

LANG: I think there’s kind of an eerie resemblance right now, of what’s going on in the continual iteration of statements concerning the Iranians, about their nuclear program, about their general menace in the world, about their actions in Iraq, all these kinds of things to what went on in ’02 as part of the buildup done in making people think that the Iraqis were such a menace that something had to be done. I think there’s a resemblance.

BLITZER: I want Ray to weigh in, but I want to play a little clip of what the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, said on this subject on Friday.


GATES: Iran is very much involved in providing either the technology or the weapons themselves for these explosively formed projectiles. Now, they don’t represent a big percentage of the IED attacks, but they’re extremely lethal.


BLITZER: All right. What’s your sense?

RAY TAKEYH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think Colonel Lang is right. Iranians have been providing such munitions with whatever degree of sophistications to the Shia militias. It’s part of the Iranian strategy to organize and mobilize the Shia community for a potential civil war that is taking place and combat against the Sunni insurgents.

So in that sense, they are trying to strengthen the Shia community politically, economically, and in this particular case, seemingly militarily.

Now, I don’t necessarily think that Iranians were suggesting or pressing the Shia militia groups to use those weapons against the American forces or have such operational control over this issue.

But the notion that Iranians are helping to arm Shia militias makes sense to me because the Iranian policy towards southern Iraq is drawn from the policy toward southern Lebanon, namely getting that Shia community organized, armed in a potential sectarian conflict that is taking place in Iraq.

BLITZER: So, in other words, what you’re suggesting is that what the Iranians did in trying to bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon, they’re now doing to bolster the various Shiite militias, including the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq?

TAKEYH: I suspect they’re primarily support base is with the Badr Brigade of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution, SCIRI, which is part of the Iraqi government. But the idea that they would have a relationship with the Sadrists and the Sadr militia makes some sense to me.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

LANG: Yes, I do. And, actually, the analogy to what they’re doing in Lebanon is very close. You are seeing a period of Iranian expansionism, in terms of their sphere of influence. And these Shia armies are, in fact, surrogates for them.

BLITZER: Here is what the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times, which I’m sure both of you saw on Thursday: "Now, the United States administration is unfortunately reaping the expected bitter fruits of its ill-conceived adventurism, taking the region and the world with it to the brink of further hostility. But rather than face the unpleasant facts, the United States administration is trying to sell an escalated version of the same failed policy. It does this by trying to make Iran its scapegoat and fabricating evidence of Iranian activities in Iraq."

Pat Lang, you worked in U.S. military intelligence for decades. That was your career. What is your reaction when the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. says U.S. military intelligence is fabricating this kind of evidence?

LANG: Well, I don’t think it’s the case that military intelligence is fabricating this kind of evidence. In fact, as we were just saying, this has been an ongoing activity, that they’ve been arming the Shia militia, as part of their program for the Middle East, the Iranians have.

What’s different now is that the policy people in the American government are making use of the available data to make a case against the Iranians. And they’re doing it with ever-increasing stridency, so far as I can see.

BLITZER: And you see that as potentially setting the stage for military confrontation between the U.S. and Iran?

LANG: It’s setting the stage for whatever action the commander in chief and the executive branch decide they’re going to take against the Iranians. That seems very much to me to be the case.

BLITZER: You want to weigh in?

TAKEYH: I think what Ambassador Zarif was saying in the New York Times piece, is there’s consensus within the Iranian political system today, mainly that the United States, as it loses the war in Iraq, is trying to find culprits to blame. And Iran is one of the easiest ones to blame. So as the Americans are leaving, defeated, they’re trying to justify that by blaming others. BLITZER: You disagree?

LANG: Well, I think the United States has not at all accepted the idea that we’ve been defeated in Iraq. And I think we’re looking around for people who are culprits and involved in our present difficulties and seeking to focus on them to see if we can do something about them.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, stand by because we have a lot more to talk about. We’re going to continue this conversation, also get into questions about whether what’s happening in Iraq will spill over to its neighbors and beyond. In other words, is a regional war possible?

But upcoming next, we’ll get a quick check of what’s in the news right now, including more on Iran’s alleged involvement in Iraqi violence. We’ll be right back.




(Missing Text and Question from Blitzer)

LANG: And that’s symptomatic at what’s wrong with a lot of our human intelligence collection. And, in fact, you can go around today all over the United States and talk to people like Ray, who are well thought of, well-informed academics, people in good think tanks around the United States, and you will probably get a better idea of Iranian politics, in fact, because of their real contacts in Iran and with what’s going on politically, than you do from the government.

BLITZER: The Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah, said this on Thursday: "The enemies know well that any aggression will lead to a reaction from all sides in the Iranian nation on the aggressors and their interests around the world."

That was seen as a threat to the United States and U.S. interests around the world, and that the Iranians could do some horrible things if they wanted to.

TAKEYH: Well, it seems to me that what Iranians are doing today is pursuing a policy not that dissimilar from the Bush administration’s. Tough rhetoric yet, at the same time, saying, but we’re willing to be flexible and negotiate.

So you begin to see two tracks being played out: on one hand, threats that Iran is prepared to retaliate and has capability of doing so; yet, at the same time, Iran’s national security adviser is in Munich today talking about the fact that the country is open to negotiations on this nuclear issue and a range of other nuclear issues. It’s sort of a two-track policy that we seem to be playing, and they’re playing it back to us.

BLITZER: We had our interview in the last hour with Doug Feith, the former top Pentagon official and undersecretary of defense. And he made the case that what he was doing, and his colleagues, in the buildup to the war in Iraq, was critiquing the CIA’s intelligence. They weren’t happy with the CIA’s intelligence, on any alleged link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida and that was appropriate.

You worked in Pentagon intelligence for a long time. Was it appropriate for this office to go ahead and review the intelligence that was provided by the CIA?

