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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Aug 11th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow NATO Finds Copy of Hizbullah's Explosives in Afghanistan
NATO Finds Copy of Hizbullah's Explosives in Afghanistan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 18 July 2007

American soldiers displayed parts of weapons, known as explosively formed penetrators, after finding them last month in a Shiite village near Baghdad. The copper liners in the foreground become projectiles when the explosive devices are set off.
American soldiers displayed parts of weapons, known as explosively formed penetrators, after finding them last month in a Shiite village near Baghdad. The copper liners in the foreground become projectiles when the explosive devices are set off.

NATO forces in Afghanistan said Wednesday they had found several Iranian-made armor-piercing explosives similar to what Hizbullah uses in Lebanon.

Thomas Kelly, a U.S. colonel under NATO command, said forces had found several of the so-called "explosively-formed projectiles" that were more sophisticated than the crudely-made bombs usually used by Afghan insurgents.

But the senior spokeswoman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Claudia Foss, stressed that the alliance had no evidence that the Iranian government was involved in the supply.

Kelly said four of the devices, which are also being used by Iraqi insurgents and Lebanon's Hizbullah, were found in Herat near the Iranian border and in Kabul, where a fifth device had harmlessly exploded early this year.

The colonel told a Kabul media briefing that the bombs were "something called explosively-formed projectiles (EFPs)... They're designed to penetrate armored vehicles.

"These are very sophisticated IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and they're really not manufactured in any other places other than, our knowledge is, Iran," he said, adding that the explosives were factory-made.

Taliban insurgents commonly attack U.S.-led, NATO and Afghan targets with roadside bombs and other explosives made from old ammunition such as mortars and rockets left over from the war-torn country's decades of conflicts.

"The insurgents may have access to this device but may not yet know how to use them or know if they're effective or not," Kelly said.

Foss, however, told the same briefing that ISAF's commander had previously said "that we have no evidence of any formal supply of weapons from Iran."

"For decades this country has been under attack and we find weapons all the time but, as far as any formal supply, there's been no evidence."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in June that "substantial" quantities of Iranian weapons are flowing into Afghanistan and that it was difficult to believe the Iranian government was not aware of it.

The United States has long accused Iran's Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, of arming and training Shiite extremist groups in Iraq.

But in recent months U.S. military officials have said Iranian-made weapons including EFPs have also turned up in Afghanistan.(AFP) 

Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 19:33


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Interview with Lt Gen Odierno


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Lieberman: Iranians will "pay for it."



Background Material

U.S. Long Worried That Iran Supplied Arms in Iraq

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2007 NYTimes — More than 20 months ago, the United States secretly sent Iran a diplomatic protest charging that Tehran was supplying lethal roadside explosive devices to Shiite extremists in Iraq, according to American officials familiar with the message.

EFP [ Click Here for Larger Image ]

The July 19, 2005, protest — blandly titled “Message from the United States to the Government of Iran” — informed the Iranians that a British soldier had been killed by one of the devices in Maysan Province in eastern Iraq.

The complaint said that the Shiite militants who planted the device had longstanding ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, and that the Revolutionary Guards and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia had been training Iraqi Shiite insurgents in Iran and supplying them with bomb-making equipment.

“We will continue to judge Iran by its actions in Iraq,” the protest added.

Iran flatly denied the charges in a diplomatic reply it sent the following month, and it continues to deny any role in the supply of the lethal weapons. But the confidential exchange foreshadowed the more public confrontation between the Bush administration and Iran that has been unfolding since December.

In the past four months, the administration has sought to put new pressure on Tehran, through military raids against Iranian operatives in Iraq, the dispatch of an American aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, as well as the increasingly public complaints about Iran’s role in arming Shiite militias. The American actions prompted criticism that the White House is trying to find a scapegoat for military setbacks in Iraq, or even to prepare for a new war with Iran.

A review of the administration’s accusations of an Iranian weapons supply role, including interviews with officials in Washington and Baghdad, critics of the administration and independent experts, shows that intelligence that Iran was providing lethal assistance to Shiite militias has been a major worry for more than two years.

The concern intensified toward the end of 2006 as American casualties from the explosive devices, known as explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.’s, began to climb. According to classified data gathered by the American military, E.F.P. attacks accounted for 18 percent of combat deaths of Americans and allied troops in Iraq in the last quarter of 2006.

Excluding casualty data for the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, where the explosives have not been found, the devices accounted for about 30 percent of American and allied deaths for the last quarter of the year.

Some Democrats in Congress, while critical of many aspects of Bush administration policy toward Iraq and Iran, say they are persuaded by the intelligence pointing to an Iranian role in supplying E.F.P.’s. Debate remains about whether Iran’s top leaders ordered the supply of the weapons, about whether the Iranian-supplied devices can be copied in Iraq and about American policy toward Tehran.

