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Iraqi terrorists ‘are being supplied with arms smuggled from Iran’

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Daily Telegraph: Iran is sustaining the insurgency against British and American forces in Iraq by supplying terrorists with weapons and cash, senior military figures have claimed.
The Daily Telegraph

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent

Iran is sustaining the insurgency against British and American forces in Iraq by supplying terrorists with weapons and cash, senior military figures have claimed.

British forces are enduring daily bombardments of mortar bombs and rockets at their bases in Basra. The weapons are believed to be sponsored, funded and smuggled from Iran whose border is just over 10 miles from the southern Iraq capital.

Military sources have disclosed that there is “very, very strong intelligence” that elements inside Iran have continued to fund and support the gun-running. There is still no “concrete evidence”, in part, it is claimed, because Iranian weapons are designed to be untraceable.

“But we know when something goes bang there is an Iranian influence on that bomb,” an intelligence official said.

In Basra, Iranian trucks could be seen going through customs with little hindrance from the Department of Border Enforcement.

British soldiers claimed that when they appeared the guards would spring into action, stopping vehicles, but as soon as they left the customs officers waved the traffic through.

At Basra Palace barracks, there have been only four days in the past month in which it has not been attacked. The heavy shelling has claimed the lives of a British soldier and a civilian contractor in the last two months and has led to the British consulate, which is housed in the barracks, to withdraw all but a skeleton staff.

Lt Col Simon Browne, the commanding officer of 2 Bn The Royal Anglians, who finished their tour of Iraq this week, said: “I’m sure there is outside influence here and it is from Iran.

“It is clear the insurgents are getting resupply from somewhere. I would believe it comes from Iran, or at least comes from Iranian sources.” While hundreds of rounds have landed on his troops, it would be nearly impossible to definitively prove that they had been manufactured in Iran because the country’s arms industry has been “past masters” at hiding its fingerprints on weapons, according to an arms source who has connections with Teheran.

“They are superb at ensuring that, apart from the date of manufacture, there is no identification that can trace the armaments back to Iran.”

He claimed that it was “unquestionably Teheran” that was supplying the weapons to insurgents, including the single and twin 107mm rocket launchers adapted from a Chinese design. To try to prevent the influx of weapons, the British have put out long-range patrols along the 300-mile border in Maysan province in an attempt to catch smugglers.

But the porous border, which includes thousands of miles of waterways where the Marsh Arabs live, has yet to yield a weapons cache that would point the finger at Iran’s mullahs.

Senior military commanders said they would not be surprised if Iran wanted to influence Iraq as it is a predominantly Shia state with strong ties to the new Baghdad government.

Brigadier James Everard, the commander of 20 Armoured Brigade in Iraq, said that during operations, troops had come across weapons manufactured in Iran but that did not necessarily prove that Teheran was trying to destabilise the country. One would need “a doctorate in Iraqi politics” to understand the exact influence Iran has on its neighbour, he added.

American generals are particularly keen to stop the smuggling, which they say is responsible for providing insurgents with infrared triggers and new explosives that are capable of penetrating thick armour.

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