November 17, 2008

Periodically over the last year and a half, the Bush administration and the US military have promised to provide proof of Iranian meddling in Iraq in the form of Iranian-provided weaponry in the hands of terrorists insurgents special groups criminals. Their first effort to do so, the infamous Baghdad Briefing, fell flat on its face when even Bob Gates and then Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Pace admitted that the incredibly weak evidence it presented proved nothing of the sort. Since then, various promised "smoking gun" briefings have been announced, postponed and then cancelled. Even the previously stenographic mainstream press finally noticed there was a lot of smoke and no fire.

That seems to be because, according to a task force of investigators advising the US military in Iraq - known as Task Force Troy - the narrative of Iranian weapons flooding across the border is only hype after all. Gareth Porter writes:

According to the data compiled by the task force, and made available to an academic research project last July, only 70 weapons believed to have been manufactured in Iran had been found in post-invasion weapons caches between mid-February and the second week in April. And those weapons represented only 17 percent of the weapons found in caches that had any Iranian weapons in them during that period.

The actual proportion of Iranian-made weapons to total weapons found, however, was significantly lower than that, because the task force was finding many more weapons caches in Shi'a areas that did not have any Iranian weapons in them.

The task force database identified 98 caches over the five-month period with at least one Iranian weapon, excluding caches believed to have been hidden prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion.

But according to an e-mail from the MNFI press desk this week, the task force found and analysed a total of roughly 4,600 weapons caches during that same period.

The caches that included Iranian weapons thus represented just 2 percent of all caches found. That means Iranian-made weapons were a fraction of one percent of the total weapons found in Shi'a militia caches during that period.

The extremely small proportion of Iranian arms in Shi'a militia weapons caches further suggests that Shi'a militia fighters in Iraq had been getting weapons from local and international arms markets rather than from an official Iranian-sponsored smuggling network.

Left out of the list of Iranian-made weaponry were 350 armour-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) found in Iraqi weapons caches. Despite the lurid claims of US officials, the task group couldn't ascribe an Iranian origin to a single one. Which along with press reports about finding EFP manufactories inside Iraq explains why, since mid-Summer, we've heard nothing about Iranian-made EFPs whereas before official reports and statements were full of them.

The academic research paper in which this revelatory data finally became public, by Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman of the West Point military academy, was finally published last month for the first time by West Point's Counter-Terrorism Centre.

Felter and Fishman do not analyse the task force data in their paper, but they criticise official U.S. statements on Iranian weapons in Iraq. "Some reports erroneously attribute munitions similar to those produced in Iran as Iranian," they write, "while other Iranian munitions found in Iraq were likely purchased on the open market."

The co-authors note that Iranian arms can be purchased directly from the website of the Defence Industries of Iran with a credit card.

Given that ease of purchase, a shared porous border and ubiquitous smuggling, the percentage of Iranian made arms is very low. But there are clear reasons Iran isn't doing so well in the Iraqi arms market.

Iranian equipment is less reliable and more expensive than Eastern Block materiel that flooded the region after the 2003 invasion -something which a certain imprisoned international arms dealer, ex-CIA and ex-US military contractor and supplier to despots and terrorists, Viktor
Bout, may well know a fair bit about. It's a buyer's market and the Iranians are seeing market forces exclude their produce, with the exception of simple artillery rockets. They're more expensive than the Pakistani arms bazaar's copies coming down the old Silk Road routes and far less effective than easily available and comparitively-priced black market US weapons too.

Over 190,000 US-provided guns found their way onto the black market in Iraq, simply disappearing from inventory after lax US and Iraqi accounting. Some even found their way to Turkey, into the hands of PKK terrorists. And to this day, no-one has held Gen Petreaus accountable for those 190,000 guns - weighing in excess of 475 tons* and worth over $50 million at non-black market prices or about twice that on the street - that he says were "kicked out of helicopters" or misplaced by clerical errors on his watch, despite one of his closest aides pleading guilty to corruption and bribery charges in relation to procurement contracts by a company involved in illegal arms dealing of US-provided weapons. He's apparently never been asked what he knew and when he knew it, reporting simply says there's no indication Gen. Petreaus was involved or aware of any wrongdoing - but he's never been subjected to a formal enquiry on the matter. And a GAO investigation begun back in August last year seems to have gone very silent.

So now we have a deafening silence - both on earlier accusations of Iranian arms running and meddling, which will just be allowed to sit their in the public mind, and on the very real high-level incompetence and corruption which led to so many US-provided weapons being lost without trace. That's just part of the Bush administration's gag order on the largest war profiteering adventure in history.

Add yet another couple of items to the very long list of hard questions the Obama administration should be asking about its predecessor and its doings.

Video above: Gareth Porter discussed the false narrative of Iranian weapons in Iraq with AntiWar.Com back in May.

(* 110,000 assault rifles @ 4kg per = 440 tons (plus about 80,000 pistols)
110,000 AK-47's, at the usual nation-to-nation arms deal price of @ $380 each, works out to @ $42 million, plus the pistols.)

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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