Another US helicopter brought down by Sunni insurgents
A McClatchy Newspapers correspondent from Najaf, Qasim Zen, observed the helicopter lose control and crash to the ground in flames after it appeared to have been struck by rocket fired from the ground.
This is the third US helicopter possibly shot down in eight days.
If you want to go back even further, three aircraft were possibly shot down in Anbar in late November and early December.
The US command has been very poor in putting out information as to exactly what is bringing these aircraft down, but all of them have taken place over Sunni territory and several have unconfirmed reports of rocket fire.
So, with at least six aircraft down in seven weeks, maybe it's time to go back and revisit the report that "our allies" the Saudis are allowing private citizens to ship money and weapons (including Strela AA missiles) to the Sunni insurgency.
(AP)Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, according to Iraqi officials and others.....
In one recent case, an Iraqi official said $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile.
(I'm still treating this as rumor at this point, but as the airframes and bodies continue to mount, I'm beginning to give it more credibility. If this is true, it is a very, very big deal. As the roads of Iraq become increasingly dicey, helicopters have taken on a significant amount of the transport and quick response role.
I keep thinking back to the parallels of the Soviets in Afghanistan who were treading water until the appearance of US supplied Stinger AA missiles, or of Somalia, where fighters pinned down US forces to lure a Blackhawk in to shoot it down.)
But Iran is the problem, right?
UPDATE: (AP) Provincial Gov. Assad Sultan Abu Kilel, "They are well-equipped and they even have anti-aircraft missiles," the governor said. "They are backed by some locals" loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein."