June 27, 2007

Ah... The Good Life

Yesterday, while scanning to see what other bloggers were discussing, I was amused to find a post called "Starting a War" that shows the vast disconnect between reality and fantasy as it relates to ever-changing situation in the Middle East, and with Iran in particular.

Let's see what Cernig has to say:

In an email this morning, Mr M at Comments From Left Field asked me "What happens if Iran DOES make an overt war act on the US?" Of course, the rightwing meme is that Iran has been carrying out both covert and overt acts of war for some time now - but any time someone who doesn't really want a war with iran looks at their evidence it ends up looking contrived, conspiratorial and, in essence, fabricated.

I know a "little something" about debunking questionable claims of Iranian involvement, having (as thoroughly as one can) debunked a claim by the U.K. Sun tabloid yesterday that Iranian Revolutionary Guards were helicoptering into Iraq to kill British soldiers. This was not the first claim of Iranian interference I debunked either; just 11 days ago, I proved that a February 12 claim made in the U.K. Telegraph that "more than 100" precision long-range .50 BMG rifles purchased by the Iranian government had been captured in Iraq by American forces, was unsubstantiated.

A liberal blogger acquaintance of mine, upon reading the second post, quipped to me via email, "Is George Soros sending you checks? I need to now if Soros is paying you more than he pays me."

I am an "honest dealer" on the subject of Iran.

Cernig, in my opinion, is not correct in implying that all the evidence "ends up looking contrived, conspiratorial and, in essence, fabricated."

It is true that many are ideologically opposed to accepting charges that Iran is involved in supplying ordnance, training, and even personnel to anti-government forces within Iraq.

The claims made, however, are as solid as one could possibly make without actually capturing uniformed Iranian soldiers firing weapons at American forces within Iraq.

We know, for example, that Iran has been supplying EFPs--explosively-formed penetrators--to Shia militias. EFPs are not a new technology, having been used for decades by militaries around the world. These are not, in theory, difficult weapons to build, and we have indeed captured indigenously-made EFPs and even captured facilities within Iraq where EFPs were being assembled. Making them effective against heavily-armored vehicles, however, is not a skill Iraqi machinists have the capability to replicate.

Iraqi fighters have been making their own versions of the weapons, but so far none has been effective against U.S. forces, Odierno said. The Iraqi-made projectiles, using brass and copper melted on stoves, have failed to fully penetrate U.S. armor and are more likely to be used against Iraqi forces, whose vehicles often have thinner armored protection than U.S. vehicles, U.S. military officials said.

"We have not seen a homemade one yet that's executed properly," Odierno said, adding that such weapons are not a major concern "as of yet."

Correctly machining to precise tolerances the copper disk that becomes the projectile is not a skill Iraqi elements have, and recovered projectiles--and in many instances, captured intact EFPs that failed to go off--have provided strong, finger-print-like clues as to the kind of machinery used to produce the more effective copper disks. The machining marks are said to indicate Iranian manufacture, as does chemical analysis of the C4 explosives used to form the projectile, and the specific construction of the passive infrared (IR) electronic triggers that detonate the weapons.

In addition to EFPs, Iranian-manufactured mortar shells of recent manufacture have been recovered, as well as Fajr-3 medium-range rockets, developed in and manufactured exclusively by Iran, that have been fired into Baghdad's Green Zone. Some even bear markings of the Iranian military:

In Iraq, Iranian 240mm rockets, which have a range of up to 30 miles and could significantly change the battlefield, have been used recently by Shiite extremists against U.S. and British targets in Basra and Baghdad, the officials said. Three of the rockets have targeted U.S. facilities in Baghdad's Green Zone, and one came very close to hitting the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital, according to the U.S. officials.

The 240mm rocket is the biggest and longest-range weapon in the hands of Shiite extremist groups, U.S. officials said. Remnants of the rockets bear the markings of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and are dated 2007, those sources said. The Tehran government has supplied the same weapon, known as the Fajr-3, to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.

