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Iran quietly smuggles missiles to Iraq amid protest chaos: report

Iran has reportedly used the chaos of Iraq's protests as cover for smuggling activities [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 December, 2019

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Iran has secretly amassed an arsenal of missiles in neighbouring Iraq to counter the US presence in the Middle East, according to US officials.
Iran has stockpiled a secret arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq under the cover of protests that have gripped Iraq's capital and southern regions, according to a New York Times report published on Wednesday.

The secret arms smuggling is part of Tehran's efforts to counter the United States' military presence in the Middle East, the report said quoting American intelligence and military officials.

"Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq, part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power," the report said.

"The missiles pose a threat to American allies and partners in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, and could endanger American troops," unnamed officials cited by the report said.

The Times report did not specify what type of missiles were allegedly smuggled to Iraq.

In the face of a perceived threat from Iran, the US has bolstered its presence in the Middle East, although Pentagon denied reports on Wednesday that the US was considering sending up to 14,000 more troops to the region.

The Wall Street Journal had reported that the possible deployment would include "dozens" more ships and double the number of troops added to the US force in the region since the beginning of this year, citing unnamed US officials.

The paper said President Donald Trump could make a decision on the troop boost as early as this month.

But the Pentagon disputed the accuracy of the report.

"To be clear, the reporting is wrong. The US is not considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East," spokeswoman Alyssa Farah tweeted.

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The region has seen a series of attacks on shipping vessels and a drone and missile attack on Saudi oil installations in September blamed on Iran.

Washington has already ratcheted up its military presence in the Gulf and expanded economic sanctions on Tehran, elevating tensions across the region.

In mid-November the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln sailed through the Strait of Hormuz in a show of force aimed at reassuring allies worried about the Iran threat.

In October, Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced that two fighter squadrons and additional missile defense batteries were being sent to Saudi Arabia, for a total of about 3,000 new troops.

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