LANG: When I first heard that they were doing that, at the time, I thought this is a perfectly normal activity. What I didn’t realize was the way that they were doing it. It is normal to critique the intelligence product, no matter where it comes from.

My problem with what they did is the fact that what they were doing is that the intelligence agency has a huge discard pile of reports that they’ve been sent from around the world that they’ve decided are untrue and that they keep around just so they can judge the validity of sources in the future.

Now, what these fellows did was that they went through the discard pile looking for things that suited their program, then would write them into things which they would take around to show to people in the White House, and Congress and other places, and they wold also show the same things to the analysts every day, saying "why aren’t you writing about this?"

And when they were told, in fact, that "we’re not writing about this because it’s untrue, our agencies have decided it’s untrue," they said, "well we think you should think about this some more."

And when you get this day after day, week after week, eventually, it starts to skew the total picture held by the government as to what the truth is, just by repetition.

That’s what happened, and I think that was most inappropriate and the that the I.G. was right about this, not just on this issue, but also on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, where the bigger problem was that the senior leadership in the intelligence community didn’t back the analysts in standing up to guys in Mr. Feith’s office. It was a massive failure of leadership in the intelligence community.

BLITZER: We’ve got to leave it there. Colonel Pat Lang, thanks very much for coming in.

LANG: Thank you."

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58 Responses to “Late Edition” 11 February 2007

  1. Gerard says:

    Pat, have you seen the latest Newsweek report that a 3rd carrier group is being prepped for the Gulf? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17086418/site/newsweek/
    Its kind of buried as an aside in the 4th paragraph, but you mentioned before that a 3rd group is an important milestone. Is this a disturbing sign or just some saber-rattling?

  2. jr786 says:

    Since it looks as if the administration got a ‘pop no kick’ instead of a ‘smoking gun’ out of its disclosures about Iranian weaponeering, do you think we are in for another Feith-based intelligence estimate?
    Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I get the sense that Bushco knows the game is up, have sent Petraeus out there to do a little cosmetic surgery, and are setting up the Iranians as the blamed, but not attacked, culprits.

  3. Rider says:

    “…all of a sudden, things which have probably been going on for months and months and months…”
    Excellent point and well-said, Colonel. The Pentagon says that the EFP’s are taking more American lives now. But according to the NYT article this weekend, it sounds like the number goes up and down. There was a quote from a Lt. Col. Danna to the effect that there were not a lot of EFP’s out there, and that they came out whenever there was a crackdown on Shiite militias. He called it “a political weapon.” Bush of course sees his own purposes in them. Do you think the Iranians wanted the origin of these deadly weapons to be found out? Might that have a connection to their diplomatic overtures in Munich?

  4. arbogast says:

    The apparent difference between South Lebanon and Iraq is that US troops seem to be able to enter Shia areas whose support comes, in part, from Iran, whereas the IDF was not able to enter South Lebanon successfully, despite saturation bombing including the use of cluster bombs, whose use had been banned by the US, directed specifically against the civilian population.
    The US is even able to “lock down” parts of Iraq to search for Shia extremists (cf. The Battle of Algiers):
    Well, “lock down” is the correct metaphor. Iraq is a poorly administered prison (cf. Abu Ghraib) created by the US working as a surrogate for the IDF (cf. the parallel drawn by Colonel Lang).
    Question: if saturation bombing and invasion, with little regard for the civilian population, didn’t work in South Lebanon, where, today, few stones have been left standing on another, how will it work in Iraq?
    Answer: the answer is not to be found within the borders of the US, only the administrative apparatus to carry out this folly.

  5. arbogast says:

    When Col. Lang speaks of the “discard pile” of national intelligence (a superb phrase, which I pray gets wider use), he is talking about the Office of the Vice President.
    And I believe that “The Man from Wyoming”, in the adulatory words of the Wall Street Journal, believes that he is channeling Ronald Reagan.
    All of which makes the following column, astoundingly written by George Will, must reading. Must reading.

  6. David E. Solomon says:

    Colonel Lang,
    I watched the interview moments ago.
    Thanks for the great, sane analysis.
    Please keep up the good work.
    Maybe, all will not be lost to the lunacy of the “decider”.

  7. R.L. says:

    Very sorry I missed the show.From the transcript I can tell that this program was the first in several years where both guests were intelligent,reasonable,level headed thinkers.I bet Blitzer’s mouth was open the whole time.Good thoughts well spoken Col. Lang.

  8. confusedponderer says:

    Laura Rozen made a good point on the ‘Iranian supplied arms’:
    “… it’s worth pointing out that 170 coalition forces killed by materiel allegedly made in Iran means almost 3,000 US soldiers — almost 20 times that, or about 95% — killed by something else.”
    The US would then, according to the US Administration argument, go to war with Iran over their contribution to 5% of the violent opposition in Iraq. Of course that is just ‘outrage stuff’. It is in fact about the Bushite pipedream of finding a Shiite who is stupid enough to be with the US, secular – and against Iran, Sadr and the Sunni and at least indifferent to the Kurds. Ambitious people of that sort are a rare breed with a short lifespan.
    Considering the Shia majority it can be expected that at attack on Iran would boost the Shia contribution to US casualties. But can be easily spun that way: It would be be used as a post-factum justification and presented (with Powerpoint, no doubt) as proof of evil Iranian intent right from the start.

  9. Arun says:

    Even if it turns out to be overwhelmingly in the national interest to attack Iran, it is NOT in the national interest to attack Iran with Bush, Cheney & Co in charge.

  10. Leigh says:

    I saw a magnificent four-color picture of the “supplied munitions”. What struck me as interesting is that the labeling done on the sample was in English not Arabic nor Farsi.

