Military Ties Iran To Arms In Iraq
Monday, February 12, 2007
BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 -- Senior U.S. military officials in Iraq sought Sunday to link Iran to deadly armor-piercing explosives and other weapons that they said are being used to kill U.S. and Iraqi troops with increasing regularity.
During a long-awaited presentation, held in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, the officials displayed mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and a powerful cylindrical bomb, capable of blasting through an armored Humvee, that they said were manufactured in Iran and supplied to Shiite militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops.
"Iran is a significant contributor to attacks on coalition forces, and also supports violence against the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people," said a senior defense official, who was joined by a defense analyst and an explosives expert, both also from the military.
The officials said they would speak only on the condition of anonymity, so the explosives expert and the analyst, who would normally not speak to the news media, could provide information directly. The analyst's exact title and full name were not revealed to reporters. The officials released a PowerPoint presentation including photographs of the weaponry, but did not allow media representatives to record, photograph or videotape the briefing or the materials on display.
An official at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad called the U.S. accusations "fabricated" and "baseless."
"We deny such charges. We ask those who are claiming such evidence: Show the documents in public," said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. "We cannot compensate for the American failure and fiasco in Iraq. . . . It is not our policy to be involved in any hostile operations against coalition forces here."
The U.S. officials said weapons were smuggled into the country by the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that U.S. officials believe is under the control of Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The officials in Baghdad said that Iranians recently detained in Iraq by U.S. forces belong to the Quds Force.
With so much official U.S. buildup about the purported evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq, the briefing was also notable for what was not said or shown. The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops. Also, the military briefers were not joined by U.S. diplomats or representatives of the CIA or the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Although the administration has made many assertions about Iran's nuclear program, its role in Iraq and its ties to groups on the State Department's terrorism list, the U.S. government has never publicly offered evidence proving the allegations. The briefing was the first time during the Bush administration that officials had sought to make a public intelligence case against Iran.
Iraq's deputy foreign minister, Labeed M. Abbawi, said in an interview Sunday that the Iraqi government remains in the dark about the full U.S. investigation into Iranian activities in Iraq. "It is difficult for us here in the diplomatic circles just to accept whatever the American forces say is evidence," he said.
"If they have anything really conclusive, then they should come out and say it openly, then we will pick it up from there and use diplomatic channels" to discuss it with Iran, he said. "The method or the way it's being done should be changed, to have more cooperation with us."
U.S. military officials in Iraq had previously described the use of "explosively shaped charges" to target vehicles, but Sunday's briefing was the first time they displayed pieces of what they called an "explosively formed penetrator" or EFP.