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Bush administration concocts a dossier for war against Iran

By Peter Symonds
13 February 2007

The Bush administration stepped up its propaganda war against Iran with a
press briefing in Baghdad on Sunday, setting out claims that the Iranian
regime is supplying arms to anti-US militias in Iraq. While the dossier
fails to prove a case against Tehran, its release demonstrates that the
White House is intent on manufacturing a justification for a military
confrontation with Iran.

The obvious parallel is with the lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass
destruction that were concocted as the pretext for the illegal invasion of
Iraq in 2003. The timing of the press briefing points to its real purpose.
Even though the US has, for more than a year, accused Iran of supplying
sophisticated roadside bombs to Iraqi groups, it is only now, amid an
American military buildup in the Persian Gulf, that the so-called evidence
has been released.

The threadbare character of the dossier has itself been the subject of
debate within the Bush administration. Its release was delayed twice
because, as National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley bluntly explained, we
thought the briefing overstated. State Department and intelligence officials
privately told the media that the evidence was inconclusive. In the end, the
press conference in Baghdad was given, not by US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad
as previously announced, but by three American military officials, who
insisted on remaining unnamed.

On display to the select audience of reporters were an array of mortar
shells and rocket-propelled grenades with serial numbers, which the
officials claimed linked the weapons to Iranian factories. Emphasis was
placed on a type of roadside bomb known as an explosively formed penetrator
(EFP) capable of punching through most armour, including that of an Abrams
tank. According to the presenters, the weapon has been responsible for the
deaths of more than 170 US troops since June 2004.

No proof, however, was provided that the Iranian regime was directly
involved. One of the three officials, described as a senior defence analyst,
insisted that the weapons smuggling was organised by a special unit of
Iran's Islamic Republican Guard Corps known as the Quds Force. The
involvement of the IRGC-Quds Force, he declared, meant that operations were
being directed from the highest levels of the Iranian government. Questioned
about evidence, he admitted that it was just an inference.

The New York Times pointedly noted: Nonetheless that inference, and the
anonymity of the officials who made it, was bound to generate skepticism
among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a
scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and perhaps even trying to lay the
groundwork for war with Iran. In other words, it is widely recognised in US
ruling circles that the present accusations against Iran are simply the
excuse for an attack on Iran.

Evidence for the involvement of the IRGC-Quds Force in Iraq is also flimsy.
The US officials claimed that IRGC-Quds Force members were among the
Iranians arrested in separate raids in Baghdad in December and in the
northern city of Irbil in January. The only Iranian official named was
Mohsin Chizari, whose arrest in Baghdad, along with at least four others,
provoked protests not only from Iran, but also from the Iraqi government.
Two of those arrested were credentialled diplomats invited by Iraqi
President Jalal Talibani to Baghdad for talks.

The arrests highlighted the contradictions of the Bush administration's
policies. In ousting the regime of Saddam Hussein, the US has had to rely on
a puppet government in Baghdad dominated by Shiite fundamentalist parties
that have longstanding associations with neighbouring Iran. While claiming a
UN mandate to protect the Iraqi government, US officials are accusing
associated Shiite militias of obtaining assistance from Iran.

At the press briefing the accusations were directed primarily against rogue
elements of the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, which is the main target of
the surge of US troops in Baghdad. US officials also charged, however, that
weapons had reached the Badr Brigade connected to the Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), one of Washington's closest allies
in Iraq.

Iran has vigorously denied supplying arms to Iraqi militias. Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the allegations, saying that his
country's security was dependent on stability in Iraq. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini declared: Such accusations cannot be relied
upon or be presented as evidence. The United States has a long history in
fabricating evidence. Such charges are unacceptable.

In Baghdad, senior Shiite leader Abu Firas al-Saedi pointed out to Time
magazine that the US was making accusations against Iran, while remaining
silent on the support flowing to Sunni militias from countries such as Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. We don't deny that Iran has an interest in Iraq,
and that is a matter of concern he said. But the real question is: 'Why are
the Arab states allowing terrorists to enter Iraq through their borders, and
why are they financing them'

The explanation lies in the fact that the accusations against Tehran are
nothing more than an excuse as the Bush administration prepares for a
military attack. Washington remains silent on the involvement of Saudi
Arabia
, Kuwait and Jordan in Iraq because it has for the past several months
been engaged in a sustained diplomatic effort to secure an alliance with
these Arab states against alleged Iranian expansionism. As well as moving
additional warships into the Persian Gulf, the US has been supplying Patriot
anti-missile systems to bolster the defence of the Gulf States and their US
military bases.

It is an open secret in Washington that the Bush administration, or a
significant section led by Vice President Dick Cheney, is aggressively
pushing for an attack on Iran. On the CBS program Face the Nation last
Sunday, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd expressed a degree of skepticism in
the latest allegations against Iran, pointing to the recent Pentagon
inspector-general's report detailing the activities of the Under Secretary
of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith in manufacturing intelligence to justify
the Iraq invasion.

Asked directly if the Bush administration was laying the groundwork to
attack Iran, Dodd answered: Well, it could be. There are certainly those who
I think are in favor of that. We've seen that in the past, that they would
like nothing more than to build a case for that. Some of us call this, the
year 2007, the year of Iran in a sense, and I'm worried about that. That's
how we got into the mess in Iraq. That's why some of us supported those
resolutions, because of doctored information.

So I'm very skeptical, based on recent past history, about this
administration leading us in that direction. It worries me. It's not to say
I'm not worried about Iran. I am worried about Iran, and there's steps that
could be taken, I think, to try and change the direction they seem to be
heading in. But I'm very nervous about what the groundwork being laid here
as a premise for military action in Iran.

There is nothing in Dodd's remarks to indicate that either he or the
Democratic Congress would oppose a war on Iran, any more than they opposed
the invasion of Iraq or Bush's current escalation of the war. The American
ruling elite as a whole is determined to establish and maintain US dominance
over the Middle East and its huge energy reserves. But there is a distinct
nervousness that an attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences and
lead to a widening war throughout the region.


In a comment in yesterday's New York Times entitled Scary Movie 2, columnist
Paul Krugman warned of the danger of a re-run of the war on Iraq. Attacking
Iran would be a catastrophic mistake, even if all the allegations now being
made about Iranian actions are true. But it wouldnt be the first
catastrophic mistake this administration has made, and there are indications
that, at the very least, a powerful faction of the administration is
spoiling for a fight, he wrote.

Krugman pointed out that one of the White House's reasons for focussing on
the supply of Iranian arms to Iraq was to avoid the need for Congressional
approval. If you can claim that Iran is doing evil in Iraq, you can assert
that you don't need authorisation to attack that Congress has already
empowered the administration to do whatever is necessary to stabilise Iraq.
And by the time the lawyers are finished arguing, well, the war would be in
full swing, he commented.

The same pretext could be used to justify an attack on Iran without UN
Security Council approval. Senior US military officials in Baghdad
emphasised to the media that the press briefing showed their concern for
force protection, which, they claimed, was already guaranteed under the UN
resolution authorising the US occupation of Iraq. By claiming to defend US
troops, the Bush administration is seeking to sidestep the objections of US
rivals as it prepares another war of aggression.

While the American media has highlighted the alleged threat to US forces
posed by Iranian-made weapons, the very last concern of the Bush
administration in fabricating its dossier is for the lives of American
troops in Iraq.