Sunday Telegraph: Iran has secretly paid Iraqi insurgents hundreds of thousands of American dollars to kill British soldiers, according to a leaked government document obtained by The Telegraph.
The Sunday Telegraph
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Iran has secretly paid Iraqi insurgents hundreds of thousands of American dollars to kill British soldiers, according to a leaked government document obtained by The Telegraph.
The allegations are contained in a confidential "field report" written by a British officer who served in Basra during one of the most dangerous periods of the conflict. The report, which has never been made public, shows the full level of Iran's involvement in the insurgency for the first time.
The document states that the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) – also known as the Mahdi Army – one of the most violent insurgent groups operating in Basra, used money from Iran to recruit and pay young unemployed men up to $300 (£150) a month to carry out attacks against the British. The findings have been passed to the highest levels in the military.
The leak comes at a time of rising tension between Iran and the international community, as Tehran continues to stonewall UN inquiries into allegations that it has carried out research to develop a nuclear weapon.
The report, "Life Under Fire in the Old State Building", details the activities of British troops under the command of Major Christopher Job, of the 2nd Lancashire Regiment, between November 2006 and March 2007.
In the report, Major Job discloses that in the course of five months his base was attacked 350 times. Old State Building, which is in the centre of Basra, is the most-attacked British base in recent history.
In an attempt to discover who was behind the attacks, the officer says he established a network of informers, who supplied him with detailed intelligence on the actions of the insurgents and who was behind their funding.
The officer states that the reports of Iran's involvement came from a network of 25 sources, which included a former Iraqi army general, prominent businessmen, local sheikhs and council leaders.
He writes: "We learnt from a number of our Key Leadership Engagements [local contacts] that the source of the problem was the level of unemployment in Basra.
"JAM, using funding from Iran, paid the unemployed youths in the region of $300 per month to attack Multi National Forces. We also learnt that JAM had a drugs culture and that youths literally got hooked on being associated with JAM."
Twenty-seven members of the Armed Forces died and dozens were seriously injured in southern Iraq between November 2006 and May 2007, the period that Major Job covers in his report.
A senior British officer who has recently returned from southern Iraq said that the existence of "Iranian finance teams" in Basra was widely known by the British military and Foreign Office, although always officially denied.
He said: "It suited Iran to arm JAM in order to allow them to have the means to hit us."
Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP and a former infantry commander said: "This report makes it quite clear that Iran is directly involved in funding the insurgency."
He added: "The Government must confront Tehran over the deaths of British troops – anything else is appeasement."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "There is evidence to suggest a malign influence in Iraq by Iran, including the supply of equipment and armaments which are used by insurgents against UK forces in Iraq.
"This influence is completely unacceptable and serves only to undermine the efforts by the government of Iraq and the coalition."