Monday, February 05, 2007

How to make an IED - Lancastrians beware.

There is a small discussion underway attached to last night's post on the helicopter downings over the extent to which Iran is likely to be involved in these attacks. Alex, the Yorkshire Ranter, left a comment here at exactly the same time as I was reading his blog and came across his discussion from a couple of weeks back on how to build an IED with a shaped charge. I'm not sure if he has a military background or just spends more time than is healthy reading Jane's Defence Weekly, but he definitely seems to know a lot about these things - hence my warning to Lancastrians - after having lived a year in Leeds I'm pretty certain Yorkshire would fight dirty. ;-)

Basically whilst I'm quite happy to accept Iran is playing a major role in Iraq - if Russia occupied France, you don't think UK intelligence would be all over the shop from Calais to Marseilles? - but it seems that there isn't so much hard evidence of Iranian arms being used by Iraqis. KGS left this link in the comments, quoting an unnamed US officer saying that it was Iranian surface-to-air missiles (SAM) bringing down US aircraft. But read it carefully - that's not quite what the unnamed officer actually says is it? The direct quote is: "where else would they be coming from?" Well, out of the defeated Iraqi army's huge arsenal would be one logical possibility. And pushing this a bit further, KGS's link is quoting from another US mil-blogger - who simply wants an attack on Iran and he openly argues that the evidence to justify this isn't really important:
The affairs of state, of National Security, aren’t the purview of some twisted OJ Simpson celebrity trial, where “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit!”
Let's leave aside all discussion on the morality of attacking Iran - perhaps a solid case could be made although it doesn't spring to mind at the moment - and consider the practical implications of this policy prescription. If the Iraqi insurgents of all stripes aren't relying on Iran for some, or any, of their weaponry - then the US isn't actually going to stop its helicopters from being shot down or APCs blown up by taking this drastic line of action. They will however make sure that Iran will do everything it can in the future to help arm anybody who wants to take shots at US's interests or those of its friends.

I think that a lot of the discussion amongst Democratic senators and congressmen (and increasing numbers of Republicans as well) in the US over bringing the troops home is more led by their political sensibilities to the domestic zeitgeist, rather than to any deeply thought out military and foreign policy strategy for Iraq. But I'm not sure if this sudden "get tough on Iraq" policy coming out of the White House isn't any different. Things are pretty terrible in Iraq and if you don't want to go with the 'Ricksian' Fiasco argument - that simply immensely bad planning and strategy within both the upper echelons of the US civilian and military leadership are to blame for where we are now - then it's really handy to have someone else to blame. And the Iranians fit the bill perfectly because the current Iranian government is so odious.

There is though a certain irony that US helicopters are only getting shot down over Iraq at all, because in 2003 we went with an evidential glove that didn't quite fit.

A quick update: KGS has just left some links in the comments of the previous helicopter post discussing Iranian weapons - I'll put them here so everyone can read them and draw their own conclusions. They are from the Guardian, the Telegraph, ABC and the Crisis Group. Thanks to KGS for digging them all out. The ABC is perhaps the most interesting one, but it still relies on unnamed officials promising that there is evidence. The Telegraph story notes that "there is no concrete evidence", and likewise the Guardian story points out they don't really know who the smugglers were. The Crisis Group write:
Even as accusations have proliferated, hard evidence has remained sparse. Typical statements, culled from Crisis Group interviews with government officials and political leaders in Iraq, include the following: "We received reports that [fill in the blank]"; "We have proof that [fill in the blank]"; "Everybody knows that [fill in the blank]"; "They spoke Persian"; "We have heard that Etelaat [Iranian intelligence] set up an office in Basra"; "Money is coming into the country"; "We have proof that Iranians are supplying Moqtada al-Sadr with money and weapons"; "We received a report a couple of weeks ago that Moqtada visited Falluja. This is clear proof of his cooperation with the insurgency there". And, in response to a direct request for evidence that the violent Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam has a presence in Diyala governorate and is supported by Iran: "You know, crossing the border is very easy". (p.3)
These links are all very similar to how the LA Times story linked above notes that the evidence of Iranian military support is discussed by coalition spokespeople but no direct evidence or photography is released. I'll say it again, I'm sure that the Iranians are busy in Iraq and may well be supplying weapons, but that doesn't mean that they hold the key to peace in Iraq or are responsible for all the US setbacks.

1 comment:

KGS said...

Thanks Toby for the follow up.

For starter, one of the articles specifically stated that the Iranians build weaponry that is difficult to to trace. That in itself is reason enough to conclude that they do it for a purpose. I have yet to hear whether Iraq's old arsenol was founded on the same principles.

Second of all, since I don't hail from the school of moral relativism, I can't get all lathered up over the "justness" of Iranian intell in Iraq, possibly mimicking a hyperthetical response by the Brits to a Russian invasion of France.

Seeing that the Iranians could care less for all of Iraq's citizens, (just the minority segment of the majority Shi'ia population. The Sunni Kurds and Arabs a fodder as far as they are concerned) but I would assume that the Brits would not feel about the same French. Or am I assuming too much :-)

Thirdly, that US soldiers are being killed due to the Iranian version of the Ho Min trail, (according to the rules of war) all bets are off, with Iran opening itself up to some justifiable air pounding. How that would play out I'll leave to the experts. Michael Rubin's article at the MEForum has an angle.

As for the eveidential glove, has anybody given a plausable explantion over the Iraqi convoy that headed out from Iraq into Syria just prior to the resuming of hostilities with Iraq? I know that was a hot subject while I was visiting the Israeli MFA back in the winter of 2004. Hmmmmm, as I recall, the northern sector of the Bekaa valley was mentioned as being under serious scrutiny by the Israelis.

You are welcome for the links, I can't say that they prove decisively one way or the other, but then, haven't civil cases been decided with less. :-)

Cheers- KGS