December 16, 2017

Iran Watch – April 14, 2008

[spoiler title=”A Roadmap for Success in Iraq”] Friday, April 11, 2008
By Alireza Jafarzadeh
On Tuesday, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq shed new light on Tehran’s relentless meddling. At a hearing before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, Ambassador Ryan Crocker stated that the ayatollahs’ regime was bent on the “Lebanonization” of Iraq, while General David Petraeus talked about Tehran’s “destructive role” which, if unchecked, poses “the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”

As Gen. Petraeus was explaining how the recent attacks on the Green Zone were carried out by Tehran- controlled Special Groups armed with 107 mm rockets supplied by Iran, Tehran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman shamelessly “condemned” the attacks – almost two weeks after the fact.

His announcement was part of a deliberate attempt by Tehran to steal Gen. Petraeus’ and Amb. Crocker’s thunder on the same day its nefarious acts in Iraq were being spotlighted in Washington. Not by coincidence, the ayatollahs’ president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, chose Tuesday to announce the installation of another 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in the Natanz nuclear facility.

In recent months, Gen. Petraeus has increasingly pointed to Tehran and its Qods Force as the primary culprits in the violence and bloodshed in Iraq. He highlighted the ayatollahs’ “funding, training, arming, and directing the so-called Special Groups.”

Warning that “a failed state in Iraq would pose serious consequences” for the efforts “to counter malign Iranian influence” and for “the regional stability,” the U.S. commander in Iraq said that “We should all watch Iranian actions closely in the weeks and months ahead, as they will show the kind of relationship Iran wishes to have with its neighbor and the character of future Iranian involvement in Iraq.” He was emphatic that “It clearly is in our national interest” to help Iraq “resist Iranian encroachment on its sovereignty.”

Ambassador Crocker’s description of Tehran’s destabilizing role in Iraq was equally categorical. He said that “Iran continues to undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government to establish a stable, secure state through the authority and training of criminal militia elements engaged in violence against Iraqi security forces, coalition forces and Iraqi civilians.”

Asked if he was confident about the direct role of Tehran’s leadership in the violence, Amb. Crocker answered with a resounding yes, with absolute certainty. He remarked in his written testimony that “When the President announced the Surge, he pledged to seek out and destroy Iranian-supported lethal networks inside Iraq. We know more about these networks and their Quds Force sponsors than ever before – and we will continue to aggressively uproot and destroy them.” He added that failure in Iraq would result in Iran’s filling the vacuum and in extremist Shi’a militias’ reasserting themselves “and in all of this, the Iraqi people would suffer on a scale far beyond what we have already seen. Spiraling conflict could draw in neighbors with devastating consequences for the region and the world.”

There is no doubt Iraq’s No. 1 problem is, in fact, Iran. Unlike Al Qaeda, which is a malicious, but nonetheless superficial threat, Iran under the expansionist rule of ayatollahs is a strategic threat for a sovereign, unified and democratic Iraq. Currently, Iran’s widespread and deadly presence in Iraq includes as many as 32,000 Iraqis on its payroll. Made up of agents within and without Nuri al-Maliki’s government, this list includes senior officials in the Iraqi police force, ministries, National Assembly and other institutions.

The United States can still reverse the tide and win in Iraq, but it must act quickly and decisively. Rather than wasting time, blood and treasure debating some sort of ineffectual and illusory “diplomatic surge” aimed at converting the murderous ayatollahs’ regime into a peace partner, we should focus on effective, albeit bold, new approaches.

Any viable game plan must start by stepping up the arrest of the regime’s agents in Iraq; cutting off smuggling routes for weapons, explosives and agents; disarming the Shiite militias which include the Badr Brigade, not just the Mahdi Army, as well as scores of other violent proxy groups such as Seyyed ol Shohada and 15th Shaban groups; and purging the Iraqi government of Tehran’s proxies. In other words, the U.S. must set about vigorously dismantling Iran’s terror network in Iraq.

