Sep 18, 2007

Pushing Iran's Buttons

A fascinating take on a couple of key aspects of the anti-Iran Info Op, specifically the loudly trumpeted claims that Iran, per se, is engaged in the production of EFPs in Iraq and that the Quds Force is training Iraqi Shi'ite militias:

US and British officials have acknowledged in the past that the EFP technology being used in Iraq might have entered Iraq from Hezbollah in Lebanon rather than from Iran.

The premise that the Quds Force agents in Iraq were involved in training Shi'ites to carry out operations against US troops was shattered when (Major General Rick) Lynch told reporters on August 19 that the Iranians were "facilitating the training of Shi'ite extremist" militiamen in Iraq. That clearly implied that the training was being done by Hezbollah.

The Washington Post and other news outlets quoted Lynch's statement but nevertheless reported that Lynch had charged that Iranians were doing the training. A spokesperson for Lynch confirmed to Inter Press Service that Lynch had not made any allegation about Iranians training Shi'ites in Iraq.

Petraeus dealt the final blow to the notion of a Quds Force training role when he noted that the Hezbollah trainers had also been withdrawn from the country.

The briefing by US military spokesman Brigadier General Kevin Bergner on July 2 was aimed primarily at advancing the theme that Hezbollah acts in Iraq as a "proxy" for Iran. But the real significance of the briefing - unreported in the US news media - was the first suggestion by a US official that the Quds Force personnel in Iraq might have avoided direct contacts with Shi'ite militias altogether.

Asked by a journalist why the Quds Force would "subcontract" the training of Shi'ite militias to Hezbollah, Bergner answered that Hezbollah could "do things that perhaps they didn't want to have to do themselves in terms of interacting directly with special groups".

Without mentioning any pullout of Quds Force personnel, Conway said on August 19 that Lynch estimated there were 50 Quds Force agents in his entire area of responsibility in southern Iraq. Four days later, Lynch clarified that estimate, telling reporters that 30 of those estimated 50 agents were "surrogates" - presumably referring to Hezbollah operatives engaged in training Shi'ites in southern Iraq.

Although it was buried in the August 19 story inaccurately reporting Lynch's statement about training in Iraq, Megan Greenwell of the Washington Post reported the much more significant fact that "some military intelligence analysts have concluded there is no concrete evidence" linking the Quds Force in Iraq with the Shi'ite militias.

The charge that Iran is using the Quds Force to fight a proxy war is an effort to raise tensions with Iran by suggesting a potential reason for a US attack against that country. Similarly, the pressure for targeting the Quds Force in Iraq late last year came from senior officials in the Bush administration who wished to demonstrate US resolve to confront Iran, according to an in-depth account of the origins of the plan by the Washington Post's Dafna Linzer published on February 26.

That policy was regarded with "skepticism" by the intelligence community, the State Department and the Defense Department when it was proposed, Linzer wrote, because of the fear it would contribute to an escalation of conflict with Iran.

"This has little to do with Iraq," a senior intelligence officer told Linzer. "It's all about pushing Iran's buttons. It's purely political."

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