Four must-reads on Iran

Sorry to half-ass it like this but it is, after all, the day of rest.

Seriously, though, read ’em. None of them are boring, I promise.

1. U.S. intel finally went public this morning with evidence of Iranian IEDs being used in Iraq. ToL has the best account. According to a senior intelligence officer (or officers, if you believe the Beeb), they’re being funnelled by “multiple surrogates” to “rogue elements” of the Mahdi army. Capable of destroying an Abrams tank, the IEDs have supposedly killed 170 American soldiers since 2004. As for those six Iranian “diplomats” in U.S. custody:

During the briefing, the officer said that one of the six Iranians detained in January in the northern city of Irbil was the operational commander of the Quds Brigade, a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that trains and equips Shia militants abroad. He was identified as Mohsin Chizari, who was apprehended after slipping back into Iraq after a ten-month absence, the officer said.

The Iranians were caught trying to flush documents down a lavatory, the American officer said. They had also tried to change their appearance because bags of their hair were found during the raid, he added.

The left naturally dismisses all this as preposterous, a redux of BUSH’S LIES about weapons of mass destruction. None other than Greg Mitchell wrote a piece for E&P yesterday mocking the militantly pro-war New York Times for publishing an article about the IEDs by Michael Gordon, the same reporter responsible for some of the paper’s WMD reporting in 2003. “And it begins,” declare DUers about this morning’s briefing, lamenting the fact that they must now in good conscience trust Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s word more than their own government’s.

2. Counterterrorism Blog contributor Olivier Guitta makes a compelling case in the Weekly Standard that not only could strong sanctions derail Iran’s nuke program, they might conceivably bring down the regime. The Iranians themselves seem to be worried about it — assuming, that is, that the report comissioned by the Iranian parliament from which Guitta quotes is the real deal and not propaganda deliberately leaked to the west to make sanctions look more effective than they’d be. Money quote: “In the event of sanctions, the bulk of Iranian industry would be paralyzed after just three to four months.” They’ll never happen, though, as Guitta explains, thanks to Putin, Hu, and of course Jacques Chirac.

3. Is Iran using Al Qaeda prisoners for leverage against the U.S.? There have been rumors for years that the mullahs are holding top AQ leaders, including Saif al-Adel and Osama’s son, Saad, under house arrest after they crossed over into the country from Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion. (Remember this too-bad-to-be-true bombshell from November about Iranian Shiites allegedly training the next generation of AQ’s Sunni leadership?) WaPo reported on page one yesterday that the CIA claims Iran has captured two new AQ operatives traveling inside the country on their way to Iraq and is threatening to start releasing people if the U.S. makes a strong push for new sanctions. The most interesting part:

Since al-Qaeda fighters began streaming into Iran from Afghanistan in the winter of 2001, Tehran had turned over hundreds of people to U.S. allies and provided U.S. intelligence with the names, photographs and fingerprints of those it held in custody, according to senior U.S. intelligence and administration officials. In early 2003, it offered to hand over the remaining high-value targets directly to the United States if Washington would turn over a group of exiled Iranian militants hiding in Iraq.

Some of Bush’s top advisers pushed for the trade, arguing that taking custody of bin Laden’s son and the others would produce new leads on al-Qaeda. They were also willing to trade away the exiles — members of a group on the State Department’s terrorist list — who had aligned with Saddam Hussein in an effort to overthrow the Iranian government.

Officials have said Bush ultimately rejected the exchange on the advice of Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who argued that any engagement would legitimize Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism. Bush’s National Security Council agreed to accept information from Iran on al-Qaeda but offer nothing in return, officials said.

4. Finally, do not miss Seixon’s dismantling of the Guardian’s recent scare piece about a looming attack on Iran. Newsweek is reporting today that a second Navy carrier group is on its way to the Persian Gulf and that a third is soon to follow, but it doesn’t say how it knows. As Seixon explains, when it comes to Iran stories, sourcing is everything.