We also know Iran has been training anti-government insurgent groups in Iraq, as captured Shia militiamen have readily confessed, and as have their commanders, who freely confirmed that information to the Associated Press:

Commanders of a group inside the Shiite Mahdi Army militia told the Associated Press that there are as many as 4,000 members of their militia who were trained in Iran and they have stockpiles of EFPs. The commanders spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity because the U.S. military considers their group illegal and giving their names would likely lead to their arrest and imprisonment.

Further, we have captured Iranian military personnel in Iraq, including senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer Mohsen Chizari in Baghdad on December 21, 2006. Also captured in Iraq--and still in U.S. custody, along with four other Iranian operatives--was Baqer Qabshavi, a colonel in the IRGC.

Contrived? Conspiratorial? Fabricated?

To someone with an apparent interest in denial at almost any cost, certainly, but not to anyone who retains objectivity, especially at a time when Iranian weapons shipments and training are not only on-going, but apparently increasing.

But Cernig's disconnect goes beyond questioning Iranian ordnance, training, and personnel, to an almost delusional of view of life within Iraq that echoes communist claims of just how great life was inside the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

My first reaction was "why the f**k would the do that? They may be theocrats but mostly they have a rational wish to keep their good lives intact and ongoing." Its undoubtably true that a war on Iran would be a disaster for the U.S. and its allies - it would accomplish none of the warmongers objectives except revenge for a decades-old insult at an embassy and would be highly counter-productive to U.S. and allied interests globally.

"Good lives?"

Somehow, I think their rioters may disagree:

Motorists set fire to petrol stations in Tehran today in an angry backlash against the Iranian government's decision to impose rationing.
One station in Pounak, a poor area of the capital, was set alight while another in eastern Tehran was partially burnt and two of its pumps were completely destroyed.

"Last night, there were a lot of fights, people were furious due to the sudden decision," a 55-year-old pump attendant told Reuters.


The scenes of disorder put further political pressure on the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is already under fire for failing to deliver on promises to improve the economy after his election in 2005.

In May, the government reduced subsidies for petrol, causing a 25% jump in prices.

The government had been planning to implement rationing for weeks. It was supposed to begin on May 21 but was repeatedly put off amid fears that Iranians would react badly as they are used to cheap and plentiful petrol.

"This man, Ahmadinejad, has damaged all things. The timing of the rationing is just one case," said Reza Khorrami, a 27-year-old teacher who was queuing at one Tehran petrol station last night.

You'll note that the rioting was proximately caused by government-imposed mandatory fuel rationing, but an underlying cause of this rationing is Iran's stagnating economy, and no doubt the massive crackdown against anti-regime groups:

Iran is in the throes of one of its most ferocious crackdowns on dissent in years, analysts say. with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women's rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.


The hard-line administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the analysts said, faces rising pressure for failing to deliver on promises of greater prosperity from soaring oil revenue. It has been using U.S. support for a change in government as well as a possible military attack as the pretext to hound his opposition and its sympathizers.

If this is the "good life," I'll pass.

But the blissfully unaware description of Iran's domestic situation is no more disconnected than are Cernig's thoughts on why the United States may have cause to take action against Iran:

Its undoubtably true that a war on Iran would be a disaster for the U.S. and its allies - it would accomplish none of the warmongers objectives except revenge for a decades-old insult at an embassy and would be highly counter-productive to U.S. and allied interests globally.

Unless Cernig can compose a hasty rationalization to explain away these sentiments, it appears that he or she is firmly convinced that our current crisis with Iran is based solely upon "revenge" for the 1979-81 hostage crisis.


The fact that Iran is supplying weaponry and training that the U.S. military claims has killed more than 170 American soldiers, and seems to be escalating their pace of doing so, might just be seen as more proximate cause to most rational people, as would Iran's continued eliminationist rhetoric toward the United States and U.S allies.

The continuing development of a suspected nuclear weapons program, and the proven and even bragged about development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and MIRV warheads is also a very real concern. While technically being capable of launching conventional warheads, in practice, almost all MIRVs mounted on ICBMs in the world's arsenal are nuclear in nature, and so it is irrational to assume Iran has developed these weapons systems for any other purpose.

