Concerning Iranian Weapons in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
16 years ago

Kazakhstani Soldiers received 14 Iranian 107 mm rockets and fuses at Forward Operating Base Delta, Dec. 4, from the Iraqi civil defense corps. The rockets, manufactured in 2006, were the first Iranian rockets to be turned over to coalition forces at FOB Delta (courtesy of DVIDS).

Michael Rubin’s Bad Neighbor is required reading for anyone presuming to speak intelligently on the issue of Iranian weapons in Iraq.  He gives a first hand account of Iranian meddling in Iraq in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  This is well known to those who have studied Iraq, and contrary to the latecomers to the Iraq news cycle, the burden of proof should be on those who claim that Iran is not sponsoring fighters inside Iraq.

But some of the latecomers to the issue of Iranian meddling (mostly the main stream media) are in a dustup over some recent reporting concerning the same.  We’ll give a very quick synopsis and link the sources so that the reader can assess the whole narrative for himself.  Tina Susman reporting and blogging for the LA Times made some comments on a press briefing by Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner to the effect that it was odd that speaking of seizing a significant weapons cache in Karbala, he didn’t mention any of the weapons as being Iranian.

A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.  When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.

Caught red handed, they were, assuming that all weapons must certainly be Iranian, ready to trot out more “evidence” until it was correctly examined.  A little later, MSNBC (Keith Olbermann) used this post as a source to level a number of charges at the Multinational Force (this was the big day … none of these weapons were Iranian … “you do realize, they are making all of this up about Iran” … and so on).

Well, Tina didn’t like this very much, and responded with a few slaps of her own at Olbermann.

This should set the record straight for those who have no plans to read the blog item or view the MSNBC report: the Los Angeles Times did not report that Bergner’s May 7 briefing was supposed to be “the big day” that the American military showed off the Iranian weapons it has long said are being smuggled into Iraq. The Times did not report that Bergner had told us this briefing was going to be a “dog and pony show” offering conclusive evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq’s unrest.

As reported by us, this was just another of the regular briefings that Bergner and other U.S. military and Iraqi officials hold for the Iraqi and international media.  

The Times also did not report that U.S. officials had re-examined the caches listed by Bergner and found none of them to contain Iranian-made or Iranian-supplied items. We stated that one group of munitions — not necessarily among those cited by Bergner — had been scheduled for viewing by some media during an event in Karbala arranged by the Iraqi military. But U.S. explosives experts, taking a closer look at the items, concluded they did not include Iranian items.

This event had nothing to do with Bergner’s briefing. In fact, that Karbala cache detonation occurred May 3, four days before Bergner’s briefing, so the items he cited could not have been the same ones scheduled to be shown to the media since they already had been destroyed …

As for the alleged Iranian weapons themselves, there’s still no plan to show them off, even though both U.S. and Iraqi officials insist they have not backed off their allegations. The Iraqi government, though, has clearly decided it is better to tread softly when confronting its powerful eastern neighbor on such an inflammatory issue. As Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s advisor, Sadiq Rikabi, said recently, Iraq is the weakest member in the Iran-U.S.-Iraq party. Even if Tehran and Washington want to level accusations at one another, Iraq needs to get along with each of them and prefers quiet talks to public feuding.

Maj. Gen. Bergner’s most recent comments should also be noted, lest we fall into the trap of thinking that the sole job of the Multinational Force is to make either Tina Susman or Keith Olbermann happy, responding to their every whim.

Before discussing the latest events in Iraq, I would like to briefly address a misinterpretation of comments made last week about a large weapons cache that was found in Karbala by Iraqi security forces. Because of the great quantity of weapons in that particular weapons cache, some speculated that the find was connected to collections of Iranian weapons which we have found num-…and shown numerous times over the past 12 months. The story of the Karbala weapons cache and the previous reports of collections of Iranian-made weapons are not linked. They were not linked in our remarks last week and that was…we were very clear in our comments last week that specifically said that in our remarks. However, over the course of the last several months, we have publicly discussed numerous times and shown numerous times the evidence – on four separate occasions – of what we have found and continue to find: Iranian-made weapons in the hands of criminals in Iraq. We have also discussed what we have…we have also discussed the evidence that we have found that Iraqi militants are being trained in Iran and receiving funding through [the] Iranian Quds Force to conduct violent attacks in Iraq. We have highlighted these finds in public because they are an issue of influence and sovereignty related to how a neighboring country can support or undermine security and stability. With this evidence, the Government of Iraq has recently engaged its neighbor and again sought fulfillment of Iranian commitments previously made to stop the flow of weapons, training, and funding. Prime Minister Maliki has established a committee to collect and analyze the reports of Iranian activity and to develop a unified approach. We will continue to provide information and evidence we have collected to the Government of Iraq to be considered along with their own evidence from the Iraqi security forces.

Or in other words, “do you honestly expect us to trot out proof every day of assertions we have previously made, as if without enough evidence to convince you of these facts, we aren’t doing our jobs?  We do have day jobs.”  Keith Olbermann is obviously just a court jester and cannot be taken seriously.  Tina Susman is a reporter, but this is why all of this “reporting” and exchange of meaningless banter is so disappointing.  There is a real story which underlies what is happening.  It comes to us from the Gulf News.

