January 19, 2018

Iran Watch – August 31, 2007

[spoiler title=”Proving Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wrong”]
By Alireza Jafarzadeh
On Tuesday, August 28, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s bellicose president, publicly laid out his administration’s nefarious agenda for Iraq. He boldly admitted that Iran was prepared to fill the power vacuum left in Iraq and the region. “You [the United States] cannot preserve your power over Iraq with a few tanks, artillery and weapons. Today, you are prisoners of your own quagmire,” he said.

Indeed, Tehran’s escalated campaign in Iraq since Ahmadinejad’s presidency aimed for such an eventuality. With the all the resources of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) deployed, the regime of the ayatollahs has methodically spread its tentacles to all political, security and intelligence organs of the Iraqi government.

While Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is doing Tehran’s bidding by turning a blind eye to the bloodshed committed by his security agencies infested by Tehran’s proxies, in the streets of Iraq ayatollahs are fomenting instability. About 73 percent of the attacks against Americans in Iraq in July were committed by Iran-backed Shiite militias. These fighters are trained in IRGC camps inside Iran, and then smuggled back into Iraq along with arms, roadside bombs and cash.

n spite of U.S. attempts to capture a top IRGC commander in charge of operations in Iraq, the Iranian regime boldly dispatched him to the Iraq security conference in Egypt last April. Sitting next to Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki was IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Sahraroudi, also known as Mohammed Jafari. According to reports, U.S. forces had earlier targeted Jafari and IRGC intelligence chief Gen. Minojahar Frouzanda in Iraq in January, but they eluded capture.

Jafari is one of the highest-ranking commanders of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force. He was involved in the 1989 Vienna assassination of the Secretary General of the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party. Arrested by the Austrian police, he was ultimately released and sent back to Iran. According to reports, on the order of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2003, he directed a special unit in a failed attempt to assassinate the leader of the Iranian Resistance, Massoud Rajavi.

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, is also a Qods Force commander. This, along with the Iranian regime’s bravado in sending a wanted terrorist to an international conference to secure Iraq, reveals not only the power of the IRGC in Iran’s foreign policy circles, but Tehran’s true intentions in Iraq.

Never before have the IRGC’s personnel infiltrated so deeply in all branches of government as they do today. When Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei handpicked former IRGC commander Ahmadinejad for the presidency, it was the first step in a well-calculated move to further militarize the nuclear program and infuse military hardliners into every tier of government.

The IRGC is now a self-sufficient machine, fed by its billion-dollar business holdings. But there is much more to the IRGC’s business dealings. A parallel stream of IRGC funds secretly flow through front companies that allow its projects to go undetected.

This month, my sources in Iran revealed that the Sadra Company is owned by the IRGC and recently obtained contracts from Venezuela to build several oil shipyards. The IRGC also owns the Sakhteman National Company and the Qorb Company, which both have received multi-billion dollar contracts to build a new subway system in Tehran. My sources had already uncovered more than a dozen front companies used to move the nuclear weapons program forward.

Washington is reportedly moving to designate the IRGC a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. Financially, the action will not have a huge impact on the IRGC’s businesses, because they do not directly deal with U.S. banks. Far more significant, however, is the message of decisiveness it sends to the ayatollahs’ regime and to the Iranian people. The IRGC is effectively the guardian of the “outpost of tyranny” ruling Iran. Branding it terrorist further legitimizes Iranian resistance which has been making a noble and heroic “stand for liberty.”

This is critical, because the Iranian people have been brutally tyrannized by the IRGC. Since 1981, as many as 120,000 Iranians have been reportedly killed for their political views or “crimes against Islam.” This year, the Iranian regime expanded that list of crimes and launched a bloody crackdown on everything from Western-style haircuts to the length of women’s trousers.

The IRGC has never been more crucial to the regime as it desperately tries to quell a discontented population. With every new government post taken over by a member of the IRGC, the Iranian regime reaffirms that its only means of survival is militarizing every facet of the government. Tehran’s desperate attacks against its own people at home and escalating terrorist activities in Iraq should be a wake-up call to those who still believe that Tehran will some day toss away its rogue behavior.

