Leak: Ar­me­nia sent Iran arms used to kill U.S. troops

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY ELI LAKE

U.S. di­plo­mats con­cluded in late 2008 that the govern­ment of the small, Cen­tral Asian state of Ar­me­nia had supplied Iran with rock­ets and ma­chine guns later used to kill Amer­i­can troops in Iraq, ac­cord­ing to State Depart­ment ca­bles dis­closed by Wik­iLeaks.

John D. Ne­gro­ponte, deputy sec­re­tary of state at the time, wrote a De­cem­ber 2008 let­ter to Ar­me­nian Pres­i­dent Serzh Sargsyan ex­press­ing “deep con­cer ns about Ar­me­nia’s trans­fer of arms to Iran which re­sulted in the death and in­jury of U.S. sol­diers in Iraq.”

The cable, based on U.S. in­tel­li­gence, in­cludes the text of a clas­si­fied let­ter la­beled “se­cret” from Mr. Ne­gro­ponte. It says “in 2007 some of these weapons were re­cov­ered from two Shia mil­i­tant attacks in which a U.S. sol­dier was killed and six oth­ers were in­jured in Iraq.”

The dis­clo­sure of the re-ex­port of arms by Ar­me­nia is one ex­am­ple of how the leaked ar­chive of U.S. diplo­matic traf­fic to­tal­ing more than 250,000 re­ports re­veals an ex­ten­sive U.S. govern­ment ef­fort to stop al­lies and ad­ver­saries alike from arm­ing Iran with even con­ven­tional weapons.

In Tehran, Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad said Nov. 29 that the doc­u­ments made pub­lic by Wik­iLeaks is part of a cam­paign by the CIA and the Is­raeli Mos­sad. While many ca­bles showed heads of Arab states urg­ing the United States to take mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran, Mr. Ah­madine­jad dis­missed them as pro­pa­ganda. “The coun­tries in the re­gion are like friends and broth­ers,” he said. “These acts of mis­chief will not af­fect their re­la­tions.”

Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton said in Washington that the leaks will not af­fect U.S. re­la­tion­ships with al­lies. Yet she also said that the dis­clo­sures would en­dan­ger peo­ple in closed so­ci­eties who had spo­ken with U.S. di­plo­mats.

“There is noth­ing laud­able about en­dan­ger­ing in­no­cent peo­ple, and there is noth­ing brave about sab­o­tag­ing peace­ful re­la­tions be­tween na­tions on which our com­mon se­cu­rity de­pends,” Mrs. Clin­ton said.

Mrs. Clin­ton said Wik­iLeaks acted il­le­gally in post­ing the clas­si­fied doc­u­ment and that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is tak­ing “ag­gres­sive steps to hold re­spon­si­ble those who stole this in­for­ma­tion.”

At the Jus­tice Depart­ment, At­tor ney Gen­eral Er ic H. Holder Jr. said the govern­ment had launched a crim­i­nal probe, while Pen­tagon of­fi­cials said se­cu­rity is be­ing tight­ened to bet­ter con­trol dig­i­tal stor­age de­vices such as CDs and flash drives.

The Ar­me­nian in­ci­dent was part of a wider U.S. ef­fort to block Iran’s ac­cess to the global arms and weapons technology mar­ket. For ex­am­ple, a 2010 cable re­vealed covert U.S. ef­forts to per­suade China’s govern­ment to block a sale from a Malaysian firm, Elec­tron­ics Com­po­nent Ltd., to sell gy­ro­scopes to an Ira­nian front com- pany.

The ca­bles also show U.S. diplo­matic ef­forts to stop Ger­man sales of high-technology equip­ment to Ira­nian front com­pa­nies and block con­ven­tional arms sales from Turkey to Iran. Both coun­tries are NATO al­lies.

In some cases though, the ca­bles show the in­ef­fi­cacy of the Amer­i­can ef­for t. Nor th Korea, ac­cord­ing to one cable in 2007, suc­cess­fully shipped mis­sile com­po­nents to Iran de­spite U.S. ef­forts to seek Chi­nese help in block­ing the trans­fer.

