On Monday, for the first time, the U.S. provided details about the sources of its information and the extent of alleged Iranian cooperation in an attack on American forces in Iraq, spurring renewed talk of a possible U.S.-Iran war.  --  The U.S. claimed that "Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Lebanon's Hezbollah had assisted Iraqi militants to abduct and murder five U.S. soldiers in January," the Financial Times of London reported.[1]  --  The source of the information was said to be a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative named Ali Moussa Dakdouk who was captured on March 20 in Basra.  --  Dakdouk (spelled elsewhere 'Daqduq') was said to be a liaison between the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force ("a group whose existence Iran does not acknowledge but which U.S. intelligence officials say is charged with maintaining contact with militant organizations outside Iran," Steve Negus noted) and a Shiite group led by Qais al-Kazaali (spelled elsewhere 'Khazali'), former spokesman for Moqtada al-Sadr.  --  U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said at a briefing in Baghdad that Dakdouk, with information developed by the Quds Force about U.S. soldiers' "activities, shift changes, and defenses," helped Kazaali's force in planning a Jan. 20 raid in Karbala in which one U.S. soldier was killed and four others captured; they were later found dead.  --  AP said this was "the first time the U.S. military has said Hezbollah has a direct role" in violence in Iraq.[2]  --  Lee Keath also reported that "Bergner said Iraqi extremists were taken to Iran in groups of 20 to 60 for training in three camps 'not too far from Tehran.'  When they returned to Iraq, they formed units called 'special groups' to carry out attacks, bombings, and kidnappings."  --  In its report, the New York Times claimed that "In effect, American officials are charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American forces for years, though officials today sought to confine their comments to the specific incidents covered in their briefing."[3]  --  Iran hawk Sen. Joseph Lieberman seized the opportunity to declare "that the Iranian government has in effect declared war on the United States," the Hartford Courant reported Monday afternoon.[4]  --  AFP reported Tuesday that "Iran dismissed the U.S. accusations as 'ridiculous.'  --  'Unfortunately these days U.S. officials have got used to crafting a succession of artificial and ridiculous scenarios for political gains without any evidence,' foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.  --  'It has been four and a half years that U.S. officials have sought to cover up the dreadful situation in Iraq, which is a result of their mistakes and wrong strategies, by denigration and blaming others.'"[5]  --  To Chris Floyd, the conclusion seemed clear:  "The countdown to war with Iran has entered its final stages now."[6]  --  "Inexorably, remorselessly, the Bush Administration is moving toward its desired war with Iran, abetted, as before, by compliant corporate reporters, and by the entire Washington political establishment — especially the Democrats, who not only have been even more bloodthirsty than the White House in their public rhetoric toward Iran, but have also done yeoman service in escalating war fever with their overwhelming support for a measure urging the U.N. to file genocide charges against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, based largely on a garbled translation of a single passage from a single speech.  --  So this is where we are now.  The Democratic-led House has now officially declared that Iran is led by a genocidist like Hitler, the embodiment of human evil.  The Pentagon is repeatedly charging that Hitler is now killing Americans in Iraq.  The American Establishment has committed itself to this scenario.  Only the American people are lagging somewhat behind — but when push finally comes to shove, how many will oppose 'defending our troops' against the aggression of the Persian 'Hitler'?" ...


1.

U.S. ACCUSES IRAN OVER DEADLY RAID IN IRAQ
By Steve Negus

Financial Times (UK)
July 3, 2007

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/6d9d1f40-28fd-11dc-af78-000b5df10621.html

The U.S. military said yesterday that Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Lebanon's Hezbollah had assisted Iraqi militants to abduct and murder five U.S. soldiers in January, an unusually direct accusation of Iranian complicity in a specific attack in Iraq.

A spokesman, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, said at a briefing in Baghdad that U.S. forces had captured a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative, Ali Moussa Dakdouk, on March 20 in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

He said Mr. Dakdouk was working as a "surrogate" for the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, a group whose existence Iran does not acknowledge but which U.S. intelligence officials say is charged with maintaining contact with militant organizations outside Iran.

