Iran’s furtive hand in Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Newly ob­tained intelligence re­ports in­di­cate Iran is in­creas­ing its ef­forts to desta­bi­lize Iraq just as Pres­i­dent Bush is re­view­ing his pol­icy op­tions.

While Mr. Bush is look­ing at chang­ing key mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal per­son­nel and is con­sid­er­ing de­ploy­ing 20,000 to 40,000 ad­di­tional U.S. troops in a last-ditch ef­fort to try and im­pose se­cu­rity in the chaos that Iraq has be­come, new intelligence re­veals Iran may have other plans.

“Al-Quds Force of Iran’s Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards is step­ping up ter­ror­ism and en­cour­ag­ing sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence in Iraq,” says Alireza Ja­farzadeh, pres­i­dent of Strate­gic Pol­icy Con­sult­ing in Wash­ing­ton, an Ira­nian dis­si­dent who keeps close con­tact with the Mu­ja­hedin-e-Khalq, or MeK. It was Mr. Ja­farzadeh who first re­vealed the ex­is­tence of the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s clan­des­tine nu­clear sites in Natanz and Arak in Au­gust 2002.

“There is a sharp surge in Iran’s spon­sor­ship of ter­ror­ism and sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence in the past few months,” said Mr. Ja­farzadeh at a con­fer­ence or­ga­nized by the Iran Pol­icy Com­mit­tee, a lobby group push­ing to get the MeK off the State De­part­ment’s ter­ror­ist list. Re­tired U.S. Air Force Gen. Thomas McIn­er­ney, an IPC mem­ber, said Mr. Ja­farzadeh’s pre­sen­ta­tion was “pow­er­ful ev­i­dence” that Iran has be­come the pri­mary killer of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The spike in ter­ror ac­tiv­i­ties in Iraq ac­cord­ing to Mr. Ja­farzadeh is the work of the alQuds Force, which the Ira­nian dis­si­dent calls “the dead­li­est force” within the Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards. Al-Quds Force is re­spon­si­ble for what they call “ex­trater­ri­to­rial ac­tiv­i­ties,” which Mr. Ja­farzadeh says is a eu­phemism for ter­ror­ism.

“Noth­ing but ter­ror­ism,” says Mr. Ja­farzadeh. “All they do is ter­ror­ism. This deadly force has been heav­ily in­volved in Iraq.”

Al-Quds Force is head­quar­tered in the build­ing that once used to house the U.S. Em­bassy in Tehran and where Amer­i­can diplo­mats were held cap­tive for 444 days shortly af­ter the Is­lamic revo­lu­tion over­threw the Shah in 1979. It is from here, ac­cord­ing to MeK sources, that alQuds Force di­rects all its ac­tiv­i­ties in Iraq.

They se­cretly build im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vises, or IEDs, train, fi­nance and arm an ex­ten­sive ter­ror­ist net­work in Iraq, says Mr. Ja­farzadeh. “Iran’s goal is to cre­ate in­se­cu­rity in Iraq and com­pel the coali­tion forces to leave in or­der to es­tab­lish an Is­lamic Repub­lic in Iraq.”

This vast Ira­nian ter­ror­ist net­work is com­manded by Brig. Gen. Ab­tahi, who for­merly served in Le­banon. Gen. Ab­tahi is based in the Fajr Base in Ah­waz, in south­west­ern Iran. He is aided by a num­ber of se­nior com­man­ders, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Ja­farzadeh. “Iran has been heav­ily in­volved, to say the least, in Iraq; desta­bi­liz­ing the sit­u­a­tion there, send­ing arms, am­mu­ni­tion, intelligence agents, pro­vid­ing train­ing since 2003, not to men­tion the more than two decades of op­por­tu­nity the ay­a­tol­lahs had to net­work,” he said.

Al-Quds Force (which means Jerusalem Force) has es­tab­lished a com­mand and con­trol cen­ter in Iraq from where it runs its ter­ror net­work. The Iraq net­work is un­der the com­mand of Ja­mal Jaa­far Mo­ham­mad Ali Ebrahimi, also known as Mehdi Mo­han­des.

Ac­cord­ing to the MeK, Mo­han­des was re­spon­si­ble for plan­ning the bomb­ing of the U.S. and the U.K. Em­bassies in Kuwait in the 1980s.

In­ter­pol placed Mo­han­des on its wanted list in 1984. He has not trav­eled out­side Iran since. He is con­sid­ered a vet­eran and se­nior of­fi­cer of the Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards. He has com­pleted the com­mand cur­ricu­lum at the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps’ Imam Hos­sein Univer­sity, and is on the pay­roll of alQuds Force.

The new ter­ror net­work es­tab­lished in Iraq, Mr. Ja­farzadeh says, was named “Hezbol­lah,” af­ter Le­banon’s own Shi’ite move­ment with which Mo­han­des, a k a Ebrahimi, is al­legedly in con­tact. The net­work is op­er­a­tional in Basra, in the south, and in the cap­i­tal, Bagh­dad. Mem­bers un­dergo mil­i­tary and “ter­ror­ist” train­ing in Basra. Their arms and mu­ni­tions are smug­gled to Basra through the Sha­lam­che border pas­sage.

Sus­tain­ing such a large-scale ter­ror net­work de­mands huge sums of money. Ac­cord­ing to MeK sources, Gen. Ab­tahi “sends mil­lions and mil­lions of dol­lars from Ah­waz into Iraq ev­ery month.” The money is trans­ported to Iraq by a spe­cial courier who picks up the funds in Ah­waz and car­ries them across the Sha­lam­che border where “af­fil­i­ate” border guards whisk him through.

Gen. McIn­er­ney urged Ge­orge Bush to con­front Iran’s role di­rectly if he wants to sta­bi­lize Iraq. “Just send­ing more troops to Iraq doesn’t solve the prob­lem un­less you at­tack this prob­lem [of Iran’s in­volve­ment],” Gen. McIn­er­ney said. “And it must be at­tacked in a covert way in Iran. We’re go­ing against a very for­mi­da­ble en­emy that thinks we will not re­spond.”

Pres­i­dent Bush’s in­tended surge in Iraq may be too lit­tle, too late in ad­dress­ing a sit­u­a­tion that re­quires ma­jor surgery rather than a band-aid. It is com­pa­ra­ble to what one ob­server termed “the good doc­tor the­ory.” That is when the pa­tient is ter­mi­nally ill and no amount of medicine or med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion will cure him, but the good doc­tor feels com­pelled to ad­min­is­ter drugs to the pa­tient just in or­der to be do­ing some­thing.

Claude Salhani is in­ter­na­tional ed­i­tor for United Press In­ter­na­tional.

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