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Monday, October 17, 2005 

Iranian bombs - oh sorry, we meant IRA bombs.

Remember Tony Blair accusing Iran of helping insurgents to attack British troops? Well, according to the Independent, he got the first three letters right.

Eight British soldiers killed during ambushes in Iraq were the victims of a highly sophisticated bomb first used by the IRA, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The soldiers, who were targeted by insurgents as they travelled through the country, died after being attacked with bombs triggered by infra-red beams. The bombs were developed by the IRA using technology passed on by the security services in a botched "sting" operation more than a decade ago.

This contradicts the British government's claims that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is helping Shia insurgents to make the devices.

The Independent on Sunday can also reveal that the bombs and the firing devices used to kill the soldiers, as well as two private security guards, were initially created by the UK security services as part of a counter-terrorism strategy at the height of the troubles in the early 1990s.

According to security sources, the technology for the bombs used in the attacks, which were developed using technology from photographic flash units, was employed by the IRA some 15 years ago after Irish terrorists were given advice by British agents.

"We are seeing technology in Iraq today that it took the IRA 20 years to develop," said a military intelligence officer with experience in Northern Ireland.

He revealed that one trigger used in a recent Iraqi bombing was a three-way device, combining a command wire, a radio signal and an infra-red beam - a technique perfected by the IRA.

Britain claims that the bomb-making expertise now being used in southern Iraq was passed on by Iran's Revolutionary Guard through Hizbollah, the revolutionary Islamist group it sponsors in Lebanon.

But a former agent who infiltrated the IRA told The Independent on Sunday that the technology reached the Middle East through the IRA's co-operation with Palestinian groups. In turn, some of these groups used to be sponsored by Saddam Hussein and his Baath party.

The former agent added: "The photographic flashgun unit was replaced with infra-red and then coded infra-red, but basically they were variations of the same device. The technology came from the security forces, but the IRA always shared its equipment and expertise with Farc guerrillas in Colombia, the Basque separatists, ETA and Palestinian groups. There is no doubt in my mind that the technology used to kill our troops in Basra is the same British technology from a decade ago."

Still, a little bit of debunking doesn't harm the story a week or so after the event. Just the original smear is enough for the tabloids to get on the case - especially when it affects "our boys" as British soldiers are often quaintly referred to. With Condoleeza Rice in Britain for talks with the Dear Leader over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme, the rhetoric continued, with Jack Straw repeating the story that Iran was supplying insurgents with such technology.

Such insistence on blaming Iran doesn't hold up to any scrutiny, even if the bombs did not orignate from the British security services or the IRA. Hizbollah doesn't need Iran to pass on such weapons to the insurgents. It has to be remembered that many see the US and UK as doing dirty work for Israel in Iraq, removing a dictator who channeled funds to Palestinian groups. Iraq always has been a threat to Israel, the only Arab country in recent times to have dared to actually launch missiles at it. Hizbollah's hatred of Israel, and its success in forcing the IDF out of Lebanon means that insurgents in Iraq are likely to find willing allies within their ranks, whether the organisation is turning to politics or not. If the US and UK are slowly building up support for a similar piece of regime change in Iran, then such smears as this we all become all too frequent, as we saw before the Iraq war.

Update: Private Eye claims this story is bullshit and a myth sourced from a disgruntled former soldier. I'll leave this here for now, true or not.

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