In January, the number of American and allied troops killed by E.F.P. attacks was less than half of December’s total. That trend continued in February.

Some American officials suggest that this may be a response to their efforts to highlight the role Iran is accused of playing, but another factor may be that many Shiite militants have opted not to confront American troops. The weapon, however, is still a major danger. On March 15, an E.F.P. attack in eastern Baghdad killed four American service members and wounded two others.

A Devastating Weapon

E.F.P.’s are one of the most devastating weapons on the battlefield. The weapons fire a semi-molten copper slug that cuts through the armor on a Humvee, then shatters inside the vehicle, creating a deadly hail of hot metal that causes especially gruesome wounds even when it does not kill.

Many of the E.F.P.’s encountered by American forces in Iraq are both difficult to detect and extremely destructive. Because they fire from the side of the road, there is no need to dig a hole to plant them, so they are well suited for urban settings. Because they are set off by a passive infrared sensor, the kind of motion detector that turns on security lights, they cannot be countered by electronic jamming.

Adversaries have used the weapon in new ways. On Feb. 12, a British Air Force C-130 was damaged by two E.F.P arrays as it landed on an airstrip in Maysan Province, the first time the device was used to attack an aircraft, according to allied officials. Allied forces later destroyed the aircraft with a 1,000-pound bomb to keep militants from pilfering equipment.

Over the course of the war, the devices have accounted for only a small fraction of the roadside bomb attacks in Iraq; most bombing attacks and most American deaths have been caused by less sophisticated devices favored by Sunni insurgents, not Shiite militias linked to Iran. But E.F.P.’s produce significantly more casualties per attack than other types of roadside bombs.

“They were a new type of threat with a great potential for damage,” said Lt. Col. Kevin W. Farrell, who commanded the First Battalion, 64th Armor of the Third Infantry Division, in 2005, when a penetrator punched through the skirt armor of one of the battalion’s M-1 tanks and cracked its hull. “They accounted for a sizable percentage of our casualties. Based on searches of the Baghdad environment we occupied and multiple local Iraqi sources, we believed that they came from Iran.”

A Gradual Realization

American intelligence analysts say the first detonation of an E.F.P. in Iraq may have come in August 2003. But their view that Iran was playing a role in the attacks emerged slowly. American officials said their assessment of Iranian involvement was based on a cumulative picture that included forensic examination of exploded and captured devices, and parallels between the use of the weapons in Iraq and devices used in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah.

“There was no eureka moment,” said one senior American official, who like several others would discuss intelligence and administration decision-making only on condition of anonymity.

The entire E.F.P. assembly seen repeatedly in Iraq, including the radio link used to activate it and the infrared sensor used to fire it, had been found only one other place in the world, American officials say: Lebanon, since 1998, where it is believed to have been supplied by Iran to Hezbollah.

According to one military expert, some of the radio transmitters used to activate some of the E.F.P.’s in Iraq operate on the same frequency and use the same codes as devices used against Israeli forces in Lebanon.

More evidence came from the interception of trucks in Iraq, within a few miles of the Iranian border, carrying copper discs machined to the precise curvature required to form the penetrating projectile. Wrappers for C4 explosive, among other items, were traceable to Iran, officials say.

An important part of the American claim comes from intelligence, including interrogation of captured militia members, about Shiite militants who use E.F.P.’s and maintain close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah.

The militant groups led by Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani have operated one of the most important E.F.P. networks. According to American intelligence reports, his network has been receiving E.F.P. components and training from the Quds Force, and elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard, and Hezbollah operatives in Iran. He is on the Iraqi most-wanted list and the Iraqi criminal court issued a warrant for his arrest in 2005.

Ahmad Abu Sajad al-Gharawi, a former Mahdi Army commander, has been active in Maysan Province. American intelligence officials say his group was probably linked to the attack on British forces that was cited in the American diplomatic protest. He is also on the Iraqi government’s most-wanted list, and an Iraqi warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In September 2005, British forces arrested Ahmad Jawwad al-Fartusi, the leader of a splinter group of the Mahdi Army that carried out E.F.P. attacks against British forces in southern Iraq. American intelligence concluded that his fighters might have received training and E.F.P. components from Hezbollah.

Mr. Fartusi lived in Lebanon for several years, and a photograph of him with Hezbollah members was discovered when British forces searched his home. In the view of American officials that may be circumstantial evidence of an Iranian connection, because American intelligence experts say Hezbollah generally conducts operations in Iraq with the consent of Iran.

Last week, American-led forces captured Qais Khazali and Laith Khazali, two Shiite militants who were linked to the kidnapping and killing of five American soldiers in Karbala in January, the United States military said. American officials say they have also trafficked in E.F.P.’s.

Some people who are experts on military matters but who acknowledge they do not have access to the classified intelligence have said the weapons could be made in Iraq. But American officials say they have not found any facilities inside Iraq where the high-quality E.F.P. components are being manufactured.

