The White House was today challenged to retract accusations by senior US defence officials that the “highest levels” of the Iranian government are supplying roadside bombs to Iraqi insurgents. The call comes from a group of academics and Middle East experts who described the latest allegations as “highly implausible and deeply misleading” and “reminiscent of the false accusations against Saddam’s regime in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq”.
The experts, brought together by Campaign Iran, argue that the statements from Washington give the impression that the US in Iraq has been at war with Shia militias whereas in fact almost all the fighting has been with the Sunni insurgents. The Shia groups are largely controlled by parties which make up the Iraqi government and it is highly unlikely that Iran has ever been a serious promoter of the Sunni insurgency or supplied Sunni guerrillas with military equipment.
The American “dossier” which has taken 14 months to compile, crucially fails to show any link between the arms allegedly discovered in Iraq and the Iranian government, let alone those at “the highest level of government”. It has also raised questions as to how the Americans have suddenly become so certain of Iranian involvement. On 2nd February US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns could only talk about Iran aiding insurgents as a “belief” and avoided stating that Iran was supplying weapons talking instead about “weapons technology”. Questions have also been raised about the authenticity of some of the photographs in the dossier: why for example photographs of mortar shells are dated in the year of the Christian Gregorian calendar rather than the Islamic Persian calendar and why they have non-Persian writing on them.
Professor Abbas Edalat of campaign Iran said today: “There are vast quantities of military equipment currently in Iraq and, as the Independent newspaper reported today, rather than originating in Iran, most improvised explosive devices responsible for killing US soldiers in Iraq consist of heavy artillery shells taken from the arsenals of the former regime. Even if some weaponry does originate in Iran, this is very far from implicating the Iranian government in supporting insurgents. Weapons from around the world are readily available on the black market. American and British made arms are currently spread over 150 countries across the globe To suggest that the American and British governments endorse how each weapon is used or support each group that uses them would be patently ridiculous.
“The Iranian government has rejected the US charges as unacceptable fabrication, has reiterated its support for the Iraqi government and opposed any interference in the country. Senior Democrats such as Senator Chris Dodd have also expressed scepticism over the charges and have asserted that the Bush administration have tried to falsify evidence before.
“The latest accusations coming from Washington do not add up. Iranian support for insurgents would not be consistent with the Iranian government’s unerring support for the Iraqi government. Instead it seems that, since the UN Security Council has explicitly ruled out any military option against Iran over the issue of its nuclear programme, the US government is trying to produce a new pretext for an attack. We fear that President Bush intends to launch a military attack on Iran before the end of his term in office. Such a scenario would be catastrophic for the people of Iran and the whole region and would jeopardize the lives of tens of thousands of the US and UK forces. It is vital people to stand up to the US war drive on Iran and ensure that all problems with Iran be dealt peacefully by calling on the US to enter into immediate and unconditional negotiations with Iran.”