Tehran has allegedly taken advantage of the ongoing unrest in the neighboring nation to stockpile its secret arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles, US intelligence and military officials claim.
A possible offshore Iranian arsenal could allegedly provide superiority to Tehran and the nation’s military in a possible standoff with the United States and its regional allies, The New York Times said Wednesday, citing US military and intelligence officials.
According to the media report, the intelligence sources declined to name the exact type of missiles allegedly smuggled into Iraq, noting however, that short-range missiles have a range of just over 600 miles, meaning that one fired from the outskirts of Baghdad could reach the territory of “Israel”.
Since October, Iraq has been gripped in nationwide anti-government protests, with hundreds of thousands demanding the government’s dismissal, economic reforms and an end to corruption. The unrest has reportedly seen over 400 people killed and hundreds more injured in violent clashes with armed forces.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Pentagon spokesperson Commander Sean Robertson said that the US was investigating alleged Iranian missile parts aboard a stateless vessel in the Arabian Sea recently discovered by the US Navy, adding that an initial probe indicated that the “advanced missile components” allegedly came from Iran. “A more thorough investigation is underway”.
AP reported, citing US officials, that the missile components were allegedly headed to rebels in Yemen – which is prohibited under a UN Security Council resolution.
The news alleging Iran’s secret stockpiling of weapons in Iraq comes on the heels of a media report claiming Pentagon plans to deploy an additional 14,000 US troops to the Middle East to deter the Tehran threat.
The Pentagon spokesperson denied the report on Wednesday.
The Wall Street Journal said earlier on Wednesday, citing sources, that the additional deployment would double personnel sent to the region since the US military buildup began in May – exactly a year after the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA), also known as Iran nuclear deal.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf have risen since mysterious attacks on oil tankers earlier this year, including off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, as well as drone strikes on Saudi oil fields on 14 September. The Trump administration blamed Iran for the incidents. Tehran has denied any wrongdoing.