31 July 2006

Iran's moves and how it coincides with their policy

To determine what the outlook of Iran is towards the Middle East and the world, one really does need to look at their activities and statements and see if there is a basic accord between them or some other form of connectivity. This shall take a bit and ramble about, so do excuse the mess! Spelling goes unchecked and so does formatting. But do want to get some of this background material posted.

Lets start with a Wikipedia entry on Foreign Relations of Iran and take the highlights:

It takes stances against the United States and Israel, the former as a military power that threatens it in the Persian Gulf, and the latter as part of its stance to support the Palestinians.

It wants to eliminate outside influence in the region. Iran sees itself as a regional power, when global powers such as the United States or the United Kingdom do not supersede it. It seeks to reduce their presence in the Persian Gulf wherever possible.

It pursues a great increase in diplomatic contacts with developing countries, as part of an effort to build trade and political support, now that it has lost its pre-revolutionary US backing.

That seems pretty clear. Go against outsiders, reduce of eliminate their influence, take a leading role in the Middle East equivalent to that of a Major Power , and work with lesser Nations to help build yourself up into a real and credible player.

This came from the post-Revolutionary times:
At this time, Iran found itself very isolated, due to its hardline and aggressive Islamic foreign policy, which wanted to see its revolutionary ideals spread across the Persian Gulf. This resulted in confrontation with the U.S. in the hostage crisis.
And they have another, non-western problem, from illegal drugs:
Despite substantial interdiction efforts, Iran remains a key transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin (primarily from neighboring Afghanistan) to Europe; domestic consumption of narcotics remains a persistent problem and Iranian press reports estimate that there are at least 1.2 million drug users in the country. Iran has been trying to increase the profile of its anti-drugs campaign abroad, but it is having little success. Most countries support it politically, but refuse Iran the critical equipment and training it needs.
Thus they are stuck in the quandry of trying to actually *enforce* laws that are not being followed and have no means to do so... even as a totalitarian or authoritarian Nation. Give Mao this, he just lined up the drug pushers and their families and had them *shot*. That pretty much ended the drug trade in China for some decades. But, since they are not up to that, they are stuck moaning just like every other Nation on the planet.

Jailed student dies on hunger strike in Iran (31 JUL 2006, Reuters):
TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian student has died in jail while on a hunger strike aimed at persuading authorities to release him, Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad said on Monday.

Akbar Mohammadi, arrested for taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations in 1999, was the first political dissident known to have died in prison in Iran for many years.


Mohammadi was originally sentenced to death as "mohareb", or "one who wages war against God", for his part in the 1999 protests in which tens of thousands of people took to the streets after police and hardline vigilantes attacked a peaceful campus rally in support of press freedoms.

But like other student activists sentenced to death, his punishment was reduced to a 15-year jail term in 2000 following the intervention of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khalil Bahramian, Mohammadi's lawyer, criticised the judiciary for not allowing him to visit his client in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where most dissidents are held.

"When I heard about his hunger strike, I wanted to visit him. But I was denied by the prison authorities," he told ILNA.

"This is a violation of international conventions and Iran's Islamic laws."
So, demonstrate for freedom of the press and go to jail for at *least* 15 years. Say, I wonder what THEY do who try to publish State Secrets?