  11. taters says:

    I was fortunate to catch you on Late Edition, Col. Lang. Like I’ve stated before, you really bring out the best in Wolf Blitzer. It was excellent. Between what you stated, Ray Takeyh and the Milt Bearden piece that you posted – we really get an excellent appraisal of what is going on. Thank you.

  12. meletius says:

    Let’s not forget that in the insane moral calculus of today’s world leaders and media folks, it was completely reasonable and justifiable for Israel to bomb Lebanon back to the iron age because a single unwary patrol of Israeli soldiers was attacked by Hezbollah.
    So under this precedent, the “proven” killing of a single American by an “Iranian agent” will certainly be enough of an act of war for Washington to level Iran’s infrastucture.
    The next time one of these things goes off and kills a soldier, that could be declared the causus belli.

  13. chew2 says:

    Question sspecifically about the shaped charged IED’s that Iran has allegedly supplied to the Shia militia since 2004.
    1. Has there been any evidence of IED use by the Shia as opposed to the Sunni. They are alleging 170 killed specifically by these devices since 2004.
    2. Why couldn’t these shaped charges be fabricated by former regime elements in Iraq (in auto machine shops or elsewhere)? The shaped charges reportedly involve pvc pipe and copper war heads. Isn’t copper a pretty soft metal and easily machined?
    3. Is there any prior reporting detailing that these type of devices were used or possessed by Hezbollah or other guerillas over the years?

  14. Brent Wiggans says:

    Cast in the best possible light, that they were just getting a “second opinion”, the administration still must answer for consistently choosing the wrong analysis. They can choose their poison: incompetence or fraud. Denial has finally been rendered ridiculous by relentless reality. The mess in Iraq has overwhelmed the propaganda. The misdirection being created around Iran is a desperate and reflexive response that will not garner the hoped for support at home. Time for lots of smoke, personal exit strategies and, of course, “looking to the future”.

  15. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    re comment by Arun, I cannot imagine it being in the national interest of the US to attack Iran, whether the President is Bush, Clinton, Obama or Guiliani or McCain. We are not doing so well in Iraq, and Iran is another story all togather. It would be too reminiscent of Vietnam, where we had to destroy the villages to save them. I cannot imagine the rest of the world sitting back and watching us destroy Iran.

  16. dan of steele says:

    If this thread is still alive, I would like to know why the date on the mortar represents the Gregorian calendar whereas the Iranians use a different calendar? The date shown on that mortar round occurs almost 500 years in the future.
    also, some munitions have “Lot” numbers. Is there no such word in Farsi?
    much has been made of none of the military wanting to go on record for any of this. why would that be? If these are true facts, what would anyone fear?

  17. Sgt.York says:

    RE: “Iranians… are providing the most sophisticated explosives that can take out an Abrams battle tank.”
    Jebus! You mean the Iranians are supplying RPG29s, SPG-9s, and M19 anti-tank mines?
    Nevermind, apparently we still talking about Iraqi Sunnis building “MacGyver Bombs” in the local machine shop. A pipe bomb with a concave brass cap (EFP) isn’t sophisticated.

  18. ali says:

    I’m very suspicious about this, the administration has always greatly exagerated the role foriegners play in the insurgency.
    This is far too flimsy to provide a justification for an attack on Iran but it does not look like the usual pack of lies. I’m a worried it’s about being able to say I told you so as they retailiate and the flag drapped coffins get replaced with body bags.
    There’s evidence that some Iranian light weapons are finding their way to Shiite militias, credible I think, but there is really no sign of something like China arming the ARVN.
    The militias are closely linked to the ruling Shi’a parties they all have very good connections in Iran. Badr in particular is trained by the IRGC. Weapons prices have been soaring in Iraq as the nation prepares itself for a bloodbath. Iraqi Army weapons are being sold to the insurgents. You just need one Iranian quartermaster with an eye on the main chance to explain this.
    It’s not impossible that Qods Force are handing out munitions to the Sunni insurgents who are the main threat to US forces. The Iranians are subtle chaps; they’ll arm them and happily slaughter them later.
    But if the Iranians move it will be mainly in Maysan, Basra not the peripheral Sunni KZ of al Anbar. It would be logical to prepare their retaliation in the South. Arms dumps would be part of that and we may have some seepage getting onto the market.
    There is no real evidence this ace in the hole is in play yet; there would be an awful lot of dead Squadies if it was. Just over 132 have died in Iraq. The IRA killed 80 or so British soldiers in 72 alone. If anything the Iranians are biding their time and holding the militias back.
    But its the EFPs that are the core of the story and the weakest part. A well equipped light machine shop can make an EFP. They are practically admitting they are being assembled in Iraq. Iraq is full of trained military engineers. The insurgency has always been entrepreneurial in nature and has demonstrated in the past a ability to innovate rapidly in technical matters. Just Email them the blueprints and leave them to it, a very deniable way of “disseminating the technology”. That’s about how thin this is; it is so deniable could just as well be the Saudis.
    This isn’t even a great topic for the administration to bring up. The big IEDs that occasionally kill a squad of Marines are mostly constructed from munitions looted from arms dumps we left unsecured.

  19. meletius says:

    Assume the Military’s super-IED story is true to some degree:
    1. Why didn’t we just bring it to the attention of the sovereign government of Iraq to bring up with their neighbor Iran?
    2. If we presented Maliki with these super-IED “facts”, and he downplays them, dismisses them or doesn’t care, then how committed is his government to disarming shi’ite militias, which supposedly both the US and his government wish to accomplish? What should that tell us?
    Do we need to demand that independent, sovereign Iraq “elect” yet another prime minister?

  20. Chris Marlowe says:

    I’m convinced that Cheney just has bloodlust, and wants to kill, kill and kill. He doesn’t really care who American forces are killing, as long as he doesn’t have to admit that Iraq and the PNAC plan was a debacle from the beginning.
    How else can you expect a ME foreign policy which is completely incoherent without clear friends and enemies, without any clear goals and any chance, or even definition, of victory?
    And what does congress do? Nothing! What kind of democracy is this?
    This article explains how the US has prevented Israel from negotiating with Syria:
    The following article explains how Tehran is using American forces in Iraq to kill anti-Iranian Shi’ite Iraqis.
    The Americans may be dumber than shit, but they have very nice weapons which should be used against their enemies, according to the view from Tehran. Can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing if I were in their position.

  21. John Shreffler says:

    The “Iranian” munitions pictured in the PowerPoint are from a U.S. Army field manual, according to Jeff Huber.

  22. walrus says:

    An excellent interview Col. Lang, and a measured response to the hysteria sellers.
    Considering the Iran/Iraq war and subsequent events, I’m sure that there is a more than adequate supply of just about every type and nationality of weapon and munition in Iraq.
    I support you conclusion that Iranian weaponry must be filtering across the border, after all smuggling has been stock in trade throughout the entire middle
    East for centuries. Whether it is official Iranian Government policy, or unofficial “looking the other way” I wouldn’t know.
    As for the “sophisticated” shaped charge, and the allegation that “parts” (presumably the liner) are coming from Iran, I think its possible, but in any case, so what, unless of course we are going to have a repeat of the war of Jenkins ear?
    It would be interesting, to me at least, to track down the source of the copper used in the liner. Is sheet copper easily available in Iraq? What sort of explosive is used and who makes it?
    As for its production, unless it was chemically milled and perhaps tapered (and I can’t think why you would do that), it could be produced by anyone with access to an old lathe and a press, or a metal spinning machine, or even by a patient man with a hammer and a block of wood.

  23. John Howley says:

    Thanks, Col. If we manage to avoid the worst, you will deserve some of the credit.
    Today’s WaPo has an article by the inestimable Shadid; he wanders around Cairo chatting to folks about the Sunni-Shia thang. Linked to the article is an online chat transcript on the same topic.
    His feeling is that while sectarian differences are real, they don’t run very deep. (Outside of Iraq madness, of course.) Hence, the transnational confrontation seems artificial and concocted.
    So, if the US attacks Iran, who is to say that the Sunni street wouldn’t line up with their Muslim brothers in Iran, creating even more problems for our “moderate” friends in the region?

  24. Alex Mackenzie says:

    Good points Ali. However, I doubt very much that China armed ARVN.

  25. johnf says:

    >. Has there been any evidence of IED use by the Shia as opposed to the Sunni. They are alleging 170 killed specifically by these devices since 2004.
    I think the British have been hit by these devices on several occasions around Basra, but senior British officers deny vehemently that they were of Iranian origin.

  26. Mo says:

    Debating these “Iranian” weapons is like debating the WMD’s in 2002/03. We all know the truth and are just pointing out the obvious to each other.
    Could Iranian weaponry have Latin text? Well if it didn’t, the error would be so obvious Iranian tv would be broadcasting pictures of Iranian shells with Farsi markings for all the world to see.
    So lets say the weaponry is Iranian;
    The fact is that it as likely that this weaponry was given to the Shia to use as defensive weapons in the civil war. Im even willing to bet that any coalition deaths from these weapons were not from staged ambush events but in operations against one Shia militia or another.
    The fact is though, this is all beside the point as these weapons are but part of the smoke and mirrors routine to justify an Iranian attack. So let us give up the pointless debate on the “justifications” as there are none.
    Let us instead prophesise on the consequences of the most likely scenario, an airborne attack on the nuclear installations.
    Are the Iranians going to hit back? We all know they are.
    Are they going to bomb the White House? No of course not.
    Are they going to fire missiles at Israel a la Saddam in Gulf War I? No, I doubt they want to give the Israelis the pleasure of attacking them.
    Will they unleash Hizbollah? I think Hizbollah are otherwise engaged, and to commit an act of political suicide like that would surprise all and sundry.
    Are they going to hit America via terrorist acts? I doubt it, especially when they have such a target rich environment just next door.
    And the GIs and civilians in Iraq are the ones that will suffer the most as a result of an attack on Iran.
    What was a trickle of weapons will become a flood.
    Where there were IED’s there will be major upgrades.
    Where there were militants, resistance and insurgents there will be highly trained, highly motivated Revolutianry Guards.
    Where Iran was trying to stay under he radar it will be openly active.
    And where there was a minority Sunni insurgency, there will be a Majority Shia enemy.
    God help the poor Iraqi civilians who get in the way of this firefight,

  27. Arun says:

    Replying to Nancy Kimberlin:
    Right-wing blogs like PowerLine are already writing that we have ample cause to go to war with Iran, after the briefing by anonymous officials of the weapons Iran allegedly supplied Iraqi insurgents. I was kind of practicing my answer to them, which is, even if you think so, we can’t go to war with Bush and Cheney at the helm. They’ve got two botched wars on their plate already, and we cannot rely on their competence.

  28. MarcLord says:

    The Iranians are surely enjoying the “failed policy” in Iraq and helping it fail faster and harder where they can. But this matter of Iranian EFPs is completely lame, and should be called out as such. The backdrop on the political stage should be examined, as a way of talking about consequences.
    Iran has more likely expressly forbid its military from providing anyone in Iraq, Shia or otherwise, with weapons which can be traced back to Iran. They don’t need to provide EFPs to achieve any of their political or military objectives. If they wanted to take that route, they’d need only to flood Iraq with SA-18 shoulder-fired missiles. Rather, to fully achieve their goals, Iran must groom and maintain a credible victim status in preparation for a US/Israeli attack, which they have been consistently doing. This victim status is a political necessity, and easily trumps tactical military concerns in Iraq.
    If US leadership bombs Iran, its chief posture will be one of the aggrieved party with the law on its side. If the White House wants to gussy Iranian support of Iraq up into a casus belli, then it should focus on Iraqis buying weapons with Iranian support, weapons which have killed Americans. That story can’t be refuted, is more serious, and is probably even true. Focusing on EFPs which may have been involved in a quoted 5% of fatalities is stupid.
    Meanwhile, SA-18s were probably responsible for downing three helicopters around Taji in little over a week, and they’re coming from somewhere outside Iraq. No mention of that.

  29. zanzibar says:

    The Scooter Libby trial confirms the nexus between the corporate media and the neocon’s in the Administration to consolidate power at all costs and extract taxpayer funds for private gain even if the real national security and interests of the United States are trashed.
    Witness Tim Russert saying that he considered all conversations with Administration sources as confidential. And Cathie Martin, the Shooter’s PR person using Russert’s Meet the Press as a conduit for their propaganda. What happened to the press working for the people to inform them of what their elected representatives are really doing?
    Note that witness after witness is alluding to the fact that the Shooter was instrumental in trying to discredit Amb. Wilson for speaking the truth to the American people that this Administration deliberately manipulated intelligence to fit their policy of invading and occupying Iraq. And the breach of national security through blowing the cover of a covert CIA officer working on WMD was acceptable to keep the heat on an American truthteller. Yet these are the very guys who justify their nefarious activities under the guise of “we need to keep this classified and secret to protect the American people”.
    And these guys and their cohorts in the corporate media continue with the propaganda of victory in Iraq and supporting our troops. We have gone way past doublespeak. Let’s not forget that these guys invaded a sovereign nation that posed no threat to the US on the basis of false information and manipulation of the American people. Then totally botched the occupation and created the conditions for the unleashing of a civil war. Looted taxpayer funds through no-bid contracts and outright fraud. All the while conflating this action in Iraq with the fight against terrorism. Yet OBL is still at large and large areas in Iraq have been turned into jihadist havens.
    Even after being caught red-handed this nexus continues to ply their trade as if nothing has happened. This is a real cancer that is infecting the core of our constitutional system. If we the people do not respond and excise this cancer we will find ourselves in the not too distant future under the grip of a fascist oligarchy.

  30. arbogast says:

    meletius is analyzing this correctly.
    In the Israeli view, a single soldier kidnapped by Hezbollah was sufficient provocation to commit blatant warcrimes against an innocent nation.
    The PowerPoint justifies bombing every square inch of Iran in the view of this Administration.
    Colonel Lang, I wondered if you could comment on the fact that the military people who presented the “evidence” concealed their identities?

  31. ali says:

    Oh dear. Mixing up the Viet Minh and the ARVN. Bit like saying the USSR armed the Mujahideen in the Afghan war.

  32. anna missed says:

    Does’nt Iran sell weapons openly on the international arms market? If an m-16 shows up in the hands of a Nigerian rebel is that evidence of U.S. support of that militia? The entire ME is probably awash with weapons originating from Iran, that have been resold, stolen, donated, or otherwise aquired one way or another. These allocations prove nothing.

  33. SLE says:

    I think this is all about Iraq. We are about to take on the JAM (Mahdi Army) and need to provide evidence that this is necessary. The fuzzy linkage between JAM and Iran doesn’t matter – they all look the same.
    I just got back from Iraq. The Shia militias (JAM) attack our troops, regularly. There should be no question about this.
    EFPs are bad, but so are multiple 155mm artillery shells used as IEDs.
    To return to my main point: this evidence will be used to take harsh action against the Shia militias inside Iraq, not for a direct confrontation with Iran.

  34. confusedponderer says:

    Remarkable comment:
    “Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that he has no information indicating Iran’s government is directing the supply of lethal weapons to Shiite insurgent groups in Iraq.
    “We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran,” Pace told Voice of America during a visit to Australia. “What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se, knows about this.”
    “It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it’s clear that materials from Iran are involved,” he continued, “but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.”

  35. D.Witt says:

    Apparently, the neocon alliance believes that only the US should be arming Iraq: After all, there was no outcry at the beginning of the war when 200 tons of munitions were left unsecured, thus providing a nice stockpile for the future insurgency.
    Sounds to me like another case of ‘The pot declaring war on the kettle, due to its blackness.’

  36. chew2 says:

    Yes I did find some news articles describing IED (EFP) use against the Brits in the south of Iraq.
    There’s quite a lot of info about EFPs out there, just not in the main US press. Good old wikpedia has a comprehensive article which led me to two Daily Telegraphy articles, with a nice photo of an EFP. It does appear that some EFP components are being smuggled in from Iran and similar devices have been used by Hizbollah against Israeli tanks (pre 2000). Little direct evidence of who manufactures them, or whether the Iranian government has authorized it. They are pretty low tech, and the metal/copper warhead can be machined on a lathe. Wherever the know how comes from (these weapons have been around for 30+ years), I think it’s probably easily transferable and the Iraq borders are pretty wide open to arms smuggling of all types.

  37. walrus says:

    Col. Lang, This may be off topic but something in these weapons photos looks fishy to me.
    I refer to the photo of the RPG rounds shown below at this URL
    The RPG 7 rounds appear to have a lot number in the format
    Lot: 5-31-2006
    Now this looks awfully like a date to me.
    Only trouble is I’ve checked with Juan Cole, Iran would use a British date format. If it is a date then Iranians would have written is as Lot: 31-5-2006.
    I wonder if your sources might care to comment on this? I could be barking up the wrong tree here.

  38. walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    To extend my previous post, in reference to the image of an 81 mm mortar round, the description is not stenciled on the way normal ammo gets stencilled, the descrition is at least at varaince with the state owned DIOMIL.ir image of their product here:

  39. Cloned Poster says:

    Bullshit transends BULLSHIT. Here we have the GOP media saying that Iran can make shapped charges, sell (drugs!!) some ammo to the price is right, meanwhile USofUKIsrael, invaded Iraq for DOOMSDAY!!.

