DEBKAfile Exclusive: Iran sends shoulder-borne QW-1 anti-air missiles to Iraqi Sunni insurgents and Hizballah to shoot down US and Israeli helicopters
February 9, 2007, 10:30 PM (GMT+02:00)
DEBKAfile’s sources in Tehran and Kurdistan disclose that, last month, two Iranian QW-1 and SA-7 missile consignments reached Iraqi insurgents allied with al Qaeda and one, radical Shiite Moqtada Sadr’s Shiite militia, the Mehdi Army. Israeli sources report the same anti-air weapons were delivered at about the same time to Hizballah units in Lebanon including the south.
Our military sources add that Iran’s arms industry has succeeded in replicating a quality version of the Chinese QW-1 and improved its electronics. It is 1.447meters long and packs 16.5 kilos of explosives. The IDF estimates that the first of these missiles used experimentally by Hizballah caused an Israeli helicopter to explode during take-off near the Litani River in the Lebanon War last summer.
Iranian markings have been erased from the equipment going into Iraq and Lebanon to suggest they were bought on the black market. Dated Soviet-era models of the SA-7 were indeed bought by Iran on Far East black markets and supplied to Iraqi insurgents and also pro-Tehran governors in western Afghanistan. Iran is preparing the ground for a Shiite insurgency against NATO forces there.
According to our sources, all three consignments to Iraq went through the North Iraqi Kurdistani town of Suleimaniya not far from the Iranian border. An Iranian clandestine center operates there like “the liaison center” the Americans raided in another Kurdish town, Irbil, last month. The Suleimaniya center operates with permission from Iraqi’s Kurdish president Jalal Talabani.
They weapons were smuggled in concealed compartments of trucks transporting building materials and iron from Iran for a Kurdish building company. After unloading their legitimate freight, the trucks drove on south up to the regional border where Iraqi insurgents off-loaded the missiles to their vehicles and distributed them to their networks in Baqouba, Ramadi and Tikrit – north of Baghdad and Hilla to the south.
In January, two-man teams of Iraqi insurgents and Hizballah operatives were trained in the use of the new weapons against American and Israeli helicopters as instructors for missile crews in Iraq and Lebanon. One crewman was taught to locate the target and help the second to aim. The training facilities were set up in Kermanshah and Qasr-e Shirin close to the Iraqi border.
Tehran is stepping up its provocations in reprisal for the US president George W. Bush’s directive to US forces to capture or kill Iranian agents, America’s refusal to release the Revolutionary Guards officers captured in Irbil and finally by the seizure last week of an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad.