Those Iranian weapons, or follow the bouncing ball

Why can't the administration keep its story straight?



Tim Grieve
February 15, 2007 2:56AM (UTC)

At their no-names-allowed press briefing in Baghdad over the weekend, U.S. military officials alleged that officials at the "highest levels" of Iran's government have supplied roadside bombs being used to kill American troops in Iraq. "We assess that these activities are coming from the senior levels of the Iranian government," one of the anonymous military officials told reporters.

Has Anonymous got the story right? That is, are the Iranian-made weapons entering Iraq actually being sent there under orders from the "senior levels" of Iran's government? It depends on which Bush administration official you ask -- and which day you do the asking.

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Monday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace: "It is clear that Iranians are involved ... but I would not say, based on what I know, that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."

Monday, White House press secretary Tony Snow: "Let me put it this way: There's not a whole lot of freelancing in the Iranian government, especially when it comes to something like that. So what you would have to do, if you're trying to do the -- to counter that position, you would have to assume that people were able of putting together sophisticated weaponry, moving it across a border into a theater of war and doing so unbeknownst and unbidden."

Tuesday, U.S. Central Command Commander William Fallon:"I have no idea who may be actually hands-on in this stuff."

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Tuesday, White House press secretary Tony Snow: "The intelligence indicates that the Quds forces, which are part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, are associated with this ... What is beyond dispute, and what is of primary importance here -- and Gen. Pace hasn't disagreed with it, and we don't disagree, and frankly, again, I think you'll find upon further conversation ... that, in fact, we generally agree on the basics of the situation here, which is there are armaments that have made their way from Iran into Iraq. There are Iranian forces in Iraq. These weapons are being used to kill Americans."

Wednesday, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns: "I'll resist the temptation to draw an organizational chart, for obvious reasons. [The al-Quds unit is] a part of the Iranian defense and intelligence establishment. They're a major part of the Iranian government. Therefore, the actions of that force are the responsibility of that government. If that force is supplying technology for Shiite militants, that government is responsible."

Wednesday, President George W. Bush: "What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did. But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?"

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Maybe it's reasonable to assume that people in the highest levels of Iran's government know what members of the al-Quds unit are doing. Maybe it's not. Our view? We'll start making the leap of faith about what high-level Iranian officials must know just as soon as the White House starts accepting the same sort of arguments about itself.

How does this one sound, Mr. President? What we do know is that members of the U.S. military were responsible for acts of torture at Abu Ghraib. We know that. And we also know that the U.S. military is part of the U.S. government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of the U.S. government ordered the U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib to do what they did. But here's our point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they did it. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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