Michael R. Gordon‘s Feb. 10 New York Times story, “Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, US Says,” backs up some administration claims: “The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran… In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing ‘lethal support’ to Shiite militants in Iraq. The focus of American concern is known as an ‘explosively formed penetrator,’ a particularly deadly type of roadside bomb being used by Shiite groups in attacks on American troops in Iraq. Attacks using the device have doubled in the past year… Because the weapon can be fired from roadsides and is favored by Shiite militias, it has become a serious threat in Baghdad. Only a small fraction of the roadside bombs used in Iraq are explosively formed penetrators. But the device produces more casualties per attack than other types of roadside bombs.” Note the usual suspects: “The link that American intelligence has drawn to Iran is based on a number of factors, including an analysis of captured devices, examination of debris after attacks, and intelligence on training of Shiite militants in Iran and in Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and by Hezbollah militants believed to be working at the behest of Tehran.”
But one line is being seized upon by informed commentators as an Achilles heel revealing the whole story as a propaganda job. The incriminating text: “Attacks using the device have doubled in the past year, and have prompted increasing concern among military officers. In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, though less than a quarter of the total, military officials say.”
Juan Cole, the noted Islamic scholar at the University of Michigan, writes on his Informed Comment blog:
This claim is one hundred percent wrong. Because 25 percent of US troops were not killed fighting Shiites in those three months. Day after day, the casualty reports specify al-Anbar Province or Diyala or Salahuddin or Babil, or Baghdad districts such as al-Dura, Ghaziliyah, Amiriyah, etc.–and the enemy fighting is clearly Sunni Arab guerrillas. And, Iran is not giving high tech weapons to Baathists and Salafi Shiite-killers. It is true that some casualties were in “East Baghdad” and that Baghdad is beginning to rival al-Anbar as a cemetery for US troops…
Here Cole quotes Robert Burns of AP:
The increasingly urban nature of the war is reflected in the fact that a higher percentage of U.S. deaths have been in Baghdad lately. Over the course of the war through Feb. 6, at least 1,142 U.S. troops have died in Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency, according to an AP count. That compares with 713 in Baghdad. But since Dec. 28, 2006, there were more in Baghdad than in Anbar – 33 to 31.
But Cole concludes:
Over all, only a fourth of US troops had been killed Baghdad (713 or 23.7 percent of about 3000) through the end of 2006. But US troops aren’t fighting Shiites anyplace else—Ninevah, Diyala, Salahuddin—these are all Sunni areas. For a fourth of US troops to be being killed or wounded by Shiite EFPs, all of the Baghdad deaths would have to be at the hands of Shiites!
Another interesting angle from Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher :
What is the source of this volatile information? Nothing less than “civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies.”
Sound pretty convincing? Well, almost all the sources in the story are unnamed. It also may be worth noting that the author is Michael R. Gordon, the same Times reporter who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
Gordon wrote with Miller the paper’s most widely criticized — even by the Times itself — WMD story of all, the Sept. 8, 2002, “aluminum tubes” story that proved so influential, especially since the administration trumpeted it on TV talk shows.
When the Times eventually carried an editors’ note that admitted some of its Iraq coverage was wrong and/or overblown, it criticized two Miller-Gordon stories, and noted that the Sept. 8, 2002, article on page one of the newspaper “gave the first detailed account of the aluminum tubes. The article cited unidentified senior administration officials who insisted that the dimensions, specifications and numbers of tubes sought showed that they were intended for a nuclear weapons program.”
This, of course, proved bogus.
The Times “mea-culpa” story dryly observed: “The article gave no hint of a debate over the tubes,” adding, “The White House did much to increase the impact of The Times article.” This was the famous “mushroom cloud” over America article.
Gordon also wrote, following Secretary of State Colin Powell’s crucial, and appallingly wrong, speech to the United Nations in 2003 that helped sell the war, that “it will be difficult for skeptics to argue that Washington’s case against Iraq is based on groundless suspicions and not intelligence information.”
Ahmadinejad, for what it’s worth, denies everything. In an uncharacteristic quote, he told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “We shy away from any kind of conflict, any kind of bloodshed. As we have said repeatedly, we think that the world problems can be solved through dialogue, through the use of logic and a sense of friendship. There is no need for the use of force.” (AP, Feb. 13) More characteristically, and not unconvincingly, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said in an interview with Khabar news network: “Bush’s policies in Iraq have failed and he is now using Iran as a scapegoat and accusing us on various pretexts, but the fact is that even inside the United States such charges are no longer accepted.” (DPA, Feb. 13)