U.S. officials say Iran stockpiling missiles in Iraq


U.S. officials say Iran stockpiling missiles in Iraq

2019/12/05 | 17:45 - Source: Iraq News

(ThisDay | Iraq News Now)- WASHINGTON -- Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in the nation, part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power, according to U.S.

intelligence and military officials.

The buildup comes as the United States has rebuilt its military presence in the Middle East to counter emerging threats to American interests, including attacks on oil tankers and facilities that intelligence officials have blamed on Iran.

Since May, the Trump administration has sent roughly 14,000 additional troops to the region.

But new intelligence about Iran's stockpiling of missiles in Iraq is the latest sign that the Trump administration's efforts to deter Tehran by increasing the U.S.

military presence in the Middle East has largely failed.

The missiles pose a threat to U.S.

allies and partners in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, and could endanger American troops, the intelligence officials said.

Both Iran and Iraq have been gripped in recent weeks by sometimes violent public protests.

Iraqis "do not want to be led around on a leash by the Iranians," Rep.

Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview.

"But, unfortunately, due to the chaos and confusion in the Iraqi central government, Iran is paradoxically the best poised to take advantage of the grassroots unrest."

Tehran is engaged in a shadow war, striking at countries in the Middle East but thinly disguising the origin of those attacks to reduce the chance of provoking a response, military and intelligence officials said.

An arsenal of missiles outside its borders gives advantages to the Iranian government, military and paramilitary in any standoff with the United States and its regional allies.

Intelligence officials would not discuss the precise model of ballistic missile Iran has sneaked into Iraq.

But short-range missiles have a range of a little more than 600 miles, meaning that one fired from the outskirts of Baghdad could strike Jerusalem.

U.S.

intelligence officials first warned about new Iranian missiles in Iraq last year, and Israel launched an airstrike aimed at destroying the hidden Iranian weaponry.

But since then, U.S.

officials have said the threat is growing, with new ballistic missiles being secretly moved in.

Officials said Iran was using Iraqi Shiite militias, many of which it has long supplied and controlled, to move and hide the missiles.

The Iranian-backed militias have effectively taken control of a number of roads, bridges and other pieces of transportation infrastructure in Iraq, easing Tehran's ability to sneak the missiles into the country, officials said.

"People are not paying enough attention to the fact that ballistic missiles in the last year have been placed in Iraq by Iran with the ability to project violence on the region," said Slotkin, an expert on Shiite militias who recently visited Baghdad to meet with Iraqi and U.S.

officials.

Slotkin pressed Iraqi leaders on the threat from Iran, telling them that if Iran launched a missile from Iraqi territory, it could threaten the American training effort in Iraq and other support from the United States.

Separately, France, Germany and the United Kingdom say "Iran's developments of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles" go against a U.N.

Security Council resolution calling on Tehran not to undertake any activity related to such missiles.

Ambassadors from the three European nations urged U.N.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a letter circulated Wednesday to inform the council in his next report that Iran's ballistic missile activity is "inconsistent" with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The letter cites footage released on social media April 22, 2019, of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant "equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle." It says: "The Shahab-3 booster used in the test is a Missile Technology Control Regime category-1 system and as such is technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon."

Information for this article was contributed by Edith M.

Lederer of The Associated Press.

A Section on 12/05/2019



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