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 Shiite 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 analyzed 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 Shiite militia caches during that period.
The extremely small proportion of Iranian arms in Shi'a militia weapons caches further suggests that Shiite militia fighters in Iraq had been getting weapons from local and international arms markets rather than from an official Iranian-sponsored smuggling network.
The database was compiled by MNFI's Task Force Troy, which was directed to examine all weapons caches found in Iraq beginning in early January 2008 to identify Iranian-made weapons. The database was released by MNFI last July to the Empirical Studies of Conflict project, co-sponsored by the U.S. Military Academy and Princeton University, and was published for the first time by West Point's Counter-Terrorism Center last month as an appendix to a paper on Iranian strategy in Iraq by Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman.
In late April, the U.S. presented the Maliki government with a document that apparently listed various Iranian arms found in Iraq and highlighted alleged Iranian arms found in Basra. But the U.S. campaign to convince Iraqi officials collapsed when Task Force Troy analysed a series of large weapons caches uncovered in Basra and Karbala in April and May.
Caches of arms found in Karbala late last April and May totaled more than 2,500 weapons, and caches in Basra included at least 3,700 weapons, according to official MNFI statements. That brought the total number of weapons found in those former Mahdi Army strongholds to more than 6,200 weapons.
But the task force found that none of those weapons were Iranian-made. The database lists three caches found Apr. 19, but provides no data on any of them. It lists no other caches for the region coinciding with that period, confirming that no weapons had been found to be of Iranian origin.
In announcing the weapons totals discovered in Basra to reporters on May 7, Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said nothing about the provenance of the weapons, implicitly admitting that they were not Iranian-made.
Only two months before the new high-level propaganda push on alleged Iranian weapons supply to Shi'a militias, the U.S. command had put out a story suggesting that large numbers of Iranian-supplied arms had been buried all over the country. On Feb. 17, 2008, U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told reporters that Iraqi and coalition forces had captured 212 weapons caches across Iraq over the previous week "with growing links to the Iranian-backed special groups."
The Task Force Troy data for the week of Feb. 9-16 show, however, that the U.S. command had information on Iranian arms contradicting that propaganda line. According to the task force database, only five of those 212 caches contained any Iranian weapons that analysts believed might have been buried after the U.S. invasion. And the total number of confirmed Iranian-made weapons found in those five caches, according to the data, was eight, not including four Iranian-made hand grenades.
The task force database includes 350 armour-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) found in Iraqi weapons caches. However, the database does not identify any of the EFPs as Iranian weapons.
That treatment of EFPs in the caches appears to contradict claims by U.S. officials throughout 2007 and much of 2008 that EFPs were being smuggled into Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The allegedly Iranian-manufactured EFPs had been the centerpiece of the U.S. military's February 2007 briefing charging Iran with arming Shi'a militiamen in Iraq.
Press reports of a series of discoveries of shops for manufacturing EFPs in Iraq in 2007 forced the U.S. command to admit that the capacity to manufacture EFPs was not limited to Iran. By the second half of 2008, U.S. officials had stopped referring to Iranian supply of EFPs altogether.
Felter and Fishman do not analyse the task force data in their paper, but they criticize 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 Defense Industries of Iran with a credit card.
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Albion Monitor November
18, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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