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Weekly Columns of Alireza Jafarzadeh




The Message in the Missiles


Thursday July 17, 2008

Last week the ayatollahs’ capacity to stow death and destruction beyond Iran’s borders was on full display, when a barrage of Shahab missiles was test fired. Also last week, the French energy company, Total, pulled out of a huge investment in Iran's gas sector, citing "political risks."

Meanwhile, back in Iran, the gallows were busy. On July 10, Khalij Fars news agency reported four men were publicly hanged in the southern city of Borazjan. On Sunday, two men were hanged in the central city of Isfahan. A day before, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for three Kurdish political activists.

The common thread here is that Tehran faces mounting political and social dissent, aggravated by factional infighting, at home, and growing international isolation abroad. Belligerence looks to Tehran like a way out of this impasse.

Dismissing the missile test as a mere bluster is very dangerous. Much has been made of the unimpressive technology and Tehran's failed attempt at doctoring images of the launch. That analysis misses the point that Tehran’s missile capability still poses a grave threat to the region, because the intent behind it is belligerent.

Moreover, Iran's missile program has made advances in recent years, particularly since the ascendance of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to the pantheon of power and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency in 2005. After the main Iranian opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) exposed Tehran's nuclear site at Lavizan in 2003, the regime transferred much of its nuclear work to secret tunnels. As I reported in my book, The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and Coming Nuclear Crisis, the secrecy of Iran’s missile production is now based upon so much of the program being underground. North Korea has been Iran's primary collaborator in building and expanding this underground infrastructure, providing experts and blueprints.

In September 2005, MEK provided more details about Iran’s missile operations in the secret tunnels associated with the Parchin Military Complex, a site 19 miles southeast of Tehran. A few weeks later the group was able to provide new information about the massive size and operations of the regime's tunnel complexes.

Accessible only by military roads, the largest tunnel complex is beneath the mountains of the Khojir region, just east of Tehran. This is where Movahed Industries, housed in the largest tunnel in the Khojir complex, builds the main body, does the final assembly, and warehouses the final product. This tunnel is about 1,000 meters long and 12 meters wide. Inside are six forklike, 500 meter extensions which extends from deep inside the central area of Khojir to the Bar Jamali Mountain.

The eyewitness accounts of the Iranian opposition sources inside Iran describe this tunnel as an underground city, complete with its own firefighting system, steam boilers for an independent heating system, air conditioning, water pumps, and a water-resistant electrical system.

Security measures include codenames for the industries that work on various aspects of the program. For example, Nori Industries, which builds the warhead and is the most secretive part of the program, is known as "8500."

The Khojir complex also contains dozens of other well-equipped tunnels that vary in length from 150 to 300 meters and contain more industries and warehouses in which missiles are kept. Among these is Bakeri Industries Group, whose five facilities in the Khojir complex produce surface-to-surface missiles, including the Iran-designed Fateh A-110, Nazeat, and Zolqadr. Fateh was among the missiles the Iranian regime fired last week.

Indeed, in an interview with the French daily Le Monde on February 25, 2005, Iran’s then nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, acknowledged that reports about Iran building tunnels to hide its nuclear technology "could be true."

So with much of the ayatollahs’ missile program tucked away in massive underground tunnels, the level of its missile technology cannot really be judged from the video clips of last week’s launch. But one thing the world can be certain of is the nefarious intent of a regime whose IRGC commanders boast they have their fingers on thousands of missile triggers, aimed at 32 U.S. targets in the Middle East, and will plunge the region into "raging fire". Bluster? Maybe, but can the free world afford to take that chance?

The mullahs are building nuclear bombs and the missiles to carry them. Nuclear capability will make them a powerhouse in the region, and will bolster the morale of the hated IRGC, the key means to their repressive regime's staying power.

Although the ayatollahs’ missile-rattling can hardly disguise their growing political weakness, if they are not stopped, we are looking at a nuclear-armed state-sponsor of terrorism with an aggressive agenda that extends beyond neighboring Iraq. Washington needs to recognize this fact, with finality.

A day before the ayatollahs’ launch, the US Treasury Department slapped new sanctions on Tehran and pursuant to Executive Order 13382, designated four individuals and four entities for their roles in Iran’s missile and nuclear program. As Stuart Levey, under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, correctly pointed out, "Iran's nuclear and missile firms hide behind an array of agents that transact business on their behalf."

A growing number of members of Congress from both sides of the aisle believe that sanctions should be coupled with political pressure aimed at heightening the internal discontent, and weakening the regime. They maintain that Washington should remove all restrictions from the Iranian opposition groups, allowing them to play their real and indigenous role as a potent political force and dedicated to democratic change in Iran.




Despite the hype, Ahmadinejad’s Iraq visit a failure

March 6, 2008


Behind the orchestrated pomp and pageantry during the visit to Baghdad last weekend by the Iranian ayatollahs’ president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was hard to miss the revulsion of Iraqis of all stripes. Adjectives like “historic” could not disguise the frustrating reality for Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs: outside of Iraqi political spheres dominated by Tehran surrogates, they are seen as enemies of a secure, non-sectarian and democratic Iraq.