This must be coupled with empowering the moderate, non-sectarian Iraqi political figures so that they can form a national unity government. That must be the focal point of Washington’s political efforts in Iraq. Nuri al-Maliki and his government, commonly known among Iraqis as the “Persian ex-pats in light of the many years of grooming they received from the Qods Force in Iran, are a liability. Iraq under Maliki will never see unity, non-sectarianism or democracy.

Many moderate Iraqi politicians, including some key members of Parliament, view Iran’s main opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), based in Ashraf City, Iraq, as a reliable partner for genuine democracy in Iraq and Iran. The MEK has acted as a catalyst for building stability, and has fostered unity among moderate Shiites and Sunnis. A large group of bipartisan members of the U.S. Congress believe that Washington should open a dialogue with the MEK, as a strategic partner in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism and a bulwark against the Iranian regime’s influence in Iraq. According to the U.S. military, since 2003, the MEK has exposed many of Iran’s terrorist conspiracies in Iraq, thus saving the lives of countless Iraqis and Americans.

The strength and resilience of the Iraqi people should reassure us that tomorrow’s Iraq does not have to be a sister Islamic Republic of Iran. If Tehran’s tentacles are cut off in Iraq, the Iraqi people will have a real chance to form a peaceful, non-sectarian and democratic society. That is a plan that seems to already have the support of the U.S. Congress.

Alireza Jafarzadeh is the author of The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis (Palgrave: February 2008).

Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran’s terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.

Until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran’s parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Do satellite photos show Iran ballistic missile facility?”]

A new report by The Times of London says that satellite photographs of a site in Iran indicate the location is being used to develop a ballistic missile that could reach most of continental Europe.

The Times writes that the photographs show the launch site of a Kavoshgar 1 rocket that Iran tested on February 4. Tehran claimed that the rocket was intended to further a nascent Iranian space program, but The Times says that the photos suggest otherwise.

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

A previously unknown missile location, the site, about 230km southeast of Tehran, and the link with Iran’s long-range programme, was revealed by Jane’s Intelligence Review after a study of the imagery by a former Iraq weapons inspector. A close examination of the photographs has indicated that the Iranians are following the same path as North Korea, pursuing a space programme that enables Tehran to acquire expertise in long-range missile technology.
Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that there was a recently constructed building on the site, about 40 metres in length, which was similar in form and size to the Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea.

The Times adds that the rocket launched from the facility in February was based on Iran’s Shahab 3B missile, which is in turn based on North Korea’s Nodong missile. Geoffrey Forden, a member of the UN team monitoring Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in 2002 and 2003, noted that while the test rocket did not indicate any significant advances in Iran’s missile technology, the launch site had “very high levels of security and recent construction activity” and appeared to be “an important strategic facility.”

If the Iranian facility is indeed developing a long-range ballistic missile, it would explain NATO’s decision last week to move ahead with the missile shield program supported by the US. The Christian Science Monitor reported last week that the Bush administration scored a key success by persuading NATO to approve the missile shield, which is meant to protect against missiles like those that Iran is linked to.

NATO members all supported the US position on missile-shield defense, which is to be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland. “There is a threat … and allied security must be indivisible in the face of it,” read the statement on missile defense. But Iran has denied any hostile intent behind its rocket program. While Tehran has not yet commented on the Times report, after the February test of the Kavoshgar 1 rocket it stated its intent to use the technology for launching satellites, reported The New York Times.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad… said on state-run television: “We need to have an active presence in space. We witness today that Iran has taken its first step in space very firmly, precisely and with awareness.”
Iran has said that it wants to put satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters and to improve telecommunications, as well as for security reasons. Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said Iran would launch its domestically made satellite, called Omid, meaning Hope, in June, Fars News reported. But US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the launch “troubling,” noting that “the kinds of technologies and capabilities that are needed in order to launch a space vehicle for orbit are the same kinds of capabilities and technologies that one would employ for long-range ballistic missiles.”

