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Slam Dunk?

So the United States is unveiling evidence that Iranian weapons are killing Americans in Iraq. Naturally, this evidence is so airtight that none of the officials presenting it were willing to speak on the record, and no cameras and recording devices were allowed into the Baghdad briefing. How curious. Also, the notion that Shia militias, armed by Iran, have killed a quarter of all U.S. troops in late 2006 does smell a bit fishy. (Speaking of which, whatever came of those reports that private citizens in Saudi Arabia were funding the Sunni insurgents who are likely killing most U.S. troops?)

Here's a question, though. Back in September, NPR reported that the Pentagon had recently "created a new desk to work on Iran policy." Many of the staffers came from the former Office of Special Plans, which we've recently learned was engaged in "inappropriate"--and maybe even illegal--intelligence work in the run-up to the war in Iraq, according to the Pentagon's Inspector General. I'd be interested to know what sort of role this new Iran desk has played, if any, in putting this latest evidence together. For instance, Michael Gordon reported this from the Baghdad briefing:

The officials also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans. The officials said such an assertion was an inference based on general intelligence assessments.

Sounds pretty inflammatory. So who came up with these "general intelligence assessments"? According to the New York Sun, the CIA, for its part, is skeptical that the Iranian government is directly authorizing the export of explosives. Now it's probably true, as Leila Fadel reports, that "evidence of Iranian meddling in Iraq... is far more compelling than the administration's pre-war intelligence about Iraq." That doesn't make it a slam dunk. Also, read Andrew Olmstead. Just because the United States might be justified in retaliating against Iranian attacks, that doesn't mean it's a smart thing to do at all.

--Bradford Plumer