The greeting parties, in the Baghdad airport and later in various government buildings, were who's who of Tehran’s proxies in Iraq’s government. They “listened to Ahmadinejad,” according to McClatchy News Service, “without need of translation into Arabic, clearly comfortable hearing his Farsi.” Not surprising; for more than two decades, they were employed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Qods Force, and the Ministry of Intelligence. Learning Farsi was a job requirement.

Outside of the very limited segment of Baghdad where Ahmadinejad visited, there was outrage. A young Baghdad resident told the New York Times, “I think Ahmadinejad is the most criminal and bloody person in the world. This visit degrades Iraq’s dignity.” Up north in Kirkuk, where Arab tribes and political parties rallied against Ahmadinejad’s visit, a tribal leader told the Times, “How can we tolerate this? Today we live under the regime of the clerics. The Iranian revolution has been exported to Iraq.” An Iraqi businessman added, “His visit is intended to reassure his followers here,” but is “provoking and enraging” the rest of Iraq.

In the streets of Baghdad and other cities, the slogans on the walls and banners at protest rallies were as telling. Graffiti in Al Habibia neighborhood near Sadr city called Ahmadinejad “a champion of Islamic nuclear bomb who will defeat Israel,” but in other neighborhoods, like Al Saydia, Al Adel and Al Ghzalia, writing on the walls denounced Ahmadinejad as “a godfather of sectarian violence that divides Iraq.”

“Your mortars preceded your visit," one placard read. Another read, “We condemn visit of terrorist and butcher Ahmadinejad to Iraq," according to the Associated Press. “We have seen today a visit by [a president] of a state with hands tarnished by the blood of innocent people in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine,” the leader of the Iraqi Kirkuk Front declared during a protest rally.

The outrage was widespread among independent Iraqi political figures of various backgrounds. Abdul-Karim al-Samaraie, a lawmaker with the Iraqi Accordance Front, told Al-Jazeera TV that "We wish that there would be a commitment from the Iranian president personally to cease all kind of interventions in Iraq's security and political affairs." Muhammad al-Daini, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly denounced Ahmadinejad’s visit in an interview with the Al-Hurra TV channel, and called for the shutdown of the Iranian regime’s diplomatic offices in Iraq.

Significantly, in a joint statement, over 130 Iraqi tribal leaders from the Shiite-dominated provinces of southern Iraq also denounced Ahmadinejad’s visit. “Since five years ago Iraq has turned into the scene of the Iranian regime’s meddling and aggression. Everyday hundreds of Iraqis are victims of the Iranian exported terrorism. In southern Iraq we are witnessing the murder of our children and ransack of our oil and other national wealth by the criminal elements of the Iranian regime,” the statement said. In late 2007, more than 300,000 Shiite Iraqis, including hundreds of tribal leaders from the southern provinces, signed a petition condemning the Iranian regime’s meddling in Iraq and supporting the presence of the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), in Iraq.

Ahmadinejad’s trip was a dismal failure on other levels, as well. Lost in the headlines was the news that he was shunned by the leader he most sought after. The meeting Ahmadinejad desperately coveted was not with Iraqi President Jalal Talebani or Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. They are regular visitors to Tehran. Ahmadinejad and his team, for a variety of domestic and foreign policy considerations, sought a photo-op with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric. Ayatollah Sistani, citing “scheduling conflicts,” snubbed Ahmadinejad, who had to cancel his trip to Najaf and cut short his Iraq visit by one day, according to the Iraqi TV channel, al-Sharquiyah.

Before Ahmadinejad’s Baghdad visit, some media reports indicated that the presence of MEK members in Ashraf city, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, was going to be a main topic of discussion with Tehran-friendly Iraqi political leaders. Eager to please, Iraqi President Jalal Talebani said during a joint news conference that his government was trying to expel the MEK, as long demanded by Tehran.

In a rebuke to Talebani, however, U.S. military spokesman Major Winfield Danielson reiterated that the PMOI members are under "protected person status" at Ashraf city. He explained to Reuters News Agency that in 2003 the MEK members in Ashraf had agreed to give up their arms in exchange for the protected persons status and had signed a ceasefire letter in April of that year.

Ahmadinejad’s fear of the MEK based in Ashraf City is rooted in strategic, practical grounds. According to prominent Iraqi politicians, since 2003 Ashraf’s residents have acted as a principal catalyst in bringing about a formidable, non-sectarian democratic Iraqi front against Tehran’s meddling in Iraq.

Back in Washington, lawmakers on both sides of the isle were briefed by top U.S. military commanders about Tehran’s rising efforts to train, arm, and support militant sectarian forces in Iraq. The US legislators deplored Ahmadinejad’s talk about security and stability as the height of hypocrisy.

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the former number two U.S. commander in Iraq, told reporters that "What they [Tehran] ought to stop doing is training surrogates, funding surrogates and supplying weapons to them, which they are still doing today.”

