Iran arms im­porters are cap­tured in Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Sara A. Carter

Four ter­ror­ists linked to an Ira­nian smug­gling op­er­a­tion — re­spon­si­ble for tar­get­ing coali­tion forces with pow­er­ful bombs — were cap­tured in Iraq on July 27, ac­cord­ing to De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cials.

The an­nounce­ment came as U.S. of­fi­cials con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate links be­tween Iran and in­sur­gents

“And in fact, we be­lieve some train­ing is also go­ing on inside of Iran. We have seen in the last three months a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the ca­pa­bil­ity of mor­tar­men and rock­e­teers to pro­vide ac­cu­rate fires into the [coali­tion] Green Zone and other places. We think this is di­rectly re­lated to train­ing that was con­ducted in Iran.”

Ter­ror­ists are sus­pected of fa­cil­i­tat­ing the trans­porta­tion of weapons and per­son­nel from Iran into Iraq, specif­i­cally the deadly ex­plo­sively formed pro­jec­tiles (EFPs). The war­head­style weapons can pierce ar­mor and cause sig­nif­i­cant dam­age and ca­su­al­ties to coali­tion forces.

The sus­pects were cap­tured af­ter U.S. forces con­ducted a raid in Qasarin, a small vil­lage north of Baqouba, in the Diyala prov­ince near the border with Iran.

Op­po­nents of the Iraq war crit­i­cize the ad­min­is­tra­tion for point­ing the fin­ger at Iran, sug­gest­ing there is not suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence of their in­volve­ment in Iraq.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat and chair­man of the de­fense ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee, said he will in­tro­duce a mea­sure this week that would be­gin pulling out troops within 60 days af­ter its in­tro­duc­tion.

But Peter Brookes, se­nior fel­low at the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion and a na­tional se­cu­rity author­ity, warns that a with­drawal of troops from Iraq would put the re­gion at risk as Iran con­tin­ues to pur­sue its ob­jec­tive to ob­tain nu­clear power.

“Iran could po­ten­tially hold the United States at risk with its nu­clear and space pro­grams,” Mr. Brookes said. “Their for­eign pol­icy is to de­stroy the U.S. and Is­rael and that’s what they are aiming to do.”

Ear­lier in the week, Amer­i­can and Ira­nian am­bas­sadors to Iraq met in Bagh­dad and agreed to set up a se­cu­rity sub­com­mit­tee to carry for­ward talks on restor­ing sta­bil­ity in the war-torn na­tion.

Dur­ing the ground­break­ing talks, U.S. Am­bas­sador Ryan Crocker ac­cused Iran of spurring the vi­o­lence in Iraq by arm­ing and train­ing Shi’ite mili­tias. He warned that no progress can be made un­less Ira­nian be­hav­ior changes.

Ira­nian Am­bas­sador Has­san Kazemi Qomi coun­tered that Tehran is try­ing to help Iraq deal with the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion, but Iraqis are “vic­tim­ized by ter­ror and the pres­ence of for­eign forces” in their coun­try.

Iran holds con­sid­er­able sway in Iraq, where the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion is also Shi’ite Mus­lim and where many Shi’ite po­lit­i­cal par­ties are seen as hav­ing ties to Tehran.

The United States broke off diplo­matic ties with the Is­lamic repub­lic af­ter the 1979 storm­ing of the U.S. Em­bassy in Tehran and hold­ing of Amer­i­can hostages for 444 days.

Mr. Brookes cites Iran’s cur­rent in­volve­ment and sup­port for Tal­iban groups in Afghanistan as an ex­am­ple of Iran’s flip-flop on for­eign pol­icy when it comes to de­feat­ing the U.S.

“In the past the Ira­ni­ans would have never given fi­nan­cial sup­port to the Tal­iban,” he said. “The ev­i­dence now sug­gests that Iran is of­fer­ing them as­sis­tance in an ef­fort to push U.S. forces out of the re­gion.”

Iran and Syria are do­ing the same in Iraq, he added.

In Fe­bru­ary, se­nior de­fense of­fi­cials at a press brief­ing in Bagh­dad out­lined what they thought to be Iran and Syria’s in­volve­ment in the re­gion.

Of­fi­cials said the deadly arse­nal of weapons used against coali­tion forces by Iraqi Shi’ite groups was pro­vided by an elite Ira­nian mil­i­tary force — known as the Ira­nian Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps.

“Iran is a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to at­tacks on coali­tion forces, and also sup­ports vi­o­lence against the Iraqi Se­cu­rity Force and in­no­cent Iraqis,” mil­i­tary of­fi­cials stated in a pre­sen­ta­tion to re­porters.

Fur­ther ev­i­dence pre­sented at the brief­ing noted Iran’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in pro­vid­ing train­ing and other forms of weaponry to ex­trem­ist groups.

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