Iraq read­ies arms case against Iran; panel to probe re­cent traf­fick­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Sara A. Carter

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.

Astrid Riecken / The Wash­ing­ton Times

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.

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