Good stuff. Pretend to break news that’s already been reported, assert a causal connection to another event without a single source to support it, then publish as fact. Good, hard-nosed, hard-left agenda journalganda. Here’s the “bombshell”:

Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.

In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment…

Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil – and the angry Iranian response to it – should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf. The two senior Iranian officers the US sought to capture were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Kurdish officials…

“They were after Jafari,” Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, told The Independent.

Yeah, he told the same thing to NPR back on January 15th, when this story still qualified as “news.” Follow the link to the audio; the interview with Hussein begins at 1:28.

That’s not the only part of that blockquoted passage that’s already been reported, either. The Telegraph broke the news a week ago about the U.S. warning Britain to be on guard for reprisals after the Irbil raid. For reasons known only to them, the Brits evidently didn’t move to a higher state of alert. The Independent doubtless would say that they would have done so if they knew the true targets of the raid were high-ranking Iranian officials, but that’s three times stupid. First, if Jafari was in fact the target of the raid, then we surely shared that information with the British (particularly given their exposure in southern Iraq, where Iranian influence is greatest). Second, as regular readers of this blog well know, high-ranking Iranian officers have been disappearing regularly. So if the Irbil raid wasn’t enough to make the Brits take precautions, the defections/kidnappings of IRGC generals should have been.

Third, as Dan Riehl reminds us, the U.S. actually released two Iranian “diplomats” who were seized in a raid in December, two weeks or so before the Irbil operation. One of them was the number three in the Revolutionary Guard and he didn’t appear to be there on an official visit: according to WaPo‘s sources, the two men had on them “detailed weapons lists, documents pertaining to shipments of weapons into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, … [and] information about importing modern, specially shaped explosive charges into Iraq, weapons that have been used in roadside bombs to target U.S. military armored vehicles.” Those explosive charges are, of course, EFPs. When we last read about them, it was in the context of a New York Times report about how even some Democrats now accept, based on their own investigations, that Bush is right about Iran supplying them to people who want to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

How does the Independent, then, describe the relationship between Jafari and Iraq? Why, this way:

The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers openly meeting with Iraqi leaders is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to a country neighbouring Iran, such as Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Ah, but Iraq’s not just a “country neighboring Iran” and the IRGC isn’t just there to visit and the CIA and MI6 don’t answer to terrorist regimes. Iran’s trying to export rule-by-cleric to Baghdad; we’re trying to export democracy. Is the Independent agnostic as to which prevails?

Well, yeah. To borrow a line from InstaGlenn.

There are two sources for the piece — Fuad Hussein and another Kurdish official named Sadi Ahmed Pire — and neither one of them breathes a word about a connection between Irbil and the sailors being kidnapped. Here’s how Patrick Cockburn, the author of the article, ties it all up in a big bow:

US officials in Washington subsequently claimed that the five Iranian officials they did seize, who have not been seen since, were “suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces”. This explanation never made much sense. No member of the US-led coalition has been killed in Arbil and there were no Sunni-Arab insurgents or Shia militiamen there…

It seemed strange at the time that the US would so openly flout the authority of the Iraqi President and the head of the KRG simply to raid an Iranian liaison office that was being upgraded to a consulate, though this had not yet happened on 11 January…

The raid in Arbil was a far more serious and aggressive act. It was not carried out by proxies but by US forces directly. The abortive Arbil raid provoked a dangerous escalation in the confrontation between the US and Iran which ultimately led to the capture of the 15 British sailors and Marines – apparently considered a more vulnerable coalition target than their American comrades.

No source whatsoever for that last boldfaced part. No sources for the two other boldfaced parts either, which are actually phrased as speculation, which is what this all is. Read it and see for yourself; it sounds like a guy talking himself into believing his own too-clever-by-half theory — not unlike when I try to read the tea leaves about Sadr and the Mahdi Army. It’s not a news article, in other words, it’s a blog post. And it’s on the front page of the Independent and the top of the page at Drudge. Embarrassing.

Exit question: British media sure are good at anti-western propaganda, aren’t they?