Brig. Gen. Bergner said Mr. Dakdouk was a liaison between the Iranians and a small militant Shia group led by Qais al-Kazaali, former spokesman for radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Mr. Dakdouk was captured alongside Mr. Kazaali and his brother and later interrogated, the spokesman said.

The U.S. spokesman said Mr. Dakdouk had assisted Mr. Kazaali's force in planning the January 20 raid on a provincial government office in the town of Karbala in which one U.S. soldier was killed and another four captured and later found dead.

He said documents had been captured along with Mr. Dakdouk indicating that the Quds Force had helped assess the office's security weaknesses. "The Quds Force had developed detailed information regarding our soldiers' activities, shift changes, and defenses, and this information was shared with the attackers," Brig. Gen. Bergner was quoted by news agencies as saying.

Iran, which denies attempting to foment insurgency in Iraq, had no official reaction to the allegations.

The U.S. government has long accused Tehran of providing weapons, funding, and training to Iraqi militant groups. Until now, however, it has provided few details about the extent of the alleged co-operation, nor the sources of its information.

This is also one of the first times that the U.S. has claimed any direct Iranian link to a specific attack.

The Karbala raid, in which a dozen militants gained entry to a heavily secured complex by posing as an American security team, was described by U.S. officials at the time as one of the most effective operations carried out by Iraqi militants on the military.

The Iraqi government appears to believe that Tehran had a hand in the Karbala attack, with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki declaring in an interview with CNN a week afterwards that his government would not accept Iran backing attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

U.S. military officers say Tehran has cultivated client groups among Iraqi Shia militants, particularly among the more radical breakaway factions of Mr. Sadr's Mahdi Army. The Iranians may want the capability to hit at American targets in Iraq to deter U.S. action against their own intelligence networks or their nuclear program.

Brig. Gen. Bergner said the Quds Force was using Hezbollah in Iraq as a "surrogate to work on their behalf and do things they do not want to do themselves."

BACKGROUND

The Quds Brigade is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' arm for overseas operations. It is believed that Quds forces trained the Lebanese Shia HEzbollah movement and Iraqi opposition forces based in Iran before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Insiders confirm that Iran's security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are run only by Quds.

2.

U.S.: HEZBOLLAH IRAN'S PROXY IN IRAQ
By Lee Keath

** U.S. Alleges Iran Using Lebanese Hezbollah As 'Proxy' in Iraq to Organize Militants **

Associated Press
July 2, 2007

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=3336816&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312

BAGHDAD -- Iran's elite Quds force helped militants carry out a January attack in Karbala that killed five Americans, a U.S. general said Monday.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner also accused Tehran of using the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a "proxy" to arm Shiite militants in Iraq.

The claims were an escalation in U.S. accusations that Iran is fueling Iraq's violence, which Tehran has denied, and were the first time the U.S. military has said Hezbollah has a direct role.

A senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative, Ali Mussa Dakdouk, was captured March 20 in southern Iraq, Bergner said. Dakdouk served for 24 years in Hezbollah and was "working in Iraq as a surrogate for the Iranian Quds Force," Bergner said.

The general also said that Dakdouk was a liaison between the Iranians and a breakaway Shiite group led by Qais al-Kazaali, a former spokesman for cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Bergner said al-Kazaali's group carried out the January attack against a provincial government building in Karbala and that the Iranians assisted in preparations. Al-Khazaali and his brother Ali al-Khazaali were captured with Dakdouk.

Dakdouk told U.S. interrogators that the Karbala attackers "could not have conducted this complex operation without the support and direction of the Quds force," Bergner said.

Documents captured with al-Khazaali showed that the Quds Force had developed detailed information on the U.S. position at the government building, "regarding our soldiers' activities, shift changes, and defenses, and this information was shared with the attackers," Bergner said.

