Friday, January 4, 2008

The 'Blame Iran' scam (with update)

Defense journalist Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps magazine, takes Peter MacKay to task for his recent statement that IED's in Afghanistan are being supplied from Iran. While MacKay did not specifically accuse the Iranian government of supporting the arms traffic, newspapers like the National Post picked up on the theme and ran with it. Their headline on Dec 26, page one: "Iran Aiding Taliban: MacKay".

Taylor observes that "it is not surprising that MacKay’s allegations of Iranian interference echo those currently emanating from the U.S. State Department." Indeed, US officials have made the same allegation in the past few months. The problem with such accusations is the there is no evidence to back them up. Further, it is obvious to all observers that Iran's influence in Afghanistan is a decidedly stabilizing one. This goes right back to the Bonn conference of January 2002 when Iranian diplomats were an integral part of efforts to establish a new government in Kabul. (See Bob Woodward, Bush at War.)

The reality was acknowledged by Canada's General Laroche, as related by CTV News: Top General says no evidence Iran behind IED's.

Back to Taylor:

To be fair to MacKay, foreign fighters operating in Afghanistan are a major obstacle to NATO’s potential success and eventual withdrawal. However, these are not the idealistic Muslim jihadists, but the roughly 20,000 Western mercenaries employed as private security contractors. Unlicensed and unregistered, these yabobs operate completely outside both Afghan law and coalition forces’ military discipline. ...

If MacKay is serious about plotting a new course for our mission he would be wise to quit reiterating American-generated "blame Iran" rhetoric and start challenging the uncontrolled use of so-called private security mercenaries in Afghanistan.


CanWest's Mike Blanchfield picked up on Taylor's theme and rounded up some more illuminating details:
"I think we're going to have to ask him where he got his information," Brig.-Gen. Marquis Hainse said several days later. ...

His office isn't saying. But his spokesman made clear Friday where it didn't come from: U.S. ambassador David Wilkins, who accompanied MacKay on his lengthy journey to Kandahar.

The original source of the Iran-meddling-in-Afghanistan narrative began with top Bush administration officials. ...

U.S. experts suggest it is unlikely that Tehran is directly supporting the insurgency.

In western Afghanistan, Iran is a positive influence and evidence is easy for any visitor to see, said Anthony Cordesman, a senior analyst with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In Kandahar, MacKay said he was concerned about information on how to make improvised explosive devices was coming into Afghanistan from Iran.

But Gary Sick, a member of the National Security Council in the 1970s, said there is nothing inherently Iranian about the IEDs. "Anyone with a decent machine shop who knows what they're doing" can build IEDs." (link)

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