Mocking Ahmadinejad’s boast that he could visit Iraq openly, unlike other foreign leaders who made unannounced visits, Gen. Odierno said “I'm not surprised. Because over the last 12 months whenever a visitor would come from the United States, we needed to foil a rocket attack. Guess what? That is because it was being done by an Iranian surrogate."

"I think it's offensive," said Sen. Carl Levin, (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, of Ahmadinejad's trip. Sen. John Warner, the committee's Ranking Republican from Virginia, said, "I would hope that others in the administration would express their indignation about this visit and the comments made by that president because they go to the very heart of the enormity of the sacrifices of life and limb that we have suffered in trying to provide Iraq the ability to become a strong and sovereign nation."

With the hype of Ahmadinejad’s trip behind us, it is back to reality. The tyrant ayatollahs continue to step up their support for their terrorist network in Iraq. Meanwhile, they will try to showcase their surrogates in Iraq’s government to hide their growing isolation in the streets of Iran and Iraq.


A blow to nuclear bomb making of Ayatollahs in Iran

Fox News, February 28, 2008



The bombshell revelations by Iran's parliament-in-exile, the National Council of Resistance (NCRI), about a working nuclear warhead development facility and a new command and control center for Iran's nuclear bomb-making only two days before the release of the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proved to be a major blow to the ruling Ayatollahs in Tehran.

In a news conference in Brussels on February 20, 2008, Mohammad Mohaddessin, the Chairman of the NCRI's Foreign Affairs Committee, announced that in April 2007, the Iranian regime's nuclear project entered a new phase. For the first time, a command and control center, known as Mojdeh site, was established to head up the drive to complete a nuclear bomb. A development facility called the "Field for Expansion of Deployment of Advanced Technologies" was set up in the Lavizan 2 site (see satellite imagery).

Mojdeh site is managed by a scientist named Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi. A nuclear physicist attached to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), Mahabadi reports directly to the defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najar. Many of the activities at the site are disguised as part of the IRGC's Malek Ashtar University, which acts more as the support center doing research and development of weapons for the Mojdeh site than a university.

Working on and coordinating activities on a neutron initiator; producing Polunium-210 and Beryllium for the trigger for an atomic bomb; casting and machining of uranium metals; research on the fissile material needed for the production of a bomb; laser enrichment of uranium; and research on high explosives, radiation detection, and protection against radioactive materials are among the activities carried out at the Mojdeh site.

The secret facility to make nuclear warheads is located at Khojir, a Defense Ministry missile site southeast of Tehran. This is a vast, 120-square kilometer area southeast of Tehran. It is riddled with various facilities and tunnels dedicated to nuclear and missile projects (see satellite imagery).

Khojir is heavily secured military area. Construction of secret military sites in this location began in 1989. This location works primarily on the manufacturing of missiles such as Shahab 3. However, new, detailed information reveals that Tehran is building nuclear warheads at this site. The project was codenamed 8500 and nicknamed the Alireza Nori Industry (see satellite imagery). The warheads are being designed for installation on Shahab 3 missiles, the most advanced version of which has a range of 2,000 kilometers.

In its February 20 news conference, the NCRI announced that the full details of the latest information obtained by the Resistance network inside Iran had been provided to the IAEA.

The Tehran regime's reaction to last week's timely revelations demonstrated what a blow it had been dealt. Ahmadinejad's anguish was evident in his remarks to the state-run news agencies about this latest political defeat resulting from the opposition's devastating disclosures: “The nuclear issue in its new form began in the beginning of the summer of 2002, when [the Iranian Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK)], published a report on the Natanz and Arak nuclear sites. The International Atomic Energy Agency got involved… and resolutions were adopted one after the other.”

Then on Monday, Mohammad Khazee, the Ayatollahs' ambassador to the United Nations, dedicated almost his entire interview with journalists to complaints about the decisive role the main Iranian opposition has played in exposing the Ayatollahs' nuclear sites.

Simon Smith, the chief British delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said earlier this week that based on information presented by the IAEA to the IAEA's 35 board member nations, Iran may have continued work on nuclear weapons past 2003, the year U.S. intelligence reports indicated such activities had stopped. Earlier, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said there was no doubt that Iran had the scientific know-how, the technical capacity, and the industrial capability to develop nuclear weapons at some future point.

The NCRI's crucial revelations last week establish that the Ayatollahs' regime has indeed expedited its nuclear weapons activities, and that the IRGC has assumed command of a much larger segment of the nuclear drive. The United Nations Security Council should waste no time in adopting a decisive resolution to address Tehran's persistent violation of prior UN Security Resolutions. At the same time, a growing number of members of Congress from both sides of the isle believe that sanctions should be coupled with political pressure. The best option? Reach out to the Iranian opposition and remove all restrictions against them as they heighten their efforts to implement fundamental change in Iran.



Tehran Postpones Fourth Round of U.S.-Iran Talks

February 19, 2008


The fourth round of U.S.-Iran talks over Iraq’s security, originally scheduled to take place in December of last year in Baghdad, was again postponed by Tehran for “technical” reasons. Let’s not forget that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad has on numerous times expressed the complete readiness of the American side for these talks. Are ayatollahs in Tehran playing hard-to-get with Washington?