The Karbala attack was one of the boldest and most sophisticated against U.S. forces in four years of fighting in Iraq, and U.S. officials at the time suggested (http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/5660/) Iran may have had a role in it.

In the assault, up to a dozen gunmen posed as an American security team, with U.S. military combat fatigues, allowing them to pass checkpoints into the government compound, where they launched the attack. One U.S. soldier was killed in the initial assault, and the militants abducted four others who were later found shot to death.

On Monday, the U.S. military reported the deaths of five U.S. servicemembers killed in fighting a day earlier, including two soldiers killed in attacks in Baghdad and two soldiers and a Marine who died in fighting in western Anbar province. The deaths brought to 3,582 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.

The new accusations against Iran raise tensions between the two countries as Iraq is trying to organize a second round of direct talks between U.S. and Iranian officials in Baghdad. The U.S.-backed, Shiite-led Iraqi government, which has close ties to Iran, is pushing the two to ease their disputes to help reduce Iraq's turmoil, but a February meeting between the two sides made little headway.

The U.S. military in the past has accused the Quds Force -- the external arm of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards -- of arming and financing Iraqi extremists to carry out attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces. Tehran has denied the U.S. accusations.

Bergner said Iraqi extremists were taken to Iran in groups of 20 to 60 for training in three camps "not too far from Tehran." When they returned to Iraq, they formed units called "special groups" to carry out attacks, bombings, and kidnappings.

"Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," he said. Asked if Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be unaware of the activity, Bergner said, "That would be hard to imagine."

Hezbollah spokesmen in Lebanon said they were checking into the claims Dakdouk was a member of the group and would not comment. The group has in the past denied any activities in Iraq. In late 2005, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his government suspected that Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah might be supplying technology and explosives to Shiite Muslim militant groups operating in Iraq, but he provided no proof.

Dakdouk was "tasked to organize the special groups in ways that mirrored how Hezbollah was organized in Lebanon," the general said. Dakdouk was ordered by Hezbollah's leadership to work with the Quds Force and went to Iran in May 2006 to meet with Quds Force commanders, Bergner said. He then made four trips to Iraq over the next year.

Hezbollah, he said, helps the Iranians as a "proxy . . . to do things they didn't want to have to do themselves in terms of interacting with special groups," Bergner said. He added that Hezbollah did not appear to have an extensive network in Iraq, saying Dakdouk was "being used specifically as a proxy by the Quds Force.

Dakdouk was captured with documents instructing the special groups on techniques, including how to attack a convoy, and a with a personal diary detailing meetings with Iraqi militants. Al-Khazaali also had documents with details on 11 separate attacks on U.S. force, Bergner said.

A total of 18 "higher-level operatives" from the Iranian-backed special groups have been arrested and three others killed since February, Bergner said.

3.

World

Middle East

U.S. TIES IRAN TO DEADLY IRAQ ATTACK
By Michael R. Gordon

New York Times
July 2, 2007

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/02/world/middleeast/02cnd-iran.html

[PHOTO CAPTION: Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner today in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD -- Iranian operatives helped plan a January raid in Karbala in which five American soldiers were killed, an American military spokesman in Iraq said today.

Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, the military spokesman, also said that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has used operatives from the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah as a “proxy” to train and arm Shiite militants in Iraq.

American military officials have long asserted that the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has trained and equipped Shiite militants in Iraq. The Americans have also cited extensive intelligence indicating that Iran has supplied Shiite militants with the most lethal type of roadside bomb in Iraq, a bomb called the explosively formed penetrator, which is capable of piercing an armored vehicle.

Previously, Iranian officials have said that the United States is fabricating evidence to back up its accusation that Iran is sending bombs and weapons into Iraq. Some critics have cast doubt on the American military statements about the penetrator bombs, saying the evidence linking them to Iran was circumstantial and inferential.

In remarks that were reported over the weekend, Iran’s defense minister, Mohammad Najar, denied American claims of Iran’s “military interference” in Iraq. “We have many times announced that we are ready to cooperate with the Iraqi government so to restore security and stability to that country,” Mr. Najar was quoted as saying in a July 1 report by the Iranian student news agency, ISNA. It did not make clear which remarks he was responding to.

