Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps continues to train and arm Shia extremist groups in Iraq attempting to attack U.S. bases with a crudely built, but potentially very deadly, improvised rocket-assisted mortar, or what the military calls IRAM, Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno told Defense Tech this morning.
IRAM is basically a flying IED, consisting of a propane tank or other canister stuffed with explosives and launched by a rocket motor from simple rails mounted in a flat-bed truck into a base or outpost. It’s the quantity of explosives contained in the crude devices which makes them so deadly; some contained upwards of 100 pounds of high explosive. The crude Katyushas are parked near a base’s perimeter wall, the rails angled toward the target, and the rockets launched over the walls.
A group named Kataib Hezbollah, Iranian funded and controlled by Tehran, has received specialized training in Iran in the use of the Katyusha like IRAM, Odierno said at the press roundtable. “They’re very primitive… but it can cause mass casualties,” he said. Shia groups have attempted a number of IRAM attacks over the past few years, although most have failed. The latest intelligence indicates Kataib Hezbollah has refined the weapon and their tactics and over the last few weeks have been preparing some kind of mass attack, Odierno said.
Odierno said the Iraq draw down is on schedule and that the force level will be reduced to 50,000 by the end of August. The plan is to keep those 50,000 troops in Iraq through summer 2011, he said, then reassess the security situation and the proper troop level. All U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by December 2011.
The Army is looking at reducing the length of soldier’s combat tours in Iraq from 12 months down to 9 months, although no final decision has yet been made, Odierno said.
-- Greg Grant