  40. russell120 says:

    I think it is pretty clear that the Iranians are supplying arms. This link notes sources stating that Austrian .50 caliber sniper rifles (HS50 Steyr-Mannlicher rifles) have been found in insurgent hands. These sniper rifles where in “insurgent” hands within 45 days of arriving in Iran.
    I am not arguing that we should be going to war with Iran. I am simply saying that we should be reasonable in our view of what is happening.
    (the url is cut in half as I am not clever enough to do that tinyURL thing).

  41. Chris Marlowe says:

    My guess is that Gates is deliberately making a mess of the briefings about Iranian arms so that it will put a brake on the Shooter-in-Chief’s plans to go after Iran.
    He can’t come out and do it deliberately because the SIC is too powerful, but he can screw things up enough to make the charges that the Iranian government is officially supplying arms to Shi’ite factions sound silly. (Which is exactly what is happening with some of the comments above.) Then, he hopes that the dems and others will find their backbones and resist the SIC’s plans to attack Iran.
    My guess is that Condi Rice’s proposed deal with North Korea is part of her plan to assert some degree of independence from the SIC. If she is not able to make any deal, then she will officially become the Most Useless SOS in American History.
    The SIC, Karl Rove and Arturo Gonzales, in the meantime, are putting together Plan B, which is how to avoid prosecution after their term ends. See http://noquarter.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/02/foggo_to_be_ind.html#more

  42. pbrownlee says:

    Are we thinking Niger and yellowcake U and other useful myths? The date notation is a giveaway – as it was with the now long-forgotten anthrax postal attacks in DC and FL – since only in the US and its close satellites is the format MMDDYYYY used (rather than DDMMYYYY). Now we will be told that there is “credible evidence” that Iranian Govt armaments factories are filled with Puerto Ricans.

  43. James Pratt says:

    Thank you, Col. Lang for providing the American public with some rational perspective in a very toxic climate of hate mongering. I hope Mr. Bearden’s work is widely distributed domestically, too.
    How ironic for Douglas Feith to criticize the CIA after providing entry at the Pentagon to an Iranian agent (Ahmed Chalabi) and an Israeli agent (Larry Franklin).
    I suppose the same folks who removed Helen Thomas from her accustomed front row seat at White House briefings could change the quotation of the Gospel of John at the CIA HQ from ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’ to ‘You shall know the deceit the powerful need and you will repeat it on cue or else’.
    I also hope that the President and Vice President don’t really believe those neocons (including a retired Air Force general) who say that bombing and a few special forces ops would result in a pro-US government in Iran. But they seem to believe Fred Kagan of AEI is an expert on Iraq, don’t they?

  44. Babak Makkinejad says:

    If that were the case we already would have seen them on television – this is yet another lie.

  45. johnf says:

    I’ve not been able to track down the actual report of the British Officer stating that the IED’s were not of Iranian origin, but this quote helps point the way:
    >Against the inference that this all comes from Iran is the concept that Iraqis themselves would be capable of copying a design and therefore do not need to get bombs from Iran.
    >And there have been a number of news reports over the last year expressing scepticism, even among military personnel, about the link to Iran.
    >The Washington Post reported last October that British troops in the south doubted the claim.
    >A year ago, the London Times said that British officers in Basra had stopped making any such claim, saying only that the technology matched bomb-making found elsewhere in the Middle East, including Lebanon and Syria.
    The quote seems to be the WP someime in Oct 06.

  46. anna missed says:

    Badger, at missing links, yesterday quoting the (Sunni) Iraqi rag Azzaman — has an interesting interpretation on the Iranian weapons issue. Being the result of a Maliki/U.S. compromise on how the surge must target both the Sunni insurgency (favored by Maliki) and rogue members of Mahdi and Badr (favored by the U.S.):

    People in the Iraqi political milieu link these accusations [about Iranian weapons and so on] with disagreements between the American forces and the Prime Minister Maliki. Maliki had been asking that the new Baghdad security plan be applied beginning with Sunni areas and exclude the special protection forces…while the Americans were bent on starting with Sadr City, which is Shiite and the Mahdi Army stronghold. It appears the two sides reached an agreement yesterday, with Maliki’s accouncement that the plan will start with all areas simultaneously.
    And lest you missed the point, the Al-Hayat reporter concludes his account with the exact same sentence that the Azzaman reporter used to close his account:
    [One of the briefers] said: “We have conveyed this information [the Iranian allegations] to the highest levels of the Iraqi government”.
    In a nutshell: The Iran-weapons show was part of American pressure to make sure the Iraqi government agrees to include Shiite targets as well as Sunni targets in the new security plan.

    This may account also for the footdragging and all around shoddy presentation and Gen. Pace’s notable dissent on the subject.

  47. jr786 says:

    Curiouser and curiouser. The Administration’s heart doesn’t seem to be in this too much, even though it seems to have rallied the war lovers on the far right. A plausible explanation for the Iranian weapons comes from, of all places, the Voice of America -http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-02-12-voa58.cfm
    which quotes an analyst saying tht Iran is arming the Shia for the inevitable full-on civil war. But who is the target audience for this counter-explanation?

  48. Chris Marlowe says:

    The Shooter-in-Chief feels that Gates and the military have gone soft on Iran (for some reason they think that they are “overstretched”), so he has dispatched his favorite hunting dog, The Great Decider, in a press conference today, to put the pressure on Iran, specifically the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
    SIC’s strategy is simple: he wants Petraeus to show enough progress on the ground to defuse the opposition of the American people and congressional democrats. If there is some progress to show, the reasoning goes, then most Americans will be reluctant to show opposition to the escalation.
    The NK deal also falls into this context. “We’re not unreasonable people! We did a deal with North Korea! We only did this attack on Iran after we had exhausted all other options!”
    Of course, they leave out that they have never sat down for discussions with Iran, and have refused to do so.
    By framing the argument this way, they hope that they can sneak their real agenda in the door, which is an attack on Iran, either directly, or by provoking some attack which can then be linked to Iran, and which US military forces react to.

