Iran’s furtive hand in Iraq
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.