Extremists Use Iranian Weapons, Iraq Command Spokesman Says

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, July 11, 2011 — There is no doubt that dead­ly weapons being used against Amer­i­can forces in Iraq orig­i­nat­ed in Iran, a U.S. Forces Iraq spokesman said here today.

Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Buchanan led reporters trav­el­ing with Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta on a tour of Joint Task Force Troy here, where they were free to talk to the men and women who exam­ine all ene­my ord­nance to deter­mine its ori­gin and to look for ways to defeat the threat or pros­e­cute those who launch attacks.

Part of the unit is the com­bined explo­sive exploita­tion cell lab­o­ra­to­ries. “When p[explosive ord­nance dis­pos­al] teams go out and they respond to an explo­sive event, they col­lect what­ev­er evi­dence they find and bring it back,” said a mil­i­tary offi­cial at the unit, speak­ing on back­ground. “We take that evi­dence and take it apart and exploit it.”

The team looks at the weapon from a tech­ni­cal and chem­i­cal view­point. “You put all those puz­zles togeth­er, and you can deter­mine where they are from,” the offi­cial said. The team also can sweep the weapons for fin­ger­prints and DNA evi­dence.

Buchanan showed the reporters evi­dence trac­ing weapons used in many dif­fer­ent attacks to Iran. One piece was an IRAM, short for ‘impro­vised rock­et-assist­ed mor­tar.” The extrem­ists took the rock­et motor off a 240 mm rock­et and attached a much larg­er war­head. They gen­er­al­ly are shot in vol­leys, the gen­er­al said.

Fif­teen Amer­i­cans were killed in Iraq in June. Nine of the dead were from just two attacks.

Reporters also saw what the mil­i­tary calls “explo­sive­ly formed pen­e­tra­tors,” or EFPs for short. These road­side bombs can cut through the thick­est and hard­est armor.

“We could armor up a vehi­cle so an EFP charge couldn’t pen­e­trate it, but the vehi­cle would be so heavy it couldn’t move,” the offi­cial said.

Nei­ther weapon is some­thing some­one can pro­duce on a lathe in a garage. The EFP requires very pre­cise machin­ing, and the explo­sive charge is cast. For the IRAM to be effec­tive, it requires spe­cial­ly machined parts to attach the larg­er war­head to the mis­sile.

The fir­ing mech­a­nisms are fac­to­ry-made elec­tron­ic parts that have no oth­er use than fir­ing off IRAMs or EFPs.

And the foren­sic teams can cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly state that the weapons are from Iran. In one case, an IRAM built in Iran was turned over to the Quds Force – part of the Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard – and then giv­en to an Iraqi extrem­ist in Kitab Hezbol­lah, a ter­ror­ist group that is a whol­ly owned sub­sidiary of the Quds Force, offi­cials said.

Iran sup­ply­ing muni­tions to the extrem­ists alarms Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Iraq. The gen­er­al said the extrem­ists are turn­ing to these weapons to appear as if they are dri­ving the Amer­i­cans from Iraq. What dis­turbs him most is that the attacks indi­cate “there are folks with sig­nif­i­cant expe­ri­ence who are involved with try­ing to help devel­op the tech­niques and pro­ce­dures for employ­ing these weapons,” he said dur­ing an ear­li­er inter­view.

Extrem­ists have exper­i­ment­ed with IRAMs since 2007.

“The two most recent attacks, we’ve seen them be a bit more effec­tive than in the past,” he said, because the extrem­ists are get­ting help from peo­ple who under­stand rock­et sci­ence. “We’re see­ing more pow­er­ful EFPs, and they seem to have matured the abil­i­ty to aim these things a bit more,” the gen­er­al added.

The team here is using the foren­sics they’ve devel­oped to take down net­works of bomb-mak­ers. Iraqi judges are using this evi­dence to put the killers in jail.

When the Iraqi police or army cap­ture the peo­ple linked to these weapons, all foren­sic and intel­li­gence evi­dence points straight back to Iran, offi­cials here said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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