In a front-page story, the New York Times reported Monday that on Feb. 11 U.S. military officials in Baghdad “spread out on two small tables an E.F.P. [explosively formed penetrator] and an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories.” -- James Glanz described the E.F.P.s as “squat canisters designed to explode and spit out molten balls of copper that cut through armor” and called them “perhaps the most feared weapon faced by American and Iraqi troops here.” -- The officials said the weapons displayed “had killed more than 170 Americans and wounded 620 since June 2004, when one of the devices first killed a service member.” -- Officials “also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans. The officials said such an assertion was an inference based on general intelligence assessments.” -- Faced with these assertions, the New York Times displayed some skepticism, noting that the “inference, and the anonymity of the officials who made it, seemed likely to generate skepticism among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and perhaps even trying to lay the groundwork for war with Iran.” -- The Times added: “[T]he Americans . . . left many questions unanswered, including proof that the Iranian government was directing the delivery of weapons.” -- The officials said the display of evidence “took place only after weeks of analysis on what information could be useful to hostile forces — information that has mostly been kept out of the public eye since the E.F.P.s began turning up in Iraq. ‘We publicly have not acknowledged E.F.P.s for the past two years,’ the senior military official said.” -- “The shells,” James Glanz reported, “had serial numbers in English in order to comply with international standards for arms, the officials said.” -- The Los Angeles Times reported the briefing in terms that were significantly different from those adopted by the New York Times. -- Whereas the N.Y. Times said the arms were going to “Shiite extremist groups,” the Los Angeles Times said only that they were going to “Shiite Muslim militants.” -- While the N.Y. Times asserted that the number of 170 killed referred to “Americans,” the L.A. Times said it referred to “the 3,400 U.S.-led forces killed,” which is not the same thing. -- The L.A. Times also presented alternative possibilities that the N.Y Times did not bother to spell out. -- Reporters Tina Susman and Borzou Daragahi noted: “Some experts wondered whether it was possible to discern the intended uses of such weapons in a situation as complex as Iraq's. -- ‘There is a virtual civil war happening,’ said Wayne White, a former State Department intelligence analyst who is a scholar at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank. ‘If Iran is passing munitions to Shia militias, it could be more in the context of the ongoing sectarian strife than aimed at the U.S.’” -- They also said, more explicitly than the N.Y. Times, that “The briefing seemed deliberately limited. The officials appeared to back away from previous U.S. claims that Iran, a mostly Shiite country, was supporting the Sunni Arab insurgents who have by far killed the largest number of U.S. troops,” and added: “Few independent analysts think Iran or any other country is playing a decisive role in the sectarian warfare and insurgent violence engulfing at least eight of Iraq's 18 provinces.” -- The L.A. Times quoted a Kurdish official who believed the demonstration was addressed more to Iraqis than to the American public: "The Americans are trying to convince the Iraqis that they're not just against Iranians because of the nuclear file, but because of what's happening here in Iraq," he said. -- But an Iraqi Shiite legislator linked to Moqtada al-Sadr pointed out that “This is not solid evidence that these weapons came from the Iranian government. These could be arms brought by smugglers for profit." -- A follow-up story in Tuesday’s New York Times described the skepticism with which the presentation of evidence has generally been met. -- Helene Cooper and Mark Mazzetti said that a “first briefing, a wide-ranging dossier that contained dozens of slides about Iranian activities inside Iraq,” had been nixed by high officials in Washington, D.C., because “there were aspects of the briefing that could not be supported by solid intelligence.” -- Thus what was presented was “a stripped-down version of the original presentation, focusing almost entirely on the weapons, known as explosively formed penetrators, and the evidence that Iran is supplying the weapons to Shiite groups,” but was unable to demonstrate Iranian governmental responsibility. -- But what none of these articles acknowledges is the value to the administration of blaring headlines like the one on the front page of Monday's News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) proclaiming: “U.S. LINKS BOMBS TO IRAN LEADERS — MORE THAN 170 TROOPS SAID TO HAVE DIED FROM EXPLOSIVES IN IRAQ.” -- The headline was at variance with the content of the article, which concluded with an extremely paragraph, but this hardly matters in the context of the broader anti-Iran propaganda campaign the U.S. government has been persistently pursuing for several years. -- From this point of view, the propaganda value of the headline far outweighed the skepticism of the article....
