With help from Iran, these Iraqi militias acquire deadlier rockets

Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias appear to have acquired and even built increasingly deadly missiles and rockets in recent years. This potentially gives them the ability to strike their opponents from far greater distances than ever before.

In late October, an obscure Iraqi Shiite militia calling itself Ashab Al Kahf released a video claiming to show that he possesses a TOS-1 multiple rocket launcher and a Russian-made thermobaric weapon.

The TOS-1 is a truly lethal weapon. The Iraqi army has six in its arsenal.

The system, which is mounted on a T-72 tank chassis, can fire 24 thermobaric rockets containing flammable chemicals which rained over an area approximately 200 meters by 300 meters wide. The use of such rockets in an urban area would be totally devastating.

However, there is a tremendous amount of doubt and skepticism among analysts that this particular group actually possesses a TOS-1. It is much more likely that Ashab Al Kahf actually displayed Iranian-made artillery rockets that the Shiite militias in Iraq are known to possess.

The anti-American militia officially denies being supported by Iran. According to Iraqi expert Michael Knights, however, this denial is likely part of a ploy to allow Tehran and its more powerful armed proxies in Iraq to maintain a plausible denial on some attacks Ashab Al Kahf might carry out.

While such groups may overdo their capabilities, Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have undoubtedly accumulated large Iran-supplied stocks of increasingly sophisticated rockets and possibly even ballistic missiles. at close range.

If a relatively unknown group like Ashab Al Kahf has such destructive rockets, what do the much more powerful and established militia groups have in their arsenals?

August 2018 Reuters exclusive report, who cited anonymous Iraqi and Western intelligence sources and a senior Iranian official, revealed that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) to its militia allies in Iraq. The Iranian official said the number of these missiles was not high but could be increased if Tehran deemed it necessary.

In addition, Iranian advisers sought to give Tehran’s Iraqi militia allies the ability and know-how to build rockets themselves. One of the results of this project was the unveiling of Iraqi-built rockets in the arsenal of the Iran-backed Badr Organization. Last july. These particular rockets are comparable to Iranian-made Naze’at and Zelzal unguided rockets.

The reported transfer apparently followed the same patterns as past Iranian efforts to build up the missile arsenals of its non-state allies in the Middle East, most notably Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a large and growing stockpile of long-range missiles. more specific, as well as the Houthis in Yemen.

“It is also widely accepted that [Iraqi] the militias developed a line of communication and control with Iran via Diyala, allowing them to import missiles and equipment without government approval or knowledge, ”noted a Washington Institute analysis in 2019. “For example, artillery rockets may have already entered Iraq from inside tankers or empty water, a tactic also used in Yemen.”

“If so, Iran’s manual suggests that SRBMs and / or precision guidance systems may soon follow. “

Providing Iraqi militia allies with missiles capable of accurately hitting US bases in the Persian Gulf and even Israel could well prove strategically beneficial to Tehran in the event of a major war with these adversaries.

For now, these groups appear to be sticking with more basic short-range rockets like the Katyusha, which they have used in multiple attacks on US bases across Iraq and the US Embassy in the United States. enclosure of the green zone in Baghdad. The most recent such attack took place on November 17 when four Katyusha rockets hit the green zone.

These attacks are clearly aimed at maintaining pressure against the presence of US troops in Iraq.

After one of these attacks killed an American civilian contractor at the Kirkuk K1 base in late December 2019, the United States quickly responded with a series of airstrikes against the powerful Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group. Shortly after, in early January 2020, a US drone strike killed both Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad. In response, Iran fired ballistic missiles at two airfields hosting US troops, the large Al-Asad airbase in Anbar and Erbil International Airport in the Iraqi Kurdish capital. These missile strikes apparently sought to avoid causing victims on American personnel because it could have started an all-out war. Nonetheless, many American troops in Al-Asad suffered brain damage.

At the end of September, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the US embassy in Baghdad unless Iraq does more to combat rocket attacks by militias against US personnel. The threat did not include the closure of the US consulate in Erbil. Shortly after the Pompeo threat, six militia rockets were fired at Erbil International Airport from the Iraqi province of Nineveh. The nature and timing of the attack strongly suggested that Iran and its militia proxies wanted to signal to the United States that their troops would not be safe anywhere in the country, including within the relatively autonomous region. safe and stable Kurdistan.

The rocket crash site was also near a base belonging to the Iranian Kurdish opposition group KDPI, possibly suggesting that the attackers were sending two messages or threats in a single strike. While the attack did not kill or injure anyone, which was most likely on purpose like those January strikes, it demonstrated unequivocally for the first time that these militias possess rockets capable of hitting Erbil with remarkable precision.

The aforementioned attack on November 17 on the Green Zone came shortly after the United States announced it would reduce its troops in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500. It was the first attack. since Iran-backed militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, proposed a temporary truce in mid-October that included stopping all rocket attacks on condition that US troops retreat to a “Acceptable delay”.

It now appears that these rocket attacks are becoming common again. If the situation deteriorates into another confrontation, the US military may well be faced with much more deadly rockets than it has so far from these militias thanks to their boss in Tehran.

Comments are closed.