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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Behind Enemy Lines...

In the old days they were called "sappers." From the earliest conflicts of man against man, there have been special groups, elite units, who were tasked and trained with doing the exceptional and the extraordinary.

Special Operations took on a new life during World War II with the use of Army Rangers and Airborne troops so heavily during the Normandy invasion, and the reliance of Navy "frogmen" for disarming sea mines.

Out of necessity for changing warfare came the Navy Seals, the Green Berets, and their forerunners from the British Commonwealth, the Special Air Service, or SAS.

We see today how important a role SpecOps plays in conducting modern warfare, and in preventing it, with this report from the Times Online:

SAS raiders enter Iran to kill gunrunners

Michael Smith

BRITISH special forces have crossed into Iran several times in recent months as part of a secret border war against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al-Quds special forces, defence sources have disclosed.

There have been at least half a dozen intense firefights between the SAS and arms smugglers, a mixture of Iranians and Shi’ite militiamen.

The unreported fighting straddles the border between Iran and Iraq and has also involved the Iranian military firing mortars into Iraq. UK commanders are concerned that Iran is using a militia ceasefire to step up arms supplies in preparation for an offensive against their base at Basra airport.

An SAS squadron is carrying out operations along the Iranian border in Maysan and Basra provinces with other special forces, the Australian SAS and American special-operations troops...

This is where it's very important to know exactly what your enemy is up to. Joint operations between allies, in this case the UK, Australia, and the US, means that information can be shared more quickly and efficiently between the three nations to conduct other operations.

UK special forces operating in Iran

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British special forces have carried out several operations inside Iran in recent months in an attempt to prevent the Revolutionary Guard's Al-Quds force from shipping weapons to Iraq, the Sunday Times reported.

The British and Australian SAS forces are reportedly working with American special forces to patrol the border to prevent weapons - including surface-to-air missiles and parts for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) - from reaching the hands of Iraqi insurgents.

According to the article, the SAS have engaged in at least six "intense firefights" with both Iranian and Iraqi Shi'ite arms smugglers. The fighting has reportedly taken place on both sides of the Iran-Iraq border, and Iran has fired mortar shells across the border.

The Times said that officials have stated that while the British troops are working to prevent arms smuggling, they do not cross the border into Iran...

Analysis of the information that comes back from these operations is vital for regular forces in knowing exactly what sorts of measures they need to take in their own operations. It also allows for more direct analysis of doing things to prevent the smuggling of weapons from Iran INTO Iraq. It also gives insights on how to secure our own southernmost border here at home; the border we share with Mexico:

U.S. to build watchtower at Iran-Iraq border
Structure to target smuggling of shipments that authorities allege are illegal arms for war

By Sam Enriquez
October 21, 2007

ZURBATIYA, Iraq - About 300 trucks cross the border here every day, ferrying fruit, rugs and building supplies from Iran - and, if U.S. authorities are to be believed, illegal weapons.

Intercepting the smuggled arms should be simple enough, because shipments have to be unloaded from Iranian trucks and transferred to Iraqi trucks at the border. The trouble is, the reloading is done on the Iranian side, behind a wall.

So the U.S. is planning to build a 100-foot watchtower for Iraqi border agents. This solution is one of many to seal a 900-mile desert and mountain border that U.S. authorities allege is used by smugglers to ferry Iranian-made explosives and rockets used in attacks against Iraqi civilians, police and U.S. forces.

Critics say the U.S. hasn't proved that the weapons come from Iran or that the Iranian government is complicit with trafficking. But the allegations have heightened tensions between Washington and Iran, raising the prospect of U.S. military action.

The crossing station here in eastern Wasit province, a moonscape desert with summer highs pushing 120 degrees and the dangerous litter of Iraq's eight-year war with Iran, illustrates the challenge of setting modern controls on an ancient frontier.

Although the United States' latest border problem is half a world away from Mexico and its illegal drug and immigrant traffic, the U.S. military hopes to incorporate some of the techniques used on the U.S.-Mexican border. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is lending border patrol and customs officers to help, and some former officers are working here under private contracts.

"This is a lot tougher than the Mexican border," said Army Col. Mark Mueller, who is in charge of U.S. forces advising Iraq's Department of Border Enforcement and the Iraqi army in this region. "There are leftover mines and munitions everywhere."

Don't expect, however, after reading this, to be able to pull up Special Operations mission reports at random and read them. The vast majority of them are classified information that is not available to the general public. There are a great many reasons for this, none the least of which is the safety of the soldiers and sailors and marines involved in these missions, and the safety of their families.

Keep these specialists in your thoughts and prayers. They put themselves very heavily in harms way to keep you safe.

Once and Always an American Fighting Man
(That last one is my regimental crest. Notice the tie in with the one at the top of the page?)