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U.S. 'evidence' about Iranian weapons falls apart

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    Reports by the U.S. command in Iraq over the past 15 months cited only a handful of Iranian weapons out of hundreds counted in caches found in Shiite areas.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2008
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      Reports by the U.S. command in Iraq over the past 15 months cited
      only a handful of Iranian weapons out of hundreds counted in caches
      found in Shiite areas.

      U.S. 'evidence' about Iranian weapons falls apart
      By Gareth Porter
      Updated Jun 3, 2008

      WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) - The U.S. military command in Iraq continues
      to talk about an alleged pipeline of Iranian weapons to Iraqi
      Shiites, implying that these opponents of the U.S. occupation have
      become dependent on Iran for indirect-fire weapons and rocket-
      propelled grenades.

      But U.S. officials have failed thus far to provide evidence that
      would support that claim, and a long-delayed U.S. military report on
      Iranian arms is unlikely to offer any data on what proportion of the
      weapons in the hands of Shiite fighters are from Iran and what
      proportion comes from purchases on the open market.

      When Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner was asked that question at a briefing
      May 8, he did not answer it directly. Instead Maj. Gen. Bergner
      reverted to a standard U.S. military line that these groups "could
      not do what they're doing without the support of foreign support."
      Then he defined "foreign support" to include training and funding as
      well as weapons, implicitly conceding that he did not have much of a
      case based on weapons alone.

      Maj. Gen. Bergner's refusal to address that question reflects a
      fundamental problem with the U.S. claims about Iranian weapons in
      Iraq: If there are indeed any Iranian rockets, mortars and rocket-
      propelled grenades in the Mahdi Army's arsenal of stand-off weapons,
      they represent an insignificant part of it.

      Reports by the U.S. command in Iraq over the past 15 months cited
      only a handful of Iranian weapons out of hundreds counted in caches
      found in Shiite areas. Nearly 700 mortars and rockets were reported
      by specific caliber size, along with a handful of rocket-propelled
      grenades, in nearly two dozen caches. Of that total, only four
      rockets were reported as being of Iranian origin, and another 15
      were listed as possibly being Iranian.

      Although those reports do not represent all the Mahdi Army caches
      found, they provide further evidence of the relative importance of
      Iranian rockets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades in the Mahdi
      Army arsenal. That is because U.S. military officials are so eager
      to publicize any discovery of an Iranian-made weapon system that
      they would exploit any opportunity available to do so.

      The U.S. command has gone so far as to claim that it had found "four
      Iranian hand grenades"—but they were in a cache of weapons found in
      an al-Qaeda area.

      Based on weapons caches discovered over the past 15 months, the
      Mahdi Army has relied overwhelmingly on four types of heavy weapons:
      60 mm and 120 mm mortars, 107 mm rockets, and 57 mm anti-tank

      Those are essentially the same mortars and rockets that have turned
      up in al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgent weapons caches, suggesting that
      both groups have obtained their heavier weapons from the
      international arms market. In fact, 60 mm and 120 mm mortars were
      used by Sunni guerrillas in the very early months of the war against
      U.S. occupation troops.

      A U.S. explosives expert, Maj. Marty Weber, confirmed in April 2007
      that most 107 mm rockets found in Iraq were Chinese-made. He claimed
      that Iran had repainted Chinese 60 mm and 107 mm rockets and sold
      them on the "open market."

      The U.S. military has refrained from making any charges against Iran
      over the 107 mm rockets found in Iraq, perhaps because it would
      support the conclusion that the Mahdi Army was buying weapons on the
      international market rather than obtaining them from the Iranian
      Revolutionary Guard Corps.

      U.S. officials tried to capitalize on the increased mortar and
      rocket attacks on the Green Zone and U.S. military headquarters last
      year to argue that they were the result of a rising tide of Iranian
      supply of such stand-off weapons—particularly 240 mm rockets—to what
      the U.S. command calls "special groups" of Shiite militiamen.

      One U.S. official, who insisted on being identified only as
      a "senior official," said in mid-September 2007 that rockets and
      mortars provided by Iran since the beginning of that year—and
      especially 240 mm rockets—were doing much greater damage because of
      their greater accuracy and power compared with the older Katyusha
      rockets—mostly from Iraqi stocks—that had been employed in attacking
      U.S. bases and the Green Zone in previous years.

      But evidence from the U.S. command itself contradicts that dramatic
      narrative of a bold, new Iranian intervention in the war. A press
      release from the Multi-National Force in Iraq dated June 1, 2007,
      reported that a cache of weapons had been found in an area from
      which Mahdi Army troops had fired rockets at the Green Zone. It did
      not claim any Iranian rockets or mortars in the cache of weapons.



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