Speculations on reasons behind Tehran’s reluctance abound. Some Iraqi officials have blamed the release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program for the postponements saying the report has emboldened Tehran by taking the pressure off ayatollahs’ backs. Still, there are others who suggest that Tehran will wait until after Ahmadinejad completes his visit to Iraq scheduled for March 2, to resume the talks.

Some argue that intense political maneuvering in Iran, weeks before the key parliamentary elections is the main culprit. In recent weeks, mullah’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i, has been making rounds around the country making negotiations with the “Great Satan,” a central election issue and a litmus test of loyalty to the “principals of revolution.” It would be only logical to conclude that Khamene'i, siding with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, could ill afford to give the go-ahead for talks with Washington when he has made it a huge political taboo at home.

Regardless of reasons behind Tehran’s cancellation of the talks, one basic fact should be fully understood when it comes to the issue of negotiations with Tehran: Ayatollahs have no intention of improving security in Iraq and ending their nefarious meddling there. Indeed, after three rounds of Washington-Tehran talks, not only the regime has not scaled down any aspect of its meddling, it has intensified its political, intelligence, terrorist, and propaganda campaign in Iraq. Given Tehran’s massive investment in Iraq to date, the probability that it could be negotiated to give up its network in Iraq and decommission its Qods Force is next to zero.

The destruction that Tehran has been able to level at Iraq reveals the depth of ayatollahs’ commitment in destabilizing their neighbor to the west. According to my sources, Tehran is spending at least $70 million per month arming, training, and funding Iraqi militias fomenting sectarian violence and attacking coalition troops.

The fact is that the two sides come to the table with a diametrically opposing set of goals. Tehran seeks to escalate violence and further subvert the country while Washington intends to reduce tension and stabilize the nation. One seeks to establish a theocratic state modeled after its own, and the other a secular Iraq.

Tehran’s multi-pronged campaign in Iraq has two primary objectives; both having to do with its survival. Ayatollahs’ first objective is the expulsion out of Iraq of Iran's main opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, whose members reside in Ashraf City, 60 miles north of Baghdad in the Diyala Province. Tehran correctly believes that the 3,800 members of the anti-fundamentalist Muslim MEK have played a significant role in unifying the democratic and secular voices of Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis against its influence in Iraq. The clerical regime therefore views the MEK as the biggest obstacle to fulfilling its ambition of establishing a sister Islamic republic in Iraq.

The MEK has been instrumental in exposing the Qods Force’s clandestine terror network in Iraq. The group's members in Ashraf City, Iraq are now protected by the United States military as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Administration officials and U.S. military commanders in Iraq have acknowledged that the MEK has been the most helpful on neutralizing Tehran's covert mission in Iraq. Many moderate Iraqi politicians, including some key members of the Iraqi Parliament, believe that the MEK in Ashraf City is an unrivaled catalyst for conflict resolution and stability in Iraq.

Equally important, Iran's other objective is to force the U.S. military out of Iraq and the creation of a huge political and security vacuum there which is essential for the success of Iran's ultimate goal of establishing a clients state in Iraq.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury addressed Tehran’s agenda in a statement following the blacklisting of three Tehran-backed persons and entities for fomenting terror and murdering American and coalition forces in Iraq. The Treasury’s January 9 statement declared that to advance its strategic interests, the regime in Tehran uses the Qods Force as its “primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists and Islamic militants.”

It added that Iran-sponsored terror networks in Iraq have been created for not only affecting “the Iraqi political process in Iran's favor,” but “to fight U.S. forces” and eliminating “Iraqi politicians opposed to Iran's influence.” The statement explained that “In an effort to cause instability in Iraq,” Iran-backed terrorist networks “were actively targeting Iraqi government officials, Sunni community leaders, and anyone who cooperated with Coalition Forces.”

And last week, David Satterfield, the U.S. State Department's Iraq coordinator, told reporters that "We see an Iran intent on continuing to promote violence within Iraq, which is directly contradictory to Iran's public pledge of support for a stable, peaceful, sovereign Iraq.” He added that "We very much believe that Iran wishes to see the forced departure of foreign forces, particularly U.S. forces, from Iraq in the most humiliating and devastating manner possible."

Against this backdrop, it would be highly naïve, if not unforgivably reckless, to entertain the notion that ayatollahs would ever show good will and genuinely cooperate for Iraq’s security. Negotiations, while essential for resolving conflicts diplomatically, in Tehran’s case have a proven record of failure. They have emboldened the ayatollahs and afforded them time and diplomatic cover to advance their sinister agenda. Every inch that the U.S. concedes is interpreted in Tehran as a sign of weakness which in turn invites more terrorism and sectarian violence.

Iraq will be secure and stable when Iran's influence is cut off. To accomplish that, the United States should be ready to take drastic measures. It can 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; and purging the Iraqi government of Tehran's proxies — essentially dismantling Iran's network in Iraq. This must be coupled with empowering the moderate voices among the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.


