The Ghosts of 170 US Troops Demand It
By Mark I Posted in Featured Stories | War — Comments (107) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Yesterday, in Baghdad, under extraordinary security precautions, the United States laid out evidence that an elite force of the Iranian military is and has been directly responsible for the deaths of US troops in Iraq. According to evidence presented at the briefing, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force, has been providing highly sophisticated devices called explosively formed penetrators, EFPs, to insurgent groups inside Iraq since 2004. The first US soldier killed by one of the devices lost his life in June of that year. Since then, more than 170 US troops have been killed and 620 injured in attacks using EFPs.
Iran has long been the elephant in the room in regards to the war in Iraq. Up until now, the Bush administration has been reluctant to discuss Iranian involvement in anything other than generalities. This press conference has been rumored for sometime and delayed. One hopes that the decision to go public with this information signals a new determination on the part of the Bush Administration to do something about it.
The Department of Defense set unusual ground rules for this briefing. Reporters were not allowed to record it and the briefing officers were to remain anonymous. CNN produced a video segment on the press conference, complete with pictures of some of the evidence presented. And that evidence is overwhelming. From the Washington Post:
The weapons displayed for reporters on two tables on Sunday -- rocket-propelled grenades, football-shaped mortar shells, the shaped explosive charge and about 40 tail fins of exploded mortar shells -- showed specific signs of Iranian manufacture, the officials said. The mortar tail fins, for example, were made from a single fused piece of metal, while other countries make mortar shells that have removable parts, the explosives expert said.
Two rocket-propelled grenades, with the markings "P.G. 7-AT-1," were said to be made exclusively in Iran.
But most damning are the EFPs. These are finely machined explosive devices that are designed to hurl a ball of molten metal at their target, penetrating even the strongest US armor. The devices have also been used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, cementing the tie to Iran. US officials said that in Iraq, the devices are smuggled to elements of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army by paid Iraqis. There can be no doubt that these weapons are designed and manufactured to kill personnel. The impact punches a hole in an armored vehicle, not destroying it, the slug searching out the vehicle’s occupants.
Iran’s involvement in EFP delivery to groups actively battling US and Iraqi forces has gone too long without an answer. Now that the United States government has publicly acknowledged Iran’s role, the question becomes is it prepared to do anything about it. There have been stepped up raids in Iraq against Iranian targets. Consulates, political parties with ties to Iran, and the Mahdi Army itself have all been targets of US and Iraqi action in recent weeks. But these actions, significant as they are, are not an appropriate response to the deaths of 170 Americans over a two and a half year period. The United States need to take decisive action against the networks, supply lines, and cross border sanctuaries where these weapons are manufactured, delivered, or warehoused.
Of course, the predictable criticism has already started coming in from all the predictable places. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller both acknowledged and brushed off the evidence at the same time.
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last month that he believed that Iranian operatives inside Iraq were supporting Shiite militias and working against American troops.
But he also asserted that the White House had a poor understanding of Iranian calculations and added that he was concerned that the Bush administration was building a case for a more confrontational policy toward Tehran.
Sen. John Kerry called for dialogue.
Ultimately, they want an Iraq that is stable. They want influence. They want to be players in the region. And we need to [recognize] that and engage in a kind of diplomacy that the Iraq Study Group recommended…
Sen. Jack Reed, who recently was quoted as saying that funding for the Iraq War was on the chopping block, was similarly not swayed by the evidence.
The question is: is this a deliberate policy of the Iranian government at the highest levels. Is it rogue elements within the government?" Mr Reed told Fox News. He added: "And then the other question is to what extent are there countervailing signals that the Iranians actually are trying to — not control, but not to further raise the stakes in Iraq," he said.
And last, but not least, the media went out of the way to question the timing of the release of this information, led as always by the New York Times.
That inference, and the anonymity of the officials who made it, seemed likely 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.
These factors serve to constrain the Administration’s ability to respond to Iran’s targeting of US soldiers. Nevertheless, the Administration must disregard the critics and demonstrate its determination to protect its soldiers, and the Iraqi people, from Iranian infiltrators.
America’s experience in Iraq would make it almost impossible to envision an invasion of Iran along the lines of the Iraq campaign. However, immediate action against the sources of armaments entering Iraq, wherever they are, is the minimum requirement. That action would require limited air strikes inside Iranian territory and crippling Iran’s ability to mount a direct response. That may lead to a wider war with the Islamic Republic, spreading to the Gulf States and perhaps even Saudi Arabia and Israel, as Iran brings its international terrorist network into the conflict. Should Iran choose to escalate the conflict in any way, its nuclear program and regime targets would become fair game.
The evidence presented in Baghdad should be enough to convince anyone who claims to support the troops that military action against Iran is necessary at this time. The time for debate has ended. The United States government has laid blame for the deaths and wounding of almost 800 US servicemen in Iraq squarely at the feet of the Iranian regime. There is no way to argue that one supports these troops without also advocating that military action be taken to prevent further losses. The United States has not taken direct action against Iran in the Global War on Terror, although many would argue that it should have done so earlier. If Iran were only interested in stability in the Middle East, it would not be acting to create so much instability in Iraq. Iran has crossed a red line and they have been called on it. There must be consequences and they must come now. Anything less would be dishonoring the sacrifice of 170 brave US troops and inviting more deaths.