Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Iraq - Iranian Arms Interdicted

As a follow-up to the Francop piece posted last Thursday, i've been interested in tracking where Iranian arms are showing up among it's various proxies. I understand that time-wise, this really isn't relevant any more, but i'm still curious about the basic subject of where or where not Iranian arms are showing up, also, the creation of an effective database of information on the Iranian military, as i'm more-or-less aiming to do with The Arkenstone, necessarily requires writing about older topics.

Iraq - Iranian Arms Interdicted
Note: Recently i wrote a piece on the wikileaks documents that referenced Iran, and may be found here

So this week, it's Iraq where contentious debates around the role of Iran's larger regional ambitions have arisen thanks in no small part to the question of whether Iran was killing US troops and whether that represented a cassus belli.

Allegations first began to seriously surface in mid-2006 as the insurgency began to escalate and the threat of a Sunni-Shia civil war began to loom. It was asserted then that Iran was arming shia militias, such as the 'Jaish-al Mahdi' in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Luckily for us, these accusations came with plenty of photographic evidence in order to sell their case to the national and global media.

The media debate, and by extension, the whole debcle centered around the use of EFP's - explosively formed penetration; explosives that used a shaped charge, usually a copper cone that when packed from behind with explosives formed a molten jet of metal that could more efficiently puncture armor.

Unfortunately for some, these pictures reveal just how simple these devices really are. They're literally no more then lengths of pipe, packed with explosive with a copper cone. No more skill is required to mill the cones then could be easily found on a basic lathe.

Iran has also been accused of supplying more advanced IED (improvised explosive device) technology such as passive-IR triggers. But as with the EFP's, there's no concrete link to Iran. It's possible they're Iranian, but then again, it's also possible from them to be the result of Iraqi manufacture under Iranian instruction, or perhaps more likely, they're simply the result of a kind of "survival of the fittest", as the insurgency progresses, the 'dumb' insurgents all get killed while the best and brightest of the insurgents gain experience and knowledge. The latter is by far the most likely scenario as insurgencies are always dynamic entities, shifting and evolving.

Out of the public spotlight, but much more damning as to Iran's presence, are other weapons, first among them, the 107 mm rocket. The rockets are instantly recognizable to anyone who saw pictures of the Francop's cargo. The rockets bear the exact same fuse, dimensions, markings and colors.

The first rockets found tended to be a dark green, while more recently they are being found in desert-tan.

Another weapon popularly seen Iranian weapon the 60/81mm mortar bomb. However, not all are convinced of their origin. Criticism of the evidence involved revolves around several themes.

1) Manufacture Date Discontinuity - On September 9th 2006, a stock of 81 mm mortars were found in containers identical to those found several years earlier on the Karine-A shipment intercepted by Israel. Only on these, they bore the datestamp "9-2006" - evidence that some took on to mean that they had been planted because it would be foolish to assume the mortar bombs could go from Iran's weapon factories, to an Iraqi safehouse, and then be captured, all in the space of 9 days.

However, this is a misrepresentation of how Iran marks their containers. 9-2006 doesn't indicate September 2006, but rather, batch number 9, in 2006. This was seen during the Francop incident when 60 mm mortars bore the exact same designation style (4-2008: lot 4, manufactured in 2008)

2)Marking Discontinuity - The author at 'Entropic Memes' in a piece entitled "What makes an Iranian Mortar Round Iranian?" points out that the lettering and ribs don't match those advertised by Diomil (comparison pictured below), asserting that they more closely resemble a type of mortar Iraq already used and were undoubtedly kept in the various arms caches around the country that were looted in the aftermath of the invasion.

Unfortunately, the Diomil page isn't good of a reference nowadays, rather then advertisements, we should look at mortars we know are Iranian. Note the distinguishing features of the captured mortars, 3 ribs, 8 fins, batch/date/label configuration, AZ111-A2 Fuse.

For comparison - here are naval marines using an 81 mm mortar during the Blow of Zolfaqar wargames in 2006.

Also compare them to the 81 mm mortars found on the Francop - almost exactly the same with a slight change in markings layout between 2006 and 2009.

A slightly different version of the 81 mm mortar has been pound, date unknown, but obviously more recent as the manufacture date is 2008. Note the designation, M91, same as found on the Francop. One mystery though is the "P" label in an inverted triangle. The "P" was also found on the Francop 81mm's though as part of the lot-date numbers.

These are only highlights of the Iranian weapons found in Iraq, and those shown to the public are an even smaller amount. While this isn't quite the damning evidence for casus belli some thought it would be It would be foolish to think that Iran is not interfering in Iraq, and given their relationship with their neighbor, can anyone blame them for wanting the next dictator, strongman, or prime minister to arise in Baghdad to be friendly to Tehran.