Nonetheless, the E.F.P. experience in Iraq appears to have, in turn, influenced developments in Lebanon. The installation of E.F.P.’s in foam blocks painted to resemble rocks, a technique first used in 2005 by Shiite militias in Iraq, appeared last summer in Lebanon when Hezbollah was battling Israeli forces. Previously, Hezbollah had generally placed the devices on tripods at the side of the road, covering them with brush to avoid detection.

“There’s almost been a cross-pollenization,” one official said.

American and British forces have been the primary targets in the E.F.P. attacks, but the devices have also been used against Iraqi security forces. In June 2005, a Japanese convoy near Samawa was struck by a roadside bomb that used a remote control firing device typically provided by Iran or Hezbollah. Concerned by the attacks, the British government protested through diplomatic channels in Tehran that year. Taking note of the British complaint, the Americans made their protest through Swiss intermediaries in Iran. As evidence of an Iranian role, the American complaint cited a May 29, 2005, E.F.P attack near Amara that killed a 21-year-old British lance corporal, Alan Brackenbury. Iran denied any involvement.

Discussing Concerns Publicly

After that diplomatic rebuff, American officials began to broach the topic publicly. In August 2005, Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser, said allied forces were being made targets of bombs “that seem to have a footprint similar to that of devices used by groups that have historically had Iranian support.”

In October 2005, the British ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, told reporters in London that Iran was supplying lethal technology that had been used against British troops. Prime Minister Tony Blair added, “The particular nature of those devices lead us to either to Iranian elements or to Hezbollah.” At the time Mr. Blair expressed caution about the certainty of the link to Iran, but in February of this year he said it was clear that Iran “is the origin of that weaponry.”

Beginning in April 2006, E.F.P. attacks began to rise. With both the diplomatic protests and the public statements having failed to stop the attacks, American officials again began to discuss what to do. The changing nature of the American strategy, with its increased emphasis on challenging Shiite militias in and around Baghdad, made the issue all the more pressing.

According to officials involved in the discussion, who asked not be identified, one concern was that raiding Iranian operatives in Iraq might provoke Iran to increase lethal assistance to Shiite militants. Another worry was that it might require the American command to divert military and intelligence assets from missions against Sunni insurgents, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

“For many months American officials were torn between a desire to do something and a wish to avoid confrontation,” Philip D. Zelikow, a former senior State Department official, said in a recent speech. “When a government is conflicted about what to do, the usual result is inaction.”

As the Bush administration debated what to do, one issue involved the rules of engagement if American forces were to conduct raids against Iranian operatives in Iraq. After the United States Central Command submitted a plan for such raids, one option that was weighed was to declare the Quds Force that is operating in Iraq, to be a “hostile force.”

Such an order would give the military a clear legal justification for taking action against Iranian officials and operatives in Iraq, and flexibility in planning the raids.

Other officials said the Iranians were also involved in economic and social programs in Iraq. They argued for a more limited approach, saying that the United States should single out only Iranian operatives found to have “hostile intent” against coalition forces. The Bush administration decided that the raids would be carried out under the more limited rules of engagement for now.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then the top American commander, approved plans to brief the news media on the E.F.P. issue — a reversal for military officials, who had been reluctant to highlight the effectiveness of the weapons for fear of encouraging their use.

“Our intelligence analysts advised our leaders that the historical Quds Force pattern is to pull back when their operations are exposed, so MNF-I leadership decided to expose their operations to save American lives,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for Multinational Forces-Iraq, as the American-led command is known.

The Iran Connection

Some Democratic lawmakers who are critical of the administration’s Iraq policies say they now accept that there is a connection between Iran and the E.F.P. attacks in Iraq, though they emphasize that Iran is not the primary reason for instability in Iraq.

Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who opposed Mr. Bush’s troop reinforcement plan, said he believed that the Bush administration was using the E.F.P. issue to distract attention from the difficulties in Iraq. But he said he was persuaded that the weapons were coming from Iran, in part from extensive talks with American and British commanders during trips to Iraq.

“They want to keep us under pressure in Iraq without causing a major power reaction by us or a major meltdown within Iraq, which puts a failing state on their borders,” Mr. Reed said of the Iranians.

At a February hearing, Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a critic of the plan to send more troops to Baghdad, pressed Mike McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, to acknowledge that other countries in the region, too, were supplying insurgents in Iraq.

Mr. Levin, however, said he was “not surprised” by Mr. McConnell’s view that some of Iran’s leaders probably knew of E.F.P. deliveries arranged by the Quds Force, and aides say Mr. Levin believes that the administration has been too cautious about pinning the blame on Iran’s leaders.

Flynt Leverett, a senior fellow at the New American Foundation and a Middle East specialist who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and on the staff of the National Security Council, also said he believed that Iran was supplying munitions to Shiite militias.

