The last time the U.S. rolled out sensitive intelligence about a potential foe's arsenal, Secretary of State Colin Powell went on live television to inform the world--incorrectly, it turned out--about Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction. That makes the Feb. 11 briefing by U.S. military officials in Baghdad--detailing Iran's alleged link to the carnage shredding U.S. troops in Iraq--all the odder. Cameras, recorders and cell phones were barred from the Green Zone session. Three U.S. officials anonymously made the case that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government have been directing the deployment of explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) and other weapons in Iraq. The EFPs, they said, have killed 170 U.S. troops since mid-2004.
The whole affair carried disquieting echoes of the march to war against Iraq. Once again, unnamed sources gave the essential details in advance to the New York Times. Tehran, predictably, denied the allegations. A Pentagon official likened it to "a brushback pitch" designed to highlight Iranian mischief without the drumbeat of war that would have reverberated throughout the country if a senior Administration official had pointed the finger.
The Pentagon vetted the briefing in Washington to ensure it was "absolutely accurate," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Feb. 2. But one day after the secretive PowerPoint presentation, U.S. Marine General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded he couldn't confirm that the Iranian government shipped the weapons to Iraq. So the bad news was that the briefing wasn't absolutely accurate. The good news: we found out before the invasion.