Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Not Ringing True

The NYT reported yesterday that military officials (who don't wish to be identified) are claiming that the Iranian government is intentionally arming the Sunni as well as the Shia.

I would call the suspiciously "anonymous" officials on this bullshit if I were the Times. The last time this headline made the rounds, a friend of mine commented on the region's very active black market arms trading. I find that scenario entirely plausible -- even our own weapons have ended up on the black market in Iraq and have been used against us there. I also believe without a doubt that Iran is arming the Shia. What doesn't ring true is that the Iranian government would covertly arm their longtime enemy, the Sunni.

I was hoping Juan Cole would comment today so I could see if he had a similar take on it... and he did:
The US military spokesman Major General William Caldwell argued on Wednesday that Iran is giving military aid to Sunni guerrillas in Iraq. Since the Sunni guerrillas are killing and blowing up Shiites every day, and since Iran is closely allied with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, the leaders of which have repeatedly been targeted by Sunni guerrillas. That Iran is trying to kill its own guys in Iraq is flatly implausible. Caldwell can come out and say it every day, and I will come out here and say it is implausible every day. Anti-Iranian sentiments are a key characteristic of the Sunni Arab guerrillas.

Iranian arms may be being smuggled into Iraq, but it is unlikely that the government is doing the smuggling, or that they are more important than all the other arms that are being smuggled into Iraq from a variety of neighbors. So the US military might well find Sunni guerrillas with Iranian arms.

We also know that some Sunni guerrillas want to foment a war between the US and Iran. So captured Sunni guerrillas may be feeding interrogators this line that they are getting help from Iran, to make trouble. That is, whatever the US military is finding in the way of evidence for this absurd allegation can be explained in some other plausible way, so as to avoid our having to come to conclusions that make no sense whatsoever. I am hoping that journalists covering the war will treat these allegations with the profound skepticism they deserve.

The easy way for the US military not to be inconvenienced by arms smuggling into Iraq from neighboring countries is for it to leave Iraq.

These ridiculous allegations against Iran of supporting Baathists and Salafis in Iraq are probably just pressure tactics. The Iranians want the US to release five diplomats who had been invited to Irbil by Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani, but who were kidnapped by the Bush administration. The US maintains that they are intelligence field officers. Iran is threatening not to attend the upcoming Sharm el Sheikh conference on Iraq if their men are not released.

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