Monday, February 12, 2007

Iran: Here we go again!

Until today, I've sort of assigned the saber rattling regarding Iran to the sidelines. "Surely," I thought to myself, "the disasters in Iraq have destroyed any serious thoughts by the Bush Administration toward attacking, or even credibly threatening, Iran."

Well, it's getting pretty hard to ignore what's happening. Today, the NY Times reports that U.S. officials are presenting evidence of Iranian support for insurgent activity. Here's the nut paragraph:

In a news briefing held under strict security, the officials spread out on two small tables an E.F.P. and an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories. The officials also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans. The officials said such an assertion was an inference based on general intelligence assessments.

What's most fascinating about this is that, for me, it doesn't matter whether this true or not. First, I have no trust -- none -- that my government is telling the truth. Second, even if the Iranians are supporting the insurgents, what can we do? We can't credibly threaten to attack them, and it's hard to diplomatically isolate a country already so isolated. So what more can we do besides what (I hope) we are doing already, namely, trying to stem the flow of weapons into the country and arresting Iranian operatives? What is there to be gained from making this case publicly, except to showcase our complete helplessness due to the Iraq fiasco?

Do they -- meaning the neoconservative cabal -- really want a war with Iran? Have we learned nothing, nothing at all?


Anonymous jimmimoose said...

What on earth makes you think that this collective is capable of learning, anything, Ben? They obviously haven't learned a single thing from the last 40 years of American history, including the last 5 or so, so why would the start now?

I repeat my claim to collective madness!

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said in a previous response (to your posting on the NIE), avoiding a war with Iran should be a central goal of this conflict. But it doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing....

There have been a number of articles today about the "logic" behind the assertion that Iran is helping the insurgency (which remains a largely Sunni effort). And, this afternoon, a US general (I believe it was Petraeus's second-in-command) "clarified" the evidence you cited, saying they had no information or evidence that the Iranian government was involved. I have no doubt that the Iranians are involved in Iraq but their efforts seem to be in supporting and supplying Shia militias, not supporting Sunni insurgents. (And I agree with you that it almost doesn't matter since there's little we can do about it and clearly we aren't going to work for any diplomatic deals.)

A couple of weeks ago the Dept. Defense leaked a report that asserted that Iranians were behind the operation that kidnapped and then executed five (or four ... the story changes) American soldiers. What was disturbing (in addition to the horror of the act itself) is that the SOLE "evidence" for Iranian involvement was, I kid you not, Iraqis were not sophisticated enough to pull off such an operation so it must have been Iranians. (You cannot make this stuff up.)

What happens with bad intelligence (besides the obvious) is that it sets up circular logic that we saw in the lead-up to invasion (e.g., Saddam must be planning to use WMD because he won't turn them over....).

Maybe this time we can "head them off" but only if we act as if "they will if they can" (and they will).

-- Big Daddy

6:11 PM  

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