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Where's the Accountability?
Michael Hirsh, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek weigh in with the first of what I hope will be many substantial examinations of the charges. They find lots and lots of holes.
"President Bush officially anointed a new enemy of the United States on Wednesday: the 'Quds Force.' After a week in which his administration contradicted itself repeatedly over the threat from Iran, Bush settled on what he said were the known facts. The sophisticated weapons being used against U.S. troops in Iraq 'were provided by the Quds Force,' a paramilitary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the president said at a news conference in the East Room. 'We know that. And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did.'
"Just who are the Quds Force? And how good is the intelligence on them, really? A Newsweek investigation shows that the evidence against the Quds Force is still questionable, and that some of the key Iraqi politicians Washington is relying on most, such as Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, have had close relations with the Iranian group. . . .
"The upshot is that while the American military is blaming the Quds Force and [the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] for all sorts of misdeeds, the highest officials in the U.S.-backed Iraqi government appear to be buying weapons from them and asking for their help on security issues.
"Yet even if elements of the Quds Force are involved in weapons trafficking, it is unclear if they are being directed by Tehran or if they are freelancing. After the war in Bosnia in the '90s, some former Quds Force members were known to engage in smuggling, apparently without the knowledge of their central command. . . .
"[C]onsiderable doubts continue to surface about the intelligence presented at the Baghdad slide show, including the fact that the writing on the conventional weapons displayed was in English, not Farsi. U.N. Ambassador Zarif also says that the date markings are American-style--that is, the month comes first. 'There is every reason to believe that this evidence is fabricated,' he said. U.S. officials say the weapons were apparently built for the international market. Asked why the writing on the weapons allegedly made in Iran was in English, one U.S. intelligence official responded: 'That's a very good question.' It is one of many questions about the Quds Force that has yet to be answered."
Say what you will about Washington Post reporter and columnist David S. Broder, but he is the dean of the Washington press corps and his columns are often an accurate reflection of the temperament of Washington's top political reporters.
For instance, Broder's September 7, 2006 column-- in which he wrote off the whole Valerie Plame story as a "tempest in a teapot" and said that journalists owed Karl Rove an apology -- may have been abject nonsense, but it accurately telegraphed how little appetite Washington's top journalists had for that story.
In his column today, Broder writes: "It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case."
Broder writes that "just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts."
Broder praises Bush's strategy to knock the wind out of the congressional opposition to his war policies.
And Broder lauds Bush for having become "far more accessible -- and responsive -- to the media and public, holding any number of one-on-one interviews, both on and off the record, leading up to Wednesday's televised news conference. And he has been more candid in his responses than in the past."