Today’s assertions by the American military spokesman, which were presented at a news briefing here, marked the first time that the United States has charged that Iranian officials have helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and have had advance knowledge of specific attacks that have led to the death of American soldiers.

In effect, American officials are charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American forces for years, though officials today sought to confine their comments to the specific incidents covered in their briefing.

When the Karbala attack was carried out on January 20 this year, American and Iraqi officials said that it appeared to be meticulously planned. The attackers carried forged identity cards and wore American-style uniforms.

One American died at the start of the raid, but the rest of the American soldiers were abducted before they were killed.

Some officials speculated at the time that the aim of the raid might have been to capture a group of American soldiers who could have been exchanged for Iranian officials that American forces detained in Iraq on suspicion of supporting Shiite militants there.

But while Americans officials wondered about an indirect Iranian role in the Karbala raid, until today they stopped short of making a case that the Quds Force may have been directly involved in planning the attack.

General Bergner declined to speculate on the Iranian motivations. But he said that interrogations of Qais Khazali, a Shiite militant who oversaw Iranian-supported cells in Iraq and who was captured several months ago along with another militant, Laith Khazali, his brother, showed that Iran’s Quds force helped plan the operation.

Similar information was obtained following the capture of a senior Hezbollah operative, Ali Musa Daqduq, General Bergner said. The capture of Mr. Daqduq had remained secret until today.

“Both Ali Musa Daqduq and Qais Khazali state that senior leadership within the Quds force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack that killed five coalition soldiers,” General Bergner said.

Documents seized from Qais Khazali, General Bergner said, showed that Iran’s Quds Force provided detailed information on the activities of American soldiers in Karbala, including shift changes and the defenses at the site.

More generally, General Bergner added, Iran’s Quds Force has been using Lebanese Hezbollah as a “proxy” or “surrogate” in training and equipping Shiite militants in Iraq.

The aim of the Quds force was to prepare the militant groups so they would attack American and Iraqi government force while trying to conceal an obvious Iranian role, he said.

There have long been reports that Hezbollah operatives have been working with the Quds Force to train Iraqi operatives in Iran and even Lebanon. But few details had emerged about specific Hezbollah officials.

According to General Bergner, Ali Musa Daqduq joined Hezbollah in 1983, commanded Hezbollah units in Lebanon, and was involved in coordinating the protection of the group’s leader, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah has been armed and funded by Iran.

In 2005, the Hezbollah leadership instructed Mr. Daqduq to go to Iran and help the Quds Force train Shiite Iraqi militants, General Bergner said. Mr. Daqduq went to Tehran in 2006 with Yussef Hashim, another Hezbollah operative who serves as the head of the group’s operations in Iraq. They met with the senior Quds force commanders and were directed to go to Iraq and report on efforts to train Shiite militants there, General Bergner said.

Groups of up to 60 Iraqi militants were brought to Iran for military instruction at three camps near Tehran and trained in using road-side bombs, mortars, rockets, kidnapping operations, and in how to operate as a sniper. The Quds Force also provided up to $3 million in funding a month to the Iraqi militants, the American general said.

Mr. Daqduq was captured in March in Basra. To avoid giving away his Lebanese accent, he initially pretended that he was a deaf mute, General Bergner said. But he eventually began to speak under interrogation.

In Washington, Bush Administration officials have generally held open the possibility that the Quds Force activities might have been carried out without the knowledge of Iran’s senior leaders.

But military officials say that there is such a long and systematic pattern of Quds Force activity in Iraq, as well as a 2005 confidential American protest to Iranian leaders regarding Iran’s alleged supply of road-side bombs, that senior Iranian leaders must be aware of the Quds Force role in Iraq.

“Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity,” he said. When he was asked if Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be unaware of the activity, General Bergner said “that would be hard to imagine.”

--Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York.

4.

