IS THE MARKETING campaign against Iran begun? Here was the deputy director of operations for the joint chiefs of staff at the Pentagon yesterday:

The Iranian government is training and equipping much of the Shiite insurgency in Iraq, a senior U.S. general said Wednesday, drawing one of the most direct links by the Pentagon. …

Brig. Gen. Michael Barbero …said it is a “policy of the central government in Iran” to destabilize Iraq and increase the violence there.

“I think it’s irrefutable that Iran is responsible for training, funding and equipping some of these (Shiite) extremist groups and also providing advanced IED technology to them,” Barbero said. “IED” refers to the improvised explosive devices _ roadside bombs _ that have caused much death and destruction in Iraq.

The AP report goes on to note, “Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other U.S. military leaders have talked about Iran’s funding of the insurgency, but generally have been reluctant to directly blame the Tehran government.” And here was the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s new report, Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat (.pdf), released yesterday:

? Iran has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, and despite its claims to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons…

? Iran likely has an offensive chemical weapons research and development capability.

? Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program.

? Iran has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. The U.S. Intelligence Community has raised the concern that Tehran may integrate nuclear weapons into its ballistic missiles.

? Iran provides funding, training, weapons, rockets, and other material support to terrorist groups in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and elsewhere.

? Elements of the Iranian national security apparatus are actively supporting the insurgency in Iraq.

All released one day after Iran’s response of “unconditional talks” to the P5+1 demand that it suspend uranium enrichment before coming to the table. Is the timing of these statements and reports coincidental? Is it coordinated? And if so, by whom?

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