WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday denied the United States sold to Iraq Blackhawk helicopters or Stinger missiles, contradicting newly published reports that say those weapons may have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (Syria), or ISIS, when it captured military bases last week outside Mosul, Iraq.
While the U.S. never has sold the Stinger or its MANPAD, or man-portable air defense, version, Defense Department spokesman Navy Commander William Speaks told WND the U.S. did sell to Iraq an Integrated Air Defense, or IAD, system, although it remains unclear whether the terror-promoting ISIS had captured that system.
To find out which weapons ISIS had captured, Speaks referred WND to the government of Iraq, but requests for comment from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Iraqi Embassy in Washington went unanswered.
Separate reports say that not only ISIS but the Iraqi government had confirmed the jihadist group had obtained a fleet of American-made Blackhawk helicopters.
Speaks said the IAD system includes a “different variant of the (Stinger) missile” that he said cannot be converted or used outside the system.
If ISIS had an IAD system, it could be moved to the vicinity of the Baghdad airport where an initial 275 U.S. Marines are to be flown to secure the U.S. Embassy, said to be the largest such facility in the world.
The airport also would be used to remove nonessential U.S. government personnel from the embassy, which is located in the Green Zone, guarded by Iraqi military personnel, many of whom shed their uniforms and ran off when recently confronted by ISIS north of Baghdad.
The entire country is in turmoil because of the bloody advance of ISIS and its plans for a Shariah-based caliphate across the landscape.
The 275 Marines being flown in will bolster about 300 other security personnel who are at the U.S. Embassy. Those Marines being flown in are described as being in a position not only to protect the embassy but respond to any attacks, suggesting they are heavily armed.
While ISIS has threatened to march on Baghdad, which is in the Shiite-controlled section of the country, WND has received confirmation from Iraqi sources that there are ISIS cells already in Baghdad. They conceivably could be used to set up the system.
The Iraqis also may have more than one such IAD system. Last year, the Defense Department announced that a $2.4 billion IAD system was to be sold to Iraq. It came in a public notification to Congress.
In addition, the French also have sold an IAD system to Iraq, called the KARI.
Because of its backing of ISIS, Saudi Arabia also may have supplied Stingers from its vast inventory of U.S. weaponry. There have been reports that ISIS fighters in the past have downed helicopters, but these fighters also have access to Russian MANPAD systems.
According to William Hartung of the Washington-based research organization Center for International Policy, the U.S. since 2005 has offered Iraq some $35 billion in weapons and services, although only some $8 billion has been approved by the U.S. government.
Some of those sales include 140 M1 Abrams tanks, 18 F-16s, with a pending sale for another 18, six C-130 cargo aircraft and combat vehicles.
Speaks’ denial contradicts an earlier Fox News report quoting U.S. officials with access to the latest intelligence on Iraq that U.S.-made Stinger missiles “have likely fallen into ISIS hands” as a result of taking over army bases.
ABC News also quoted a Defense Department spokesman as saying that photos of the Blackhawk helicopters as portrayed by ISIS on its social media were most likely the product of Photoshop-type image manipulation by ISIS.
The spokesman said that ISIS apparently had exhibited a similar photo on its social media a year ago, raising the question of whether the new ISIS claim was true.