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Iran: Experts Say Infrared Bombs Used By Iraqi Insurgents Can't Be Homemade

  • Jan Jun

The diplomatic row continues between the United Kingdom and Iran over British officials' charges that there is a link between Iranian elements or Hizballah with new explosive devices being used by insurgents in Iraq. The sophisticated devices have reportedly killed eight British soldiers since July, but Iran has denounced the British allegations of its involvement as a lie. British military experts maintain, however, that only precision-geared military-supply factories can produce the "infrared" bombs also supplied by Iran to Hizballah in Lebanon. And, British officials say, the evidence still points toward Iran, despite Tehran's repeated denials. The experts spoke after British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Iran yesterday not to interfere in Iraq.

London, 7 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Despite Iranian denials, British military experts still maintain that the "infrared" bombs the insurgents in southern Iraq newly use against British forces cannot be "homemade."

And, the experts say, the evidence still points to Iranian involvement.

Amyas Godfrey has served in Iraq and heads the U.K. Armed Forces Program at the Royal United Services Institute.

He said that it is usually easy for experienced experts on the ground to say which group is capable of what kind of bomb attack, including the type of explosives and packing.

The bombs in question are the "infrared trip-wire" devices capable of piercing heavy armor. They are exactly the sophisticated type that has been used by the Iran-funded Hizballah militias in Lebanon.

"It's a very basic intelligence analysis," Godfrey said. "We know who's been using them before; we know who's supplied them. And that's not any doubt. The worry now is that they've appeared in southern Iraq, being used by insurgents. So, logically, it's looking like these same weapons are being supplied by the same people."

Many other military experts share this view, including Bruce Jones, a security policy adviser to NATO in London. He said a number of intelligence reports as well as the nature of the devices trace the bombs to Iran because of three basic facts.

"They have been used in the area in southern Iraq adjacent to Iran," Jones said. "They are of a type used by Hizballah. And, you do need a pretty sophisticated set-up, both to procure and to adapt these technical components."

The last point appears to matter most, Godfrey agreed. That is: The manufacturing of the components for the bombs is simply beyond any production capacity the insurgents might have at their disposal.

"What we're seeing now, are far more military hardware, and something that requires a manufacturing set-up as in factories," Godfrey said. "It's a large amount of high explosives, a shaped charge, which is quite common in some RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] or in armor-piercing weapons."

Godfrey explained that this high-precision charge melts a hole, for example in the armor plate of a tank, and explodes inside it. This is why it requires a high-quality manufacture, not something that could be done in an insurgent hideout.

Jones stressed that another significant feature -- also far beyond the insurgents' production capability -- is the infrared "trip-wire."

"It's very much the same concept that you have of alarms," Jones said. "An infrared beam goes between two points in a museum, and if that is interrupted, then an alarm goes off."

Godfrey added that the intelligence services have also gathered a lot of evidence from the attacks on British troops. He said he doubts, however, whether -- because of its nature -- the intelligence services would reveal this kind of evidence to the public.

"Looking through intelligence assessments of these eight attacks, they all have links to the Hizballah-type explosives," Godfrey said. "Unless they have other proof, which we won't know about, through their security or their intelligence, all we have now is a likelihood -- i.e., that it is likely that these bombs have come from Iran, because they are the same type that have been used before."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday warned Iran not to interfere in Iraq.

Blair said the nature of the bombs being used against British troops "lead us either to Iranian elements or the Hizballah because they are similar to devices used by Hizballah that is funded and supported by Iran."

But Blair stopped short of explicitly accusing Iran of supplying the bombs to Iraqi insurgents. "We cannot be sure of this at the present time," Blair said.

Related story:

Iraq: U.K. Blames Iran For Attacks On British Soldiers