Where are those Iranian weapons in Iraq?
Washington - The U.S. military command in Iraq continues to talk about an alleged pipeline of Iranian weapons to Iraqi Shiites opposing the U.S. occupation, implying that they have become dependent on
When Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner was asked that question at a briefing May 8, he did not answer it directly. Instead Bergner reverted to a standard
Bergner's refusal to address that question reflects a fundamental problem with the
Reports by the
Although those reports do not represent all the Mahdi Army caches found, they provide further evidence of the relative importance of Iranian rockets, mortars and RPGs in the Mahdi Army arsenal. That is because
Based on weapons caches discovered over the past 15 months, the Mahdi Army has relied overwhelmingly on four types of heavy weapons: 60mm and 120mm mortars, 107mm rocket, and 57mm anti-tank missile.
Those are essentially the same mortars and rockets that have turned up in al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent weapons caches, suggesting that both groups have obtained their heavier weapons from the international arms market. In fact, 60mm and 120mm mortars were used by Sunni guerrillas in the very early months of the war against
However, Chinese, Yugoslav and Pakistani 107mm rockets have also been the weapon of choice of Taliban guerrillas in
U.S. officials tried to capitalise on the increased mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone and U.S. military headquarters last year to argue that they were the result of a rising tide of Iranian supply of such stand-off weapons -- particularly 240mm rockets -- to what the U.S. command calls "special groups" of Shiite militiamen.
One U.S. official, who insisted on being identified only as a "senior official", told this writer in mid-September 2007 that rockets and mortars provided by Iran since the beginning of that year -- and especially 240 mm rockets -- were doing much greater damage because of their greater accuracy and power compared with the older Katyusha rockets -- mostly from Iraqi stocks -- that had been employed in attacking U.S. bases and the Green Zone in previous years.
But evidence from the
No 240mm rocket has been reported found in a Mahdi Army weapons cache over the past year, but a single warhead for a 240mm rocket was reported to have been found in
After a rocket fired at Camp Victory on Sep. 11, 2007 killed one and wounded 11 others, U.S. officials told the news media that the command spokesman, Gen. Bergner, would display fragments of a 240mm rocket -- complete with Iranian markings -- at his next press briefing in order to "show the link between the Iranian weapons and the damage they are doing".
But Bergner admitted to the media that there were no discernible Iranian markings on the fragment, and that a number of countries manufacture 240mm rockets. He was able to assert only that ordnance experts "assess it is of [sic] consistent with the rockets of Iranian origin we have seen used in other attacks."
That was a very weak claim, because Bergner had not provided any evidence to the media that previous attacks had involved Iranian 240mm rockets either.
When the military headquarters at
Gen. David Petraeus insisted last October that there is "absolutely no question" that
In weapons caches reported from Shiite locations, not a single RPG-29 has been identified. Of the 160 RPG launchers reported in Mahdi Army caches, along with 800 RPG missiles, none were identified as Iranian, although some were identified as being Soviet-made. Only 11 were reported to be RPG-7s -- a type of launcher that is made by
Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in