Until now, Washington’s policy toward Tehran, vacillating between appeasement and containment, has resulted in many strategic blunders. It has empowered a regional fundamentalist bully which today boasts of its readiness to fill a perceived regional power vacuum. Since the 1980s, as the IRGC committed blatant acts of murder and terrorism against Iranians, Americans and other foreign nationals, spanning three continents from Tehran to Beirut, to Dhahran, and Buenos Aires and Washington whitewashed the Guards’ involvement. Worse, in an attempt to mollify this monster, the State Department shackled the hands of only effective indigenous nemesis of the IRGC by blacklisting the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), as a terror organization. The MEK, as Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney and. Fred Gedrich wrote in the Washington Times on August 27, “is the largest, best organized, and most feared of all Iranian resistance groups … This group helped expose Iran’s secret nuclear program and currently provides the United States with critically important intelligence.”

Asked about the possible U.S. designation of the IRGC, Ahmadinejad mockingly said, “It would be a joke.” Washington must prove him wrong and replace the MEK with the IRGC on the terror list.

Alireza Jafarzadeh is a FOX News Channel Foreign Affairs Analyst and the author of “The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). 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. Prior to becoming a contributor for FOX, and 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=”Bush’s Lost Iraqi Election”] By David Ignatius
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Ayad Allawi, the former interim prime minister of Iraq, hinted in a television interview last weekend at one of the war’s least understood turning points: America’s decision not to challenge Iranian intervention in Iraq’s January 2005 elections.

“Our adversaries in Iraq are heavily supported financially by other quarters. We are not,” Allawi told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We fought the elections with virtually no support whatsoever, except for Iraqis and the Iraqis who support us.”

Behind Allawi’s comment lies a tale of intrigue and indecision by the United States over whether to mount a covert-action program to confront Iran’s political meddling. Such a plan was crafted by the Central Intelligence Agency and then withdrawn — because of opposition from an unlikely coalition that is said to have included Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was then House minority leader, and Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser.

As recounted by former U.S. officials, the story embodies the mix of hubris and naivete that has characterized so much of the Iraq effort. From President Bush on down, U.S. officials enthused about Iraqi democracy while pursuing a course of action that made it virtually certain that Iran and its proxies would emerge as the dominant political force.

The CIA warned in the summer and fall of 2004 that the Iranians were pumping money into Iraq to steer the Jan. 30, 2005, elections toward the coalition of Shiite religious parties known as the United Iraqi Alliance. By one CIA estimate, Iranian covert funding was running at $11 million a week for media and political operations on behalf of candidates who would be friendly to Iran, under the banner of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The CIA reported that in the run-up to the election, as many as 5,000 Iranians a week were crossing the border with counterfeit ration cards to register to vote in Iraq’s southern provinces.

To counter this Iranian tide, the CIA proposed a political action program, initially at roughly $20 million but with no ceiling. The activities would include funding for moderate Iraqi candidates, outreach to Sunni tribal leaders and other efforts to counter Iranian influence. A covert-action finding was prepared in the fall of 2004 and signed by President Bush. As required by law, senior members of Congress, including Pelosi, were briefed.

But less than a week after the finding was signed, CIA officials were told that it had been withdrawn. Agency officials in Baghdad were ordered to meet with Iraqi political figures and get them to return whatever money had been distributed. Mystified by this turn of events, CIA officers were told that Rice had agreed with Pelosi that the United States couldn’t on the one hand celebrate Iraqi democracy and on the other try to manipulate it secretly.

Ethically, that was certainly a principled view. But on the ground in Iraq, the start-stop maneuver had the effect of pulling the rug out from under moderate, secular Iraqis who might have contained extremist forces. (Asked about the withdrawal of the intelligence finding, spokesmen for Rice and Pelosi declined to comment.)

“The Iranians had complete command of the field,” recalls one former U.S. official who was in Iraq at the time. “The Iraqis were bewildered. They didn’t understand what the U.S. was doing. It looked like we were giving the country to Iran. We told Washington this was a calamitous event, from which it would be hard to recover.”

Allawi, in a telephone interview Tuesday from Amman, Jordan, confirmed that the United States had shelved its political program. “The initial attitude of the U.S. was to support moderate forces, financially and in the media,” he said. “This was brought to a halt, under the pretext that the U.S. does not want to interfere.” Allawi said the American decision was “understandable” but ceded the field to Iran and its well-financed proxies.

Allawi said he is trying to gather support for a new coalition of Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shiites as an alternative to the Shiite religious coalition that installed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power. Some commentators see Allawi’s recent decision to hire a Washington public relations firm as a sign of the Bush administration’s support, but the opposite is probably the case. If Allawi had U.S. government backing, he wouldn’t need the lobbyists.

Future historians should record that the Bush administration actually lived by its pro-democracy rhetoric about a new Iraq — to the point that it scuttled a covert action program aimed at countering Iranian influence. Now the administration says it wants to counter Iranian meddling in Iraq, but it is probably too late.