Conflicting statements between the Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman and the ruling Shiite coalition led by Abdul Aziz Al Hakim have raised concerns.

While the spokesperson for Baghdad operations, Qasem Atta, confirmed that Iranian-made rockets and mortars were found in Baghdad and are used by the Mahdi Army, coalition leaders denied any existence of real evidence of Iran’s involvement in supporting Shiite armed groups.

Al Maliki’s position also contradicts with the Shiite coalition led by Al Hakim.

Munder Al Khuza’ai, a strategic researcher, told Gulf News: “I believe there is a division within the Shiite coalition bloc.

“[One] is led by Al Hakim and [former premier] Ebrahim Al Ja’afari who oppose the US and the Iraqi Defence Ministry.

“The [other] is represented by Al Maliki and the national security advisor Muwafaq Al Rubaie who support using pressure on Iran for backing Iraqi militias.”

“I am confident that forming a governmental investigating commission about Iranian interference in Iraq’s security is supported by Al Hakim because it was expected that the Iraqi government would take strict actions against Iran especially after finding Iranian weapons in Basra and the Sadr City,” Al Khuza’ai said in reference to Al Hakim’s opposition to form the commission to gain more time to hold talks with the Iranians.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry, which is controlled by militias affiliated to Shiite coalition parties, refused to show evidence convicting Iran of supporting the Mahdi Army with weapons, unlike the Iraqi Ministry of Defence which condemned Iran and displayed evidences gathered from Basra.

There are many reasons for the ruling Shiite coalition’s denial to all evidence provided against Iran, said political analysts.

“Firstly, recognising Iran’s intervention means condemning the Shiite coalition leaders who have close … ties with Iran for two decades,” Imad Jabara, a political analyst, told Gulf News.

“Secondly, it would justify the US policy of striking Iranian influence inside Iraq, and thirdly, it would send a positive message to Sunni armed groups that had long talked about an Iranian interference” in Iraq, Jabara said.

Iraqi journalists in Baghdad said most Shiite political forces were proud of Iranian support to the political process and that Iran was among the first countries which recognised the new situation in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussain’s regime, yet now there is a feeling of embarrassment because Iran is accused of destroying the whole Iraqi political process.

There is posturing and positioning within the Shi’ite political blocs in Iraq.  They know full well the role of Iranian funds, weapons and personnel.  Everyone in Iraq knows it.  Trotting out the evidence means some very significant things, including the Sunni bloc forcing their hand to rid Iraq of Iranian influence, something they have wanted from the beginning.  It also means termination of some very deep seated and long lasting ties with Iran (including not just the IRG but Quds, and with every single Shi’ite political bloc, not just the Sadrists).  Iraq is going through the equivalent of political convulsions right now, and in response reporters are counting numbers and second guessing statements in press briefings.  And of course, Keith Olbermann is entertaining us, wishing that he was a real reporter.

There is more, as there always is.  Army Colonel H. R. McMaster, advisor to General David Patraeus, has recently set out a certain course for understanding the role of Iran inside Iraq.

Army Col. H.R. McMaster, who has served multiple tours in Iraq, yesterday described Iran’s activities as part of an unofficial talk on the evolution of the Iraq war he delivered at the American Enterprise Institute here. Although he emphasized that “Iraq’s communities have largely stopped shooting at each other” and that the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq “is on its way to defeat,” he said Iraq remains a “weak state,” and that Iranian involvement was intended to keep it so.

Iran’s activities are “obvious to anyone who bothers to look into it,” and should no longer be “alleged,” he said in response to a question. Senior American military officials said last month that the U.S. military in Iraq has compiled a briefing with detailed evidence of Iran’s involvement in Iraq violence, but the briefing has yet to be made public.

McMaster, who led a successful campaign in the northern Iraqi city of Tall Afar in 2005, said Iran has trained Iraqi militia members as snipers and organized them in “assassination cells” to kill certain people opposed to Iranian influence.

There is also the little thing of twenty Katyusha rockets (you know, the same kind that Hezbollah has) recently hurled at the British base at the Basra airport.  But so that The Captain’s Journal doesn’t also get hung up on trotting out evidence, we’ll summarize by saying that the real story lies waiting for Tina Susman and people like her to draw out.  Sitting in the Green Zone (or in Los Angeles) and dissecting press briefings is below the true reporter and analyst.

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  1. On May 20, 2008 at 6:58 am, LT Nixon said:

    Sitting in the Green Zone (or in Los Angeles) and dissecting press briefings is below the true reporter and analyst.

    You can get pretty close to Iranian munitions in the Green Zone, just on the receiving end. Not a good time.

    The public affairs war with Iran is all part of the diplomatic strategy and not really meant for domestic consumption by the crazy Keiths of the country to discredit the Bush administration. The weapons are obviously here and a problem, but whether or not the Iraqis or military spokesman come out strong against Iran depends on a lot of factors. It’s all very complex, and I often get lost in the media. But this is a good dissection, so thanks!

  2. On May 20, 2008 at 8:17 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Thanks, and I should have mentioned that the Green Zone has indeed been recipient of many of these weapons lately. It makes the denial that much more odd.

    As far as the clowns (e.g., Keith) go, forget trying to discredit the administration. It goes to the honesty of Petraeus, Odierno and McMaster.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Iran,Iraq,War Reporting and was published May 19th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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