Much of the concern of both the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, stems from evidence found on a laptop stolen by an Iranian in 2004 and turned over to US intelligence services. Among other documents on the laptop, investigators found “drawings on modifying Iran’s ballistic missiles in ways that might accommodate a nuclear warhead,” reported The Washington Post in February. But the problem is proving that the documents are legitimate.

U.S. intelligence considers the laptop documents authentic but cannot prove it. Analysts cannot completely rule out the possibility that internal opponents of the Iranian leadership could have forged them to implicate the government, or that the documents were planted by Tehran itself to convince the West that its program remains at an immature stage.

British intelligence, asked for a second opinion, concurred last year that the documents appear authentic. German and French officials consider the information troubling, sources said, but Russian experts have dismissed it as inconclusive. IAEA inspectors, who were highly skeptical of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, have begun to pursue aspects of the laptop information that appear to bolster previous leads.

“There is always a chance this could be the biggest scam perpetrated on U.S. intelligence,” one U.S. source acknowledged. “But it’s such a large body of documents and such strong indications of nuclear weapons intent, and nothing seems so inconsistent.”

Despite the possibility of Iran developing a long-range ballistic missile in time, Mr. Forden says that they likely still have a long way to go., a blog on WMDs and national security, cites Forden’s observations about the flaws revealed by the February launch .

Iran’s February 4th launch of a Shahab-3 just keeps on getting more and more interesting; that is if you are interested in just how good of a missile the Shahab/No’dong is. Video from Iran’s television show that there is a failure of the missile’s thrust vector control system nineteen seconds into its powered flight. At that point, there is a brief flaring at the very end of the missile and an object is seen flying off for several seconds, until it leaves the video’s frame as the camera continues to follow the missile. Tellingly, it doesn’t just drop off the missile but is given quite a transverse boost.
Forden says that the debris indicates that the missile’s graphite jet vanes, used to steer the rocket in flight, are being “eaten away” by the rocket exhaust. Such a problem can knock a missile severely off course, he adds.

So what does this mean for missile proliferators in general and Syria and Iran (and North Korea since they are all involved in the development of these missiles) in particular? It means that they are still having a hard time producing graphite tough and pure enough to be used in large missiles. It also indicates that a top priority for their missile engineers will be to develop other thrust vector control mechanisms.

View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iraqi militias feeling pushback”]

Saturday, 12 April 2008
The Washington Times
By Sharon Behn and Sara A. Carter

Tribal leaders in southern Iraq are starting to push back against Iranian-supported militias in Basra, cracking their hold over the economically crucial province, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker said yesterday at two separate roundtable interviews with reporters.

The militia led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al- Sadr “is something that has to be dealt with,” said Gen. Petraeus at a meeting with reporters at the Pentagon.

“The population has turned against the militia in most areas in Basra. Interestingly, it has turned against them in a number of areas in Baghdad as well,” the top U.S. commander in Iraq said, though he cautioned that turning against the militias does not necessarily mean that the population “will act on it.”

Mr. Crocker said he had returned from a recent visit “sobered by the extent … the militias had free rein in Basra.”

The U.S. envoy added that he got “an earful” of complaints from southern sheiks about the behavior of the militias, who are believed to be influenced and supplied by Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “tapped into this” frustration and the Iraqis now are “standing up tribal lines as contract security forces” to help battle the Shi’ite militias, Mr. Crocker said, although he did not say whether these tribal forces had participated in the battles in Basra in the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, gunmen yesterday killed a senior aide to Sheik al-Sadr, a pro- Iran cleric who nominally controls militias from Basra to Baghdad that are clashing with U.S. and coalition forces.

The aide, Riyadh al-Nouri, was killed as he drove home after attending prayers. Authorities in Najaf immediately announced a citywide curfew and deployed security forces on the streets, the Associated Press reported.

The cleric’s office issued a statement in which Sheik al-Sadr promised he would not “forget this precious blood” but urged his followers to “be patient,” called for “an investigation [to”> punish the criminals. We call upon all political and religious groups to work toward ending the killing of clerics.”

View Source Here [/spoiler]