LIEBERMAN: IRAN HAS DECLARED WAR
By David Lightman

Hartford Courant
July 2, 2007

http://www.courant.com/news/custom/topnews/hcu-lieberman-0702,0,4688988.story

Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman asserted Monday that the Iranian government has in effect declared war on the United States.

Lieberman commented after a U.S. military spokesman said Tehran's senior officials were aware of efforts to encourage violence against Americans in Iraq.

"The fact is that the Iranian government has by its actions declared war on us," said Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats. As a result, he continued, "The United States government has a responsibility to use all instruments at its disposal to stop these terrorist attacks against our soldiers and allies in Iraq, including keeping open the possibility of using military force against the terrorist infrastructure inside Iran."

He stopped short of advocating a military strike, but said that "while I sincerely hope that diplomacy alone can convince the Iranian government to stop these attacks, our diplomatic efforts are only likely to succeed if backed by a credible threat of force."

Lieberman said he hoped the latest news about Iran would help quash calls in Congress to withdraw U. S. troops.

Withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq at this time, he added, "will give Iranians exactly what they want most" -- an "epic victory" for forces of terrorism.

"Iran's purpose in sponsoring these attacks against our soldiers is clear," he said. "The Iranian government wants to push the United States out of Iraq.

"For Congress to mandate a retreat from Iraq," he said, "will give the Iranians exactly what they want most. A retreat would not only represent a catastrophic defeat for the United States, but an epic victory for Iran, Hezbollah, and the forces of Islamist terrorism."

Lieberman's comments came after Brigadier Gen. Kevin Bergner said today that Iran's Qods Force was involved in a January attack in Kerbala. Gunmen posing as Americans found their way into a government compound and killed five people, including a U.S. soldier.

According to wire services, Shi'ite Iran denies involvement in violence in Iraq, and blames the U.S.-led war on Iraq for the problems.

But Bergner said otherwise, telling a press conference that "Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity. We also understand that senior Iraqi leaders have expressed their concerns to the Iranian government about the activities," Reuters reported.

To Lieberman, this news was further evidence that the U.S. should get tougher on Iran.

"These revelations should be a wake-up call to the United States about the threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said, "as well as a reminder why Iraq is, in fact, the centralf ront of the global war on terror."

He said Iran's "sponsorship of terrorism in Iraq fits into a larger, dangerous pattern of behavior we see across the Middle East today."

Lieberman cited events in Lebanon, Palestine, and Afghanistan. "Despite a mounting economic crisis in its own country and growing international isolation," he said, "the regime in Tehran is sacrificing the blood and treasure of the Iranian people to fund terrorism against its neighbors."

5.

U.S. ACCUSES IRAN, HEZBOLLAH OF IRAQ ATTACKS
By Jay Deshmukh

Agence France-Presse
July 2, 2007

http://www.france24.com/france24Public/en/administration/afp-news.html?id=070703005705.5le38ok0

The U.S. military on Monday accused Iranian special forces of using Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militiamen for training Iraqi extremists and of planning an attack that killed five U.S. soldiers this year.

Brigadier General Kevin Bergner told reporters that U.S.-led forces had captured a senior Hezbollah militant, Ali Musa Daqduq, who confessed to training Iraqi extremists in Iran to carry out attacks in Iraq.

Daqduq, a Lebanese, was captured in Iraq's southern city of Basra on March 20, Bergner said, adding he "initially claimed to be deaf and mute."

"In 2005, he was directed by senior Lebanese Hezbollah leadership to go to Iran and work with the Quds Force to train Iraqi extremists," Bergner said.

He said the Quds Force, a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Hezbollah were jointly operating camps near Tehran in which they trained Iraqi fighters before sending them back to Iraq to wage attacks.

"He (Daqduq) was directed by the Iranian Quds Force to move Iraqis in and out of Iraq and report on the training and operations of Iraqi special groups."

Bergner said the Quds Force's goal was to develop extremist groups into a network similar to Hezbollah, adding that the two were training between 20 and 60 Iraqis at a time.

