Thursday, June 07, 2007

What's the deal with Iran and the Taliban?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

ABC's The Blotter is reporting that Iran is arming the Taliban:

NATO officials say they have caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces, in what the officials say is a dramatic escalation of Iran's proxy war against the United States and Great Britain.

Former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke seems to buy it, but SecDef Robert Gates said earlier this week that there was no evidence "of the involvement of the Iranian government in support of the Taliban." So who is making this claim? Anonymous "NATO officials" and "a senior coalition official". Feel free to be skeptical.

Cernig is quite right that this effort to link Iran to Afghanistan (and to a larger proxy war) isn't new. Both his post and my post on the Cheney-Rice feud linked to a Newsweek article that asserted that "Cheney staffers have been intensely interested in a single issue: recent intelligence reports alleging that Iran is supplying weapons to Afghanistan's resurgent Islamist militia, the Taliban". A couple of weeks ago I posted on the effort to link Iran to both al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. And prior to any of this there were efforts to blame Iran for supplying arms to militias and insurgents in Iraq, efforts that went nowhere.

What seems to be happening is that Cheney and those close to him are trying to build a case for war against Iran, which is why they are so critical of Rice's recent attempts to reach out diplomatically to Tehran. If they can make (i.e., fabricate) the case that Iran is waging proxy war against the U.S. through al Qaeda and the Taliban, among others, then they can push for what would appear to be retaliatory war against a "proven" enemy. (Plus, Iran may soon have those WMDs.)

The problem for Cheney and those close to him, however, is that the evidence is sketchy at best, and more likely non-existent, since none of it makes much sense, which is why these reports rely on (suspicious) anonymous sources. As Cernig points out, after all, neither the British nor Afghan President Hamid Karzai are buying it.

The hoodwinking is all too transparent now.

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