U.S. SAYS ARMS LINK IRANIANS TO IRAQI SHIITES
By James Glanz
** Serial Numbers Visible in Weapons Display **
New York Times
February 12, 2007
[PHOTO CAPTION: An Iraqi soldier controlled traffic at a vehicle checkpoint in Baghdad on Sunday.]
[INSET CAPTION & TEXT: SUSPECTED IRANIAN ACTIVITY: The U.S. military has presented what it considers evidence of Iranian military involvement in Iraq, displaying a variety of captured explosive devices and photographs of damage to U.S. and Iraqi military vehicles attributed to Iranian-produced weapons. Explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.’s (shown at right), are considered particularly deadly. A partial list of other items: SUSPECTED IRANIAN WEAPONS/LOCATION FOUND: Caches of E.F.P.’s (explosively formed penetrators) -- Diwaniya (Sept. 2005), Baghdad (Jan. 2006). -- Passive infrared trigger (PIR) -- Basra area (May 2006). -- TNT blocks, blasting cap -- Iraq border (Dec. 2005), southern Iraq (May 2006). -- 81 mm. mortar round shipping containers -- Central Iraq (Sept. 2006). -- 81 mm. mortar round -- Southeast of Baghdad (Jan. 2007). -- 81 mm. mortar tail assembly fragments -- Baghdad (Nov.-Dec. 2006). -- Man-Portable Air Defense System missile -- Baghdad International Aiport (Aug. 2004). -- Antitank rocket-propelled grenades -- Baquba (Nov. 2006), Baghdad (Jan. 2007).]
BAGHDAD -- After weeks of internal debate, senior United States military officials on Sunday literally put on the table their first public evidence of the contentious assertion that Iran supplies Shiite extremist groups in Iraq with some of the most lethal weapons in the war. They said those weapons had been used to kill more than 170 Americans in the past three years.
Never before displayed in public, the weapons included squat canisters designed to explode and spit out molten balls of copper that cut through armor. The canisters, called explosively formed penetrators or E.F.P.s, are perhaps the most feared weapon faced by American and Iraqi troops here.
In a news briefing held under strict security, the officials spread out on two small tables an E.F.P. and an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories. The officials also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans. The officials said such an assertion was an inference based on general intelligence assessments.
That inference, and the anonymity of the officials who made it, seemed likely to generate skepticism among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and perhaps even trying to lay the groundwork for war with Iran.
Officials at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad said they had no comment on the American accusations, the latest in a back-and-forth between the countries as tension has escalated over Tehran’s rising influence in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and suspicions about its nuclear energy program. And while the Americans displayed what they said was the physical evidence of their claims about Iran’s role in Iraq, they also left many questions unanswered, including proof that the Iranian government was directing the delivery of weapons.
The officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops. A senior United States military official gave a partial answer, saying that without anonymity, a senior Defense Department analyst who participated in the briefing could not have contributed.
The officials also were defensive about the timing of disclosing such incriminating evidence, since they had known about it as early as 2004. They said E.F.P. attacks had nearly doubled in 2006 compared with the previous year and a half.
“The reason we’re talking about this right now is the vast increase in the number of E.F.P.s being found,” one official said. American-led forces in Iraq, the official said, “are not trying to hype this up to be more than it is.”
Whatever doubts were created about the timing and circumstances of the weapons disclosures, the direct physical evidence presented on Sunday was extraordinary.
The officials said the E.F.P. weapons arrived in Iraq in the form of what they described as a “kit” containing high-grade metals and highly machined parts -- like a shaped, concave lid that folds into a molten ball while hurtling toward its target.
For the first time, American officials provided a specific casualty total from these weapons, saying they had killed more than 170 Americans and wounded 620 since June 2004, when one of the devices first killed a service member.
But then the officials went much further, asserting without specific evidence that the Iranian security apparatus, called the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force controlled delivery of the materials to Iraq. And in a further inference, the officials asserted that the Quds Force, sometimes called the I.R.G.C.-Quds, could be involved only with Iranian government complicity.