"Iranian Quds Force is using Hezbollah as a proxy . . . as a surrogate in Iraq, a surrogate to work on their behalf and do things they do not want to do themselves.

"Hezbollah brought a level of sophistication and street capability" to the training, he added.

Bergner said the military believed that "senior leadership in Iran" was aware of the activities of the Quds Force.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack echoed Bergner's assertion.

"It would be surprising if the Iranian leadership or Iranian senior officials weren't at least, at the very least, witting of the activities of this group in Iraq," McCormack told journalists.

Iran dismissed the U.S. accusations as "ridiculous."

"Unfortunately these days US officials have got used to crafting a succession of artificial and ridiculous scenarios for political gains without any evidence," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

"It has been four and a half years that U.S. officials have sought to cover up the dreadful situation in Iraq, which is a result of their mistakes and wrong strategies, by denigration and blaming others."

Tehran and Washington have not had official diplomatic ties for decades, except for some lower level contacts, and McCormack said the U.S. ambassador to Iraq has no planned meeting with his Iranian counterparts on the matter.

"If we do have another meeting with them, you can be certain that this will be a topic of discussion," McCormack said.

"And the message will be clear: that the Iranian government needs to cease and desist these kinds of activities."

Bergner said many of the extremists getting trained in the camps on the outskirts of Tehran are from "groups who have broken away from the Jaish al-Mahdi militia" of Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

The groups are "not under his (Sadr's) control. He shares the concern," Bergner said.

One such group carried out the attack in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala on January 20 in which five U.S. soldiers were killed.

Both Daqduq and a militant involved in the attack "said that senior leadership leading the Quds Force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack that killed five coalition soldiers," Bergner said.

Previously, U.S. commanders had accused Tehran of financing and arming the militants accused of carrying out the killings, but this was the first time they have accused Iranian officers of prior knowledge of the attack.

In the Karbala assault, militants disguised in U.S.-style uniforms driving trucks swept past security at an Iraqi security base and attacked a visiting group of American soldiers.

One U.S. soldier was killed at the scene and four more dragged into the trucks, driven away, and later shot dead.

"The Quds Force had developed detailed information regarding our soldiers' activities, shift changes, and defences and this information was shared with the attackers," Bergner said.

The latest accusations are part of a mounting campaign by U.S. officials to prove alleged links between Iran, Hezbollah, and the violence in Iraq.

U.S. commanders have long accused Iran of supplying explosively-formed penetrators -- sophisticated bombs that launch a fist-size chunk of molten metal capable of slicing through armoured vehicles -- to armed groups in Iraq.

Hundreds of U.S. troops have fallen victims to these weapons since May 2004, when they first appeared on the Iraqi battlefield, and Hezbollah used them to deadly effect in its conflict last year with Israel in southern Lebanon.

6.

IRAN: ANOTHER TURN OF THE PROPAGANDA SCREW
By Chris Floyd

** Killing Time: Countdown Quickens for Bush War on Iran **

Pacific Free Press
July 2, 2007

http://www.pacificfreepress.com/content/view/1369/81/

The countdown to war with Iran has entered its final stages now. Citing testimony elicited -- by one means or another -- from two Iraqi Shiite captives and a Lebanese man who has been held in one of Bush's secret prisons, U.S. military officials are now formally charging that Iranian government officials directly planned operations that killed American soldiers in Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said the evidence obtained from the captives proves that Iran's Qud Force -- one of those deep cover, gloves-off, Special Ops kind of units so beloved of the Bushists and their bootlickers -- are arming and training Shiite militia groups to attack American and Iraqi government forces. That would be the same Iraqi government that is controlled by, er, Iranian-armed and trained militia groups who are also being armed and trained by the Bush Administration.

