January 12, 2002
Says Iran Gave Terrorists U.S. Arms
Iran purchased American-built Stinger antiaircraft missiles in Afghanistan in
1994 and turned them over to a Lebanese-based terrorist organization, but the
missiles proved to be defective, according to United States intelligence
Iranian agents then conducted further negotiations in Afghanistan for additional
Stinger missiles, according to another intelligence report. It is not known
whether the Iranians were able to buy any more of the advanced shoulder-fired
The classified reports, which were provided to The New York Times, offer the
first evidence that Iran had ever purchased the missiles, or that it had ever
given them to terrorists who were considered willing to use them against
For years, many American analysts have warned that terrorists might be able to
get some of the missing Stinger missiles the Central Intelligence Agency
supplied to Afghan rebels in the 1980's when they were fighting the Soviet Army.
The fear has been that terrorists could then use the weapons against American or
Israeli aircraft, perhaps including passenger planes.
A United States official confirmed the reports today, but stressed that there
was no evidence that the Stingers obtained by the Lebanese-based terrorist
organization, the Islamic Jihad, actually worked.
The documents report that in September 1994 an operative from the Islamic Jihad,
an offshoot of Hezbollah, went to Tehran to receive the shipment of Stinger
missiles, considered among the most dangerous weapons in the American arsenal.
United States officials say the Islamic Jihad has conducted a series of
terrorist operations against the United States and Israel since the 1980's, with
the backing of Iran.
The C.I.A. began supplying the Stingers to Afghan rebel groups fighting the
Soviets in 1986, and the missiles played a crucial role in the outcome of the
Afghan-Soviet war. After losing several aircraft, the Soviets were forced to
curtail their use of air power, a shift that helped turn the tide of the battle.
When the Soviet Army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the United States ended
its support for the Afghan rebels as well. But when the Americans left, many of
the Stingers remained unaccounted for, left behind in the hands of warlords
Ever since, the C.I.A. has had a secret program to recover the Stingers from
Afghanistan, but in recent years American officials have estimated that as many
as 200 have not been located. American Special Forces and C.I.A. officers
operating in Afghanistan since Sept. 11 have tried to track down the missing
weapons, but it is not known whether they have had any success.
The missiles that the Iranians delivered to the Islamic Jihad operative had been
purchased in July 1994 in Afghanistan by agents from the Iranian Revolutionary
Guards Corps, a militant Iranian intelligence agency, according to one of the
intelligence reports. Later, after the Iranians and Islamic Jihad discovered
that the Stingers did not work, Iranian operatives contacted the representative
of an Afghan warlord to try to open talks about buying others. But the Iranians
were told that the United States had learned about the 1994 missile purchase,
complicating any further negotiations, according to an intelligence report.
According to one of the intelligence reports, Fuad Shukr, a Lebanese- based
operative for the Islamic Jihad, traveled to Tehran in September 1994 to pick up
the shipment of Stingers.
At another point, according to the report, agents from Iran's Ministry of
Intelligence and Security also tried to buy Stingers from the government that
ruled Afghanistan before the Taliban came to power in 1996. That effort was
It is unclear exactly what made the Stinger missiles defective or what happened
to them once the problem was discovered, although there are indications, the
intelligence reports say, that they were returned to the sellers. But in July
1996, according to the reports, operatives from the intelligence ministry
approached an Afghan who represented Ahmed Shah Massoud, a leader of the
Northern Alliance opposed to the Taliban.
Although Mr. Massoud had not been involved in the 1994 sale, the Iranians asked
if his organization could sell 6 to 10 Stingers, according to an intelligence
report. But the Iranians were told that the United States had found out about
the 1994 sale, thus making it difficult to hold any further sales negotiations.
Mr. Massoud was killed on Sept. 9, two days before the attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, and American officials have said they believe he
was murdered by Al Qaeda operatives sent by Osama bin Laden.
Home - Last Updated:
© 2001& 2002 Robert E. Donaldson. All