Facts Never Got in the Way of a Good War

| Tue Jul. 18, 2006 2:47 PM EDT

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies cautions in a new paper that "[a]nalysts and reporters need to be careful to stick to the facts in covering Iran's role in the current fighting" in the Middle East. He notes that "a number of sources -- including Israeli officials and officers" [to which company he might have added our very own U.S. hawks of the Bill Kristol-James Woolsey type] have inflated "suspicions and limited facts into full-blown conspiracies" to justify attacking Iran.

So what are the facts? They include the following:

  • U.S. intelligence has not seen evidence that Iran dominated or controlled Hezbollah, but it has long seen Iran as a major source of money, weapons, and military training (though the last seems to have dropped off in recent years)
  • Syria too plays a role and there seem to be regular meetings between Iranian, Syrian, and Hezbollah leaders
  • Hezbollah appears to use Iran and Syria as much as it is used by them
  • Reports that Iran provides Hezbollah with several hundred million dollars worth of aid a year are "sharply exaggerated guesstimates," though Iran almost certainly does provide financial aid and goods and military services worth some $25-50 million
  • Iran has transferred massive numbers of rockets to Hezbollah to give them a capability to attack Israel
  • Most experts speculate that Iran has given Hezbollah anywhere from 20-120 long-range rockets that are likely beyond the capability of the Hezbollah to operate without Iranian support in the field
  • So: possibly no direct Iranian involvement in this particular campaign. I'm not optimistic the above will do much to inhibit Israeli hawks (or the war-crazed Kristols and Woolseys of the world) who are baying for Iranian blood. One has to hope that the patent insanity of attacking Iran will suffice for cooler, saner heads to prevail.

    Cordesman concludes:

    "...Iran has been supplying rockets and UAVs for years. There is no evidence that it dominates the Hezbollah or has more control than Syria, and the fact its ties to Hezbollah are so well known creates more problems for Iran in European eyes, and raises more risk of Israeli strikes or U.S. strikes in the future.

    Until there are hard facts, Iran's role in all of this is a matter of speculation, and conspiracy theories are not facts or news.

    And nobody ever built a case for war in the absence of hard facts...