  49. anon says:

    I do not find it difficult to believe that Iranian arms, or some kind of Iranian assistance in making/procuring them, are turning up in Iraq and being used against Coalition forces. How, or who is directly responsible, or why, we do not know. I find it very difficult to believe that anything Iran is doing is more significant in causing problems regionally than aid from Sunni elements and/or governments in the region (for example, Saudi Arabia). Or the result of the deliberate US policy of not guarding munitions dumps following invasion. As the blog TPM has said, maybe we should bomb ourselves for that last source of arms.
    I think that the administration’s propaganda campaign against Iran is for one of following reasons:
    1) facilitate their latest attempt to find a mostly military solution to Iraq quagmire (which all reasonable people agree are futile and dangerous),
    2) attempt to prepare the way for an attack on Iran.
    Today’s statements by Burns seem to imply that the administration really thinks that Iranian government is intentionally providing the arms for use against the Coalition, and that Iran is a more significant essential threat to regional stability than Al Qaeda and associated jihadist elements (see relevant http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/ for today). I think the latter statement is ridiculous. Recall that things are not going all that well in Afghanistan wrt the Afghan radical Taliban, the Taliban have a history of supporting Al Qaeda, and that the administration does not seem to worry much about reliably documented Al Qaeda activity in Sunni provinces in Iraq.
    I think the administration has already bamboozled the public and the press by allowing this issue of Iranian arms being a topic of major importance compared to the others. For the administration even to to be making this the most important topic of discussion right now is a display of dishonesty, delusion, or incompetence, or some disgusting mixture of all three. I think the press and analysts’ responses to the administration should start with that observation, and use that as a basis for very aggressive questioning of the administration.
    My personal view is that not pursuing comprehensive regional negotiations is a sign of either gross incompetence, or deliberate sabotage, of the administration’s own stated goals for successful completion of mission in Iraq (at least as far as their stated goals can be deciphered). Time to talk about impeachment of Cheney, and then Bush. Even if their actions are the result of delusion or incompetence, these can rise to the level of state crimes, politically, with is what is relevant for impeachment.
    The idea of another risky, ill-advised, unjustifed war, with will proably lead to more disasters, makes me feel physically ill. I hope it does not happen.

  50. rowdy says:

    Interesting poll at that MSNBC link up top…I post sans comment.
    “Will the United States launch military action against Iran over its nuclear program?”
    23653 responses
    Yes – 57%
    No – 28%
    Not sure – 15%

  51. walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    I wonder if you can comment on the state of the turf wars in Washington at the moment because I get the distinct impression from the latest discommunications from the Administration are not as polished as they used to be.
    I have asked myself why the briefing about Iranian weapons supply to Baghdad was, at least to me, amateurish in the extreme, and totally unconvincing as are the current stories about sniper rifles and Sadr fleeing to Iran.
    Could it perhaps be that the refusal to names sources/briefers is so that said people can thereby avoid the attentions from the DIA, CIA etc. Who might want to have a heart to heart talk and ask why they are spouting this crap?
    The “iranian” mortar bomb depicted is not labelled with a milspec Font, as are the ammunition depicted on diomil.ir website.
    The “RPG -7” rounds have a lot number using an American date format whereas Iranians use the British format (DDMMYY).
    We have yet to see images of the “sniper rifles” supposedly discovered in Baghdad.
    And now Sadr is supposed to have fled to Iran, which, as Juan Cole points out, is possible but unlikely.
    I get the impression that this is the work perhaps of the “B” team.
    I would welcome your comments. The Stennis should arrive in the area around 25th – 28th February.

  52. Frank Durkee says:

    If you look at the timing it is more than feasabile that the Iran IED and other stuff is simply a device to take news coverage away from the House debate and focus it on a new issue. These guys live on news management and this makes as much sense as anything. It is also an implicit warning to the Iranians to pull their horns in during the Surge in Iraq.

  53. zanzibar says:

    Courtesy Abu Aardvark
    Underestimating AQ
    If you read the accounts of al-Qaeda insiders, the war on terror was essentially over in December 2001, after U.S. and Coalition forces swept aside the Taliban and pummeled al-Qaeda. According to al-Qaeda’s own inner circle, 80% of its members were captured or killed. Yes, the leaders escaped, but they were scattered, destitute, and unable to communicate with each other. The organization lived a kind of zombie existence, neither dead nor fully alive.
    Iraq brought it back to life.

    The lessons I draw from this are that AQ is stronger now than at any time since 9/11; that the war in Iraq has given AQ a tremendous propaganda victory; that the movement is both vast and nimble; that it will survive the deaths of any particular individuals; and that the prospects for long-term conflict with the U.S. and Europe are almost certain.
    So while the Decider continues to manipulate the American people with his war strategy in Iraq and now is busy raising the heat on Iran, AQ is rebuilding unmolested.