But this, of course, is not new (Congressional Research Services document,
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, updated 2 JUN 2006, pp. 6-7) :
Pro-reform elements gradually became disillusioned with Khatemi for his refusal to confront the hardliners. This dissatisfaction erupted in major student demonstrations in July 1999 in which four students were killed by regime security forces, and Khatemi reluctantly backed the crackdown. On June 8, 2003, a time period marking the fourth anniversary of those riots, regime forces again suppressed pro-reform demonstrators. President Bush issued statements in support of the 2003 demonstrators, although then Secretary of State Powell said the protests represented a “family fight” within Iran.
Some "family fight" that ends up with people killed! And NO Hatfields or McCoys were sighted in the vicinity, either. But be that as it may, the current President of Iran now has some interesting views on Israel (CRS document, p. 9):
On October 26, 2005, he stated at a Tehran conference entitled “A World Without Zionism” that “Israel should be wiped off the map” and that “anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nations’ fury.” The statement was widely condemned, including in a U.N. Security Council statement and Senate and House resolutions (H.Res. 523 and S.Res. 292) passed in their respective chambers. The statement caused U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to delete Iran from his Middle East trip itinerary in November.
  • On December 9, 2005, and then again on December 14, 2005, and May 28, 2006, he questioned the veracity of the Holocaust. In the December 14 case, he called it a “myth” — and stated that Europe should create a Jewish state in Europe, not in the Middle East. (Purportedly at Ahmadinejad’s behest, in January 2006, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said it would hold a conference on the Holocaust.)
  • On January 1, 2006, picking up that same theme, Ahmadinejad said that the European countries created Israel after World War II to continue the process of ridding the European continent of Jews.
  • On April 14, 2006, he said Israel is “heading toward annihilation.”
What a sweet individual! And since we are hearing *no* other foreign policy from Iran, he looks to be speaking for the Nation.

Be that as it may, the CRS document also goes into the Iranian military! This little paper is just chock-a-block with facts... like its listing of the most recent human and civil rights violations there... on the military side it has this to say (p. 16):
Iran’s armed forces total about 550,000 personnel, including both the regular military and the Revolutionary Guard. The latter, which also controls the Basij volunteer militia that enforces adherence to Islamic customs, is generally loyal to the hardliners and, according to some recent analysis, is becoming more assertive. That trend will likely continue now that a former Guard has become president. Iran’s conventional forces are likely sufficient to deter or fend off conventional threats from Iran’s relatively weak neighbors such as post-war Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan but are largely lacking in logistical ability to project power much beyond Iran’s borders. Lacking such combat capability, Iran has avoided cause for conflict with its more militarily capable neighbors such as Turkey and Pakistan.

Iran, which has completed a force modernization with Russian-supplied combat aircraft and tanks and Chinese-supplied naval craft in the mid-1990s, is not considered by U.S. commanders in the Gulf to be a significant conventional threat to the United States. However, Iran has developed a structure for unconventional warfare that gives Iran the capability to partly compensate for its conventional weakness.
So they did a mid-1990's upgrade with Russian tanks and Chinese aircraft, but not much to the rest of their ground forces. Equipment over people with a hard core Revolutionary/Special Guard that adheres closely to the power structure. Around page 25 they get to Iran's support for terrrorism in the Middle East using Sadr in Iraq and supporting the Palestinians somewhat.

And the Basij are a real piece of work! These are the folks who organized children for 'human wave' attacks against Iraq in the Iran/Iraq war, enforce Islamic dress code at will in workplaces, checkpoints, on the street, are used to confront peaceful demonstrators terrorize them, and generally do the 'dirty work' of ensuring that no one stands up to the regime. Sometimes known as the Special Guard or Secret Police. You know, the folks that beat up women and girls for showing just a bit too much skin or wearing make-up... that is the Basij.

As to Hezbollah, the folks at CRS put this little item together on (p. 27):
Lebanese Hizballah. Iran maintains a close relationship with Lebanese Hizballah, a Shiite Islamist group and designated FTO, formed in 1982 by Lebanese Shiite clerics sympathetic to Iran’s Islamic revolution and responsible for several acts of anti-U.S. and anti-Israel terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s. Hizballah maintains military forces along the border that operate outside Lebanese government control, even though the United Nations has certified that Israel had completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon (May 2000) and despite U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 (September 2, 2004) that requires the militia’s dismantlement. Hizballah asserts that Israel still occupies small tracts of Lebanese territory (Shebaa Farms). A small number (less than 50, according to a Washington Post report of April 13, 2005) of Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly remain in Lebanon to coordinate Iranian arms deliveries to Hizballah. Past reported shipments have included Stingers obtained by Iran in Afghanistan, mortars that can reach the Israeli city of Haifa and, in 2002, over 8,000 Katyusha rockets. The State Department report on terrorism for 2004 (released April 2005) says Iran supplied Hizballah with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Mirsad, that Hizballah briefly flew over the Israel-Lebanon border on November 7, 2004, and April 11, 2005.
Then there is the Daily Alert for 18 OCT 2002:
Iranian Missiles in Lebanon Can Reach Tel Aviv - Menachem Gantz
Iran has transferred missiles to its bases in Lebanon with a range that can strike Tel Aviv, according to an Italian newspaper quoting Western intelligence sources. The missiles were provided to the Iranian Guards in the Bekaa Valley but not to the Hizballah. (Maariv)

