Sunday Telegraph: Iran has been the covert instigator of thousands of the attacks against British troops in southern Iraq for at least four years. It is, without doubt, responsible for the deaths and serious injuries of many British personnel, who have been attempting to contain the violence in southern Iraq.
The Sunday Telegraph
By Sean Rayment
Iran has been the covert instigator of thousands of the attacks against British troops in southern Iraq for at least four years.
It is, without doubt, responsible for the deaths and serious injuries of many British personnel, who have been attempting to contain the violence in southern Iraq.
The Islamic state's malignant involvement in its neighbour's internal strife escalated dramatically in April 2004 following the first uprising across Iraq by disaffected Shia militiamen.
As Iraq descended into murderous anarchy, Iran began channelling vast amounts of cash and weaponry to the burgeoning insurgency. Tehran, it seemed, was happy to fund any Shia militia group, providing it attacked the British and Americans, and therefore further destabilised Iraq.
The chaos that ensued allowed Iran to manoeuvre itself into the position of regional power broker, and fed Tehran's determination to become a nuclear power.
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Force, known as the al-Quds, which is believed to be beyond the control of the central government, supported the Jaish al-Mahdi, or Mahdi Army, the Shia militia created by Moqtada al-Sadr, and the Badr Brigades – two groups whose hatred for the coalition was matched only by that for each other.
The cash was used to pay recruits – mainly young, unemployed and ill-educated Shia men from the slums of Baghdad and Basra – who were only too willing to take up arms against a force they regarded as occupiers rather than liberators.
It is also widely believed that the al-Quds perfected the improvised explosive devices (IED) which, in just a few short months, went from being rudimentary and unreliable to highly sophisticated lethal weapons capable of firing multiple projectiles and penetrating the armour of American and British tanks.
The IED, with its highly advanced infra-red triggering devices, became the weapon of choice for the insurgents and the technology was soon being passed to the Sunni and al-Qa'eda groups in Baghdad, who shared the same enemy, despite being locked in their own internal conflict.
As the American and British body counts increased so did the rhetoric from London and Washington. Both governments warned Iran to stay out of Iraq's affairs but each accusation was met with persistent denial by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose stock response became "where is the proof?"
But with a named British officer stating in a military report what many in the Army have suspected for years – Iran's direct involvement in the deaths of British troops – the question now is what does this mean for the Islamic Republic?
Even if the British Government wanted to exact some form of military revenge from Iran it is doubtful whether it has the capability. A one-off air strike would do little apart from enraging the pro-Iranian militias operating in southern Iraq.
Instead, it will add to the growing weight of evidence being accumulated by MI6 and the CIA that will one day be used to justify a limited but precise US-led attack against Tehran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran's nuclear ambitions are completely unacceptable to both America and Britain, who now regard Iran's nuclear strategy as a one of the most dangerous threats, second only to Islamic terrorism, facing the West.
It has long been rumoured, but always officially denied that, given the right circumstances, Britain would support a limited air campaign against Iran's nuclear installations, such as the one launched by Israel in 1981 against the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor.
Although Britain is unlikely to take part in the attack itself, it would offer some form of support, such as in-flight refuelling or allowing the RAF's Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft to be used.
Iran has been playing a dangerous game for too long. If it continues to do so it is highly likely the West will act – and with some justification, the relations of Britain's dead soldiers might say.
Is Tehran responsible for these deaths?
2nd Lt Joanna Yorke Dyer, who was a member of the Intelligence Corps, was killed in Basra in the early hours of April 5 2007, when the armoured vehicle in which she was travelling was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.
2nd Lt Dyer, who had trained with Prince William at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, and three other soldiers were killed instantly, and the bomb left a 3ft crater in the road. The 24-year-old Oxford graduate, who was single and from Yeovil, had been in Iraq for just a few weeks.
Ft Lt Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill, 32, who was married and from Canterbury, Kent, was one of five Service personnel killed when a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter was hit by a missile fired by insurgents in Basra in May 2006.
The attack was one of the largest losses of life in a single incident in the entire war and was the first time a British helicopter had been shot down. An investigation later found that the missile which struck the aircraft originated from Iran.
Kingsman Alex Green, 21, from Warrington, Lancashire, was shot dead by an Iraqi gunman – dubbed the Basra sniper – in January 2007. Kingsman Green was serving with Chindit Company, based at the Old State Building, in the centre of Basra, at the time of his death.
He was part of a patrol that had earlier been escorting a convoy out of the city when he was ambushed. Although he was not killed outright, he died of his injuries later the same day. He was one of several British soldiers killed by
the Basra sniper.
Cpl John Rigby, who was a member of the 4th Battalion The Rifles, was killed in a roadside bomb attack in June 2007. The 24-year-old soldier, from Rye in East Sussex, died with his twin brother –who was also a soldier in the same regiment – by his side at the British field hospital in Basra.
His commanding officer, Lt Col Patrick Sanders, paid the following tribute to him: "He was a warrior – tough and fierce, swift and bold. And he was an astonishingly dedicated and charismatic leader. Like all the best soldiers, he inspired love, devotion and fierce loyalty in his men. They idolised him and would follow him anywhere."