  54. confusedponderer says:

    On the issue of ‘Iranian EFP’: In the end an EFP design is just as straightforward as a claymore mine.
    It doesn’t even got to the degree of sophistication required to build something like a ‘real’ off-route mine along the lines of the German PARM-1. A look at the picture underlines the similarity.
    * http://ordatamines.maic.jmu.edu/images/H4799U01.jpg
    for comparison, here an ‘EFP from Iran’ illustration:
    * http://i55.photobucket.com/albums/g125/bagelblogger/EFP-from-Iran350.jpg
    in comparison to the generic Claymore (an Austrian clone)
    * http://ordatamines.maic.jmu.edu/images/HM009UP002.jpg
    the closest match would IMO be the Russian MON-100
    * http://ordatamines.maic.jmu.edu/displaydata.aspx?OrDataId=7448
    The EFP device has less moving parts and is easier to build, as it simply relies on an explosive shaped charge instead of the PARM’s rocket powerd HEAT warhead. Replace the shaped charge liners with a liner of fragments and you basically have a Claymore mine. Reliance on an EFP only makes the mine more portable, that is: Smaller, lighter and esier to hide, probably cheaper, too.
    What I like to point out is that the ideas have been around for a while, the technology is known, and function basically dictates form. All it needs is someone to add the parts together and there you have it.
    The distance of the EFP charge to the vehicle is the reason why it is most effective against light armored vehicles; to kill a tank you need to bring the shaped charge close to the hull. What makes the EFP nasty is that it is an off-route device that’s harder to spot than the usual IED.
    The EFP mine is not a particularly sophisticated device, though it is sure effective enough and easy enough to use. Which makes it a good weapon for the intended purpose I guess.
    I find it credible that Iran has passed around blueprints for EFP mines around to about every freindly, namely Syria and Hezbollah. Very deniable, and the friends are building them themselves. By now the know-how can have spread enough to the point that Iranian involvement is no longer neccessary.

  55. zanzibar says:

    As PL has pointed out earlier there are hundreds of Iranian agents in Iraq. Michael Ware the CNN reporter in Iraq mentioned in an interview that as we invaded Iraq in 2003 and raced to Baghdad, Iranian operatives flooded into southern Iraq with their Iraqi Shia brethren who were based in Iran during Saddam’s era.
    The Iranian UN ambassador in an interview with Charlie Rose pointed out the date inconsistency as you have made on the IEDs that were disclosed at the Baghdad “background” conference where the identities of the Pentagon spokesmen were kept in the shadows.
    I am sure Iraq is crawling with Iranian agents who are there to assist their Shia compatriots and the current Shia Iraqi government. The US government and military have known about this for many years. The question is why are they making a big deal now and why are they putting forth such flimsy evidence and why don’t they have their story together? What’s up with this “background” press briefing in Baghdad, then Gen. Pace walking it back and then the Decider floundering when challenged at his presser?

  56. ali says:

    I was struck by Milt Bearden phrase in the IHT “The rules of proxy warfare”. He’s right that there are conventions we follow in this old game. It is a parsimonious method of a state projecting force that predates the cold war by millenia. We have rather a lot of proxy warfare going on at the moment. The neighbors faced with Iraq in chaos have little practical choice. If Iraq implodes they must be ready.
    The Iranians are engaged in a full spectrum of overt social and barely covert military activity in Iraq. The last is probably least significant in terms of their Iraq strategy; their influence is now pervasive. This dates back to the last decades of the 20th century and went into overdrive when we brought neocon “creative chaos” to Baghdad.
    Unfortunately the Iranians are doing rather a better job of nation building than us. As elsewhere our feckless neo-colonial efforts are deeply flawed lacking both the commitment to country and any willingness to adapt treasured think tank ideals to the local culture. The Project for a New Iranian Century is of the old school. Like the men who ran the Raj they intend to stay in Iraq for decades, whip the natives along and make the South a permanent Iranian satellite. It’s what they’re well on the way to achieving in Lebanon. Lebanon is just a prototype Iraq promises to be both a cash cow and launching pad for re-establishing greater Persia.
    Our plumply vulnerable allies the Saudis are of course very alarmed by this. As in the Soviet Afghan war Saudi cash is flowing to the insurgents but this time the Saudi fighting man has not been a laughing stock amongst the Mujh; the Iraqi Sunni have found a use for the bigoted lunkheads. They have been for some time the source of a steady flow of human ordinance eager to martyr themselves in the glorious Jihad against Shi’a markets.
    Recently the rhetoric has moved up a gear. We have Saudi clerics loudly declaring the Iraqi Shi’a heretics lower than Joos. Their government frankly stating they’ll intervene on the Sunni side, knowing wink, pregnant pause… if the US leaves. Al Turki their specialist in covert insurgent support dragged home from DC either to shut him up or apply his skills. It would be very odd if the Saudis weren’t preparing for a clash with the Iranians by proxy in Iraq. I’d expect a new intensity of Saudi involvement; laying down a network independent of their fickle Western allies.
    Before 9-11 the Iranians, Indians and Russians were fighting a proxy war fronted by the Northern Alliance against the Pakistanis and Saudis fronted by the Taliban before we joined them. Oh and don’t get me started on the ISI backed Taliban at it again.
    Incidentally British Officers changing their opinions in public is often No 10 at work rather than heartfelt sincerity.
    PS: Some trouble getting this through the comment checker, may be a double post.

  57. Eaken says:

    I read early this morning that nobody has called the Austrian manufacturer of the sniper rifles to verify that the serial numbers match those which were sold to Iran.
    That should tell you enough about the organized and concerted effort to build a case for war against Iran.

  58. Sgt.York says:

    RE: “date inconsistency as you have made on the IEDs”
    I believe you are talking about the mortar that was displayed not an improvised explosive. Many blogs have argued that the mortal is a fabrication because [1] the lettering is in English [2] the numbering is not Arabic [3] the date format uses American style [4] the Iranian Military does not use that MM size.
    In my opinion, the mortar is likely of Iranian manufacture.
    Iran produces a variety of MM sizes of mortars for sale on the international arms market. Arms manufactured for export tend to use ‘Western’ lettering and numbering.
    However, that particular mortar could have came from anywhere. It could have been sold to the Pakistani Military, then pilfered from a arms depot by soldiers, then sold to Afgans, and then made it’s way to Iraq.
    If the US is going to bomb counties that have explosive weapons in Iraq then they should start bombing Belgium and Czechoslovakia.
    Table 1. Iraq’s landmines

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