February 13, 2007
06-13-2007 Update: This Daily Telegraph story now appears to be all but completely fabricated. Burning the Smoking Gun.
This is the Steyr HS50, a single-shot bolt-action rifle of the shell-holder type, chambered in .50 BMG. You can get one if you pass a NICS background check and have $5,599.99 to spare (or you can get it on sale for$3,999.99), plus another $1,000 or more for one of the handful of scopes than can withstand the recoil of such a rifle, and of course, the cash needed for the custom-made .50 BMG cartridges these rifles digest (military-grade 50 BMG ammo, designed for machine guns, is not designed for the long-range accuracy these precision rifles demand).
Field & Stream had a nice write up about the growing number of American shooters who use rifles of this caliber and design for long-range marksmanship competitions and hunting.
Today's article in the U.K. Telegraph is far more disturbing. It seems that Iran purchased 800 of the Steyr HS50 rifles pictured above in 2006, and to date, more than 100 have been captured in Iraq.
Say hello to the smoking gun.
Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids.
The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year.
The sale was condemned in Washington and London because officials were worried that the weapons would be used by insurgents against British and American troops.
Within 45 days of the first HS50 Steyr Mannlicher rifles arriving in Iran, an American officer in an armoured vehicle was shot dead by an Iraqi insurgent using the weapon.
Over the last six months American forces have found small caches of the £10,000 rifles but in the last 24 hours a raid in Baghdad brought the total to more than 100, US defence sources reported.
It will be very difficult for Iran's apologists on the American far left to call these captured rifles "spurious" evidence or "groundless assertions and half-truths." The fact that 12% of the rifles purchased by Iran have been captured in Iraq sure sounds like evidence as strong as "videotape of the Ayatollah Khamenei himself attaching tailfins to one of these things and putting it in a box labeled "Baghdad -- ASAP."
No, there is no way that the apologist left can blame this on the "Bush regime." Iran's government officially purchased these long-range rifles, and within 45 days of their delivery, one of these rifles was used to kill an American soldier in Iraq.
As Ed Morrissey stated this morning:
Pardon the pun, but this is literally the smoking gun. We can trace these weapons from its manufacturer directly to the Iranian government. The quantity in which they have been found in insurgent bases precludes any explanation that a few just got mislaid; they obviously have been transferred from an Iranian state organization to the terrorists in Iraq. It's the clearest evidence of Iranian involvement in attacks on Americans. The involvement of the mullahcracy is undeniable, and it is a direct retort to those who keep claiming that Iran has no stake in Iraqi instability.
The question of course, is what we can and should do in response to not only Iran's shipping these rifles into Iraq, but the heavier weapons, such as Iranian-manufactured 81mm mortar ammunition and Iranian-manufactured Explosively-formed projectiles (EFPs) that have been used by insurgents to kill more than 170 coalition soldiers.
Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit offers suggestions:
We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs' expat business interests out of business, etc. Basically, stepping on the Iranians' toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq.
Hugh Hewitt, upon reading Reynolds' post, comments:
If we know that Iran is killing American soldiers, if we don't punish that action is some way, the killing will not only continue, it will increase.
Hewitt's comment is as dead-on accurate as one of the .50 BMG bullets Iran is putting in the hands of anti-Iraqi forces. Unless the Iranian government is made to feel the pain of supplying arms, money, training, and personnel to fight America soldiers and the Iraqi government, then they will continue with their attacks.
Reynolds is also correct in his suggested approach of what I'd consider a "soft war" campaign of destabilizing the mullahcracy in Iran.
As I've noted in the past, the Hojjatieh sect presently running Iran is a cult of Shia Islam so extreme that Ayatollah Khomeini outlawed it in 1983. Their eschatology believes that the near-term messianic return of the 12th Imam can be brought about by an apocalyptic event, and it is reasonable to conclude that when aligned with their theology, the development of their nuclear weapons is being conducted with the express intent of triggering a nuclear war to bring about the return of the 12th Imam. If they are looking to trigger a war—both to get an increasingly dissatisfied Iranian population to rally behind them in the short term and to pursue their eschatological goals of bringing about some sort of apocalypse—the perhaps the worst thing we can do is engage them in open warfare.
I think we could certainly justify bombing EFP manufacturing facilities inside of Iran, but that might play into uniting the Iranian people behind their government; we don't want that.
No, Reynold's black-ops suggestions, and those like them, make far more sense, though the use of our massive economic and political power towards the same goal might be even more advantageous.
Economic pressure can be brought forth to decrease the cost of oil, weakening Iran's fragile economy which depends on its export, while other diplomatic and economic pressure can be brought to bear to make it far more difficult for Iran to purchase and import processed fuels. For a country rich in oil, Iran's refining capability is marginal at best, and it relies in imports of gasoline and diesel to keep the nation's economy afloat.
If the U.S. government were, for example, willing to pay a slightly higher price for these refined fuels that Iran was capable of paying for any sustained length of time (ostensibly to stock our own nation's reserves, of course), the application of supply-and-demand capitalism alone could potentially bring the pain that Iran must feel without a shot being fired.
Alternatively, if a more militant option is required, U.S. naval ships could enforce a blockade of fuels coming into Iran from the Gulf of Oman, far outside the range of Iran's military.
Diplomatically, if Iraqi Prime Minister were to forcefully condemn Iran's actions in supplying the insurgency within Iraq, he could justifiably accuse Iran of trying to overthrow a fellow Muslim government, an act that would put the Shia-run state of Iran in a diplomatic pickle in the overwhelming Sunni world Muslim community. Were Maliki to threat to ask other nations in the region for help, or even issue a toothless threat that Iranian actions in Iraq are viewed act of war against Iraq, he may be able to diplomatically put Iran on the defensive.
There are many ways to bring Iran to account for their war-making inside of Iraq, and perhaps the most effective options may not require direct military involvement.