WHETHER the evidence of Iranian military assistance to Shiite militias in Iraq is genuine - or not - it so far does not justify an American attack on Iran.
Even though President Bush yesterday denied he is using the weapons as a pretext for action against Iran, the administration is pursuing a shaky line of reasoning, one we've heard before.
U.S. intelligence sources in Iraq on Sunday showed reporters weapons that they say were found in Iraq but originated in Iran. These include Explosively Formed Projectiles, called EFPs, which the anonymous U.S. intelligence sources say were responsible for the deaths of more than 170 U.S. troops in Iraq over the past three years.
"I'm going to do something about it," Mr. Bush declared, but did not say what. This is more of the official sophistry that was enshrined in U.S. conduct of the Vietnam War - in the face of loss, expand the war. Or, pursuing another administration objective, if the situation in Iraq is embarrassing in terms of President Bush's legacy, as well as potential Republican vote-getting in the 2008 election, distract attention by attacking Iran.
The trouble for the administration is, simply, that the American people aren't buying it. There might even be some hope that the so-far feckless Congress, even though it is possessed of a Democratic majority at the moment, won't buy any of this non-logic either.
A simple observation: If U.S. troops weren't in Iraq, or were in the process of withdrawing, neither the Iranians, the Iraqis, nor anyone else, would be attacking them there.
Moreover, there is no reason for the American people to accept U.S. "intelligence" of this sort, no matter how good its originators claim it to be, given the lies perpetrated in advance of the Iraq war. U.S. intelligence in support of a war is, at this time, not credible.
There have been many examples across the years of countries providing insurgents weapons without provoking a military response from the victim of such actions. In the Korean war, for example, the North Koreans were entirely dependent on China and the Soviet Union for all of their weapons; the United States never attacked China or the Soviet Union in response.
Working from the same sort of false logic, the Soviet Union would have been justified in attacking the United States and Pakistan as a sanctuary in the 1980s when it was being peppered by the U.S.-armed mujahideen from Pakistan in Afghanistan.
The bottom line is that, even if Iran is supplying Shiite militias in Iraq, it's not a logical reason for a U.S. attack on Iran. In addition, it is the United States that installed the Shiites in power in Iraq in any case. If it is their militia who are attacking U.S. forces, using Iranian-supplied weapons, the administration needs only to recall who put the Shiites in power.
Finally, the arms situation in the Middle East is such that anyone can buy almost anything anywhere, for cash. A claim that Shiite militia are using weapons of Iranian origin does not mean that the government of Iran provided them.
It is difficult to imagine that U.S. intelligence services have nothing better to do than try, once again, to cook up fictitious arguments for the United States to go to war with one more country.
At the same time, that appears to be exactly what the Bush Administration has them doing.