The Duck of Minerva

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Iran update

January 24, 2007

I didn’t watch the “State of the Union,” but I skimmed much of it already and will read it soon. I noticed that President Bush has again somewhat ambiguously suggested that Iran has provided “support” for Shia militias in Iraq. Rumors have been flying in Washington that the administration is making the case for war against Iran — and preparing for it militarily too.

Here’s the kind of hearsay the President has apparently heard about Iran in Iraq. General Casey to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, March 19, 2006:

We have very good information that improvised explosive device technology is coming from the country of Iran into Iraq, destined for Shia insurgent extremist groups.

I do not have intelligence that will allow me to say that someone within the Iranian government is specifically doing that or supporting that operation.

I suspect that’s the case, but I cannot document it.

Some reporters, to their credit, are trying to find out if there’s any hard evidence.

This was a headline in the LA Times, January 23: “Scant evidence found of Iran-Iraq arms link.”

U.S. troops have found mortars and antitank mines with Iranian markings dated 2006, said U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland, who oversees the province. But there has been little sign of more advanced weaponry crossing the border, and no Iranian agents have been found.

The story digs a bit and doesn’t find any concrete evidence.

The Brits are doubtful too. From The Washington Post October 4:

“I have not myself seen any evidence — and I don’t think any evidence exists — of government-supported or instigated” armed support on Iran’s part in Iraq, British Defense Secretary Des Browne said in an interview in Baghdad in late August…

Maj. Dominic Roberts of the Queen’s Dragoons said: “We have found no credible evidence to suggest there is weapons smuggling across the border.”

As we learned in late 2002 and early 2003, however, sometimes a government doesn’t need credible evidence to justify a war.

Apparently, some in the adminstration want even to make people believe that Iran is helping the Sunni, but the LA Times article notes that State Department and CIA officials have “privately expressed doubts.”

No kidding. Even right-leaning bloggers realize that the claim seems pretty foolish. NewsBusters made fun of Keith Olbermann Tuesday for quoting the LA Times, which was debunking the administration.

Go figure.

Bottom line: what should the general public make of the administration turning up the heat on Iran?

As the NY Times reported January 20, Senator Jay Rockefeller (Chair of the Intelligence Committee) thinks he smells a rat:

“To be quite honest, I’m a little concerned that it’s Iraq again,” Senator Rockefeller said during an interview in his office. “This whole concept of moving against Iran is bizarre.”

Bizarre? Yes.

Dangerous? Almost certainly.

Unthinkable? No.

That’s why the media and foreign policy analysts have to stay on top of this issue.

Hat tip for the Post link: Justin Raimondo

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.