Iran is no longer actively supplying Iraqi militias with a particularly lethal kind of roadside bomb, a decision that suggests a strategic shift by Iranian leadership, U.S. and Iranian authorities said Thursday.
Use of the armor-piercing explosives — known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs — has dwindled sharply in recent months, said Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, head of the Pentagon office created to counter roadside bombs in Iran and Afghanistan.
Metz estimated that U.S. forces find between 12 and 20 of the devices in Iraq each month, down from 60 to 80 earlier this year.
“Someone … has made the decision to bring them down,” Metz told reporters.
By ANNE GEARAN, AP Military Writer
U.S. Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz at an army compound on the outskirts of Arbil, October 1, 2004.REUTERS/Sasa Kralj/Files
Asked if the elite Iranian Republican Guard Corps has made a deliberate choice to limit use of EFPs, Metz nodded: “I think you could draw that inference from the data.”
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh agreed Iran has curtailed its activity inside Iraq. He said he thinks Iran has concluded that a new security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq poses no threat to Iran. Iran opposed the agreement as a blessing for foreign forces to remain in Iraq, and encouraged Iraq’s democratic government to reject it.
The United States has long claimed that Iran or Iranian-backed groups are using Iraqi Shiite militias as proxies to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Iran denies the Bush administration allegations that it supplies money and weapons, but independent analysts have said U.S. evidence is strong, if circumstantial.
The U.S. cites the spread of powerful EFP roadside bombs as the clearest Iranian fingerprint. U.S. military officers say they know the EFPs come from Iran because they bear Iranian markings and because captured militants have told them so. The workmanship is so precise they could only come from a modern factory with machine tools available in Iran but not Iraq.