“We have been able to determine that this material, especially on the E.F.P. level, is coming from the I.R.G.C.-Quds Force,” said the senior defense analyst. That, the analyst said, meant direction for the operation was “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”
At least one shipment of E.F.P.s was captured as it was smuggled from Iran into southern Iraq in 2005, the officials said. Caches and arrays of E.F.P.s, as well as mortars and other weapons traceable to Iran, have been repeatedly found inside Iraq in areas dominated by militias known to have ties to Iran, the officials said. One cache of antitank rocket-propelled grenades and other items was seized as recently as Jan. 23, the officials said.
The precise machining of E.F.P. components, the officials said, also links the weapons to Iran. “We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq,” the senior military official said.
The officials also gave fresh details on recent American raids in Baghdad and the northern city of Erbil in which Quds Force members were picked up and accused of working with extremist groups to plan attacks on American and Iraqi forces.
Some of the five Iranians still being detained after they were picked up in Erbil on Jan. 11 had been flushing documents down a toilet when they were found, the defense analyst said, and they had recently been engaged in “changing their appearance” -- apparently shaving their heads, though for what reason the analyst did not know.
An earlier raid in Baghdad was carried out, the officials said, after American forces received word that the No. 2 Quds Force official, whom they identified as Mohsin Chizari, was unexpectedly in Iraq. When Mr. Chizari was picked up in a raid in December, he was carrying false identification, the officials said.
He was later released to the Iraqi government with another Iranian official who was picked up at the same time. The Iraqis asked both Iranians to leave the country.
The senior defense analyst said there was no direct link between the detained Iranians and the physical evidence presented on Sunday. But the analyst said, “the overall tenor” of the evidence was that Mr. Chizari was implicated in bringing E.F.P.s into Iraq.
The briefing also presented new information on what the Americans call the smuggling routes. There are three main routes, officials said: the Mandelli border crossing, east of Baghdad; the Mehran crossing, in the marshes to the south; and in the southern city of Basra.
Paid Iraqis, rather than Iranians themselves, carry the materials across the border, the officials said.
The senior military official blamed recent press reports for, he said, overstating the importance of the weapons presentation, which had been delayed. Part of the delay reflected a view among officials in Washington that the original presentation was insufficiently strong. Officials here did not address that element of the internal debate.
The senior American military official did make it clear that declassifying the material took place only after weeks of analysis on what information could be useful to hostile forces -- information that has mostly been kept out of the public eye since the E.F.P.s began turning up in Iraq. “We publicly have not acknowledged E.F.P.s for the past two years,” the senior military official said.
Laid out on the tables themselves were the tailfins of dozens of apparently used mortar shells, as well as intact mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades, cases for some of the weaponry, the E.F.P., and two identification cards the officials said were taken in the Erbil raid.
The shells had serial numbers in English in order to comply with international standards for arms, the officials said. One grenade, for instance, was marked with the serial number P.G.7-AT-1 followed by LOT:5-31-2006. The officials said that the serial numbers clearly identified the grenade as being of Iranian manufacture and the date showed that it had been made in 2006.
Commanders in Baghdad are acutely aware of the deadly E.F.P.s. Col. Steve Townsend, commander of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad, said his unit has encountered about a dozen E.F.P.s in the past two months.
Iran’s role in Iraq has been discussed in recent months in public and private testimony by senior intelligence officials. In testimony last month, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said “there’s a clear line of evidence that points out the Iranians want to punish the United States, hurt the United States in Iraq, tie down the United States in Iraq, so that our other options in the region, against other activities the Iranians might have, would be limited.”
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last month that he believed that Iranian operatives inside Iraq were supporting Shiite militias and working against American troops.
But he also asserted that the White House had a poor understanding of Iranian calculations and added that he was concerned that the Bush administration was building a case for a more confrontational policy toward Tehran.
--Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Michael R. Gordon and Felicity Barringer from Washington.
The conflict in Iraq
Accusations of interference
U.S. MAKES CASE THAT IRAN ARMS FLOW INTO IRAQ
By Tina Susman and Borzou Daragahi
** A limited number of munitions are displayed at a secretive briefing. **
Los Angeles Times
February 12, 2007
[PHOTO CAPTION: This handout photo released by the U.S. military, shows an 81mm Mortar round believed to be from Iran and found in Baghdad, 13 January 2007.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: This handout photo released by the U.S. military, shows Iranian anti-tank rocket propelled grenades seized in Baquba as well as in Baghdad between 2006-2007.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: This handout photo released by the U.S. military, shows 81mm Mortar tail assembly fragment believed to be from Iran and recovered from attacks in new Baghdad, November-December 2006.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: This handout photo released by the U.S. military, shows the aftermath Explosive Formed Projectile (EFP) attack on Iraqi police in Hilla, 10 June 2006.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: This handout photo released by the U.S. military, shows an identification card of an Iranian revolutionary guard corp. (IRGC) found on an alleged an Iranian agent arrested last month in Arbil.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: This image provided by the U.S. military on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007 shows what officials call "explosively formed penetrators,"or EFPs.]
BAGHDAD -- U.S. defense and intelligence officials sought Sunday to bolster the charge that Iran was providing arms to Shiite Muslim militants in Iraq, displaying munitions and weapons fragments that they said constituted evidence that Tehran was contributing to Iraq's violence.
They also alleged that a group under the command of Iran's supreme leader was behind the smuggling of weapons across the Iran-Iraq border.
The briefing, held under unusually secretive circumstances, featured three U.S. officials, none of whom would be identified, and two tables laden with what they said were uniquely Iranian military hardware and weapons fragments.
The officials said an Iranian weapon known as an Explosively Formed Penetrator had been responsible for the deaths of about 170 of the 3,400 U.S.-led forces killed in Iraq. The armor-piercing devices are used in roadside bomb attacks, which have increased in the last year, the officials said.
The presentation came as tensions continued to mount between Washington and Tehran over Iran's nuclear ambitions and regional aspirations.
With two U.S. warship groups in the Persian Gulf, the allegations raised suspicion that the Bush administration was trying to build a case for war, much as it had used intelligence reports to win support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"That's how we got into the mess in Iraq," Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said on CBS television. "That's why some of us supported those resolutions, because of doctored information. So I'm very skeptical based on recent past history about this administration."
Some experts wondered whether it was possible to discern the intended uses of such weapons in a situation as complex as Iraq's.
"There is a virtual civil war happening," said Wayne White, a former State Department intelligence analyst who is a scholar at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank. "If Iran is passing munitions to Shia militias, it could be more in the context of the ongoing sectarian strife than aimed at the U.S."
The U.S. officials said they wanted to fend off an alarming new type of weapon that was inflicting an increasing number of casualties among American and Iraqi troops. The presentation was a scaled-back version of one postponed two weeks ago amid a dispute within the administration over the strength of the evidence.
The briefing seemed deliberately limited. The officials appeared to back away from previous U.S. claims that Iran, a mostly Shiite country, was supporting the Sunni Arab insurgents who have by far killed the largest number of U.S. troops.
Instead, the officials alleged that Shiite groups ostensibly loyal to radical anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr were involved in the smuggling and use of the weapons.
Few independent analysts think Iran or any other country is playing a decisive role in the sectarian warfare and insurgent violence engulfing at least eight of Iraq's 18 provinces.
But many Western intelligence and Middle East experts think Tehran is pursuing a policy of "managed chaos" in Iraq. They suggest Iran is supporting its Shiite and Kurdish allies, who dominate Iraq's new government, while contributing to the violence in an effort to keep the U.S. preoccupied.
Within Iraq, some saw the presentation as a defensive maneuver meant to drive a wedge into the increasingly cozy relationship between the Shiite-led governments in Baghdad and Tehran.
"The Iraqi government doesn't think Iran is the enemy," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker in Baghdad. "The Americans are trying to convince the Iraqis that they're not just against Iranians because of the nuclear file, but because of what's happening here in Iraq."
