Monday, February 12, 2007

The case against Iran

You may have noticed that TONE has not joined in with those who have been expressing fear that the administration wants to start a war with Iran. I've done that for several reasons. For one thing, it's hard to believe that even Bush, Cheney & Co., could be that dumb. (Of course, that could have been said about so many things that this administration has done.)

And I'm still not convinced that Bush and his cronies are looking for another war to fight. However, if you look at the case against Iran, particularly the latest alleged revelations from military officials in Baghdad concerning alleged Iranian supplies to Shi'ite militias in Iraq, the case seems woefully weak. You can find the Power Point presentation that was given in Baghdad here.

One thing I noticed was that the 81mm mortar shells which are given prominent display in several of the Power Point slides have labels in western script, not Farsi or Arabic. Indeed, they appear to be written in British English--one photo shows a blow up of the label on a shipping container: 81mm/H.E. [high explosive] Mortar/ Fuze (British spelling of fuse): AZ111-A2." The caption on the photo says that the legend "AZ111-A2" is "assessed" to be Iranian, but the slide provides no proof of this. (For reasons that escape me, 81mm is a common calibre for mortar rounds--even American mortars have been made in that size. So the fact that the shells shown are of that calibre is meaningless as far as identifying where they came from.)

Perhaps the briefers gave more proof of Iranian involvement, but the slides themselves are weaker than weak.

And note, please, that your editor does think that the US government is probably right on this point: that the Iranians are arming some Shi'ite forces in Iraq. But the administration certainly has not proved it, much less made the case for a war.

And Juan Cole, an "informed observer," makes a strong argument that the Iranian threat has been totally overblown by the ideologues in the Bush administration.


Nemo said...

Please see here and here for more than you likely ever wanted to know about Iran's mortars, their fuzes, why they use 81mm mortars, and why the one shown as "evidence" is probably doctored.

The Old New Englander said...

Wow! Am I impressed! I'm used to being the one on my block who knows the most about matters military, but I'm a rank amateur. ("Very rank" I hear some people say.)

I, too, have wondered at the popularity of the 81mm mortar. That's 3.188 inches. Huh? (I saw a comment once that they had to devise a 6.25mm machine screw--6 was too small and 7 was too large. As it happens. 6.25mm is 1/4 in. But there's no real-world or imperial measurement corollary that equates to 81mm, as far as I'm aware.)