July 03, 2007

These Are Not the Droids You're Looking For

Via a previous request to Multi-National Corps-Iraq, a picture of Iranian-manufactured TNT (top) and C4 (bottom) explosives captured in Iraq by coalition forces (click image for larger version).


U.S. EOD says a chemical analysis of these explosives matches those of known Iranian explosives. Because this analysis comes from explosives experts that are both (a) American, and (b) military; Glenn Greenwald is sure to allege they were actually manufactured by Halliburton in the White House basement over the weekend.

In related news, a senior Hezbollah officer working for his Iranian terror masters was captured in Basra and is singing like a bird, implicating Iranian involvement in the sophisticated January Karbala raid that left five U.S. solders dead.

Jules Crittenden separates the wheat from the chafe in the Times story, that seems to have received some "editorial help" back in New York before publication.

Update: As commenter "BohicaTwentyTwo" notes in the comments, if the explosives above are supposed to look like American munitions, they miss the mark widely.

Here is a picture of an actual M112 charge (PDF).


I don't think that Iran was seriously attempting to mimic U.S. charges (U.S. charges are marked with taggants, signature trace elements that determine not just the country of origin, but also the company). I think that they were perhaps just trying to muddy the waters enough so that a generalist media could avoid looking at the evidence too hard, while allowing apologists to deny that these were Iranian charges because they were printed in English instead of Persian.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 3, 2007 08:33 AM

Did they say who it was captured from out of interest?

Posted by: Rafar at July 3, 2007 09:04 AM

Those cunning Iranians! They leave the markings on their mortar shells in English but with Iranian details, their rocket shells in Farsi and their c-4 blocks duplicate exactly the US-made M112 Demolition Charge to confuse us poor liberals! How Machiavellian can you get?

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig at July 3, 2007 09:06 AM

"In related news, a senior Hezbollah officer working for his Iranian terror masters was captured in Basra and is singing like a bird"

and if you waterboarded me and put me in stress positions for as long as I suspect they did with him, sooner or later I'd tell you I was working for the Iranians too...

Posted by: Arbotreeist at July 3, 2007 09:26 AM

Cernig, what exactly would you expect it to say, "courtesy of the Iranian government?" Anyone can easily duplicate the printed text, what matter is the chemical composition, including precursors and trace elements.

Arbortreeist, do you have any evidence to support your claim he was waterboarded or tortured in any way at all? Of course you don't.

It's so amusing to watch you bend over backwards to defend the Iranian government, while ignoring the much larger fact that an experienced Hezbollah operative was captured in Iraq and admitted his role in setting up attacks on American forces.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 3, 2007 09:47 AM

Which means that those Iranian machiavellis are so cunning that they forge a wrapping that looks exactly like the U.S. one but then so incompetent that they forget to put explosives in that wrapping that don't point right back to them.

Possible, I suppose so. But I would want the U.S. military to release the chemical data for scrutiny and have an independent lab analyze some of the stuff and confirm it before I'd seriously entertain such a possibility.

Especially since Iran hasn't made such elementary mistakes of tradecraft in the past. As Former CIA field officer Robert Baer explained to Time magazine in April:

"In April 1983 an Iranian surrogate group blew up the American embassy in Beirut. Forensic investigators sifting through the rubble determined with a fair amount of certainty that the bomb maker had inserted explosives inside the firing chain, ensuring a "signature" was not left to tie the attack to Iran. Iran never claimed the attack, the suicide bomber was never named, and if it weren't for a still classified lucky break, we would have had no evidence the Iranians were behind it. It is unlikely in the intervening years Iran lost its touch. It certainly isn't clumsy enough to leave serial numbers or factory markings on weapons going to the Sunni insurgency."

There are good reasons, it seems to me, to be sceptical about the current narrative.

The same holds true for the captured Hizboullah agent. I want to hear far more about the circumstances of his capture and interrogation before I accept the story as written. Last year, the U.S. captured what it says are Iranian agents in Irbil. Unfortunately, the Kurdish regional government (U.S. allies) say - at the highest level - that they got the wrong people, fingered by the Mujahedeen e-Kalq terror group and then also interrogated by MeK interpreters, who told the U.S. military whatever they wanted to.

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig at July 3, 2007 10:36 AM
But I would want the U.S. military to release the chemical data for scrutiny and have an independent lab analyze some of the stuff and confirm it before I'd seriously entertain such a possibility.

Funny you should mention that. I asked for two things when I got this photo:

  1. A detailed EOD report on the chemical analysis, explaining in as much technical detail as necessary how the chemicals makeup of these explosives can been traced back to Iran, and;
  2. that a sample of these explosives be sent to qualified independent labs for verification.

we'll see what they are willing to do and can do regarding this request.

I think we can all agree through even a cursory look at popular culture that what we understand of forensic sciences has grown exponentially since 1983, just as we can all agree that if Iran is supplying weaponry, personnel, and training, that they would do everything that is within their power to avoid leaving "fingerprints."

But they have left fingerprints, haven't they?

