Iran playing ma­jor role in Aleppo’s ruin

Ex­e­cut­ing worst war crimes of 21st cen­tury

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Iran’s bru­tal Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps Quds Force has played an ex­ten­sive role in the rape of Aleppo, build­ing a net­work of bases around the Syr­ian city and di­rect­ing mili­ti­a­men from Le­banon, Iraq and Afghanistan to do the killing, an Ira­nian op­po­si­tion group says in a new in­tel­li­gence re­port.

“The fact is that Aleppo has been oc­cu­pied by the IRGC and its mer­ce­nar­ies,” says the Peo­ple’s Mu­ja­hedeen of Iran, or MEK, the largest op­po­si­tion group to the Is­lamic mul­lahs who rule Iran. “Mass ex­e­cu­tions, pre­vent­ing the trans­fer of the civil­ians, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, [and] at­tack­ing the civil­ians has all been done by the forces of the mul­lahs’ regime.”

The MEK says in its re­port pro­vided to The Wash­ing­ton Times that the Corps has amassed an army of 25,000 Ira­nian and mili­tia troops in and around the burned and cratered Aleppo. These in­clude home­grown Syr­ian mer­ce­nar­ies who re­ceive cash trans­ferred from Tehran to Da­m­as­cus.

Maryam Ra­javi, pres­i­den­t­elect of the Na­tional Coun­cil of Re­sis­tance of Iran, which in­cludes MEK, said Tehran’s ac­tions show a “com­plic­ity in the most atro­cious war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity in the 21st cen­tury.”

The U.N. puts the over­all death toll in Syria’s civil war at 400,000. More than 30,000 have died in the Bat­tle of Aleppo, a last ur­ban rebel hold­out against Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s regime.

“The blood for these atroc­i­ties are on their hands,” Pres­i­dent Obama said last week of Iran, Rus­sia and the Syr­ian regime.

For more than a decade, the MEK has es­tab­lished a good track record of ac­cu­rately re­port­ing mis­deeds by Tehran, in­clud­ing its at­tempts to hide nu­clear weapons-re­lated fa­cil­i­ties from U.N. in­spec­tors.

In this case, the MEK has re­lied on its spy­ing net­work in­side the IRGC and the regime to cob­ble to­gether a pic­ture of Iran’s deep mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in keep­ing Mr. As­sad in power.

With its grow­ing mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syria and Iraq via mili­tias, plus its in­flu­ence among Hezbol­lah mil­i­tants in Le­banon and Houthi fight­ers in Ye­men, Iran is on a path to ex­pand its goal of hege­mony over the Mid­dle East.

The In­sti­tute for the Study of War, a non­profit re­search group in Wash­ing­ton, has re­ported that Iran or­ga­nized thou­sands of Shi­ite mili­tias in Iraq not only to fight the Sunni Mus­lim Is­lamic State there, but also to de­ploy them to fight rebels in Aleppo.

The Times re­cently in­ter­viewed Ira­nian dis­si­dents who had es­caped to West­ern Europe. They said Iran’s bru­tal­ity at home and aboard has in­creased, not de­creased, since the land­mark nu­clear deal with the U.S. that pro­vided Tehran bil­lions of dol­lars.

The MEK re­port pro­vided to The Times says that Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces are scarce around Aleppo, mean­ing it is Iran do­ing the lion’s share of of­fen­sive ma­neu­vers and killings.

The United Nations has ap­proved putting mon­i­tors in Syria to try to pro­tect in­no­cents flee­ing Aleppo. Such ex­its in the past have seen evac­u­a­tion con­voys at­tacked and even bombed.

The MEK said the at­tacks are the work of Iran.

“On two oc­ca­sions the trans­fer of Aleppo res­i­dents were hin­dered and their buses were fired upon un­der the in­struc­tions of the IRGC to gain con­ces­sions on the res­i­dents [of] al-Foua and Ke­fraya,” said the MEK, re­fer­ring to two towns north of Aleppo.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s air force has con­ducted bomb­ing runs over Aleppo that in­dis­crim­i­nately killed civil­ians, ac­cord­ing to hu­man rights groups. Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, calls Mr. Putin a “thug” and a “mur­derer.”