“This shows the breadth of the U.S. ef­fort to qui­etly shut down all the var­i­ous spig­ots and chan­nels that the United States was us­ing to bleed the United States in Iraq and Afghanista­n,” said Ken­neth Katz­man, an Iran spe­cial­ist at the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice. “We have seen a re­cent ex­am­ple in Nige­ria of arms pipe­lines be­ing ex­posed, these ca­bles show more of a sweep to it than most Amer­i­cans were aware of, which is usu­ally limited to pub­lic dis­cus­sion of U.N. sanc­tions votes.”

Mr. Katz­man said the world­wide U.S. ef­fort re­minded him of Op­er­a­tion Staunch in the 1980s. “It hear­kens back to U.S. ef­forts dur­ing the Iran-Iraq war to pre­vent con­ven­tional arms de­liv­er­ies to Iran, which had a de­gree of suc­cess but was not a com­plete her­metic seal,” he said.

The dis­clo­sures about Ar­me­nian govern­ment links to Iran arms sup­plies are sur­pris­ing. Ar­me­nia has drawn closer to the United States in re­cent years as the United States has sought to qui­etly bro­ker Ar­me­nia’s dis­putes with Turkey and Azer­bai­jan.

A Western diplo­mat fa­mil­iar with the in­ci­dent said the United States had mul­ti­ple streams of in­tel­li­gence con­nect­ing the Ar­me­nian arms ship­ment to Iran with the deaths of U.S. sol­diers in 2007 in Iraq.

When Mr. Sargsyan was first con­fronted with this in­tel­li­gence in 2008 on the side­lines of the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly by Sec­re­tar y of State Con­doleezza Rice, he de­nied know­ing any­thing about the mat­ter, the cable says.

Mr. Ne­gro­ponte, how­ever, lays out the con­se­quences to Ar­me­nia in the let­ter.

“Not­with­stand­ing the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween our coun­tries, nei­ther the Ad­min­is­tra­tion nor the U.S. Congress can over­look this case,” Mr. Ne­gro­ponte said in his let­ter to the Ar­me­nian pres­i­dent.

“By law, the trans­fer of these weapons re­quires us to con­sider whether there is a ba­sis for the im­po­si­tion of U.S. sanc­tions. If sanc­tions are im­posed, penal­ties could in­clude the cut­off of U.S. as­sis­tance and cer­tain ex­port re­stric­tions,” he said.

Af­ter lev­el­ing the threat, Mr. Ne­gro­ponte told Mr. Sargsyan that in or­der to avoid sanc­tions he had to pro­vide a writ­ten as­sur­ance to the United States that Ar­me­nia would update its ex­port-con­trol laws, es­tab­lish teams of cus­toms spe­cial­ists at the border to check for con­tra- band and dual-use ex­ports and al­low U.S. spot in­spec­tions of these check­points and make pub­lic its ex­port-con­trol lists.

The Ar­me­ni­ans ap­pear to have agreed to these mea­sures as the United States never lev­eled any sanc­tions against Mr. Sargsyan’s govern­ment. The Ar­me­nian Em­bassy de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

A De­cem­ber 2009 cable re­vealed that U.S. in­tel­li­gence in June 2009 un­cov­ered two Ira­nian front com­pa­nies that of­fered to sell mis­sile test equip­ment man­u­fac­tured by the Ger­man fir ms Rohde & Sch­warz and Hot­tinger Bald­win Messtech­nik (HBM) to Iran’s main de­vel­oper of liq­uid­fu­eled bal­lis­tic mis­siles, the Shahid Hem­mat In­dustr ial Group.

“We want to share this new in­for­ma­tion with Ger­man of­fi­cials and en­cour­age them to con­tinue their ef­forts to pre­vent SHIG or other Ira­nian en­ti­ties of pro­lif­er­a­tion con­cern from procur­ing sen­si­tive items from Rohde & Sch­warz and HBM,” the cable said.

A March 2009 cable from the U.S. Em­bassy in Baku, Azer­bai­jan, stated that a net­work of Ira­ni­ans had been iden­ti­fied in the Azer­bai­jani cap­i­tal who were en­gaged in il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Some [of the Ira­ni­ans] are also said to be sig­nif­i­cant ac­tors in ob­tain­ing spare parts and equip­ment for the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, rais­ing rev­enues and man­ag­ing money for it and/or regime fig­ures, or man­ag­ing Iran-or igin nar­cotics traf­fick­ing,” the cable said.

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