See also Hizballah Seeking Long-Range Missiles - Aluf Benn
The Hizballah is trying to get a ground-to-ground missile with a 300-kilometer range, that could hit anywhere in Israel north of Beersheva, a senior Israeli source said Thursday. The Hizballah currently has Fajr 5 missiles that can reach Haifa and the source said that the situation on the northern border "is very dangerous." (Ha'aretz)
Can't say that no one knew about these things... but no one wanted to pay *any* attention to them.

Arming Hezbollah in the more-or-less open, via LGF (11 OCT 2004), report from Haaretz (link dead):
A senior Iranian official has admitted that Tehran supplied Hezbollah with the drone that spent several minutes in Israeli skies in the north of the country on Sunday, an Arab-language newspaper reported Wednesday.

Haaretz reported Tuesday that Iranian drone experts from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards took part in the launch from Lebanon of a Hezbollah drone that spent several minutes over northern Israel this week.

On Wednesday, the Arab-language Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, which is published in London, quoted a senior official in the Revolutionary Guards as saying that the drone was one of eight Iran-produced unmanned airborne vehicles that the country gave Hezbollah in August.

Iran also supplied Hezbollah with surface-to-surface missiles that have a 70-kilometer range, according to the report.

The official also said Iran had launched similar drones over Iraq to garner information on American military activity there.

Nice to let Hezbollah have those things, no? And then give them better SSM capability to boot! Welcome to being the Iranian Foreign Legion.

Now, what about Iran and al Qaeda? We get this interesting column on the topic to think about...Shadow War By Richard Miniter (27 OCT 2004, Washington Times):
Seemingly desperate, bin Laden recorded an extraordinary audiotape and sent it via courier to Ali Khomenei, the grand ayatollah of Iran's Supreme Council. On that tape, according to a former Iranian intelligence officer I interviewed in Europe, bin Laden asked for Iran's help. In exchange for safe harbor and funding, he pledged to put al Qaeda at the service of Iran to combat American forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, where al Qaeda leaders believed American intervention was inevitable. Bin Laden reportedly pledged, "If I die, my followers will be told to follow you [Khomenei]."

Apparently the taped appeal worked. Murtaza Rezai, the director for Ayatollah Khomenei's personal intelligence directorate, began secret negotiations with bin Laden. Under the agreement between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and al Qaeda, several convoys transported bin Laden's four wives, as well as his eldest son and heir apparent, Saad bin Laden, into Iran. Saad reportedly remains there today.

Then, on July 26, 2002, bin Laden himself crossed into Iran from the Afghanistan border near Zabol, traveling north to the Iranian city of Mashad.

Over the next year, bin Laden holed up in a series of safe houses controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard between Qazvin and Karaj, two cities along a highway west of Teheran. He moved frequently to avoid detection or betrayal. He was not alone. Two intelligence sources told me bin Laden was "guarded by the Revo-lu-tionary Guard."

Bin Laden also traveled with al Qaeda's number two man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was wounded and required medical treatment, my sources said. For a time, bin Laden moved freely with and crossed into Afghanistan at will, usually through an Iranian border checkpoint near Zabol?.