One Shiite lawmaker said she wondered whether similar presentations would be made suggesting Saudi, Jordanian, and Syrian interference in Iraq's affairs. Young Arab men launch most of the suicide bombings targeting Iraqi civilians.
"This is not solid evidence that these weapons came from the Iranian government," said Neda Sudani, a Shiite lawmaker loyal to Sadr. "These could be arms brought by smugglers for profit."
The new allegations may place Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in an increasingly uncomfortable position as he tries to nurture a relationship with Tehran without angering the Bush administration.
Iraq's blossoming partnership with Iran has included discussions on security and intelligence matters and on offers to train and equip Iraqi forces. Iraq's interior minister, who works closely with U.S. intelligence and defense officials, met Saturday with the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, a former member of the Revolutionary Guard.
Several Iranian officials contacted by phone Sunday evening in Tehran declined to comment on the U.S. presentation. In recent weeks, Iranian officials have accused the Bush administration of unfairly using Iran as a scapegoat for its policy failures in Iraq.
"Iraq's stability, security, and integrity means Iran's stability, security, and integrity," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday at a rally in Tehran marking the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
U.S. officials said the material they presented to about three dozen Iraqi and Western journalists was limited because of concern that advertising the deadliness of the weapons might encourage militants to step up attacks or tip them off so they could change their tactics.
"There's a gap between what we know and what we can show," said one of the officials conducting the briefing, a senior defense and intelligence analyst.
The officials showed an array of documentation and military hardware, including three dozen tail fins from 81-millimeter and 60-millimeter mortar shells; rocket-propelled grenades; a chunk of metal about the size of an apple said to have been from an Iranian-made explosive; and shipping containers for mortar rounds.
They also showed identification cards carried by two men arrested last month by U.S. officials in a raid in the northern city of Irbil. The men were agents of Iran's Quds Force, an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard, the officials said.
Also released were photos of what was identified as Iranian dynamite bearing Persian writing. The explosives allegedly were seized at the Iraqi border by unidentified security officials. The officials also showed photos of Iraqi and American military vehicles with huge holes caused by explosive devices.
The U.S. intelligence analyst said investigations, including information provided by Iranian and Iraqi detainees captured in the last two months, indicated that smugglers were making nighttime runs across the southern half of the border.
The officials said each piece of the displayed hardware could be traced to Iran, though to the untrained eye there were no obvious Iranian markings other than that on the dynamite. Some of the munitions bore Western lettering.
"The begging question of a smoking gun -- of an Iranian standing over an American with a gun -- is never going to happen," the intelligence analyst said.
The officials said the alleged connection to the Quds Force tied the arms shipments to the top echelons of Iran's clerical government.
"We've been able to determine that this material is coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force," the intelligence analyst said. "In reality, they report directly to the supreme leader," referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual, political, and military chief.
The U.S. officials said the material, taken together, bolstered the argument that Tehran was contributing to Iraq's chaos. They said Iran was the only country in the region manufacturing that type of rocket-propelled grenade. They said the mortar shell tail fins could be traced to Iran because of the unique metal work.
The centerpiece of the presentation was an item that looked least like a deadly weapon, the Explosively Formed Penetrator. It resembled a large coffee can packed with a gray, sand-like substance. One of the officials, a military explosives expert, said it was a lethal device first noticed in Iraq in June 2004. Since then, such weapons have killed at least 170 coalition forces and injured more than 600, he said.
Such devices can punch fist-sized holes through armored vehicles, and the number of attacks has nearly doubled in the last year, the explosives expert said. He said the crude-looking devices also had been used in southern Lebanon by "Iranian surrogates," a reference to Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Islamic militant group.
Some analysts said the U.S. presentation could be seen as a general warning to Iran, part of a policy of containment meant to curtail Tehran's ambitions.
"It's part of the deterrence game," said Ken Wise, an analyst at the Dubai Consultancy Research and Media Center, a think tank in the United Arab Emirates. "They're trying to raise the stakes for Iran both in Iraq and the nuclear weapons side of the argument."
SKEPTICS DOUBT U.S. EVIDENCE ON IRAQ ACTION IN IRAQ
By Helene Cooper and Mark Mazzetti
New York Times
February 13, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Three weeks after promising it would show proof of Iranian meddling in Iraq, the Bush administration has laid out its evidence -- and received in return a healthy dose of skepticism.
