“We’re not talking about a smoking pistol. There is no doubt this is Iranian,” Jeffrey said in an interview.
“We’re seeing more lethal weapons, more accurate weapons, more longer-range weapons,” Jeffrey added. “And we’re seeing more sophisticated mobile and other deployment options, and we’re seeing better-trained people.”
In some cases, insurgents made no effort to remove from the weapons identification numbers suggesting that they came from Iran, “which in itself is troubling,” Jeffrey said.
In recent weeks, Jeffrey and U.S. military officials have blamed three Shiite militia groups — the Promised Day Brigade, Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah — for a wave of violence that resulted in the bloodiest month for U.S. forces here in two years. The groups have been trained and supplied by Iranian Revolutionary Guard special forces, and Iranian special agents have crossed into Iraq to provide some of the training and materials, officials said.
Jeffrey provided details of the forensic testing after Gen. Lloyd Austin, commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, declined to do so earlier in the day.
In a brief exchange, Austin said only that the weapons “are coming in from Iran, we’re certain of that.”
Jeffrey and Austin traveled Tuesday to the southern port city of Basra for the opening of a new U.S. consulate intended to serve Iraq’s nine southern provinces. The consulate, housed in dozens of trailers behind thick blast walls, is scheduled to relocate to a more permanent structure in September, officials said.
U.S. officials have previously accused Iran of supplying weapons and training to Iraqi insurgents, although details have been scant. In a 2009 report on global terrorism, the State Department accused Iran of providing Iraqi militant groups with “advanced rockets, sniper rifles, automatic weapons and mortars” for use against coalition forces. The report also accused Iran of increasingly the lethality of the roadside bombs, or IEDs, that militants were using to blow up U.S. military vehicles.
Iranian groups “provided training both inside and outside of Iran for Iraqi militants in the construction and use of IED technology and other advance weaponry,” the document said. Separately, the Justice Department in 2008 indicted a group of Iranian businessmen in the purchase of sophisticated electric circuits and other hardware that were later used to make roadside bombs in Iraq.
Perhaps the most specific evidence until now of direct Iranian support for attacks on U.S. troops came in May 2009 after the discovery of a cache of weapons in a riverbank in Iraq’s eastern Maysan province, a majority-Shiite enclave that borders Iran. The cache included 150 copper plates that had been professionally milled for use in a particularly deadly type of device known as “explosively formed projectile” bombs. The cache also included sophisticated launching rails for rockets that are designed to increase range and accuracy. It was later linked to an Iraqi militia that U.S. officials say is trained and equipped by Iran.