We've inflicted serious casualties on at least one known Iranian weapons smuggling cell, capturing the two Iranian-trained Iraqi brothers that ran it, who have provided much of the information that has led to their cell's current break-up. We've captured five Iranian Quds Force members in Irbil (including named senior IRGC officers) attempting to hide behind diplomatic immunity, and still hold these men in prison. Hoe you can claim they aren't IRGC officers when we captured their Iranian military IDs along with them escapes me. We have captured literally dozens of Iraqi Shia that claim to have been trained in Iran, along with some of their weaponry. We can now add a senior operative of Iranian-supported Hezbollah.

We have captured so many people from Iran, with Iranian training, and belonging to Iranian-trained and sponsored terrorist groups within Iraq; that we have captured the weaponry they use as well is hardly surprising, if not expected.

Cernig, I think it is perfectly reasonably to be suspicious of vague claims, but we know exactly who these people are, and as this network is rolled up, we are continuing to get more stories that say the exact same things regarding training in Iran.

Please continue to be a reasonable skeptic, as it is important for these questions to be asked.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 3, 2007 11:12 AM

Hi CY,

That's where i try to come from. I'm no fan of the odious bunch in Teheran, but find myself as their very VERY reluctant apologist in the face of a narrative that, for me, doesn't fit all the facts. I've a bad feeling that, like Iraq, the intel wonks are adding 2 and 2 and getting 5. In other words, there's some Iranian meddling but a lot of private black-market enterprise too, and the parts are being run together as one big scary conspiracy story. That didn't pan out to well last time. I think someone should say "hang on, that conclusion is a bit of a reach on the verifiable facts (not assessments, those are just guesses) you're telling us". So I do just that.

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig at July 3, 2007 11:22 AM

Other than the fact that the label is in english, that doesn't look like a piece of military hardware. There's no NSN on it.
What a M112 Demolition Charge should look like.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at July 3, 2007 11:26 AM

Let me see if I have this right. These explosives were made in Iran where the native language is.....English? No. Oh then they just label explosives in English so that when our troops, spies, intelligence(?) agents find them they can be readily identified. Oh, so that's the ticket. I bet they have big signs that are visible to our spy planes and satellites that say, in English, "Nookular Bomb Uranium Processing Plant." I bet that's how Israel and Boosh figured out how they were trying to make a Nookular Bomb. Boy are they clever!

Posted by: Bob the Biker Pilot at July 3, 2007 11:56 AM

"Arbortreeist, do you have any evidence to support your claim he was waterboarded or tortured in any way at all? Of course you don't."

Do you have any evidence he wasn't? Of course you don't.

Posted by: Arbotreeist at July 3, 2007 11:58 AM

What a stretch .... is this the best the propagandists can come up with ?

Posted by: Anarchistcpl at July 3, 2007 12:22 PM

Bohica, that is a very interesting link. They didn't get the markings correct.

Bob, etc: English is a common language in arms manufacturing, just as it is in the commercial aircraft industry. We'd actually expect English language markings on any weapons sytem designed for export. We'd only expect Persian on weapons systems designed solely for domestic use.

Arbortreeist, what evidence do I have that you aren't a clown-raping meth junkie with a glass eye and rickets? None whatsoever.

Interesting though, that you automatically assume that the default military interrogation technique is some form of torture, which I think says something more about your paranoia and distrust of the American soldier than it does about the military.

If you bothered to actually read the NYT story, you'd note that this guy didn't talk for months, and even volunteered that he would talk after May 1. And talk he has, as have most captured insurgents and terrorists. Other than hardcore al Qaeda types, most seem to like to brag about their exploits, so torture is hardly needed.

Considering torture elicits responses in very short order: minutes or hours depending on al Qaeda-like crude techniques, as long as days for stress positions and the like-minded psychological torture, but never more than a few minutes for waterboarding, then I'd say your lack of evidence for a torture case is readily apparent, though I wont be surprised to hear you call American soldiers worse that torturers... though never to one, of course.

You owe our military an apology, but I won't hold my breath.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 3, 2007 12:35 PM

After Abu Ghraib and the reports of detainee abuse from U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan and elsewhere, I don't give the benefit of the doubt to the military on this issue. Sorry.

Posted by: Arbotreeist at July 3, 2007 02:00 PM

but then so incompetent that they forget to put explosives in that wrapping that don't point right back to them.

Not overestimating the competence of the MSM when it comes to weaponry is usually a pretty good bet these days. When you're dealing with people who don't know the difference between a machine gun and a cantaloupe, its pretty easy to feed'em any kind of BS and have'em believe it.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 3, 2007 02:02 PM

The top two items shown are not US mil issue. Period. They lack the proper identifiers, the containers/wraps are all wrong, and the codes are missing.

They also show post-1996 manufacture dates. Any US-manufacture C4 or TNT of post-1996 vintage WILL have taggant-ID. If it doesn't have 'em, it's not US manufacture. My guess would be the displayed items lack taggant-ID and are otherwise chemically identifiable as other Iranian-manufacture ordnance.

Most ordnance on the international market, regardless of country of origin, is labelled at least partially in English.

Posted by: Tully at July 3, 2007 03:00 PM


Since you make the claim of torture, it is on you to deliver the proof, not of others to prove there wasn't torture.


Posted by: striyker at July 3, 2007 11:09 PM

Hey, CY-I have some land and a bridge to sell you.

Posted by: robert at July 4, 2007 09:25 AM