With sanctions strangling its ability to get its hands on weapons, Iran’s only way of amassing a stockpile of arms has been to build them itself. Sniper rifles, armoured vehicles or even surveillance drones make up the Islamic Republic’s store of military hardware. Now, Tehran is busy secretly funnelling these weapons to groups taking on the Islamic State group in Iraq.
It’s no secret whose side Tehran is on in the conflict raging in Syria and Iraq. The government has been unwavering in its support for the embattled Alawite regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the Iraqi government – both Shiite powers – against the advance of Islamic State group jihadists. But Iran has been far less forthcoming about what that support means in concrete terms.
Types of Iranian aid in Iraq
One such sign of Iranian aid to Iraq became apparent towards the end of last year. In autumn 2014, photos began to circulate online that showed Iranian General Qassem Souleimani. Souleimani is head of the Quds Force, a special forces unit attached to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that carries out operations on foreign soil. The photo showed the general side by side with Iraqi Kurdish fighters as well as soldiers from the Iraqi army and Shiite militias. It was the first time Iran’s role as a military advisor on Iraqi soil had been acknowledged, albeit semi-officially.
Although Iran denies having sent ground troops or carrying out airstrikes, Tehran has on several occasions admitted to both arming Peshmerga fighters and delivering logistic and humanitarian support to Iraqis. In practice, Iran has been delivering aims to most groups involved in fighting against the Islamic State jihadists. FRANCE 24 spoke to N.R. Jenzen-Jones and Galen Wright, two researchers from the Australia-based Armament Research Services (ARES).
Iran has transferred arms to the Iraqi Army but also to the Peshmerga and to various Shiite militia groups. With the exception of the Iraqi Army, those categories contain numerous independent groups. Additionally, it is difficult to determine which groups are being supplied directly, and which are acquiring Iranian arms through intermediaries.
Initially published on France24 on 03/23/2015
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