Scant Evidence Found of Iran-Iraq Arms Link
By Alexandra Zavis and Greg Miller
The Los Angeles Times
the two nations.
The combination of Sunni Arab militants believed to be affiliated with
Al Qaeda and Shiite Muslim militiamen with ties to
sectarian and political violence here. The province is bisected by
long-traveled routes leading from
farther south in
But even here, evidence of Iranian involvement in
markings dated 2006, said U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland, who oversees
the province. But there has been little sign of more advanced weaponry
crossing the border, and no Iranian agents have been found.
In his speech this month outlining the new
President Bush promised to "seek out and destroy" Iranian networks that he
said were providing "advanced weaponry and training to our enemies." He is
expected to strike a similar note in tonight's State of the Union speech.
For all the aggressive rhetoric, however, the Bush administration has
provided scant evidence to support these claims. Nor have reporters
During a recent sweep through a stronghold of Sunni insurgents here, a
single Iranian machine gun turned up among dozens of arms caches
uncovered. British officials have similarly accused
Iraqi affairs, but say they have not found Iranian-made weapons in areas
The lack of publicly disclosed evidence has led to questions about
whether the administration is overstating its case. Some suggest Bush and
his aides are pointing to
Others suggest they are laying the foundation for a military strike against
Hussein was developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Those
statements proved wrong. The administration's charges about
uncomfortably familiar to some. "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned
Intelligence Committee, said last week, referring to the administration's
The accusations of Iranian meddling "illustrate what may be one of our
greatest problems," said Anthony Cordesman, a former Defense Department
official and military expert at the Center for Strategic and International
"We are still making arguments from authority without detail and
explanation. We're making them in an
don't have anything like the credibility we've had in the past."
Few doubt that
that have led attacks against
The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in
largest parties in parliament, is believed to be the biggest beneficiary of
Iranian help. The Shiite group was based in
But the Supreme Council also has strong
host to the head of the party, Abdelaziz Hakim, at the White House in
December, and administration officials have frequently cited Adel Abdul
Mehdi, another party leader, as a person they would like to see as
The Islamic Dawa Party of
also has strong ties to
has provided aid to the Sunni insurgents, who have led most of the attacks
Evidence is stronger that the Iranians are supporting a Shiite group that
cleric Muqtada Sadr.
"I've come to a much darker interpretation of Iranian actions in the
past 12 to 18 months," CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said in recent
congressional testimony. Previously,
"There is a clear line of evidence that points out the Iranians want to
One high-ranking intelligence official in
of "fidelity" in the intelligence on
sometimes unclear because it is difficult to track weapons and personnel
that might be flowing across the long and porous border.
roadside bombs capable of penetrating advanced armor, he said, with markings
that could be traced to
been found on the devices themselves or the crates in which they were
smuggled into the country, he said.
"Two years ago we were debating whether this was really happening," the
official said. "Now the debate is over."
ordnance despite repeated requests. The
photographs of other weapons finds.
British government officials, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, have
Blair said a year ago that the weapons bore the hallmarks of
Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia in
districts for which they had responsibility.
"We do have intelligence which suggests that weapons and ammunition are
being smuggled in from
munitions or personnel have been seized at the border, officers said.
is prepared to work with any group, Shiite or Sunni, that can tie up
forces. But State Department and intelligence officials have privately
expressed doubts that Iranians are helping Sunnis.
Sunni insurgents in Diyala don't appear to need outside suppliers. They
exploit massive weapons stashes containing materiel dating back to the
Iran-Iraq war, when Hussein had a major military base in the area.
military officials say they have found the type of shaped charges they
Outside military analysts have questioned how many of these sorts of
weapons actually come from
and widely known in the
some of the more sophisticated devices, but other countries could also be
"A lot of rather sophisticated weapons have actually been released by
Others note that smugglers could be bringing weapons across the border
"They Are Significant"
A second high-ranking U.S. intelligence official in Washington
acknowledged that only a "small percentage" of explosions in Iraq could be
linked to shaped charges coming from Iran.
"But in terms of American casualties, they are significant," he said,
because they are much more lethal than standard roadside bombs.
the country." He declined to elaborate but noted that
raided an Iranian office in the Iraqi city of
documents and computer drives he called a "treasure trove" on
"networks, supply lines, sourcing and funding."
Five Iranians were taken into custody in the raid, prompting angry
protests from the Iraqi government.
short of steps that would be seen as direct provocation and provide
justification for a military response. For example,
supplying Shiite militias with surface-to-air missiles and other weaponry
that was part of Hezbollah's arsenal in its fight with
calibration" that probably reflected disagreements within the Islamic
regime. "I don't doubt that Iranian national security council meetings are
very contentious," the official said.