Iraq readies arms case against Iran; panel to probe recent trafficking
Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. said May 6 that a high-level committee will investigate Iran’s role in arms trafficking across his country’s borders, after the discover y of large caches of weapons and explosive devices recently manufactured in Iran.
“It’s a bit disingenuous to believe such quantities of up-todate weapons manufactured this year, last year, can flow into the country without the knowledge of the Iranian government,” Ambassador Samir Sumaida’ie told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
“However, I understand that the prime minister ordered the formation of the committee only in the last 48 hours to put facts together, to establish where the connection is between these weapons and evidence of training so that we can basically confront our Iranian neighbors,” he said.
Mr. Sumaida’ie said the Iraqi investigative committee, appointed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, will likely include the ministers of interior and defense and will gauge the full facts of the situation.
The committee was established on the heels of a parliamentary delegation that traveled to Tehran two weeks ago claiming to have evidence that Iran was providing mortars, rockets, small arms and armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, that troops have discovered in recent months.
Iranian officials have denied accusations that they are supplying weapons to militias in Iraq.
U.S. counter terrorism officials said Iran has increased weapons supplies in recent months, adding that the Iranian government wants to diminish U.S. and Iraqi coalition efforts in the region.
“There continues to be a disturbing flow of arms from Iran to Iranian-backed groups inside of Iraq and there are some indications that the flow is increasing,” the counter terrorism official said.
However, the fact that the alMaliki government is investigating Iran is a sign of “increasing maturity,” the official added.
Mr. Sumaida’ie said that, despite an eight-year war with Iran dur ing the 1980s under the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein, the current Iraqi Shi’ite militias — and specifically anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — have formed close ties with Tehran.
But he said the majority of Shi’ites in his country maintain strong nationalistic ties to Iraq.
“In fact, the Iraqi Shi’ite presents a threat to the Iranian state rather than the other way around,” he said.
Mr. Sumaida’ie said that a warrant for the arrest of Sheik alSadr in 2004 may have avoided the current militia uprising. He said the United States was only moments away from arresting Sheik al-Sadr when “somebody in Washington got cold feet.”
“Maybe that was a mistake because, had he been taken out at that time, specifically in April 2004, he would not have had the time to build up this huge capability,” Mr. Sumaida’ie said.
He added that the Iraqi government could not carry out Sheik al-Sadr’s arrest after the U.S. backed down because it did not have the necessary strength at the time.
Mr. Sumaida’ie said the Iraqi government is trying to recover from mistakes and must deal with many complex social, political and economic issues.
He said American military forces were sufficient to topple the former regime but insufficient to keep the peace.
“The disbanding of the police was much more catastrophic than the disbanding of the army because at the level of local neighborhoods we lost control of law and order,” he said.
Up in arms: Samir Sumaida’ie, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., tells editors and reporters of The Washington Times that arms caches uncovered in Iraq point to Iranian complicity.