Tehran's new terror escalation meant to extend, solidify gains in Iraq

February 14, 2008


Last week I made public new information about another escalation in the terrorist meddling of the ayatollahs' regime in Iraq. I obtained the information from my sources inside the Iranian regime. These intelligence sources are associated with a network of Iran's main opposition, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (also known as the MEK), based in Ashraf City, Iraq.

The ayatollahs' surge is primarily being carried out through the notorious Qods Force and its Iraqi terror networks. On the one hand, this is alarming news: Tehran's new terror escalation is meant to strategically extend and solidify its gains in Iraq. On the other, however, this is good news: clearly, the ayatollahs are worried about the spread and consolidation of an Iraqi counter force.

What is this dual-pronged escalation about and what does it mean? The facts on the ground indicate that Tehran has been consistently losing ground, politically and militarily, over the past few months to the awakening forces of independence in Iraq. These forces, in tandem with a more robust campaign by the U.S.-led Multi-National Forces, have had significant success in pushing back the Al Qaeda and Tehran-backed terrorists. This is particularly true in the central provinces bordering Iran, such as Diyala Province.

According to the new intelligence, Tehran is attempting to counter with a comprehensive plan to expand its terrorist network in Iraq. To this end, the Qods Force has created a new command headquarters in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah, from where it directs three operational axes — northern, central and southern. Each operational sector has been assigned its own border-crossings and arms smuggling networks. Each is in charge of managing those terror networks in Iraq located within its sector.

The HQ's commander is a high-ranking veteran Qods Force officer named Haj Amiri. Many of the top commanders in this new HQ are Iraqi nationals who worked with the Badr Corps before serving in the Qods Force, such as Ali Al-Hosseini and Ali Haydari.

The Northern Axis, responsible for Baghdad, Diyala and Kurdistan provinces, is perhaps the most vital to the ayatollahs' new terror build-up. So much so that Amiri, the HQ's commander is also in charge of this axis. The Northern Axis is connected in Baghdad to Abu-Jafar Al-Boka, previously with the Badr Corps and its naval unit. He currently leads several terrorist networks in Baghdad.

The Central Axis is commanded by a Qods Force officer named Andami. The border cities of Mehran and Ali-Gharbi are the main access points for weapons smuggling in this axis.

Qods Force Commander Jafar Ansari commands the Southern Axis. He funnels weapons into Iraq via the Hoor-Abdullah and Faw passageways. An Iraqi national named Khalil Arab is on the Qods Force's payroll as a network commander affiliated with the Southern Axis. His forces were very active against American and British troops in Iraq's southern provinces.

To effectively train would-be Iraqi terrorists, the new command HQ in Kermanshah utilizes several fully equipped and staffed training bases. Two bases in Kermanshah's Kenesht valley, the Jalil-Abad Hizbollah Base in Varamin near Tehran, and the Isfahan Training Base in central Iran are presently the primary sites.

Less than a day after I revealed this new intelligence about the Qods Force new terror campaign, the Northern sector command struck at a pumping plant in Diyala Province. Using nearly 600-lbs of T.N.T., terrorists completely destroyed the plant and cut off the water supply.

The plant supplied water to Ashraf City — the residence of the Iranian Mojahedin's members, recognized as "Protected Persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention — and nearly 20,000 Iraqis living in neighboring areas.

This heinous act came just a few days after the assassination of an Iraqi tribal leader whose forces were in charge of providing security for the water plant. According to experts in international law, the Qods Force attack constitutes a war crime against "Protected Persons" and civilians.

Rather than shaking the resolve of local Iraqis, this despicable act was harshly denounced. These nationalist Iraqis work with U.S.-led coalition forces as protectors of Ashraf City. As independent Iraqis, they are strongly against the ayatollahs and their Qods Force.

Ashraf City's support crosses religious and ethnic lines. The anti-fundamentalist ideas emanating from Ashraf and the MEK's practical contribution bringing about a partnership among Iraqis of all backgrounds have been key elements in the creation of a united front among Iraqis. This front has both in words and deeds targeted Tehran as the main strategic threat to Iraq.

As I emphasized in my new book, The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis (Palgrave: February 2008), the evidence confirms there is only one viable way to bring about and solidify security and stability in Iraq: stop Tehran's ideological, political, and intelligence onslaught. There is still time to achieve this imperative if the following steps are taken:

1 — The formation of a national unity government, consisting of a wide spectrum of Iraq's people, which is free of Iranian operatives;

2 — Full and immediate disarmament and disbanding of militias, including the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army, and a purge of Iran-backed individuals from the security forces and military;

3 — Empowerment of the more moderate voices of Iraq. The Iranian opposition members based in Ashraf City are a strategic partner in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism and a counter weight to the Iranian regime's influence in Iraq; clearly, they would be a catalyst to accomplishing just that.


Tehran Robs Iraq’s Oil to Fund Terror

February 06, 2008

Groundbreaking revelations about the Iranian ayatollahs’ secret nuclear weapons program are not the only contributions the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the democratic opposition’s parliament-in-exile, has made to peace and stability in the world.

