Canadian defence minister Peter MacKay's accusation that Iran is engaged in supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan should not be viewed as anything short of the Harper government's approval of the Cheney effort to commence an attack on Iran.
First, as pointed out previously, MacKay provided no evidence whatsoever to support his claim. Not one bit. If he has it, get it out for everyone to see, because what he has now perpetrated is to put Canadian troops at higher risk by leveling unfounded accusations.
But that's just the start. Clearly the Bush administration, having failed to salt the media with stories suggesting that the government of Iran was involved with providing both the Taliban and al-Qaeda with weapons, have decided engage in a different play: employing "Canada the Good" as an organ supporting Cheney's unfounded claims.
If MacKay repeats his assertions, how long do you think it will be before we hear Cheney uttering something along the line of, "Canada has evidence that Iran is deliberately supplying arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan."? A la the Bush administration's reliance on the September Dossier from which this claim was made: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
MacKay, however, has a problem. The claim he is making has already been neatly set aside.
A media campaign portraying Iran as supplying arms to the Taliban fighting US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, orchestrated by advocates in the US administration of a more confrontational stance toward Iran, appears to have backfired. Last week, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeil, issued unusually strong denials.That was the commander of NATO speaking, supported by the US Secretary of Defense in June of this year. In short, their intelligence doesn't support the assertions made by Cheney... at all. And they put a lie to MacKay's echoing of the Cheney effort.
Both Gates and McNeil denied flatly last week that there was any evidence linking Iranian authorities to those arms. Gates told a press conference on June 4, "We do not have any information about whether the government of Iran is supporting this, is behind it, or whether it's smuggling, or exactly what is behind it." Gates said "some" of the arms in question might be going to Afghan drug smugglers.
McNeil implied that the arms trafficking from Iran is being carried out by private interests. "When you say weapons being provided by Iran, that would suggest there is some more formal entity involved in getting these weapons here," he told Jim Loney of Reuters on June 5. "That's not my view at all."
There may indeed be Iranian-manufactured arms crossing the border into Afghanistan. That, however, is not evidence of Iranian government involvement. In fact, as the commander of NATO and US SecDef stated, it is likely the result of private interests doing business, probably with the drug lords of Afghanistan.
If MacKay's claim is based on the origin of manufacture he now has a serious problem. Afghanistan is littered with unexploded ordnance, from landmines to mortars to artillery rounds, most of it left over from the days of the Soviet occupation. That means that Russia has provided a legacy of plentiful and easily accessible explosives, very little of which has been cleaned up. (Scroll down)
The Russians, who waged a bitter war for control of the country in 1980s, knew the strategic importance of the hill. So did subsequent warring factions in the 1990s. That's why they littered the mountain slopes with thousands of mines and other explosive devices.That report was submitted less than three months ago, from an area of Afghanistan which is relatively peaceful. There are other areas which are considered so dangerous that de-mining has not even started and provide a ready supply of land mines. The fact remains that Afghanistan is one the most heavily mined countries in the world.
The international community has spent considerable time trying to clean the area, and by late this month, TV Hill -- aptly named after the cluster of antennas on top -- should finally be free of mines.
Then there is the stuff coming in from other manufacturers and other countries. MacKay, in leveling an unfounded accusation against Iran actually has more evidence to make the same accusation against China. Most explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams are encountering not Iranian, but Chinese ordnance - some of it new. An example of a successful EOD intervention in November discovered Chinese-made 82mm mortars wired up with an unexploded US recoilless rifle round .
Upon arrival, Tech. Sgt. Michael Laskowski, 31, initially found a bomb placed underneath a footbridge in front of the school.(We'll get to the batteries shortly. There is a "shortage" in Afghanistan yet the Taliban has no problem finding enough to make IEDs.)
Its was made up of two Chinese-made 82 mm mortars, a two-foot-long recoilless rifle round and a pound of explosives material placed in a bag — all of it wired up to batteries.
Further evidence of Chinese munitions being used comes from as far back as 2005 when John Martinkus and Stephen Dupont accompanied US forces.
SOLDIER: We're gonna head up the road. We're gonna find out... We put a patrol out here.Did MacKay utter one word about China?
This is the place where the insurgents had been spotted and where local police have arrested a man who had unusual homemade bomb orIED.
REPORTER: So he was caught with an IED, yeah?
SOLDIER: Oh, yes, he was caught with an IED. We're gonna bring some EOD guys down and see what it's made out of and see if it was used in other further attacks or past attacks and see what kind of stuff we are working with because it was supposedly brought over from Pakistan.
CHRISTOPHER HAGAN: So it's the first... I've seen 0.82 mortar rounds, they're everywhere around here but I've never seen one used like an IED . And this one, it looks like it's a brand-new mortar round, probably from China so it's showing they are using fresh explosives that they probably carried over from somewhere.
No. Not one word. Yet China is obviously selling weapons and ordnance to somebody and it's ending up in the hands of the Taliban. I guess it's OK with MacKay if somebody falsifies a Chinese End-User Certificate.While MacKay expressed concern about Pakistan being a source for ordnance, he sloughed it off when he emphasized Iran. Unfortunately, Pakistan is perhaps the clearest and best known perpetrator and little, if anything, is being done to control the flow of weapons. It is Pakistan which features most prominently in destabilizing Afghanistan.
Reports have been received that the Taliban have received fresh battery packs for the Stinger missiles they possess, dating from the times when the US armed the mujahideen against the Soviets. Pakistani security forces are alleged to have supplied the batteries.Oh, those batteries again. They are, whether the casual observer recognizes it or not, key to a good number of the IEDs deployed by the Taliban. Short of a contact explosive, batteries are needed to activate the detonator on most bombs. The shortage is being made up by supplies coming from Pakistan; not Iran. And there is another source of supply.
Most people have probably never heard of the BA 5590. It's the most common military battery used by US and allied forces. When it's being used in the field and runs low the operator of whatever device is being used changes the battery for a fresh one and simply discards the old one. They're not rechargeable, so they're simply dumped. The operator's load is lightened and the the dead battery is simply left in the dirt.
The "5590" may appear dead to a radio operator but it has enough power left in it to detonate an IED. Want to guess which battery EOD teams are finding hooked up to IEDs?
Right. Apparently dead BA 5590s.
I didn't hear MacKay criticizing the US military for failure to police their battery changes and secure their garbage dumps in Afghanistan. Is it possible he doesn't know about that little problem? Perhaps he should speak to a few members of EOD teams returned from Afghanistan. I have.
So, MacKay, you still haven't provided any evidence for your claim. You haven't accused China, but there is Chinese ordnance in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been a virtual cornucopia of weapons for the Taliban but you went light on them.
And while were here, you might want to check with the government you so adamantly tell us you support before shooting from the lip. Apparently, Afghanistan doesn't agree with you.
Omar Samad, the top Afghan diplomat in Canada, told CTV Newsnet on Wednesday that there is no evidence about where the IEDs actually originated and who brought them to Afghanistan.Gee. Isn't that special. It seems the US ambassador got the Cheney message out through MacKay, but Afghanistan wasn't permitted to know what it was... in their own country.
"Iran is a neighbor and we have good relations," he said. "The point is -- and the questions that have to be answered (and) are being looked at as far as who is involved in this. Is this a smuggling issue? Is this a policy issue by some government? Is this maybe an attempt by arms dealers to bring arms from a certain source?"