Michael Ledeen thinks it’s a plant aimed at convincing useful idiots that the Iranian threat is nothing but an Al Qaeda psy-op.
Here’s the document; the closing section does have, shall we say, an “air” about it. But if it’s a fake designed to furnish the MoveOn crowd with evidence that BUSH LIED in advance of a confrontation, why didn’t Iran go for the gold and write it up as a joint Al Qaeda/U.S. government psy-op instead? Granted, the military wouldn’t have allowed the Iraqis to display that at a press conference, but surely it could have been leaked through other channels. Think of all the Larry “Rove killed his mother” Johnson TV appearances we’d have been treated to. Ah, missed opportunities.
Ledeen’s also right that the alleged “safehouse” document wasn’t actually found in Zarqawi’s safehouse, thus making its provenance that much murkier:
Although the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the document was found in al-Zarqawi’s hideout following a June 7 airstrike that killed him, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the document had in fact been found in a previous raid as part of an ongoing three-week operation to track al-Zarqawi.
“We can verify that this information did come off some kind of computer asset that was at a safe location,” he said. “This was prior to the al-Zarqawi safe house.”
Here’s the thing. If it’s as obviously bogus as Ledeen says it is, I have to believe someone in U.S. intel realized that too. Yeah, I know, the CIA is incompetent, but they’re not that incompetent. Either they know something about this document that we don’t that makes them believe it’s legitimate or else they know it’s bogus but believe there’s greater advantage to be had in publicizing it than in suppressing it. Perhaps the military thinks it can roll up the rest of Al Qaeda in Iraq and achieve some sort of Iraqi national reconciliation before the Iranian crisis comes to a head. The idea of Iran as an AQ psyop won’t hold much water if there isn’t an AQ around anymore to conduct it, so maybe it’s worth floating the document now in order to demoralize the jihadi remnants and press our advantage.
Here’s what I can’t figure out, though. If we’re going to pass fake intelligence, why not just concoct our own? Ledeen’s certainly right that the nonsense about Iran at the end of the document does us no good, so why leave it in there? Why not redact it or produce our own phony terrorist communiques to circulate among the enemy? The only explanation I can think of is paranoia at the possibility that some of the disinformation would be exposed and we’d have a whole new round of BUSH LIED, etc. Imagine how disappointed Andrew Sullivan would be.
One more bit of news worth noting. I wrote yesterday that al-Maliki was considering granting amnesty to jihadis who’ve attacked U.S. troops. By yesterday afternoon, he had officially unconsidered it. The record is hereby corrected.
Update: StrategyPage: “Al Qaeda in Iraq has been virtually wiped out by the loss of an address book.”