Since 2003, the NCRI, relying on the information provided by the personnel of its pivotal member organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) — currently in Ashraf City in Iraq — has revealed many dimensions of Tehran’s destabilizing campaign in Iraq. Acknowledged by many independent and democratic Iraqi political figures and tribal leaders, as well as U.S. military commanders, these revelations have saved countless Iraqi and American lives and have hugely contributed to putting in place appropriate counter-measures to deal with these threats.

Among these revelations were warnings about an elaborate scheme by the clerics in Tehran to rob Iraqis of their oil resources and use the revenue to fund their nefarious meddling in Iraq.

As I detailed in my book, The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis, (updated edition to be released in paperback in February 2008), in one of the biggest heists of the current century, Tehran has smuggled billions of dollars’ worth of Iraqi oil to Iran through Iraq's southern borders. The stolen oil has provided for the huge expenditures of Iran's meddling in Iraq. Many of the smuggling operations involve the exchange of Iraqi petroleum for Iranian weapons or narcotics.

Now, there are reports from Iraq that the Foreign Ministry has dispatched an official letter of warning to Tehran demanding immediate cessation of these activities following statements by Iraqi officials detailing how the ayatollahs’ regime is stealing the Iraqi oil.

According to the London-based Al-Hayat daily, Faraj Moussa, deputy head of the Iraq Commission on Public Integrity, has evidence indicating that the Tehran regime has "seized" at least 15 oil wells in southern provinces neighboring Iran. Moussa told the newspaper that "Iraqi reports have documented the Iranian violations of the Iraqi wells, by diagonal digging" — also known as slant drilling — "exceeding the borders and seizing the oil wells after expelling the Iraqi engineering cadres and workers."

These revelations coincide with reports coming from Iraq about how the ayatollahs’ terrorist arm, the Qods Force, has expanded its terror campaign in Iraq by methodically targeting the leaders and personnel of the Awakening Council. This group, in partnership with the US-led Coalition forces, is fighting back extremist militia of various kinds, particularly in the Diyala Province where the Ashraf City is situated.

According to the New York Times, “citizen guardsmen and Iraqi intelligence officials say they have also captured Iranians with hit lists and orders to attack Awakening members. American military officials say they suspect that Iran’s paramilitary force, Al Qods, is directing the Shiite militias’ attacks against the Awakening movement.”

Specifically, some of both the Shiite and Sunni Iraqi officials point the finger at Abdel Aziz al-Hakim’s Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army, both of which are tightly linked with the Qods Force and have been implicated in death-squad operations against moderate Shiite and Sunni Iraqis.

An Iraqi intelligence official told the The New York Times that “two weeks ago, we captured one Iraqi and two Iranians meeting in a house in Baghdad ... When we capture these Shiite militiamen, they tell us they have orders from Iran.”

Although the common perception is that the Awakening Council is a Sunni entity, many of the Awakening branches are made up of both Shiite and Sunnis, particularly in the Diyala Province north of Baghdad. The religiously mixed Awakening Councils have indeed displayed a higher degree of potency in their efforts to push back the terrorist militias. For example, “in contrast to community-based volunteer squads, their tribal forces thwart terrorist infiltrators more effectively because relatives vouch for one another,” The New York Times reported. This is again another fact on the ground that shows that not only is a non-sectarian counter-measure against Tehran and its Iraqi proxies achievable, it is also more effective.

It is true that given the length of Diyala’s border with Iran and its ethnically and religiously mixed demography, it has been a major area of operation for the Qods Force. The presence of the Iranian opposition in Ashraf City and the invaluable contribution Ashraf is making to exposing Tehran’s menacing campaign in Iraq has also made Diyala Province a roaming ground for Qods operatives. Over the weekend several thousand Iraqis in Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala, staged a protest rally and demanded the removal of the city’s police chief, Ghanim Abbas Al-Qoreishi, who is closely linked with the Badr organization and the Qods Force.

Of the three main conflicts fought by coalition forces in Iraq, “the third conflict, and perhaps the most vexing for U.S. commanders, is with Shiite extremist militias” organized in units called "Special Groups" by the U.S. military, The Washington Post reported on February 3, 2008. These units have shown a remarkable proficiency in using highly lethal explosively formed projectiles (EFPs). In an oblique reference to the high-level training and the EFPs provided by Tehran, Col. James Rainey, the 4th Infantry Division's director of operations, told the Washington Post that "it's high-end technology. It's not four dudes making them in a basement."

Last week in his State of the Union Address, President Bush stressed that “a failed Iraq would embolden the extremists, strengthen Iran, and give terrorists a base from which to launch new attacks.” He added that “we're also standing against the forces of extremism embodied by the regime in Tehran, which is funding and training militia groups in Iraq.”

He called on Iran’s despotic rulers to “come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home, [and] cease your support for terror abroad,” and warned that “America will confront those who threaten our troops.” To effectively put these statements in practice, the administration must side with the nonsectarian and independent Iraqi leaders to politically undermine ayatollahs’ agenda directed through its surrogates in the Nuri al-Maliki government.