Why would Iran, a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim land, work with a predominantly Sunni Muslim terror organization like bin Laden's? The short answer is personal connections, shared goals, and a common enemy. Ayman al-Zawahiri, a bona fide Sunni extremist, has received financial support from Iran since 1988. Bin Laden himself is believed to have met with Iranian intelligence officials at Islamic conferences in Khartoum, Sudan, in the early 1990s. Both bin Laden and the mullahs share an Islamist worldview that calls for the armed overthrow of Arab dictatorships and the restoration of a single caliph who will rule according to Shari'a law.
Remember Bin Laden is Wahabbi and Khameini is one of those despicable Shia, but they can at least agree that the Caliphate needs to come back... but disagree on what form that will be... well, time enough to fight that fight later, I guess.

And what does the CRS document have to say about Iran and al Qaeda? Well, this on page 29:
Al Qaeda. Iran is not a natural ally of Al Qaeda, largely because Al Qaeda is an orthodox Sunni Muslim organization. However, U.S. officials have said since January 2002 that it is unclear whether Iran has arrested senior Al Qaeda operatives who are believed to be in Iran. These figures are purported to include Al Qaeda spokesman Sulayman Abu Ghaith, top operative Sayf Al Adl, and Osama bin Laden’s son, Saad. A German monthly magazine, Cicero, reported in late October 2005 that Iran is allowing 25 high-ranking Al Qaeda activists, including three sons of bin Laden, to stay in homes belonging to the Revolutionary Guard. This report, if true, would contradict Iran’s assertion on July 23, 2003 that it had “in custody” senior Al Qaeda figures. U.S. officials blamed the May 12, 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia against four expatriate housing complexes on these operatives, saying they have been able to contact associates outside Iran. Possibly in response to the criticism, on July 16, 2005 Iran’s Intelligence Minister said that 200 Al Qaeda members are in Iranian jails and that Iran had broken up an Al Qaeda cell planning attacks on Iranian students. Hardliners in Iran might want to protect Al Qaeda activists as leverage against the United States and its allies, and some say Iran might want to exchange them for a U.S. hand-over of People’s Mojahedin activists under U.S. control in Iraq. U.S. officials have called on Iran to turn them over to their countries of origin or to third countries for trial.

The 9/11 Commission report said several of the September 11 hijackers and other plotters, possibly with official help, might have transited Iran, but the report does not assert that the Iranian government cooperated with or knew about the plot. Another bin Laden ally, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, reportedly transited Iran after the September 11 attacks and took root in Iraq, where he is a major insurgent leader.
Now, perhaps the CRS folks could dig a bit more into this, especially in light of the Wahhabi Imam in KSA saying not to give *any* support, not even prayers, to Hezbollah... and al Qaeda saying it will send folks to HELP them. Makes one wonder which side they are on... or confirms they are now on their OWN side.

So, how can this be summed up? Well, one of the pointed pieces of outlook on Saddam was that his army was using basic Soviet equipment which was 'good for parades and intimidating civilians' but not so good at fighting a real war. Iran is full up with that stuff, which it uses in just that way when it can use it *at all*. Instead of using the military to crack down on protests and such, with tanks and helicopters and all that fun junk, they, instead, send in the Revolutionary Guard/Basij/hired thugs. These are held close by affiliation ties and payment ties, unlike the military which sees itself as 'protecting the people'. So sending in the Regular Army or Police to do this things might just start a rebellion or revolution, and a well armed one at that! Those tanks sure do intimidate, and it doesn't matter if you are a mere civilian or the High Imam, that barrel pointed at *your* house means business.

Thusly Iran concentrates on neat looking toys: cruise missiles, IRBM's, nuclear capability, cute boats and the such like. It does *not* arm its Army effectively for external warfare nor its police for counter-insurgency operations. And those that they *do* use do not have great toys to play with nor are generally well equipped. As seen some months ago, they could own the daylight hours, but after dark they could not track nor intimidate much of anyone. They have *not* faced an armed rebellion yet. The operative word being 'yet'.

So, being limited on what they want to do internally in their own Nation, the regime in Iran looked outside to arm its own little Foreign Legions. And Hezbollah, being the first and oldest of these, got the best toys to play with. We have seen how heavily they have been armed with rocket launching systems. And Hezbollah even has its *own* INTEL wing, to support it, beyond mere tactical concerns, their agents rove worldwide to get help for their cause of terror all the way to the continent of North America because they are already *in* South America as witnessed by their July 18, 1994 bombing of Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. So global expansionist group directed but not controlled directly by Tehran. These fighters get better training, equipment and supplies than even the Revolutionary/Special Guards that *protect* the regime at home.

To those poor weaklings led by Sadr, they give scraps and some INTEL capability, but that is fully Iranian supplied, as witness by their recent capturing in and around Basra (29 JUN 2006):
BAQUBA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi and U.S. troops battled Shi'ite militiamen in a village northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, and witnesses and police said U.S. helicopters bombed orchards to flush out gunmen hiding in the palm groves.

Iraqi security officials said Iranian fighters had been captured in the fighting, in which the commander of an Iraqi quick reaction force and two soldiers were shot dead by a sniper. They did not say how the Iranians had been identified.

The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

Police said the fighting was still going on at 6 p.m. (1400 GMT) in the predominantly Shi'ite village of Khairnabat, 3 km (two miles) north of Baquba, capital of Diyala province. Local residents reported hearing shooting and explosions.

A bomb in the town's main market killed 18 people on Monday. On Wednesday, Shi'ite militiamen fired mortars at a Sunni mosque in nearby Miqdadiya, destroying the building and 20 shops.

Police said the mosque attack and other attacks on Sunnis in Khairnabat itself persuaded Sunnis that it would be safer to leave the village. But as a convoy of vehicles was leaving on Thursday, "gunmen surrounded them and started shooting," a captain in Diyala's police intelligence unit told Reuters.

Baquba's quick reaction force, an Interior Ministry unit, responded and clashed with the fighters, the captain said. Iraqi and U.S. military reinforcements then arrived and sealed off the village.

Police and witnesses said U.S. helicopters had bombed orchards where militiamen were believed to be hiding.


The captain and other Interior Ministry sources said the commander of the quick reaction force, Colonel Sami Hussein, and two other soldiers were killed by a sniper.

No other casualties were reported from the clashes and police said it was not clear how many civilians had been killed or wounded in the initial shooting at the convoy. The wounded were taken to a hospital in Baquba.

"We captured a number of militants and were surprised to see that some of them were Iranian fighters," the police intelligence captain said.

An Interior Ministry official, who did not want to be named, also said Iranian gunmen had been captured.

The United States and Britain have accused Shi'ite Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs and providing military assistance to Iraq's pro-government Shi'ite militias. However, there have been few instances of Iranians actually being captured inside Iraq.

Among Shi'ite militants are Iraqis who grew up in refugee camps in Iran and are often described by Iraqi compatriots as "Iranians" because of their accented Arabic.

Police have said Shi'ite fighters in the area belong to the Mehdi Army of radical, Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr's movement, which staged two uprisings against occupying troops in 2004, denies being behind sectarian violence.

Diyala, where al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed earlier this month, has seen much sectarian violence among its diverse population. A number of Shi'ite shrines were destroyed in attacks there six weeks ago.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin, Mohammed Ramahi and Hiba Moussa in Baghdad)
Easier to outfit the homegrown folks and send them into hostile territory, I guess, than depend upon Sadrites to show any competence. Good thing as the one thing that Sadr has only proven himself capable of doing is saving his own skin: a great organizational leader he is not, but a rabble rouser, most definitely.

Iran's history of wanting to be a Major Power in the region, if not the LEADING Power has been as long as the history of Persia. The current religious backed strain of this is just the most recent in a long history from there to attempt to assert control and authority over neighbors as their powers come and go. But a threat to regional and now global stability is now engendered by their actions and activities. It is time to put an end to this adventurism via terrorism, so that the very framework of civilization is not undone.

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