Iraqi insurgents are now employing novel tactics and have acquired the capability to bring down helicopters, which will considerably hamper operations by American forces. The high rate of casualties in aircrew at 215 since 2003 is an indicator of the hazards of flying in a guerrilla zone. (Hindustan Times. New Delhi. 15 February 2007). These represent over 7 percent of the total casualties in Iraq so far. As the militants are using rocket propelled grenades or RPGs against helicopters, it is not practicable for an electronic warfare based response of chaff or flares to neutralize the threat. The option is restricted to passive techniques for evasion such as limited hovering, change in pattern and routes of flying and night operations. There may also be a case for providing protection to Chinook transport helicopters by use of Apache attack helicopters as per David Eshel. (www.defense-update.com).
There were also reports of poison gas being used in attacks by militants especially in civilian areas. Reports of chlorine poisoning have been received from Taji north of Baghdad, which killed six persons on the spot and poisoned many others. The militants are crashing poison gas filled vehicles in civilian areas causing casualties as well as panic. The chemical bomb has been called many times as the poor man’s atomic bomb and insurgents in Iraq are likely to be familiar with the requirements of making such weapons, a large quantum of which were reportedly used during the Iran Iraq War in the 1980’s.
The United States for the first time openly indicated that Iraq was providing help to fighters in Iraq. This included evidence of involvement of the Quds Force an Iranian elite force, elements of which were reported to have been apprehended in Irbil a Kurdish city in Northern Iraq. The operations chief and other members were caught at Irbil and accused of supporting Iraqi militias including training and arming the militants. Iran on the other hand called it a government liaison office. The Quds Force is accused of supplying a majority of Explosive Formed Penetrators (EFPs).
EFP is a highly potent armament, which can penetrate US Abrams tanks. (Hindustan Times Report. 12 February 2007). A news briefing in Baghdad indicated that EFPs comprised of small canisters designed to project copper balls, which could penetrate armour. Without assistance from a state run technological firm, such a capability was not considered practicable for Iraqi militias to acquire. Greater use of EFPs has increased the casualty figures of Americans, which included 170, killed and 620 wounded since June 2004. (Indian Express Report. Indian Express 13 February 2007).
Reports were also floated of the Shia cleric, Moqtada al Sadr having taken refuge in Iran. Sadr heads the powerful Mahdi Army that has launched two ‘offensives’ against American forces so far after 2004 and is considered as the key to control violence in Baghdad and other areas. The Iraqi government is unable to take action against Moqtada as he wields considerable power in the Shia population and his support is essential for survival of the Prime Minister, Nuri al Maliki.
Iran also encountered a massive bomb attack in the border town of Zahedan, which is the capital of the Sistan Baluchestan province and is said to be a strong hold of the Sunni Group Jundallah or Allah’s Brigade. The bomb was planted under a bus carrying Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which resulted in 11 casualties. (Indian Express. 15 February 2007). This figure later increased to 18 as per a report in Xinhua. Analysts claim that these attacks have emanated from groups based in Pakistan.