The response from Congressional and other critics speaks volumes about the current state of American credibility, four years after the intelligence controversy leading up to the Iraq war. To pre-empt accusations that the charges against Iran were politically motivated, the administration rejected the idea of a high-level presentation, relying instead on military and intelligence officers to make its case in a background briefing in Baghdad.
Even so, critics have been quick to voice doubts. Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas [D-TX 16th], the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the White House was more interested in sending a message to Tehran than in backing up serious allegations with proof. And David Kay, who once led the hunt for illicit weapons in Iraq, said the grave situation in Iraq should have taught the Bush administration to put more of a premium on transparency when it comes to intelligence.
“If you want to avoid the perception that you’ve cooked the books, you come out and make the charges publicly,” Mr. Kay said.
Administration officials say their approach was carefully calibrated to focus on concerns that Iran is providing potent weapons used against American troops in Iraq, not to ignite a wider war. “We’re trying to strike the right tone here,” a senior administration official said Monday. “It would have raised the rhetoric to major decibel levels if we had had a briefing in Washington.”
At the State Department, the Pentagon, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, officials had anticipated resistance to their claims. They settled on an approach that sidelined senior officials including Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq, and John D. Negroponte, who until last week was the director of national intelligence. By doing so, they avoided the inevitable comparisons to the since-discredited presentation that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made to the United Nations Security Council in 2003 asserting that Iraq had illicit weapons.
The White House and the State Department both made clear on Monday that they endorsed the findings presented in Baghdad. Asked for direct evidence linking Iran’s leadership to the weapons, Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said: “Let me put it this way. There’s not a whole lot of freelancing in the Iranian government, especially when its comes to something like that.”
Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said: “While they presented a circumstantial case, I would put to you that it was a very strong circumstantial case. The Iranians are up to their eyeballs in this activity, I think, very clearly based on the information that was provided over the weekend in Baghdad.”
In Australia, however, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he “would not say” that Iran’s leadership was aware of or condoned the attacks. “It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it’s clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit,” according to an account posted on the Voice of America Web site.
An Iranian government spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, has sought in denying the charges to exploit the lingering doubts about American credibility. “The United States has a long history of fabricating evidence,” Mr. Hosseini, a Foreign Ministry official, told reporters in Tehran.
The administration’s scramble over how to present its evidence started in January, after President Bush accused Iran of meddling in Iraq. Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, demanded that the United States present its evidence, and Mr. Khalilzad, the American ambassador in Baghdad, responded that America would “oblige him by having something done in the coming days.”
That set Bush administration officials racing to produce a briefing that would hold up to scrutiny. Military officials in Baghdad developed the first briefing, a wide-ranging dossier that contained dozens of slides about Iranian activities inside Iraq, which was then sent to Washington for review, administration officials said.
But after a careful vetting by intelligence officials, senior administration officials, including National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, concluded that there were aspects of the briefing that could not be supported by solid intelligence. They sent the briefing back to Baghdad to be shored up, a senior official said.
The evidence that military officials presented Sunday was a stripped-down version of the original presentation, focusing almost entirely on the weapons, known as explosively formed penetrators, and the evidence that Iran is supplying the weapons to Shiite groups.
Both Democratic and Republican officials on Capitol Hill said that while they do not doubt that the weapons are being used to attack American troops, and that some of those weapons are being shipped into Iraq from Iran, they are still uncertain whether the weapons were being shipped into Iraq on the orders of Iran’s leaders.
Several experts agreed. “I’m not doubting the provenance of the weapons, but rather, the issue of what it says about Iranian policy and whether Iran’s leaders are aware of it,” said George Perkovich, a nonproliferation specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
Philip D. Zelikow, who until December was the top aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said American politics and the increased unpopularity of the war in Iraq is obscuring the larger issue of the Iran evidence, which he described as “abundant and so multifaceted.”
“People have lost their moorings,” Mr. Zelikow said. He said the administration was trying to overcome public distrust by asking, in essence, “Don’t you trust our soldiers?”
--Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran.