Officials Go 'Off the Record' on Iran-Iraq Arms

The Bush administration continues to make a case that Iran is arming groups inside Iraq with sophisticated weaponry used to kill Americans. Who is getting the weapons and are they to blame for a sudden increase in downed U.S. aircraft?

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Iran is not arming Shiite militants in Iraq and said the U.S. has a long history of fabricating evidence.

Fragments of powerful armor-piercing bombs, shown to reporters Sunday, constitute "weak proof that even Americans themselves do not believe," the ministry said.

U.S. Says Iran Supplying Weapons to Iraq Militias

Iraqi soldier secures the site where a car bomb exploded i i

An Iraqi army soldier secures the site where a car bomb exploded at Baghdad's al-Mansur neighborhood, Feb. 11, 2007. At least one person was killed and three others were wounded in the blast. Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi soldier secures the site where a car bomb exploded

An Iraqi army soldier secures the site where a car bomb exploded at Baghdad's al-Mansur neighborhood, Feb. 11, 2007. At least one person was killed and three others were wounded in the blast.

Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. officials say they have evidence that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi extremist groups. They also say they have proof showing that orders to these militant groups come from the highest levels in Iran's government.

The American officials spoke on condition of anonymity. No recording devices were allowed at the briefing, but those speaking said they were comfortable with their claims.

There was a slideshow depicting three main routes from Iran into Iraq which, the officials maintain, are used to smuggle in weapons and weapons parts. Some weapons parts were also on display in the briefing room including the mortar round parts that an explosives expert says was manufactured in Iran. The expert also presented a particular brand of rocket-propelled grenade that he said was manufactured only in Iran.

But the U.S. officials focused mainly on a deadlier version of the improvised explosive device: the explosively formed penetrator. It's a tin-can-shaped explosive covered with a lid of copper that turns into molten rock and pierces through armored vehicles. The officials said the use of this weapon has nearly doubled since it was first introduced in May 2004. More than 170 coalition forces have been killed by it, they said, and more than 620 have been wounded.

Iran was operating in Iraq through extremist groups, the officials claim. They said that among those groups were radical elements of the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr.

The officials again noted the detention of five Iranian men in a raid last month. They said one was a senior operations chief for the Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which answers to Iran's religious leaders.

Recently, the Iranian ambassador spoke to reporters, rejecting U.S. claims that his country was funding training and arming militia groups in Iraq. He demanded to see evidence. In today's briefing, the U.S. officials admitted there was a gap between what they say they know, and what they can show, leaving reporters with more questions than answers.

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