This “Iran supplying our foes” story was a staple of the Iraq War. After all, how could we be having so much trouble with a ragtag insurgency, if they were not supplied by a nation-state? Now that we’re fully engaged in Afghanistan it reappears again:
“Iran supplies weapons to Taliban“, Channel 4 (UK public service TV), 18 March 2010 — “Channel 4 News can reveal the Taliban insurgency against British and American forces is being supported by Iranian weapons smuggled over the border including mines, mortars and plastic explosives.”
The story is, as usual, weakly sourced. For a brief but telling analysis, see Joshua Foust’s post at Registan (and the comments). The short version: if Iran Shiite government seriously supported the Sunni Taliban (unlikely but possible), they’d provide MANPADS — portable aid defenses — as we did to the Afghanistan insurgents fighting the Soviet Union. We’d see the effects rapidly and unmistakably.
For more information
These are a few of the countless reports of MANPAD proliferation. Many breathlessly warning of attacks real soon by state-of-the-art weapons. But apparently not yet.
- “MANPADS: Scale & Nature of the Threat,” Loren Thompson, Lexington Institute, 12 November 2003
- “Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) Proliferation“, January 2004 — “Easy to use and readily available on the black market, MANPADS do indeed pose an imminent and acute threat to military aircraft and civilian airliners.” Great links to other sources.
- “Update: Shoulder-fired Missile Proliferation“, Matt Schroeder, FAS Strategic Security Blog, 14 November 2006
- “Iran gives Taliban hi-tech weapons to fight British“, The Times, 5 August 2007
- Press briefing with Rear Adm. Mark Fox and Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus, 30 September 2007 — Includes two brief references to multiple Iranian-produced Misagh MANPADS found in Iraq.
- “Black Market Missiles Still Common in Iraq ,” Missile Watch, Federation of American Scientists (FAS), 8 December 2008
- “Missile threat to British troops“, The Times, 1 March 2009 — “Iran is supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with surface-to-air missiles capable of destroying a helicopter, according to American intelligence sources.”
- Country Reports: Afghanistan, Missile Watch, Federation of American Scientists (FAS), February 2010 — “No MANPADS were found in seized insurgent arms caches in late 2009, according to the US military.”
- “Where Have All the MANPADS Gone?“, Danger Room (Wired), 22 February 2010
- “Anti-Aircraft Missiles Intercepted From North Korea Alarm Scientists“, Voice of America, 24 February 2010
- “Man-Portable Air Defense Systems: A Persistent and Potent Threat“, Stratfor, 1 February 2010