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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shi'ites used Iran rockets in attack on U.S. base

BAGHDAD — Shi'ite insurgents fired Iranian rockets in an attack on a U.S. military base in southern Iraq.   

Officials said Iranian-backed Shi'ites fired Iranian-origin rockets on a U.S. base near the southern Iraqi city of Basra. They said the rocket strike on Aug. 17 was the latest in a spate of attacks on the U.S. military presence in the Basra region in mid-2009.

On Aug. 18, Iraqi security forces found a launcher with 13 Iranian rockets in the eastern portion of Basra. Officials said the rockets appeared to have been smuggled from Iran to Iraq over the last few weeks.

"They came from a neighboring country," an Iraqi police spokesman said.

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In 2009, the U.S. military replaced the British contingent in Basra. Since then, U.S. forces have come under rocket attacks against their base. In July, three American soldiers were killed in a rocket strike.

Officials said the U.S. military has determined that Iran continued to smuggle weapons and insurgents into southern Iraq throughout 2009. They said the Iranian smuggling effort was meant to prepare for a Shi'ite takeover of Iraq's southern oil sector amid a U.S. military withdrawal from the country.

The U.S. military has also been struggling with increasing Sunni-on-Shi'ite attacks in Baghdad. On April 19, downtown Baghdad was rocked by a series of explosions, including one near the Green Zone, home to most foreign embassies. At least 30 people were killed.

For its part, the Baghdad government has accused Saudi Arabia of funding Al Qaida strikes in an effort to destabilize Iraq. Officials said Riyad has garnered billions of dollars from other Gulf Cooperation Council states to prevent the emergence of a Shi'ite-dominated and pro-Iranian Iraqi regime.

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