“Pres­i­dent Obama’s Syria pol­icy con­tin­ues to of­fer grue­some proof of Ein­stein’s def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity: do­ing the same thing over and over again and ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults,” Mr. McCain said in Septem­ber.

The MEK re­port on Syria iden­ti­fies Ira­nian lead­ers in Aleppo, the lo­ca­tions of bases, the for­eign mili­tias do­ing the killing and how Iran pays them.

The MEK in­tel­li­gence re­port states:

The IRGC es­tab­lished a head­quar­ters at Fort Be­huth, 20 miles south of Aleppo. Le­banese Hezbol­lah, a U.S.-des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist group, also com­mands its fight­ers at Be­huth. Mr. As­sad had used the garrison as a cen­ter for pro­duc­tion of chem­i­cal weapons, am­mu­ni­tion and mis­siles. There are satel­lite fa­cil­i­ties nearby that Iran is us­ing to pro­duce mis­siles. MEK pro­vided a Google Earth photo.

The Quds Force, the IRGC’s for­eign ter­ror­ist group, is lead­ing Iraq, Afghanistan and Pak­istani mili­tias. The Iraqis are part of the Pop­u­lar Mo­bi­liza­tion Front made le­gal by the Shi­ite-led gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad. Among them are groups that killed nearly 500 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers dur­ing the first Iraq war. They have per­ma­nent bases, in­clud­ing one near the Da­m­as­cus air­port.

IRGC Bri­gadier Gen. Seyed Javad Gha­fari com­mands the Quds Force’s Aleppo of­fen­sive. His boss, IRGC and Quds com­man­der Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who directed the killing of Amer­i­cans in Iraq, re­cently was lead­ing Guard forces in Aleppo. Iran con­trols 25,000 fight­ers in and around Aleppo.

In one trans­ac­tion, Iran trans­ferred $860,000 dol­lars to the Ira­nian Mar­tyr Foun­da­tion in Da­m­as­cus to pay Syr­ian mer­ce­nar­ies. MEK pro­vided what it says are the orig­i­nal mes­sages ar­rang­ing the pay­ment.

“There is no doubt that the Ira­nian regime is the pri­mary ob­sta­cle to any so­lu­tion in Syria,” said Shahin Gobadi, MEK’s spokesman in Paris. “The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Aleppo and the role of the Ira­nian regime in the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted on the ground re­quire the im­me­di­ate ex­pul­sion of the IRGC and its mer­ce­nar­ies from Syria. By med­dling in other coun­tries, the mul­lahs try to cover up their vul­ner­a­bil­ity at home. The sur­vival of the regime has been in­ter­twined with main­tain­ing the As­sad dic­ta­tor­ship in power in Syria.”

State De­part­ment spokesman John Kirby was asked Mon­day whether the U.S. will protest to the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil the fact that Gen. Soleimani has been spot­ted in Aleppo. The U.N. has banned him from in­ter­na­tional travel for his role in ter­ror­ism.

“We do in­tend to con­sult with our part­ners on the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil about how to ad­dress our con­cerns with this,” Mr. Kirby said. “We’ve long said that Iran needs to choose whether it’s go­ing to play a pos­i­tive role in help­ing peace­fully re­solve con­flicts such as in Syria or whether it will choose to pro­long them. And you’re ab­so­lutely right: His travel is a vi­o­la­tion.”

Jim Phillips, a Mid­dle East ex­pert at The Her­itage Foun­da­tion, said that Mr. As­sad’s army is de­pleted and stretched thin pro­tect­ing gov­ern­ment-held ter­ri­tory.

“With­out Iran’s ex­pand­ing mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion, the As­sad regime would have fallen months ago,” Mr. Phillips said. “While Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion has dom­i­nated me­dia cov­er­age on Syria, Iran has been re­spon­si­ble for al­most all of the ground of­fen­sives in re­cent months that clawed back ter­ri­tory from the rebels and en­cir­cled Aleppo. It has de­ployed thou­sands of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards.”

Iran’s Fars News Agency has filed sev­eral re­ports this week telling of glo­ri­ous vic­to­ries in Syria. It re­ports that peo­ple it calls “mil­i­tants” are sur­ren­der­ing in Aleppo and other towns to the Syr­ian army.

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