But Mr. Leverett said the threat to American troops from Sunni insurgents, who draw on Syria and Saudi Arabia for money and other logistical support, was “orders of magnitude” greater than that from Shiites, and he contended that the Bush administration’s public emphasis on the E.F.P.’s was part of a larger administration strategy to blame Iran “for the failure of the American project in Iraq.”

In the report it completed in December, the Iraq Study Group called for opening talks with Iran and suggested Iran could take steps to improve security in Iraq by stemming “the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq.”

“The fact that Iran may be supplying lethal equipment is all the more reason to deal with them,” Lee H. Hamilton, a co-chairman of the panel, said in an interview. “We do think it fortifies the case for engaging Iran.”




Insurgency Instructions
A video probably made by Hizbullah—and possibly Iran—is helping Iraqi insurgents wage their war.

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball

Aug. 24, 2005 - Many U.S. intelligence analysts say they are becoming more convinced by the day that the Iranian government is involved in the  arming and training of insurgents in Iraq. Others say they need more evidence, but assert that the Lebanon-based Shiite militia Hizbullah is almost certainly aiding Iraq’s anti-government guerillas.

These analysts point to recent sophisticated insurgent attacks on armored U.S. military vehicles using home-made anti-tank weapons with “shaped” explosive charges. According to a U.S. counter-terrorism official familiar with the attacks (who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject), many of these home-made devices, known among U.S. bomb-disposal personnel as EFPs (Explosively Formed Penetrators), appear to be constructed according to instructions contained on CD-ROM formatted videos distributed by Hizbullah, which maintains close ties to hard-line religious factions in the Iranian government. Another counter-terrorism official said that “equipment” has also been recovered from Iraqi insurgents that U.S. analysts suspected had originated in Iran. “It is true that weapons clearly, unambiguously from Iran have been found in Iraq,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asserted earlier this month.

According to a counter-terrorism official, two different types of instructional Hizbullah-made videos have been recovered by U.S. forces from Iraqi insurgents. One explains in great detail how to manufacture home-made explosives that can be used in EFPs. Another explains how to shape the home-made explosive (or for that matter a factory-made or black-market explosive) into an EFP charge, and then how to build an improvised EFP launcher using a length of pipe and a metal projectile.

The Arabic-language videos are slickly produced and of “studio quality,” complete with dramatic music and subtitles, said a U.S. official who has reviewed the material. The high-quality production values have led some analysts to speculate that they may well have been produced by an element of the Iranian government with access to professional television equipment. Other analysts note, however, that Hizbullah has its own television station and therefore access to high-quality video equipment and personnel.

One reason U.S. officials have little doubt that Hizbullah is behind the CD-ROMs found in Iraq is that virtually identical discs were discovered aboard arms-smuggling ships intercepted during the past few years by Israeli military forces, according to a U.S. counter-terrorism official. In May 2003, Israeli commandos captured the Abu Hassan, a small fishing boat, off the coast near Lebanon. Its cargo allegedly included both bomb-making equipment and among its passengers were an alleged bomb maker named Abu Amar. According news reports at the time, the Israelis seized from Abu Amar 36 CD-ROMs containing bomb-making instructions—discs with the same or strikingly similar content to those recently recovered inside Iraq.

According to news reports, though, the Abu Hassan had traveled from Egypt to Beirut before the Israelis seized it off their northern coast. Its route therefore does not provide hard evidence that the boat’s passengers and cargo had any connections to Iran.

However, a U.S. official said that similar instructional CD-ROMs were also found aboard the Karine A., a ship carrying a heavy load of weapons that Israeli authorities captured in January, 2002. A statement on the official Web site of the Israeli Defense Forces alleges that the Karine A. was originally loaded with weapons on the “island of Kiesh in Iranian territorial waters.” The Israeli statement does not mention any CD-ROMs as being found aboard the boat.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials began to notice earlier this summer that insurgents at various locations around Iraq were using EFPs against U.S. armored vehicles with increasingly deadly results. It is not clear, however, which insurgent groups or factions have been using the devices. That question has sparked debate within the intelligence community, with some analysts arguing that religious antagonisms make it unlikely that the Iranian government’s Shiite hardliners or their clients in Hizbullah would supply technical or material support to the Sunni militants or ex-Baathists who make up some of the most aggressive elements of the Iraqi insurgency.

Other analysts note there is at least historical evidence of cooperation between Hizbullah and Sunni extremists, including Al-Qaeda militants, and that it is therefore possible that Hizbullah CD-ROMs on EFP construction are also being used by ex-Baathist insurgents and Jihadi militants aligned with Iraq’s self-appointed Al Qaeda leader, the Jordanian terrorist Abu Moussab al-Zarqawi.

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.




Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 July 2007 )
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