Thursday, June 21, 2007

Irrefutable evidence that Cheney's fingerprints are all over this

What will Dick do if Georgie doesn't bomb Iran?

WASHINGTON - In a development that underlines the tensions between the anti-Iran agenda of the US administration and the preoccupation of its military command in Afghanistan with militant Sunni activism, a State Department official last week publicly accused Iran for the first time of arming Taliban forces, but the US commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Afghanistan rejected that charge for the second time in less than two weeks.

Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns declared in Paris on June 12 that Iran is "transferring arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan", putting it in the context of a larger alleged Iranian role of funding "extremists" in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq. The following day, he asserted that there was "irrefutable evidence" of such Iranian arms supply to the Taliban.

The use of the phrase "irrefutable evidence" suggested that the Burns statement was scripted by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. The same phrase had been used by Cheney himself on September 20, 2002, in referring to the administration's accusation that then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had a program to enrich uranium as the basis for a nuclear weapon.

But the NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill, pointed to other possible explanations, particularly the link between drug and weapons smuggling between Iran and Afghanistan.

McNeill repeated in an interview with US News and World Report last week a previous statement to Reuters that he did not agree with the charge. McNeill minimized the scope of the arms coming from Iran, saying: "What we've found so far hasn't been militarily significant on the battlefield."

He speculated that the arms could have come from black-market dealers, drug traffickers, or al-Qaeda backers and could have been sold by low-level Iranian military personnel.

McNeill's remarks underlined the US command's knowledge of the link between the heroin trade and trafficking in arms between southeastern Iran and southern Afghanistan. The main entry point for opium and heroin smuggling between Afghanistan and Iran runs through the Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan to its capital, Zahedan. The two convoys of arms that were intercepted by NATO forces last spring had evidently come through that Iranian province.

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