Bush gang fails to make case
to justify attack on Iran

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

WASHINGTON — The long-awaited Baghdad briefing had plenty of props. There were two tables stacked with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, a PowerPoint slide show and, perhaps most importantly, a particularly nasty weapon known as an EFP, or explosively formed penetrator.

A trio of American military officials led the show. Their mission: rolling out the administration’s case that Iran is supporting attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Under the rules of this afternoon’s briefing, the three could not be identified by name. No TV cameras or tapes were allowed in, and journalists’ cell phones were taken away before they entered the briefing room. But if their job was to provide proof of Tehran’s involvement in Iraq’s bloodshed, they’re unlikely to convince the doubters with what was shown Sunday, February 11, 2007.

The centerpiece of the administration’s case was an EFP, a device resembling a large tin of powdered milk that is stuffed with explosive filler and capped with a copper liner. When the EFP detonates, a fist-sized piece of molten copper shoots out at high speed into the target. It’s a powerful weapon: a picture of an Iraqi squad car shredded by an EFP shown at today’s briefing illustrated how the copper piece had torn through the entire car and lodged in the trunk. These explosives become even deadlier when paired up with passive infrared triggers, a switch that's also used with lights and harder to detect than some more traditional triggering mechanisms. A senior official said that EFPs have killed 170 Coalition soldiers and wounded approximately 620. "We're acknowledging they have been effective," he said. Their usage, predominantly by Shiite militants, nearly doubled in 2006, according to the military briefers.

The EFP parts, the officials claimed, are shuttled across the border with Iran at night, along with money and other weapons, through centuries-old smuggling trails. Three problematic border points were listed: Mehran, which is due east of Baghdad, the marsh areas around the southern city of Amara and the border crossing near Basra. The Iranian fingerprint, these officials claimed, was in the pieces used to manufacture the EFPs, as well as the usage of the infrared triggers. "Some components are solely found in Iran," the senior defense official said.

According to the briefers, it was the use of EFPs by another Iranian-supported group, Lebanon’s Hizbullah, that led American military officials to suspect a possible Iranian link. Hizbullah has used EFPs against the Israeli Army in southern Lebanon repeatedly in the late '90s. In Iraq, they are used by splinter factions of the Shiite Mahdi Army, or "rogue JAM" in military shorthand, which have allegedly been assembling and planting the explosives. The officials also noted that they had been used by the "Shaybani network," a group run by a former commander of the Badr Brigade called Abu Mustafa Shaybani. The intelligence analyst said that Shaybani no longer had links to the Badr Brigade, a rival Shiite group to Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army that has now renamed itself the Badr Organization and has members in the Iraqi Parliament. Shaybani, these officials claimed, is currently in Iran and lives with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), specifically the Qods Force.

The officials zeroed in on the Qods Force as the "enabler of violence." "[The Qods Force] really report directly to the Supreme Leader," the senior defense analyst said at the briefing. This had led the U.S. military to conclude that the campaign was being orchestrated at "the highest levels of [the] Iranian government." Recent U.S. military raids in Baghdad have nabbed top members of the IRGC. Disclosing some of the details of these raids, the briefers said that last Dec. 21, Mohsen Chizari, allegedly the No. 3 man in the IRGC, was pulled out of a compound linked to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the top Shiite party in the government. Chizari was later freed when it was proven that he had a diplomatic passport. The defense analyst told the briefing that there were no dubious ties between the Qods Force and members of the Iraqi government, but the senior defense official seemed to contradict that assertion by noting that soldiers found a long list of weapon inventories at the SCIRI compound--including sniper rifles and mortars, items that he called "offensive-type armament.

Another five members of the IRGC were taken out of an Iranian diplomatic office in the Kurdish Iraqi city of Erbil in mid-January and are still being detained. When the U.S. military raided this office, which Iranian officials insist has consular status, they allegedly caught the group trying to flush documents down the toilet. At least one of the suspects was trying to alter his appearance by shaving his head. And one of the detained men, the officials claimed today, also had explosive residue on his hands. Additional exhibits at the briefing included two IDs from the suspects held in this raid. One was an official IRGC ID for a 43-year-old colonel named Baqer Qabshavi. The branch of his work was listed as "intelligence." The second card was a student ID from Iran’s Imam Hussein University for a bearded middle-aged man named Hamid Reza Askari-Shekooh. His area of study was listed as "strategic defense studies."

Was all this evidence the smoking gun that some had expected? Not exactly. Much of the information presented today had been discussed by military officials before. "The begging question of a smoking gun, of an Iranian standing over an American, with a gun, it's never going to happen," the analyst said in the briefing today. "It's plausible deniability. They invented it." Nor did the briefing try to make a substantive case for a U.S. attack on Iran—something much speculated about after the original press conference was cancelled abruptly and without explanation more than a week ago. A senior official acknowledged that the briefing had generated a lot of buzz, particularly in Washington. "Everybody was trying to make it more than it was," he said. "The multinational forces are not trying to hype this up more than it is."