Torture, Lies and Videotape
Iranian Jalal Sharafi is described by Iran as a 'diplomat' and second secretary for the Iranian embassy in Baghdad but, as reported by the New York Sun's Eli Lake, "is believed by American military intelligence also to be a member of the lethal Quds Force, the terrorist-supporting organization whose members have been fair game for American soldiers and Iraqi allies since a change in the rules of engagement was issued in December."
Sharafi was released just ahead of Iran's release of the 15 British sailors and Marines and (via AP) today's Washington Post headline blares: Iranian Diplomat Alleges CIA Torture. Just what sort of interrogation the suspected IRGC Quds Force operative was subjected to and by whom is quite unclear. However, his - and Iranian leadership's - claims fail to hold up to the test of logic.
[Iranian] State television said signs of torture were still visible on Sharafi, who is being treated at an Iranian hospital. Images of Sharafi were not shown.
This claim is almost certainly bunk for several reasons.
Foremost among them is the need to believe inverted logic from an Iranian regime eager to use international imagery. Publicly aired imagery was employed with regard to the British hostages in order to gain a perceived PR boost at home and in the region (as well as an attempt to put a finger in the West's eye). Conjured 'confessions' that no one in the world truly believed genuine were repeatedly released and aired for the purpose of fronting 'proof' that the Iranian captors were not only in the right, but being wrongly portrayed as the aggressor rather than protectors of territorial sovereignty.
Yet suddenly, the regime refuses to air images of what would certainly be seen as proof to their claims of torture at the hands of Americans. Not even the release of images of bruises to Sharafi that they themselves could inflict for this purpose. Any release of such images now, after the non-release, should be seen as just that: Regime-inflicted wounds 'still visible' for propaganda purposes.
Consider also: Of all of the people that could have been released, why would one be chosen who would exhibit 'signs of torture still visible'? The entire claim defies logic. Bunk.
But we should thank the Associated Press for carrying the regime's water and publishing and thus forwarding their claims without an ounce of analytical review. All that was offered was a line that the United States "denied involvement in the Iranian's disappearance or release," and a solitary quote from the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Baghdad, Lou Fintor, saying, "As we have said repeatedly, we were not involved in the abduction, detention or release of this individual."
It is up to us to analyze properly. Unfortunately, our readership is in the thousands, not the millions and millions this AP story will reach.
UPDATE: Since this post published, the headline at the Washington Post has changed to read "U.S. Denies Iranian Claim of CIA Torture." The Associated Press has also added three paragraphs to the body.
"The United States had nothing to do with Mr. Sharafi's detention and we welcome his return to Iran," said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman who was with President Bush in Texas on Saturday.
"The Iranian propaganda machine has been in overdrive since they paraded the British sailors around on TV. This is just the latest theatrics of a government trying to deflect attention away from its own unacceptable actions," Johndroe added.
A U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the CIA vehemently denies any role in the capture or release of Sharafi. The official dismissed any claims of torture, saying "the CIA does not conduct or condone torture."
The lengthy Iranian account remains in full.
It is unfortunate that the Associated Press and, by extension, the thousands of media outlets who subscribe to their wire services, decided to run the story initially without any rebuttal whatsoever. Shoddy and irresponsible editing in our media is more dangerous in the Long War than explosives in the hands of terrorists.