View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”IRGC: Iran’s Old Dogs”] David Johnson – 8/30/2007

You can’t teach old dogs new tricks; so the saying goes. This tired cliché’ seems to fit the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) very well. The organization, scorned by majority of Iranians as the “rabid dogs of ayatollahs”, has been unwilling to be domesticated, no matter how delicious the incentive. The IRGC’s top commander, Rahim Safavi, has repeatedly threatened the United States, Israel , Arab and Muslim states, and international shipping lanes with violence. Increased, tangible interference in Iraq ’s affairs has been repeatedly and consistently attributed to the IRGC by the United States Army and the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. As a result, reports indicate the Administration of the President of the United States intends to designate the IRGC a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) organization.

Also known as the Pasdaran-e Enqelab, meaning the Guardians of Revolution, the IRGC was established May 5, 1979 . Its purpose remains the same. It is an organization created to protect the Iranian Revolution, which in reality is meant to shield the theocratic regime first and foremost from domestic opponents.

Inside Iran and out, the IRGC wrote the book on terror tactics. Experienced in hunting down dissidents at home, assassinating dissidents on foreign soil, organizing insurgencies across the Middle East and recruiting suicide bombers to murder United Nation’s peace keepers, the IRGC is master of asymmetric warfare. It would be naïve to pretend the IRGC achieved so much skill in their craft without practice. Preceding the Iran-Iraq War, a war in which many brave Iranian school children and teen-agers were senselessly slaughtered in human wave attacks by the suicidal orders of IRGC leaders, the IRGC conducted a thorough purge of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iranian detractors. From its very inception the IRGC has ambitiously murdered its opposition lowering the bar to guarantee the clerics always stay on top.

The way to understand the IRGC is to see them through the lens of what the organization has done since 1979. Looking at them that way, policy makers can see the old dogs of the IRGC are an effect of the Iran ’s ruling theocracy, not the cause of it. The entire notion of the Iranian Revolution as an Islamic Revolution did not gain its momentum until just several months before the revolution succeeded. The IRGC does not support a single tenet of the Iranian Revolution; popular sovereignty and freedom. The Islamic component was made a permanent feature shortly after Khomeini’s usurped the revolution with a brutal consolidation of power.

The “government of the oppressed and the poor” was making a killing, literarily, fulfilling its claim when in 1992 and 1993 unleashed the full might of the Revolutionary Guards and its paramilitary offshoot, the Bassij, to crush a series of riots by poverty stricken residents of many cities in Iran . In August 1994, the Economist reported that the clerical regime responded to the four-day long riots in northern town of Qazvin by pounding the city mercilessly by air and land. The 1995 riot in of Islamshar, an impoverished suburb in south of Tehran , was similarly put down where locals reported the IRGC and Bassij had killed nearly 100 of the residents. Since then popular riots and uprising have met a similar response from the regime and its Guardians, the IRGC.

In the midst of student-led uprising in1999 which shook the clerical regime to its foundations, 24 senior commanders of the IRGC threatened to take matters into their own hands. “Our patience is at an end. We do not feel it is our duty to show any more tolerance,” they wrote in a letter, declaring their readiness to completely crush the students and thousands of ordinary people who had joined them. A day later, Khatami abided by the IRGC’s demand and completed the crackdown of protestors.

The IRGC have muscled their way into power using religion as one of many weapons in their expanding arsenal. Islam and Allah, to the IRGC, are about recruiting and maintaining organizational cohesion. In so doing, they have taken Allah hostage. The IRGC have made Allah their slave here on earth. It has been said that Iran ’s President Mahmood Ahmadinejad, a former commander of the IRGC, appears to “worship the bomb more than he’s worshipping God in heaven”. It is wrong to categorize institutionalized religious hegemony as worship. With their suicidal tendencies, blatant lies and ruthless tactics Mahmood Ahmadinejad and the IRGC corrupt the concept of spiritual faith for all religions including Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The IRGC is an Iranian junta which is key to survival of the theocratic government of Iran . Adding the IRGC to the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is an important step in the campaign for Middle East stability. Designating the IRGC terrorist will accomplish three important goals. First, it will demonstrate to the IRGC and people of Iran that the United States sees the former as an enemy and the latter as an ally. Second, it will authorize the United States to take economic action against the IRGC. Third, it is an essential step to protect Iraqi sovereignty in the near and long term, as the IRGC are the most likely and most able organization in the region to interfere with all levels of Iraqi A) religious expression, B) security operations and C) government policy.

