Is Iran training mortar teams hitting Green Zone?


The U.S. military has noted a "significant improvement" in the aim of attackers firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone in the past three months that it has linked to training in Iran, a top commander said Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the top day-to-day U.S. commander in Iraq, also expressed cautious optimism over a decline in the number of American troops killed this month. At least 60 U.S. troops have died so far in July after the death toll topped 100 for the previous three months, according to an Associated Press tally based on military statements.

Odierno said it appeared that casualties had increased as fresh U.S. forces expanded operations into militant strongholds as part of the five-month-old security operation aimed at clamping off violence in the capital, but were going down as the Americans gained control of the areas.

"We've started to see a slow but gradual reduction in casualties and it continues in July," he said at a joint news conference with Iraqi military commander Maj. Gen. Abboud Qanbar. "It's an initial positive sign, but I would argue we need a bit more time to make an assessment whether it's a true trend."


"We have seen in the last three months a significant improvement in the capability of mortarmen and rocketeers to provide accurate fires into the Green Zone and other places and we think this is directly related to training that is conducted in Iran," Odierno said. "So we continue to go after these networks with the Iraqi security forces."


On July 10, a barrage of more than a dozen mortars or rockets struck the area, killing at least three people, including an American, and wounding 18. In a report last month, the United Nations office in Baghdad said the "threat of indirect fire" — meaning rockets and mortars — into the Green Zone had increased, adding that the barrages had become "increasingly concentrated and accurate."

If people are alert they should be able to scramble to safety in these attacks. The enemy is unable to use sustained attacks because counter battery radar can pinpoint his firing positions. He therefore has to set up quickly pop off a few rounds and then skedaddle. If his aim is getting better it probably means he has locked in a a particular firing position and is using it over and over. An analysis of the counter battery radar should help pinpoint that position which would allow our forces to set up a ambush there the next time they use it.


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