Monday, May 15, 2006

A Fresh Supply of Iranian Weapons for Iraqi Shiite Terrorists

In the past two weeks, Iran has been pumping into Iraq two types of extra-lethal weapons in very large quantities. They have already taken their toll in the shooting down of two military helicopters - one American and one British – and an estimated 19 deaths of US military personnel. READ MORE

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources estimate the delivery to Iraqi insurgents as consisting of around 1,000 SA-7 Strela ground-air missiles made in Iran, and a very large quantity of a newly-developed roadside bomb, loaded with compressed gas instead of ball bearings and cartridges, to magnify their blast and explosive power.

The supplies have been distributed across Iraq - Basra and Amara in the south, Baghdad and its environs, Haditha in the west, and Mosul in the north.

The new bombs, developed jointly by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese Hizballah, have already gone into service with the Shiite terrorists on the Lebanese border with Israel. Israeli military sources say it is only a matter of time before the deadly roadside bombs, already used in Iraq, will also reach Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In Iraq, the new weaponry has had three major effects:

1. The guerrilla-terrorist groups which received the shoulder-carried, highly mobile Strela missiles have scored three hits in fourteen days. On May 6, they fired a missile from one of Basra’s crowded alleys and downed a British military helicopter, killing all four military personnel aboard. Sunday, May 14, Iraqi insurgents shot down an American helicopter, killing its two crewmen over Yussifiya, inside the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad.

2. The number of roadside bomb attacks, their precision and lethality is going up all the time. Sunday, May 14, four US soldiers died in these blasts in the western Anbar province and Baghdad, while 2 British soldiers were killed and another injured at the same time near Basra. In seven days, the British force stationed in southern Iraq lost seven men, a record for that space of time in the three-year war. In the first half of May, US troop losses spiraled to 19, most of them the victims of the new roadside bombs.

3. Together with the new Iranian weapons, a new array of Shiite terrorist groups has sprung up and is hitting American and British troops. The coalition has imposed a blackout on this disturbing development.

Until now, the insurgent forces fighting the coalition consisted mostly of Baathists, Islamist and al Qaeda. The only Shiite enemy was the radical Mogtada Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The appearance of the new Shiite insurgents is a dread milestone in the Iraq war, one which has caught US and UK commanders by surprise and unprepared for the steep rise in troop losses.

DEBKAfile’s Exclusive Iraq sources offer some information on the new groups. One is located north of Baghdad and calls itself Brigades of the Imam Kazim. Another, called Brigades of Imam Ali, claimed the attack on April 27 in Nasiriya in which one of their new roadside bombs killed two Italian troops. In the Rostumiya region south of Baghdad, a Shiite group called Brigades of the Imam Hadi has begun operating. Our sources report that this group has been firing Katyusha rockets at American bases in the region, similar to the mortar attack directed at a British base in Amara Monday, May 15.

After each attack, these unknown quantities issue bulletins describing their actions, some accompanied by video footage from the scene of action.

The blackout was imposed on the new Shiite groups in the absence of American or British intelligence on who they and their commanders are, how they operate and what makes them tick. Research must start from square one to find out whether they are being controlled from Tehran, some Iraqi Shiite faction or elements which chanced to lay hands on the new-fangled weaponry.