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American officials have begun to get closer to revealing the evidence of Iranian involvement in attacks on US troops in Iraq. Several sources within the Pentagon have talked with reporters about the issue, informing them of the details, including the manufacture of specific weapons found on insurgents. The New York Times leads with the story this morning:
The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.
The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.
In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.
The focus of American concern is known as an “explosively formed penetrator,” a particularly deadly type of roadside bomb being used by Shiite groups in attacks on American troops in Iraq. Attacks using the device have doubled in the past year, and have prompted increasing concern among military officers. In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, though less than a quarter of the total, military officials say.
The Times reports that some of their sources have previously voiced skepticism over linking Iran directly to the insurgencies. They have now changed their minds and spoke in depth about the connections between Teheran and the terrorists in Iraq, and the deaths they have caused directly or indirectly to American troops. These intel sources also claim that Hezbollah has been active inside Iraq in at least a support role for the Shi'ite militias and insurgents, another fingerprint of Iran and the mullahcracy.
So far, all of this information has been closely held by the Bush administration. The Times reports that this will change this weekend. The White House plans on presenting evidence gleaned from the controversial raid in Irbil of the active support Iran has given terrorists in Iraq. That support comes in the forms of training, financing, and manufacturing of the weapons themselves. Iran smuggles the materiel across the border at night and Iranian agents apparently handle the distribution. The raid on Irbil intended to disrupt this distribution channel for Iranian control of the insurgencies.
Iran has denied any involvement in the insurgency activity, and protested the Irbil raid and the purported capture of an Iranian diplomat last week in Baghdad. They claim that they have no interest in destabilizing Iraq and only want to normalize relations between themselves and their neighbors. However, Teheran understands that the Bush administration wants to wage a total war against radical Islamist terrorism, and that eventually such an effort will confront Iran. The mullahcracy wants to make each step along that path as expensive as possible for the US in an attempt to tire us out before that confrontation comes.
The Iranians understand the political climate here at home better than we think. As long as the violence rages in Iraq, they know that pressure will increase on the Bush administration to withdraw from the country. It doesn't make a lot of difference to Iran what form the violence takes, although they'd certainly be happy if the Shi'ites wiped out the Sunnis and the Kurds, as unlikely as that would be. They know that the Shi'ite majority will control Iraq in any case, especially while sectarian gang wars roil the capital. All they want to do is to exhaust American tenacity so that the war on Islamist terror fades before it reaches radical Islam's primary authors.
The White House needs to make its case and present as much of the evidence as possible, under the circumstances. There will be skeptics, and they will ironically call for a review of the intelligence in much the same manner that the White House asked for the same from Douglas Feith. If Congress authorizes it, it should get done, but they should acknowledge that they're doing the same thing that Carl Levin so angrily denounced yesterday. In any event, nothing should delay the national understanding of our true enemy in Southwest Asia.
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