PRESIDENT BUSH HAS now definitively stated that bombs known as explosively formed penetrators — EFPs, which have proved especially deadly for U.S. troops in Iraq — are made in Iran and exported to Iraq. But in November, U.S. troops raiding a Baghdad machine shop came across a pile of copper disks, 5 inches in diameter, stamped out as part of what was clearly an ongoing order. This ominous discovery, unreported until now, makes it clear that Iraqi insurgents have no need to rely on Iran as the source of EFPs.So it appears that the skepticism about whether Iran has been supplying EFPs to the insurgents in Iraq is quite reasonable. Notice that the administration has provided no hard evidence, and when asked for evidence has been backing off the claims that the leadership of Iran is providing weapons to the insurgents.
The truth is that EFPs are simple to make for anyone who knows how to do it. Far from a sophisticated assembly operation that might require state supervision, all that is required is one of those disks, some high-powered explosive (which is easy to procure in Iraq) and a container, such as a piece of pipe. I asked a Pentagon analyst specializing in such devices how much each one would cost to make. "Twenty bucks," he answered after a brief calculation. "Thirty at most."
EFPs work by using explosives to compress, melt and shoot a metal projectile — formed from those disks, molded in a concave shape — in a particular direction. They are feared above all else by troops in Iraq because not only can they punch a hole through the armor of an M-1 tank, they are small and light, and thus far easier to carry and plant undetected than the traditional Iraqi improvised explosive device, which is often made from hefty artillery shells.
"You can do as much or more damage with a 5-pound EFP, which is aimed, as with a 200-pound conventional IED, where most of the energy is dissipated away from the target," the Pentagon analyst said. The U.S. has (belatedly) responded to the IED threat by "up-armoring" Humvees and other vulnerable vehicles, but EFPs can cleave through the very thickest armor "like butter," as one Iraq veteran told me.
The fact that the Iranians are Shiite and the insurgents in Iraq are predominantly Sunni and real enemies of the Iraqi Shiites has been a real stumbling block for the Bush administration's allegations. Now we get credible evidence that any reliable machinist can build one, their allegations fall to pieces.
I rather enjoy the fact that this news report supports my allegation yesterday that the EFP's can be made by relatively non-sophisticated machine shops in a variety of nations. Apparently, in fact, I was too conservative in my estimate.
Clearly once again the President's statements are not reliable enough to go to war over. Is anyone really surprised that the ignorant fool inhabiting his information-free bubble within the White House continues to parrot talking points the support the NeoCon fantasies that American is great because of its military power?
[H/T to Kevin Drum.]