Washington - Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq, part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power, according to U.S. intelligence and military officials.
The buildup comes as the United States has rebuilt its military presence in the Middle East to counter emerging threats to American interests, including attacks on oil tankers and facilities that intelligence officials have blamed on Iran. Since May, the Trump administration has sent roughly 14,000 additional troops to the region, primarily to staff Navy ships and missile defense systems.
But new intelligence about Iran's stockpiling of missiles in Iraq is the latest sign that the Trump administration's efforts to deter Tehran by increasing the U.S. military presence in the Middle East has largely failed.
The missiles pose a threat to U.S. allies and partners in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, and could endanger American troops, the intelligence officials said.
Tehran is engaged in a shadow war, striking at countries in the Middle East but thinly disguising the origin of those attacks to reduce the chance of provoking a response or escalating the fight, military and intelligence officials said.
An arsenal of missiles outside its borders gives advantages to the Iranian government, military and paramilitary in any standoff with the United States and its regional allies. If the United States or Israel were to bomb Iran, its military could use missiles hidden in Iraq to strike back against Israel or a Gulf country. The mere existence of those weapons could also help deter attacks.
Intelligence officials would not discuss the precise model of ballistic missile Iran has sneaked into Iraq. But short-range missiles have a range of just over 600 miles, meaning that one fired from the outskirts of Baghdad could strike Jerusalem.
U.S. intelligence officials first warned about new Iranian missiles in Iraq last year, and Israel launched an airstrike aimed at destroying the hidden Iranian weaponry. But since then, U.S. officials have said the threat is growing, with new ballistic missiles being secretly moved in.