The U.S. military has affirmed that 500 American soldiers were killed during the war in Iraq by Iranian involvement as was widely proclaimed by the Republicans. The revelation, coming weeks after President Barack Obama concluded a nuclear peace deal with Iran, will complicate relations between the two states.
On Thursday, CENTCOM revealed that the speculated 500 number of Americans killed was not entirely inaccurate. The military said that more than 300 U.S. soldiers were killed by Iranian devices while another 196 died specifically due to Iranian made explosively formed penetrators.
A majority of the estimated 500 deaths occurred after then President George W. Bush sanctioned an influx of more than ten thousand troops to confront an imminent sectarian civil war.
Many of the deaths reported were attributed to improvised rocket assisted munitions (IRAM). The devices were described in a recent Joint IED Defeat Organization paper as “a rocket-fired improvised explosive device made from a large metal canister — such as a propane gas tank — filled with explosives, scrap metal and ball bearings and propelled by rockets.”
The IRAM, essentially an airborne roadside bomb, was “the signature weapon used by Iranian-backed militias that operate with the aid of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Group.”
Prior to the report the U.S. military had capped the Iran attributed death toll to 196. It was not until July when the first military confirmation of the high death toll would be affirmed by Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford. Dunford told a confirmation hearing, "I know the total number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that were killed by Iranian activities, and the number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren't always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn't necessarily have the forensics to support that."
However, skeptical military analysts have said the number may be higher than the 500, given the nature of devices involved.
David Bolgiano, a retired Army Special Forces officer who served in Iraq in both 2006 and 2007 with the Joint improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, said, “It's very difficult to quantify because, when you have an IED explosion that occurs in theater, you'd have to connect the dots and say, 'Well, we have three U.S. casualties tied to that IED,' and then that IED is tied to a specific copper-plated EFP from Iran. Often times, those forensics are missing."
Iranian improvised explosives were the cause of death for hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The recently signed peace deal that will see decades of sanctions lifted on the Middle East country may have been concluded but it will be a long while before Americans can reconcile with Tehran.