Forged Ballots Seizure Story
The New York Times reports on what may be a plot by the Iranian government to influence the outcome of the Iraqi election:
Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said. The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border. The official, who did not attend the interrogation, said he did not know where the driver was headed, or what he intended to do with the ballots.
The seizure of the truck comes at a delicate time in Iran’s relations with both Iraq and the United States. The American government has said Iranian agents are deeply involved in trying to influence events in Iraq, by funneling money to Shiite political parties and by arming and training many of the illegal militias that are bedeviling the country. Agents of the Iranian government are believed to be supporting the two main Shiite political parties here – the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Party -with money and other assistance. Both parties support a strong role for Islam in the Iraqi state; however, compared with the Iranian government itself, which is a strict theocracy, the Iraqi version is relatively moderate.
A Reuters report, though, questions this:
The head of Iraq’s border guards denied police reports on Wednesday that a tanker truck stuffed with thousands of forged ballot papers had been seized crossing into Iraq from Iran before Thursday’s elections. “This is all a lie,” said Lieutenant General Ahmed al-Khafaji, the chief of the U.S.-trained force which has responsibility for all Iraq’s borders. “I heard this yesterday and I checked all the border crossings right away. The borders are all closed anyway,” he told Reuters.
Ed Morrissey thinks the fact that the borders are closed makes it a slam dunk that the NYT report is wrong. Of course, the U.S. border with Mexico is technically “closed,” too. Bob Owens likewise takes the denial at face value.
It’s not inconceivable that al-Khafaji is lying. One would think, though, reports of his men doing their job quite superbly would reflect well on him, so his motivation for lying in this case is hard to fathom.
The fact that the NYT based its story on a single, unnamed source is the real problem here. There should certainly be a lot more caveats in the piece if that’s all they had backing it up.
Update: The plot thickens, as CNN provides a more concrete source for the report under the headline “Truck with allegedly fake ballots detained.”
With the country’s parliamentary elections slated for Thursday and early voting already under way, a truck carrying what are believed to be fake ballots was detained in the Iraqi border province of Wasit, the U.S. military said Tuesday. U.S. investigators were being sent to examine the ballots in Wasit, located on the Iranian border southeast of Baghdad. The truck’s driver was Iranian, as was the truck’s license plate, said an Iraqi Interior Ministry source. Authorities are investigating reports that other vehicles with possible fake ballots have been trying to cross the border into Iraq. [emphasis added]
Granting that “the U.S. military” is rather vague, we at least have two sources.