Reporting on allegations by anonymous U.S. military officials that Iran is supplying explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to Shiite fighters in Iraq, neither CBS' David Martin nor Fox News' Bret Baier mentioned that Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has reportedly said that he has seen no evidence directly linking the Iranian government to the EFPs in Iraq.
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Reporting on Iran's alleged ties to the supply of explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) used against U.S. soldiers in Iraq on the February 12 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, national security correspondent David Martin uncritically reported what he said was CBS News consultant Reza Aslan's belief that "supplying the devices is Iran's way of saying, 'If you want us to stop, let's talk.' " Similarly, Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier reported on the February 12 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume that some have asked if "the weapons are coming into Iraq with the approval of the Iranian government." Neither Martin nor Baier told viewers that Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has reportedly said he has seen no evidence directly linking the Iranian government to the supply of EFPs.
A February 12 McClatchy Newspapers article reported that Pace said "he hasn't seen any intelligence to support the claim" that "Iran's government [is] shipping powerful explosive devices to Shiite Muslim fighters in Iraq to use against American troops." Also, according to a February 12 Washington Post report, the U.S. military's briefing that sought to link Iran to EFPs in Iraq was "notable for what was not said or shown," adding that the military officials who briefed reporters "offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the 'highest levels' of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops." The Post article also noted that "the military briefers were not joined by U.S. diplomats or representatives of the CIA or the office of the Director of National Intelligence."
The only criticism of the administration's briefing that Special Report aired -- aside from that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- came from Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who said: "I'm getting uneasy that they're trying to create a premise, set a premise for some future broader military action in Iran." The report also included comments from President Bush and White House press secretary Tony Snow characterizing opposition to the U.S. military's briefing as merely "political." Baier did not report Pace's comments despite noting that "Snow was asked directly if the administration is confident the weapons are coming into Iraq with the approval of the Iranian government."
From the February 12 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:
MARTIN: These specially shaped charges have triggered an increasingly high-stakes standoff between the U.S. and Iran. Today, Iran denied accusations by U.S. officials in Baghdad that these deadly devices were manufactured inside Iran. A State Department spokesman responded with some decidedly undiplomatic language.
SEAN McCORMACK (State Department spokesman): The Iranians are up to their eyeballs in this activity.
MARTIN: The diabolic genius of the device, which has killed 170 coalition soldiers so far, is the concave lid. When a vehicle triggers an infrared motion detector, the explosive charge propels the lid, which changes shape in flight into a molten slug able to penetrate the thickest armor. It is a sophisticated killing device, which makes a cruel mockery of the term U.S. officials first used to describe roadside bombs -- improvised explosive device, IED for short.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just one by itself is enough to cause catastrophic damage. They're the most lethal form of IED that we've encountered here in Iraq so far.
MARTIN: Iranian expert and CBS News consultant Reza Aslan has no doubt it comes from Iran, and no doubt Iran is capable of much worse.
ASLAN: If Iran truly wanted to see Iraq become a failed state, it could unleash a level of violence in that country unlike anything the United States has seen before.
MARTIN: Aslan thinks supplying the devices is Iran's way of saying, "If you want us to stop, let's talk." Despite rumors of war heightened by sending a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Aslan says chances of a diplomatic solution are not dead.
ASLAN: The great irony of all this is that this ratcheting-up of the militant rhetoric from the United States may actually lead to an opening of negotiations.
MARTIN: But officials say one of the arguments against holding talks with Iran is that with the war in Iraq going badly, the U.S. would be negotiating from a position of weakness, Katie.
COURIC: David Martin at the Pentagon tonight.
From the February 12 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
BAIER: In an interview with CSPAN, a day after senior military officials in Baghdad laid out what they called firm evidence of Iran shipping explosives into Iraq, President Bush shrugged off suggestions that the presentation is a prelude to war.
BUSH: I guess my reaction to all the noise about, you know, "He wants to go to war," is -- first of all, I don't understand the tactics, and I guess I would say it's political.
BAIER: The president was asked what he would say to lawmakers calling for specifics on how he'll deal with all the problems Iran is causing.
BUSH: I say we've got a comprehensive policy, aimed to solve this peacefully.
BAIER: This after a detailed briefing in Baghdad Sunday, where senior military officials said highly sophisticated weapons, known as "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs, can be directly tied to Tehran from serial numbers and markings found on the roadside bombs. Senior officials said these EFPs have killed more than 170 U.S. and coalition troops by penetrating even the newest armored vehicles, sending hot, molten metal through Humvees.
The official said the supply trail of the EFPs, Iranian-made mortar shells, and rocket-propelled grenades began with Iran's revolutionary guard's Quds force in Tehran, and led directly to Shiite militias like the Mahdi Army, loyal to radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
White House officials stood firmly behind the report.
SNOW: You cannot deny that these weapons exist. You cannot deny that there is presently no manufacturing capability within Iraq able to produce those kinds of weapons.
BAIER: Snow was asked directly if the administration is confident the weapons are coming into Iraq with the approval of the Iranian government.
SNOW: There's not a whole lot of freelancing in the Iranian government, especially when it comes to something like that.
BAIER: While Iranian officials Monday strongly denied sending explosives into Iraq and accused the U.S. of fabricating evidence, in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly danced around the question.
AHMADINEJAD: We are asking for peace. We are asking for security, and we will be sad to see people get killed, no matter who they are.
SAWYER: Would you like to see the pictures? Because they say they have the serial numbers and they are from Iran. It's a fact, they say.
AHMADINEJAD: We don't need such things. The U.S. administration and Bush are used to accusing others. We are opposed to any kind of conflict in Iraq.
BAIER: Sunday, top Democrats expressed their own doubts about the administration's charges.
DODD: This administration has tried, in the past, to sort of doctor the numbers, to cook the books to serve their policy goals. We've seen that in the Iraq conflict. I'm getting uneasy that they're trying to create a premise, set a premise for some future broader military action in Iran.
BAIER: Which prompted a firm response from the White House.
SNOW: These guys are trying to create an issue maybe for their own political fortunes, and they need to stop it. This is clearly a case where people are hyping something up. I don't know how much clearer we can be. We're not getting ready for war in Iran, but what we are doing is, we're protecting our own people.
BAIER: Meantime, on the nuclear front, European Union leaders today agreed to implement United Nations sanctions on Iran for not suspending its uranium enrichment, but those same EU leaders said that Iran is now, quote, "showing new ambition to negotiate." Bush administration official reaction: We'll see. Brit.