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World Iran Is Secretly Moving Missiles Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say

02:31  05 december  2019
02:31  05 december  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

Iraq condemns attack on Iran's consulate in southern Najaf: state media

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WASHINGTON — Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq , part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power, according to American intelligence and military officials .

Intelligence showing that Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf was one of the critical reasons the US decided to move an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers into the region, according to several US officials with direct knowledge of the situation.

WASHINGTON — Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq, part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power, according to American intelligence and military officials.

a large crowd of people: American officials said that Iran had capitalized on unrest in Iraq, where protesters demonstrated this week in Basra.© Essam Al-Sudani/Reuters American officials said that Iran had capitalized on unrest in Iraq, where protesters demonstrated this week in Basra.

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, primarily to staff Navy ships and missile defense systems.

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BRUSSELS — Iran is directing surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is supplying Iraqi forces with tons of military equipment and other supplies, according to American officials .

Missiles have been unloaded from at least two small boats in Iranian waters, a move that American officials said could help defuse a brewing confrontation. In recent days, American officials have described satellite photographs showing fully assembled missiles being loaded onto multiple boats in

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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 American military presence in the Middle East has largely failed.

The missiles pose a threat to American 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. In Iraq, some are protesting against Iranian influence.

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ome officials said that about two dozen Iranian aircraft had been stationed in western Iran for possible operations over Iraq . The security crisis in Iraq was just one topic Russian missile that flies 27 times faster than sound and can obliterate any city in the world within minutes will enter service within months.

One of the officials said that , according to initial information, the weapons were bound for Iran -aligned Houthi fighters in Yemen. Over the past several years, U . S . warships have intercepted and seized Iranian arms likely bound for Houthi fighters. The official said what made this different was the

Iraqis “do not want to be led around on a leash by the Iranians,” Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan and 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 grass-roots unrest.”

Iranian officials did not return a request for comment.

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 or escalating the fight, 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. If the United States or Israel were to bomb Iran, its military could use missiles hidden in Iraq to strike back against Israel or a gulf country. The mere existence of those weapons could also help deter attacks.

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Officials said it was impossible to measure precisely the success of the classified program, which has never been publicly acknowledged. The officials described a far-reaching effort, created under President George W. Bush, to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran ’ s aerospace supply chains.

US satellite surveillance last week had shown mobile missile launchers were moving into positions in Iran where missiles were fired from, the official said . The September 22 parade was part of nationwide celebrations in Iran to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of its eight-year war with Iraq .

Intelligence officials would not discuss the precise model of ballistic missile Iran has sneaked into Iraq. But short-range missiles have a range of just over 600 miles, meaning that one fired from the outskirts of Baghdad could strike Jerusalem.

American 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, American 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 roads, bridges and 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 Ms. Slotkin, an expert on Shiite militias who recently visited Baghdad to meet with Iraqi and American officials.

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According to three Iranian officials , two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence “It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base,” the Western source said . He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf al-Sakhar. The U . S . Central Intelligence Agency and the

Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U . S According to three Iranian officials , two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range

Ms. 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.

The United States was concerned about potential Iranian aggression in the near future, John C. Rood, an under secretary of defense, told reporters on Wednesday, but he provided no details about what prompted officials’ concerns. CNN reported on Tuesday about American intelligence officials warning about new threats by Iran against American forces in the Middle East.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf have risen since attacks on oil tankers this spring, including off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, as well as a major drone and missile strike on Saudi oil fields in September. The Trump administration and European allies have blamed Iran, which has denied responsibility for the attacks.

Mr. Trump opted against a military strike in response to those attacks, but has authorized the United States Cyber Command to strike targets in Iran, although military and intelligence officials have said such electronic attacks are unlikely to deter Tehran.

Last year, Reuters reported that Iran had moved ballistic missiles into Iraq. In a public report released last month, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that Iran’s ballistic missiles were “a primary component of its strategic deterrent.”

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Iranian , Iraqi and Western sources told Reuters that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi'ite proxies in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there. Iran on Saturday rejected the report, which it said aimed to hurt Iran ' s ties with neighbors. U . S . Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on

Iran ’ s influence in Iraq is not just ascendant, but diverse, projecting into military, political, economic It is a piece of what analysts and Iranian officials say is Iran ’ s most pressing ambition: to exploit the General Suleimani secretly directed Iran ’ s policy in Iraq after the American invasion in 2003, and was

Tehran has been building up its arsenal to better dissuade the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia from attacking.

While decades of international sanctions have weakened the Iranian military, the agency’s report said Iran had invested in its domestic infrastructure, allowing it to continue to develop capable cruise and ballistic missiles.

In the strike in September, Iran used sophisticated cruise missiles to attack Saudi oil facilities and disguise, at least for a time, where the strike originated. Those missiles were fired from Iran, but flew around the northern Persian Gulf before striking their targets.

Positioning missiles in Iraq as well as in Iran would further allow the Iranian government to create initial doubts about an attack’s origins. Obscuring responsibility, if only for a short time, is a key part of Iran’s hybrid war strategy, in which it tries to keep its adversaries off balance and pressure them without prompting a larger crisis or even war.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command, has said that he does not think that the American defensive buildup has deterred Tehran. Last month, he said that he expected Iran to try to mount additional attacks in the region.

General McKenzie added in a later interview, “It’s the trajectory and the direction that they’re on.”

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