Many members of the United States Congress believe that the administration must also strengthen the strategic and irreplaceable contribution the anti-fundamentalist Iranian opposition residents of Ashraf City in Iraq are making to Iraqi safety and security by ending any restriction on their ability to operate inside Iraq. This would make Tehran unhappy, which is what it would take to solve the Iraqi problem.


The security forces cordoned off the Tehran University campus, which is in the heart of crowded downtown Tehran, from adjacent streets by two-story public transportation buses. This ploy was put in place after the 1999 student-led uprising attracted thousands of ordinary citizens who rushed to the university campus in support of students. Hundreds of the Sates Security Forces in full anti-riot gear and supported by multitude of other security and intelligence agencies, had circled the campus. In the preceding days, the MOIS agents carried out several sweeping operations inside the campus to thwart any pre-rally meetings or gatherings. The day before the rally, in an implicit admission to the organized nature of these anti-government protests, MOIS agents arrested more than half a dozen students, saying that they were planning to organize rallies upon the order of “anti-regime” organizations.

None of these measures proved effective, however. In the mid day, with hundreds of students protesting inside the campus and shouting “death to dictator” and “no fascism,” hundreds of students from other universities were blocked by the security agents at the university’s gates. That did not last long. Students crushed the huge gate and rammed through it to join those inside. Before long, the chants of “Down with the fascist regime,” “Death to this deceitful government,” and “Live free or die” were heard all over the campus and beyond.

The vociferous protest also drew a sharp line between these students and some state-sponsored student organizations which, under of the banner of peace, work to derail the movement for democratic change when they shouted “yes to peace, no to fascism,” and “students would rather die than live under suppression.” In clear and uncompromising statements, the students showed that genuine peace could only be brought about with rejection of the religious dictatorship.

While the Student Day demonstrations may not have been comparable with the size of the 1999 six-day student protests, given the heightened systematic suppression of the democracy movement during the presidency of Ahmadinejad and the ascendancy of the notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guards to all centers of power, these rallies speak volumes about the strength and perseverance of the anti-regime student movement.

Last December, when students of Tehran’s Polytechnic University — a bastion of pro-democracy student movement — set Ahmadinejad’s photos on fire right in front of him, a new surge of energy was injected into the student movement. Since then, university campuses have been the scene of protests calling for democratic change, targeting the entire theocratic regime. In Iran, where the universities have always been a true barometer of population sentiments, these rallies clearly expose the utter isolation of the regime.

Reflecting the mullahs’ fear of the enemy within, Newsweek reported last May that “In the name of national security and what they call ‘public order,’ Iran's hard-liners are frantically lashing out at anyone they imagine might somehow pose a challenge to their increasingly unpopular rule.” It added that the mullahs are “especially fearful of feminists, trade unionists and the like.”

In a major anti-government demonstration in May, students retorted back at Ahmadinejad's earlier statement that Iran's nuclear program was like a train "without brakes and a rear gear." The students shouted that in fact it was Iran's movement for democratic change that "is like a train without brakes or reverse gear." Indeed, the series of anti-government demonstrations in the past year reveal a regime gripped in the existential fear of its own people and the democracy movement.

Still, the democracy movement comprised of anti-regime student, women, and labor groups, suffers from a strategic handicap. In the summer of 2003, in the midst of a huge anti-government student-led uprising, a European diplomat told Reuters that ''The pent-up anger is still there, beneath the surface. But for it to seriously take off you need a catalyst … you need organization and leadership.'' And this is where the democracy movement received a major boost last week when the United Kingdom’s Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission (POAC) reaffirmed its November 30 ruling that the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), Iran’s largest and best organized opposition group, should be removed from the UK’s blacklist.

The POAC swiftly rejected the British government’s appeal for the reversal of the ruling. It seems that even after last year’s humiliation in the hands of Tehran regime which took British sailors hostage, Prime Minister Brown’s government is still trying to be at ayatollahs’ good graces.

Statements coming from Tehran about the role of MEK's network inside Iran in fomenting the protest rallies by students, women and laborers, and ayatollahs’ constant demands from its foreign interlocutors to expel, disband, or dismantle the MEK, are a testament to the key role this organization has, and continues to play in Iran’s democracy movement and its contribution to a unified, democratic, and stable Iraq.

Jean Lure, the Africa-Asia Monthly’s correspondent, reported from Tehran last summer that “The Iranian rulers are very concerned and alarmed. Not because of unfeasible foreign military attack but because of peoples’ support for Mujahedin-e Khalq. Today, MEK is highly capable of attracting the young people born and raised after the revolution.”

A large number of members of the British House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as a large bipartisan number of members of the United States Congress are loudly critical of London and Washington for insisting on the appeasement-inspired blacklisting of the MEK, to the benefit of the tyrant ayatollahs and the detriment of Iran’s democracy movement.


Iranian Deception: What the IAEA Did Not Address

November 19, 2007


On November 15, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued its report about the latest status of Iran's nuclear program. Since the publication of the report, both Tehran and its critics are claiming victory. Tehran is using the report to claim that its nuclear program is a peaceful one, and critics have relied on the report saying that it is further indication that Tehran has not complied with the United Nations Security Council resolutions, has continued its uranium enrichment and deserves further punishment.