In some ways, designating the IRGC terrorist is even more effective than branding the Iranian regime a member of “axis of evil” since this designation triggers specific and practical financial, political, and legal measures against the primary operator and spine of Tehran ’s rogue regime. It is time to put Iran ’s Revolutionary Guard dogs on a short leash.

David Johnson currently serves as the Director of Operations of the U.S. Alliance for Democratic Iran. He has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Front Page Magazine, Intellectual Conservative and American Daily. Our organization is based in Washington DC and can be found online at www.USADIran.org.

View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Congress’s Ill-Timed Iran Bills”] By Danielle Pletka
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
This month, the Bush administration tightened the screws on Iran yet again. Its move to formally designate Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization is the latest in a wave of state, federal and international efforts to pressure the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into reconsidering its nuclear weapons program and increasingly aggressive sponsorship of terrorism throughout the Middle East.

Five bills are pending in Congress that would encourage divestment and eliminate loopholes in the Iran Sanctions Act, among other things. At the state level, bills are pending in at least 13 legislatures to compel state pension funds to divest from companies and financial institutions doing business with Iran; in Florida and Louisiana, such measures have become law. More broadly, the U.N. Security Council will consider a third resolution in September responding to Iran’s failure to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

There is growing recognition that Iran’s nuclear activities must be stopped, and the voluntary divestment movement is gaining ground. Yet this moment of harmonious convergence — possible only because of the gravity of the threat from Iran — may come to an abrupt end if Congress has its way.

Most of the bills pending in the House and Senate would, if passed, tighten the provisions of the Iran Sanctions Act (formerly known as the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act) and strip the president of authority to waive U.S. sanctions on a variety of firms, many in Europe. Currently, the act allows the president to waive sanctions on firms that invest more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector or to choose from a menu of sanctions, ranging from a slap on the wrist to major penalties.

Soon after the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act became law in 1996, the Clinton administration made clear to European governments that it had no intention of implementing its provisions. European leaders, uniformly insistent that engagement with Iran was the most effective means of moderating Iranian misbehavior, roundly rejected efforts to punish Tehran’s business partners. The Clinton administration, and later the Bush administration, looked away as tens of billions of dollars flowed into Iran’s energy sector. European investment in Iran skyrocketed with no pressure from London, Paris or Berlin on nuclear or terrorism issues. And with Iran earning upwards of 85 percent of its foreign currency from the sale of petroleum and related products, it was possible to draw a direct line from that investment to the funds available to the regime for nuclear weapons, missiles and funding for terrorist groups.

Congress acquiesced in this executive disregard for more than a decade. Yet, just as lawmakers have gotten riled about enforcing the law, European nations are beginning to grasp the importance of curtailing their economic ties with Tehran. Since early last year, France, Germany and Britain, among other European Union nations, have cut back export credits — essentially taxpayer subsidies — to companies doing business in Iran. Germany’s export credit agency, Hermes, has reportedly cut guarantees 30 percent and aims to cut a further 10 percent this year. Deutsche Bank last month announced that it is ceasing to do business with Iran. Two major British banks, HSBC and Standard Chartered, have cut back significantly. The French Embassy touts hundreds of millions in French divestment from Iran in recent years.

On principle, many European foreign and finance ministries continue to resent American hectoring on trade with Iran. A senior German Foreign Ministry official recently characterized Treasury Department lobbying against business with Iran as “outrageous.” Such protestations notwithstanding, word has quietly spread from Paris, London and Berlin that banks and companies now do business with Iran at their own risk.

Japan, once Iran’s top trading partner, has also begun to cool its once warm relations, though not to the same extent as the Europeans. But it is a model when compared with China and Russia, which have raced to do business where the West has pulled back. Indeed, China and Russia have been facilitators not just for Iran’s energy sector but also for its missile and nuclear programs.

As Congress watches the international community crawl toward a consensus, slapping down European firms that irresponsibly continue to underwrite Iran’s energy sector will be tempting. To be sure, Europe could do much more. But the European Union has come a great distance since the 1990s, and with each month, Europeans are doing more to withdraw support from the Iranian economy.

A more appropriate focus of congressional action would be Russian arms and nuclear sales to Iran and growing Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector. Closing loopholes that permit U.S. firms to do business with Tehran through subsidiaries would also show admirable consistency.

For many years, a key element of Iranian strategy has been to divide Europe from the United States, leaving America with only unilateral options. It would be a cruel irony if, just as European governments finally begin doing the right thing, Congress deepens the Atlantic rift.

The writer is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

View Source Here [/spoiler]