Weapons to Iraq mil­i­tants an is­sue in nu­clear deal

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The Ira­nian Is­lamic regime was di­rectly in­volved in the killing of more than 500 Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers in Iraq by sup­ply­ing Shi­ite ex­trem­ists with ad­vanced road­side bombs, rocket-pro­pelled ex­plo­sives and other mu­ni­tions, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say.

The 500-plus num­ber, dur­ing fight­ing be­tween 2005 and 2011, be­came the fo­cus of de­bate last week as U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand de­clas­si­fied re­ports that showed 196 Amer­i­cans died from Ira­nian-made ex­plo­sively formed pro­jec­tiles (EFPs). But that is only part of the story.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dun­ford, dur­ing Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings in July, ap­pears to be the first mil­i­tary of­fi­cial to use the 500 fatality fig­ure, at­tribut­ing it to Ira­nian “ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Sub­se­quently, some Repub­li­cans op­posed to the Iran nu­clear deal be­gan cit­ing the num­ber and at­tribut­ing it to EFPs, since that is the most-talked-about Ira­nian weapon shipped to anti-Amer­i­can Shi­ite rebels. Some in the Pen­tagon grum­bled that the 196 num­ber was the re­sult of of­fi­cials want­ing to down­play Iran’s role in killing Amer­i­cans.

But when Gen. Dun­ford spoke of Ira­nian “ac­tiv­i­ties,” he was re­fer­ring to other weapons than just EFPs.

Navy Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a Cen­tral Com­mand spokesman, said the 500 num­ber is cor­rect.

“As it re­lates to re­cent re­port­ing on this, some had mis­char­ac­ter­ized the CENT­COM data re­gard­ing the num­ber of U.S. ser­vice mem­ber deaths re­sult­ing from EFPs in Iraq,” Cmdr. Raines told The Washington Times. “It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that these CENT­COM sta­tis­tics on EFP det­o­na­tions are only a sub­set of all the Ira­nian ac­tiv­i­ties es­ti­mated to have killed ap­prox­i­mately 500 U.S. troops in Iraq dur­ing OIF [Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom].”

He added: “There were rocket at­tacks and IRAM [im­pro­vised rocket-as­sisted mu­ni­tions] among other tac­tics that also con­trib­uted to Amer­i­can solider deaths.”

It ap­pears that Iran in­tro­duced IRAMS into the war around 2008. Shi­ite ex­trem­ists mounted the weapons on trucks and drove to points where they could fire the rock­et­pro­pelled ex­plo­sives into an Amer­i­can base. Press re­ports from Iraq said they were suc­cess­ful in killing Amer­i­cans.

Iran en­tered the Iraq war in a big way in 2005 by au­tho­riz­ing its Quds spe­cial oper­a­tions forces to train Iraqi Shi­ite mili­ti­a­men and sup­ply them with EFPs and other deadly weapons. The EFP is a par­tic­u­larly lethal road­side bomb sim­i­lar to, but more ad­vanced than, the ubiq­ui­tous im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices (IEDs).

The Quds forces, led by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, set up fac­to­ries to pro­duce the weapon, which un­leashes rock­et­type pro­jec­tiles that pen­e­trate Amer­i­can ar­mored ve­hi­cles. As head of the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Gen. Soleimani is Iran’s top ter­ror­ist com­man­der, com­mit­ted to the down­fall of Is­rael and the United States and the desta­bi­liza­tion of gov­ern­ments in the re­gion.

The Amer­i­can death toll has po­lit­i­cal rel­e­vance to­day, as ar­dent foes of Pres­i­dent Obama’s nu­clear deal re­peat­edly cite the fact that Iran has Amer­i­can blood on its hands in a war never di­rected at Tehran, but at its arch­en­emy, Sad­dam Hus­sein.

A wounded war­rior still suf­fer­ing from the blast of an Ira­nian bomb in 2005 has been ap­pear­ing in a na­tional TV ad, spon­sored by a vet­er­ans group urg­ing sen­a­tors to vote against the nu­clear deal.

“Ev­ery politi­cian who’s in­volved in this will be held ac­count­able,” says re­tired Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett, his scarred face look­ing di­rectly into the cam­era. “They will have blood on their hands. A vote for this deal means more money for Ira­nian ter­ror­ism. What do you think they’re go­ing to do when they get more money?”

He urges view­ers to call their sen­a­tors. “I was blown up by an Ira­nian bomb,” he says.

‘They came from only one place’

Gen. Dun­ford’s tes­ti­mony on Iran’s treach­ery came at his Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing to be the next chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Sen. Tom Cot­ton, Arkansas Repub­li­can and an Iraq War Army vet­eran, asked Gen. Dun­ford how many ser­vice mem­bers “were killed by Ira­nian ac­tiv­i­ties” in Iraq.

“Sen­a­tor, I know the to­tal num­ber of sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines that were killed by Ira­nian ac­tiv­i­ties, and the num­ber has been re­cently quoted as about 500,” Gen. Dun­ford said. “We weren’t al­ways able to at­tribute the ca­su­al­ties that we had to Ira­nian ac­tiv­ity, although many times we sus­pected it was Ira­nian ac­tiv­ity, even though we didn’t nec­es­sar­ily have the foren­sics to sup­port that.”

“Foren­sics” was likely a ref­er­ence to post-bomb­ing ex­am­i­na­tions to find the tell­tale ma­te­ri­als — of­ten cop­per — of an Ira­nian EFP, as op­posed to a more rudi­men­tary IED. It was also a ref­er­ence to any shrap­nel or en­gine parts left by Ira­nian rock­ets.

Mr. Cot­ton took Gen. Dun­ford’s an­swer to mean that the U.S. had con­firmed the 500 fig­ure and that likely many more were also killed by Iran.

Said Sen. Kelly Ay­otte, New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can: “Cer­tainly Iran has the blood of Amer­i­can sol­diers on its hands for … the ex­plo­sive ma­te­ri­als that they pro­vided to the Shia mili­tias in Iraq that killed many of our men and women in uni­form.”

Mr. Cot­ton con­tin­ued his ex­po­sure of Ira­nian killings at a sub­se­quent Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing on the nu­clear deal it­self. He elicited a state­ment from Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chair­man, on how EFPs kill.

“A cop­per cone is melted at su­per­high tem­per­a­tures and pro­jected, and es­sen­tially burns its way through ar­mor plate,” Gen. Dempsey tes­ti­fied.

He said “sev­eral hun­dred” Amer­i­cans were killed by EFPs, which he at­trib­uted to Iran.

Another EFP ex­pert is re­tired Army Gen. Stan­ley M. McChrys­tal, who di­rected ter­ror­ist man­hunts in Iraq. He told The New Yorker mag­a­zine: “There was zero ques­tion where they were com­ing from. We knew where all the fac­to­ries were in Iran. The EFPs killed hun­dreds of Amer­i­cans.”

Re­tired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Bar­bero, who ran the Pen­tagon of­fice in charge of de­feat­ing road­side bombs, wrote in The Weekly Stan­dard last month that Iran’s proxy war against Amer­ica “was abet­ted by a par­tic­u­larly lethal weapon: ex­plo­sively formed pro­jec­tiles (EFPs). A form of road­side bomb with a so­phis­ti­cated trig­ger­ing mech­a­nism and the abil­ity to pen­e­trate Amer­i­can ar­mor, EFPs were es­ti­mated to ac­count for 20 per­cent of U.S. deaths. And they came from only one place.”

Ter­ror­ist train­ing at Imam Ali

More than 3,000 Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers died in Iraq be­tween 2005 and 2011. A 20 per­cent es­ti­mate means that more than 600 died from EFP at­tacks, if that statis­tic is cor­rect.

Another sen­a­tor call­ing out Iran’s de­sire to kill Amer­i­cans is Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ted Cruz of Texas.

Phil No­vack, his spokesman, said the sen­a­tor has asked De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter to in­form the fam­i­lies of the 500 ser­vice mem­bers cited by Gen. Dun­ford “that their loved ones were mur­dered by the same man who will now re­ceive sanc­tions re­lief.”

“The fact re­mains that Gen­eral Soleimani, a man re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of hun­dreds of Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers, will re­ceive sanc­tions re­lief to the tune of mil­lions of dol­lars if the Iran deal is ap­proved,” Mr. No­vack said.

U.S. of­fi­cials have said that U.S. sanc­tions on Gen. Soleimani’s as­sets will stay in place, but he will re­ceive re­lief from other na­tions and will be able to travel more freely.

The pub­li­ca­tion De­fense One first re­ported the 196 fa­tal­i­ties num­ber last week.

The Peo­ple’s Mu­ja­hedin of Iran (MEK), the largest op­po­si­tion group to Iran’s Is­lamic theoc­racy, is­sued an in­tel­li­gence re­port in 2007 de­scrib­ing in de­tail the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard’s role in arm­ing and train­ing fel­low Shi­ites to kill Amer­i­cans. This was about the time that the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­e­cuted a ma­jor shift in pol­icy and or­dered a “surge” of more U.S. troops, pri­mar­ily to de­feat a Sunni in­sur­gency, in­clud­ing al Qaeda in Iraq.

Iran or­ga­nized and trained Iraqi Shi­ites at a base north of Tehran called Imam Ali, and the Quds Force did sim­i­lar train­ing at a fa­cil­ity south of the cap­i­tal be­fore in­sert­ing the ex­trem­ists back in­side Iraq.

“The Imam Ali base, his­tor­i­cally the cen­tral lo­ca­tion for train­ing ter­ror­ists, has now been al­lo­cated en­tirely to the train­ing of Iraqi mili­tia,” said the MEK re­port.

“The Ira­nian regime is se­cretly en­gaged in the or­ga­ni­za­tion and train­ing of large Iraqi ter­ror­ist net­works in Iran and send­ing them back to Iraq, to heighten in­se­cu­rity and in­sta­bil­ity and force the coali­tion forces to leave Iraq, which would in turn pave the way for the es­tab­lish­ment of an Is­lamic re­pub­lic in Iraq,” the MEK re­port said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dun­ford, dur­ing Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings in July, was the first mil­i­tary of­fi­cial to use the fig­ure of 500 Amer­i­can fa­tal­i­ties in Iraq di­rectly re­sult­ing Ira­nian “ac­tiv­i­ties.”

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