Here we go . . . "U.S. Ties Iranians to Iraq Attack That Killed G.I.’s" (NY Times)

This would also be the same Iraqi government whose leaders -- installed via the American occupation and backed, with blood and treasure, by the Bush Administration -- are frequently to be found in Tehran, praising the close and cooperative relationship they have with Iran. Why, just days before General Bergner leveled his charges, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in Tehran, expressing his abiding appreciation of "the guidelines of Leader of the Islamic Revolution about Iraqi reconstruction and contribution of Iranian government to Iraqi nation's progress and welfare." (Alalam News, via Juan Cole)

So according to General Bergner, the Iranians are arming Shiite groups to overthrow the government made up of Shiite groups they previously armed, in order to . . . uh . . . install a government made up Shiite groups armed by Iran.

Well, who knows? Maybe it's true. Maybe the Iranians are as stupid as the Bushists, who have been arming various violent, extremist factions in Iraq for years now, in what a cynical observer might be forgiven for thinking was a deliberate policy of setting Iraqis at each other's throats, the better to destroy the country and reduce it to a more easily dominated ruin (or grab-bag of rump states). But if so, it would be the first known instance of the Iranian regime arming groups to attack its own allies.

Of course, Iran probably is playing many deep and deadly games in next-door Iraq. In this, they would only be following the example of the Anglo-American defenders of civilization, whose deep and deadly games in far-away Iraq have thus far killed upwards of a million innocent people and driven some four million more from their homes. But the idea that the Iranians are knee-capping their own protégés, to whom Bush has gifted the government of Iraq on a bloodstained silver platter, is patently ludicrous.

But the actual substance of General Bergner's charges -- involving an attack that occurred back in January -- matter little. Their importance lies in the way they advance the long, elaborate campaign to manipulate America into war with Iran. Little by little, Bush minions have been racheting up the charges of direct Iranian involvement in killing American soldiers in Iraq. It has mostly been a process of two steps forward, one step back. It usually works like this. A Pentagon man in Baghdad will announce findings of Iranian involvement in smuggling arms to Iraq, training militias, planning operations, providing intelligence, etc. Headlines will flare for a couple of days; then an Administration spokesman, often Pentagon honcho Bob Gates, will dial back a bit on the certainty of the original charges. A few weeks later, the cycle will be repeated, with the charges more detailed this time, coming closer to "proving" direct involvement of the Iranian government. Again, lurid headlines, followed by a slight demurral (usually buried in the inside pages). But each time, the line is moved a little closer toward a flagrant casus belli that will be able to inflame even a jaded, war-weary public.

We will probably see the same pattern this time around as well. Despite the bristling brass on his shoulders, Bergner is still fairly small fry. The certainty of his assertions can be moved back a peg or two without any bigwigs losing face. But meanwhile, we have these glaring headlines in the New York Times, bellwether of the corporate media, and a front-page report by the ever-reliable Michael Gordon -- former writing partner of Judy "Curveball" Miller -- uncritically relaying confessions extracted by "enhanced interrogation" into the public mind.

The next set of charges will move ever closer to the heart of Iran's government, and will probably deal with an even worse attack than the January incident cited by Bergner, in which five U.S. soldiers were killed. (Perhaps one of the many sectarian Iraqi militias now swimming in American guns and money will be helpful enough to supply such an incident -- after which a bit of "enhanced interrogation" can steer the story in the direction desired by the White House.)

Inexorably, remorselessly, the Bush Administration is moving toward its desired war with Iran, abetted, as before, by compliant corporate reporters, and by the entire Washington political establishment -- especially the Democrats, who not only have been even more bloodthirsty than the White House in their public rhetoric toward Iran, but have also done yeoman service in escalating war fever with their overwhelming support for a measure urging the U.N. to file genocide charges against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, based largely on a garbled translation of a single passage from a single speech.

So this is where we are now. The Democratic-led House has now officially declared that Iran is led by a genocidist like Hitler, the embodiment of human evil. The Pentagon is repeatedly charging that Hitler is now killing Americans in Iraq. The American Establishment has committed itself to this scenario. Only the American people are lagging somewhat behind -- but when push finally comes to shove, how many will oppose "defending our troops" against the aggression of the Persian "Hitler"?