Finally, some clarity.
The New York Times provides the history of U.S. concern over Iran's role in Iraq, reporting that in July, 2005, the U.S. sent a diplomatic protest to Iran over the use of allegedly Iranian-made explosives (EFPs) being used against coalition troops in Iraq by Shiite groups.
Somehow these concerns culminated in the U.S. military's infamous, anonymous EFP press briefing in mid-February.
It was a long road. But let's focus in on one thing. It's always been a credible allegation that Iran would in some fashion be supplying its Shiite proxies in the civil war, but let's set that aside. That's not the allegation that the U.S. made in that briefing and immediately thereafter. Rather, the administration clearly made a choice to focus on the evidence that Iranian manufactured weapons were being used in Iraq and stay silent on the crucial detail of who they were being used by. The briefing referred to Iranian support of generic "extremists," without specifying Sunni or Shiite.
The reason for this choice was clear: the vast majority of U.S. casualties come at the hands of Sunni insurgents, not Shiite. But suddenly Iran was elevated to being the major enemy there. Soon senior State Department officials were claiming that Iran is "the most disruptive, negative force in the Middle East." Move over, Al Qaeda.
But it's clear from the Times' piece that there was never any ambiguity -- on the part of the U.S. military, at least -- as to whom Iran might be supplying with weapons.
And that briefing? It wasn't for the purpose of galvanizing public support for a war against Iran, no. It was merely a tactical decision:
...in Baghdad, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then the top American commander, approved plans to brief the news media on the E.F.P. issue â a reversal for military officials, who had been reluctant to highlight the effectiveness of the weapons for fear of encouraging their use.
âOur intelligence analysts advised our leaders that the historical Quds Force pattern is to pull back when their operations are exposed, so MNF-I leadership decided to expose their operations to save American lives,â said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for Multinational Forces-Iraq, as the American-led command is known.
I guess we all just overreacted then?
Update: And while we're at it, it's worth mentioning again that the claim that Iran is the only possible supplier for EFPs in Iraq has been debunked.