What is missing from the report, among other issues, is the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp which has been running a secret nuclear weapons program in parallel to the nuclear energy program run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

According to paragraph 10 of the IAEA report, "In response to the Agency’s enquiry as to whether there was any military involvement in the program; Iran has stated that no institution other than the AEOI was involved in the decision making process or in the implementation of the centrifuge enrichment program."

This is an absolute lie. The centrifuge program has been and continues to be under the control of the IRGC since the beginning. As I elaborated in my previous column, "Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps: Chief Proliferators of Weapons of Mass Destruction," in 1983, the IRGC initiated Tehran's nuclear research and development program at the height of the Iran-Iraq war.

In 1987, the notorious Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan, in his secret trip to Iran, met with senior commanders of the IRGC to assist Tehran in the development of its nuclear bomb.

IRGC Brig. Gen. Ali Hossein-Tash oversaw the nuclear weapons program of Iran. He was until 2005, the deputy Defense Minister and is now a member of the Supreme National Security Council. Former chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, in his little-publicized farewell letter thanked Brig. Gen. Hossein-Tash, among others, for his role in the nuclear program.

The nuclear program is now overseen by IRGC Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. Vahidi, the former commander of the notorious Qods Force designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist entity, is also the deputy Defense Minister, and one of five terrorists whose warrants of arrest were confirmed by the Interpol for the 1993 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Argentina where nearly 90 people were killed.

In his report, the IAEA Director General closes his eyes on the military involvement in Tehran's nuclear program and takes Tehran's claims at face value. Any military involvement is a red flag by any standard; A clear indication that the program is for military purposes and not for civilian use.

In paragraph 12 of the report, Tehran's claims are stated with no refutation, that the centrifuge program between 1987 and 1993 was only run by the AEOI. "Iran has also stated that during this period, the R&D work was conducted only by the AEOI, without the support of universities or the Physics Research Centre (PHRC)." Sheer lie!

To the contrary, various universities were used by the IRGC since 1985. They included Sharif University of Technology, Amir Kabir, Tehran, Beheshti, Shiraz, and Science and Industry universities which were all used by the IRGC. As I revealed in The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis (Palgrave: 2007), in mid-1980s, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, at the time in command of the IRGC, had approached a number of expert scholars, asking them to help the regime get the bomb, which it needed, as it does now, to dominate the region.

In addition, the IRGC-run Imam Hussein and Malek Ashtar military universities are heavily involved in the nuclear weapons program, as Iran's main opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) divulged. NCRI's past revelations have been proven accurate. Two senior nuclear scientists and IRGC officers, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and Fereydoon Abbassi oversee the nuclear R&D program at Imam Hussein University, now one of the most advanced in the country..

By 2003, the IRGC had up to 400 nuclear experts and scientists who were primarily transferred from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to the Defense Ministry.

Paragraph 17 of the IAEA report noted, "Iran stated that, during the period 1993 to 1999, it was still experiencing difficulty in producing components for P-1 centrifuges and manufacturing reliable P-1 centrifuges. It said that only limited human resources were devoted to the project until 1997 and that, around 1998, additional theoretical and experimental studies were initiated at the Amir Khabir [Kabir] University." This, too, is a myth.

Various university and research resources have been allocated to the centrifuge program during the same period. Tehran intends to minimize the scope of its program and the depth of its deception to prevent the international community from further probe.

Even though the IAEA concedes in paragraph 18 that the military has been involved in the centrifuge program, it refrains from pursuing other leads, refuses to question why the military is involved in a supposedly nuclear energy program, and has failed to inspect the military sites revealed by the main Iranian opposition since 2003.

"Iran has provided names, locations and activities of the workshops involved in the domestic production of centrifuge components, most of which are owned by military industrial organizations," the report says. According to the NCRI, Jafar Mohammadi, a key expert in the manufacture of the centrifuges at the Defense Industry Organization (DIO), was later transferred to the AEOI to oversee the centrifuge program in Natanz uranium enrichment facility. He headed a front company, Farayand Technic, exposed by the NCRI in 2002. Ali Karimi, another DIO expert was also transferred to AEOI, now involved with the centrifuge program. This clearly shows that Tehran has been using the AEOI to facilitate the nuclear weapons program.

In paragraph 25, the IAEA report noted, "The Agency received a copy of the 15-page document describing the procedures for the reduction of UF6 to uranium metal and casting it into hemispheres. Iran has reiterated that this document was received along with the P-1 centrifuge documentation in 1987." This corroborates with other information provided by the NCRI indicating that the IRGC waged an extensive effort in 1987 to get the nuclear bomb, as it was clearly losing momentum in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).

This was also confirmed in a letter in 1988 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which contained a laundry list of what the military commanders needed for carrying on the war against Iraq. It quoted the IRGC supreme commander as saying that within five years Iran would need laser-guided and nuclear weapons to win the war.

If the IAEA continues to close its eyes on the evidence regarding the Iranian regime's military involvement with the nuclear program, it would be buying Tehran the precious time it desperately needs, paving the way for the religious fascists ruling Iran to get the bomb.






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