While no doubt comforting to Cernig, these rationalizations fail to address either actual present reality or the concerns of the immediate and near-term future.

I'll skip past Cernig's next paragraph, which merely reiterates the laughable Iranian "good life" claim, and studiously seeks to deny any possible Iranian nuclear threat... actually, I'll skip the rest of the post entirely (though you might find Cernig's explanation of how we economically forced the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor somewhat amusing).

The rest of the post merely continues down a path built upon a shoddy foundation.

Sadly, we knew Cernig is probably not alone on the left or right, in attempting to create a docile, "artificial reality" Iran to ignore. Sadly, the inabilty of some to deal with actual reality versus a preferred reality may yet lead us into a far more lethal future.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 27, 2007 10:14 AM

Hi CY,

That whole chunk of your post about the "good life" is based on a misinterpretation. I explicitly said the theocrats would want to keep their good life intact. Like the old Soviet Union and many another repressive regime, the folks in charge DO live a good life no matter how bad it gets for their common people.

As to the odious Iranian regime, I've posted often enough on my disgust with that regime. There are two such posts and links to two others on the frontpage right now. Ask Ali Eteraz, who I've been discussing such with. Sloppy research.

I debunked the Austian sniper rifles story within weeks of it appearing, not 11 days ago.

The independent experts disgree with the US military on the provenance of EFP's and whether Iraq can make effective ones on its own. Have a look in Newshoggers sidebar under the label "EFP" or read David Hambling's excellent work at the Danger Room.

Oh...and stoves don't get hot enough to melt copper or brass without modification. A standard propane stove heats to around 900 degrees farenheit. Copper melts at 1981 degrees and brass at 1724 degrees. Melting and casting such materials needs, at least according to the experts in the industry, a high-temperature firebrick foundry, a big industrial propane torch and a graphite crucible. Something basically wrong with the military's explanation there....

Indeed, the independent experts say it is simplicity itself to form the disks correctly using a correctly configured metal press - once you have the math formulae for doing so. That's the difficult bit and the part Iran may have a hand in - although historically the formulae first fell into the hands of the IRA who promptly shared it with Hizbullah, FARC and others a couple of decades ago.

Mortar and Fajr 3 rounds? Pakistani arms bazaars claim they can duplicate any weapon right down to the serial numbers so well even the inventor cannot tell the difference. The black market in re-sold weapons sourced from corrupt government individuals in the Middle East has never been stronger, some of the Iranian weapons have been shown to have been re-routed from Nigerian purchases, the entire area is a porous border (the old Silk Roads). Even Israel has arrested one officer for selling Iranian weapons into Iraq on the black market!

Occam's razor says that a sufficient explanation is good old black market private enterprise, no conspiracy theories required.

Maybe you need to go back and re-examine the military's claims, which the world's foremost independent expert on IED's and EFP's, Michael Knights, chief of analysis for the Olive Group, noted were entirely based upon the say-so of the notorious National Council of Resistance of Iran aka the Mujahedeen eKalq.

Regards, Cernig.

Posted by: Cernig at June 27, 2007 11:59 AM

Re: Riots and the Iranian economy.

Along with CY, Gateway,, Spengler has been talking about the Iranian "Good Life" (?) for years.

Posted by: stevesh at June 27, 2007 05:29 PM

Occam's razor says that a sufficient explanation is good old black market private enterprise, no conspiracy theories required.

And the mullahs would of course turn a blind eye towards this "good old" criminal enterprise because they want more sanctions and the US military taking aim at them, right? They're of course powerless to do anything about this, because law enforcement in a dictatorial state is so difficult, right?

Sounds perfectly logical to me.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 28, 2007 10:10 AM

The SUN is UK tabloid style paper - very similar in substance as our National Enquirer. Nothing in it is very factual.

Posted by: Jane Llewellyn at June 28, 2007 05:47 PM