On Sunday, during a secret briefing in Baghdad, a trio of unnamed "senior defense officials" presented the long awaited "proof" that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi extremists. By Sunday afternoon in the United States, the Washington Post had posted a story on the briefing.
Iran Sending Explosives to Extremist Groups in Iraq, Officials Say
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 11, 2007; 1:54 PM
BAGHDAD Feb 11 -- Iranian security forces, taking orders from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, are funneling sophisticated explosives to extremist groups in Iraq, and the weapons have grown increasingly deadly for U.S.-led troops over the past two years, senior defense officials said Sunday in Baghdad.
By Sunday evening, the story was being echoed through electronic media outlets.
On Monday morning, the Post released another version of Partlow's story that contained an important codicil.
With so much official U.S. buildup about the purported evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq, the briefing was also notable for what was not said or shown. The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops. Also, the military briefers were not joined by U.S. diplomats or representatives of the CIA or the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Interestingly enough, Partlow's original article disappeared from the Post's web site, and hyperlinks to the original led web surfers to the rewritten version.
As Monday wore on, the rest of the media began questioning the validity of the intelligence presented at the brief, although White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said he was confident the Iranian government had approved delivery of the weapons to Iraq.
On Tuesday, in Indonesia, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace said he was not certain that "the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this."
Later on Tuesday, Snow said that Pace's comments did not contradict those of the White House or of the "senior officials" in Baghdad. "We're not on separate pages," Snow said.
Not on separate pages? Hell, they were on separate planets.
At his press conference in Washington on Wednesday, Mr. Bush said he was certain that certain factions in the Iranian government had supplied arms to Shiite militias in Iraq, but wasn't sure if Iran's highest officials had directed the attacks.
I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated I.E.D.’s that have harmed our troops… And I’d like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top echelons of the government. But my point is, what’s worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and its happening?
My point is, what's worse, sounding like you know what you're talking about or sounding like you're pulling the same shell game with Iran that you pulled with Iraq?
Mr. Bush also said "The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing IEDs [improvised explosive devices] is preposterous."
Yet that idea is no more preposterous than anything else we've seen the Bush administration manufacture.
Mr. Bush said he still refuses to have direct talks with Iran because "I believe that's a more effective way of convincing the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions."
Iran has consistently avowed that it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has offered no proof that the Iranians are lying on that score. Iran also vehemently denies that it is providing weapons to militants in Iraq.
The really preposterous aspects of this situation are that we have less reason to believe Bush than we have to believe the Iranians, and that Mr. Bush would assert that the best way to pursuade someone to do something is to not talk to them.
Even more preposterous is that with the fates of nations at stake, cable news channels devoted most of their Thursday programming to the three-way struggle over possession of Anna Nicole Smith's body. And more preposterous than that is the notion that anyone would fight over possession of her body. She is, after all, past her prime.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.