The Scotsman: Iran has been accused of supporting increasing sophisticated attacks on British forces in Afghanistan. The Scotsman
POLITICAL EDITOR ([email protected])
IRAN has been accused of supporting increasing sophisticated attacks on British forces in Afghanistan.
Military sources suggested yesterday that Taleban fighters in Afghanistan are now using Iranian-made surface-to-air missiles to target British helicopters operating in the country.
The report follows a statement from the Ministry of Defence last year accusing “Iranian elements” of supplying insurgents in southern Iraq with weaponry, including shaped-charge explosives that can penetrate British armour.
Concerns about Tehran’s support of violent groups and its continued pursuit of a nuclear weapon, yesterday prompted David Cameron, the Tory leader, to call for a tougher government line on Iran
“The world needs to present Iran’s leaders with a clear choice: either you talk to us, engage with the world and integrate into the international community – with all the benefits that could bring for your people – or you face heavier sanctions, growing isolation and pariah status,” he said.
Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, last night defended the government’s line on Iran, insisting that it was right to work alongside the United Nations and the European Union.
She said: “The best way to have an effect is through the combined pressure of the international community. Our strength comes from consensus so we must work through the UN and EU, as we have done each time Iran has failed to comply with the international community.”
Israel has also renewed allegations that Iran is fomenting violence in the Palestinian territories. In response to rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip over the weekend, Israeli aircraft yesterday bombed two camps used by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
Iran gives financial help to Hamas, and Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defence minister, accused Tehran of directing the recent attacks: “Everything is being organised by Iran, which pays for all of the military training and the weapons.”
ISRAEL is unequivocal in its claims that Iran is ultimately culpable in many of the attacks it suffers at the hands of groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
What is beyond doubt is that Tehran supplies the political arm of Hamas with funds – when Israel blocked financial transfers to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority last year, Iran stepped in to help make up the difference.
Islamic Jihad, founded in the 1970s, also takes its inspiration from Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. As well as supplying arms, Israel also alleges Iran has trained thousands of fighters from both groups.
LAST summer’s outbreak of war between Israel and the Hezbollah movement in southern Lebanon was, in a sense, a proxy between Israel and Iran.
Hezbollah, the Army of God, is extensively funded and supported by both Syria and Iran, with Tehran accused of supplying the long-range missiles that targeted settlements in northern Israel.
Hezbollah even maintains an office in Tehran close to the headquarters of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the semi-autonomous hardline military unit blamed for much of Iran’s support for militant groups.
BRITISH officials are increasingly concerned about Iran’s influence in southern Iraq, where the majority of the population are Shia Muslims, the branch of Islam followed by the Tehran regime.
The Ministry of Defence last year said that “elements” in the Iranian regime are supplying Iraqi insurgents with sophisticated weapons, including shaped-charge explosives that can penetrate British armour.
A Challenger II tank was penetrated by a bomb attack in southern Iraq earlier this year, something military intelligence reports put down to Iranian technology.
THE hardline Sunni Muslim Taleban of Afghanistan are not natural allies of the Shia regime in Tehran, but some Iranian leaders fear that a western-backed government in Kabul could leave Iran “encircled” by American influence.
So, western intelligence agencies believe, parts of the Iranian regime have taken to supporting the Taleban, smuggling weapons across Afghanistan’s western border.
Arms said to have been supplied include plastic explosives, mines, mortars and – most seriously of all for British forces – surface-to-air missiles.