|Rumsfeld takes a shot at
By Charles Recknagel
Iran has rejected charges by US Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that Iranian arms are
being smuggled to insurgents in Iraq.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid
Reza Asefi said Rumsfeld's comments were meant to
cover US mistakes in Iraq. He said that under
international pressure the US had invented a
Rumsfeld said on
Wednesday that US intelligence believed a shipment
of explosives discovered some two weeks ago in
Iraq came from Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim
Jaafari said that security agencies would
investigate the US claims. Jaafari promised that
if these agencies proved the claims were true, "we
will not hesitate to take up the matter with
coalition forces had unambiguous evidence that
weapons and bombs were being sent across the
border from Iran into Iraq. He stopped short of
saying whether the Iranian government was directly
involved in the arms transfers, which Washington
says added to the instability in Iraq. The charges
come despite recent progress by Iran and the
Shi'ite-led Iraqi government to forge closer ties,
including Iranian aid for building a new airport
and an offer to help train Iraqi troops.
Rumsfeld suggested the Iranian government
at least bore responsibility for failing to stop
the activity. "It's a big border, and it's notably
unhelpful for the Iranians to be allowing weapons
of those types to cross the border," Rumsfeld
The charges come a week after US
media quoted intelligence officials as saying that
a large shipment of machine-manufactured bombs
coming from Iran had been captured in northeastern
Iraq late last month. It was reported that the
shipment contained so-called shaped charges
designed to destroy armored vehicles. Shaped
charges focus the force of the bomb's explosive
power in a specific direction to increase the
chances of penetrating armor plating. Until now,
most of the bombs targeting US armored vehicles in
Iraq have been improvised explosive devices
assembled from weapon stockpiles in Iraq itself.
In recent weeks, coalition officials have
also reported the seizure of a shipment of mostly
small arms sent from Iran into southern Iraq.
The recent evidence of these arms
transfers prompted US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay
Khalilzad to complain publicly last week that Iran
was taking actions that undermine Iraqi security.
"Iran is working along two contradictory tracks,"
he said. "On the one hand, Tehran works with the
new Iraq. On the other, there is movement across
its borders of people and material used in violent
acts against Iraq."
Jonathan Lindley, who
researches regional issues at the Royal United
Services Institute in London, says it is not clear
who in Iran would be sponsoring the weapons
transfers. But he says US suspicion would almost
certainly focus on such institutions as Iran's
Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, which might or
might not be acting with broader government
"Iran tends to have a sort of
multichannel administrative structure, and these
sorts of issues of transnational support for
Shi'ite groups tend to be linked to the
Revolutionary Guards, the Pasdaran, and it would
seem highly likely that any weapons that have been
found are in some ways traceable back to them,"
Lindley told RFE/RL.
Guards, a branch of Iran's armed forces, is often
accused by the US of supplying help to the
Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah. The New York Times
reported that the seized shaped charges closely
match those Hezbollah has used against Israel.
The finding of the shaped charges in
northeast Iraq suggests that they were delivered
to groups of Arab Sunni insurgents in that area
and intended for use against US armored patrols.
The discovery also raises the question of
whether the charges could be used by Arab Sunni
insurgents against the Iraqi government - with
which Iran has improving relations - or even
against Iraqi Shi'ite targets. If so, Iran's
supplying the bombs would appear paradoxical.
But Lindley said the shaped explosives
would likely not be suitable for the kind of
attacks that Arab Sunni insurgents have carried
out previously against Iraqi security forces and
that some al-Qaeda-linked groups have conducted on
Shi'ite mosques. Those attacks have used car bombs
or suicide bombers in explosive vests against
Meanwhile, the seizure
of small arms from Iran in southern Iraq suggests
continued Iranian support for Iraqi Shi'ite groups
that forged close links with Tehran during the
Saddam Hussein era.
These include two
formerly exiled anti-Saddam groups that sheltered
in Iran - the Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Da'wa Party.
SCIRI's militant wing, the Badr Brigades, was
armed by Iran's Revolutionary Guards to conduct
guerrilla operations in Iraq against Saddam.
Both SCIRI and Da'wa are today part of the
US-supported Iraqi government, but they are
reported to maintain close ties with Iran.
Lindley says Iranian goals in Iraq appear to
include pressing the US military to leave Iraq
without risking a war with Washington and trying
to forge close ties with the emerging Iraqi
"It's quite conceivable that
what one is seeing is different parts [of the
Iranian] government pursuing their own strategies
with regard to Iraq. But it would seem quite
credible that there is both a desire to prevent
direct conflict with the United States over Iraq
but to ensure that the government that does
eventually emerge in Iraq is one that is
pro-Iranian. Or if not pro-Iranian, at least
resolves Iran's continual security problems with
Iraq," Lindley said.
Iran and Iraq fought
an eight-year war in the 1980s and have yet to
sign a full peace treaty. But relations have
greatly improved since Iraqi Shi'ite politician
Ibrahim Jaafari became Iraq's transitional prime
minister in April.
In recent months, the
two sides have discussed construction of a
multimillion-dollar airport near the Shi'ite holy
city of Najaf in southern Iraq. The project would
be largely financed by a low-interest loan from
They have also announced plans to
build an oil pipeline between al-Basrah and
Abadan, in Iran; the possible return of some of
the 153 civilian and military aircraft that Saddam
sent for storage in Iran during the early days of
the 1991 Gulf War; and an Iranian offer of
military cooperation, including training Iraqi
Copyright (c) 2005,
RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio
1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC
All material on this
website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written
© Copyright 1999 - 2005 Asia Times
Office: Rm 202, Hau Fook Mansion, No. 8 Hau Fook St., Kowloon, Hong
11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110