Iran: Quds In The News

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October 22, 2011: A U.S. court has indicted two Iranian men for attempting to hire a Mexican drug gang to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, and bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, DC. One of the accused is an Iranian-American businessman, while the other is a known Quds Force operative. The American is in custody, while the Quds Force man is being sought. Iran denies, and derides the charges. But American politicians, from both parties, and close allies, who have seen the evidence, are convinced this plot was real. The U.S. has refused to show Iran the evidence, apparently because it would identify the methods or sources used to get access to Iranian secret communications.

Western intelligence agencies have been providing a lot more visibility to the Quds Force (a terrorism support organization) in the last decade. This is one topic that is rarely covered officially in Iran. The Al Quds Force is an intelligence and commando operation that supports Islamic terrorism overseas. It has always attracted very bright and able people, but also got personnel possessing a wide range of views on just what constituted an "Islamic Republic" or the proper role for the Quds Force itself. For over two decades, one of the few things Quds officers could agree on was the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Many Quds officers actually warmed to the United States in 2003 for doing the deed for them. But most Quds operatives are still dedicated to Shia Islam becoming the dominant religion on the planet. Thus Al Quds can be found operating nearly everywhere, from South America (where they have a new base in Venezuela) to wherever Iran has a diplomatic presence. But the big Quds operations are in southern Iraq, western Afghanistan and Gaza. Quds Force operatives have been found carrying out assassinations in the West and organizing terror attacks all over the world (like the bombing of a Jewish social center in Argentina).

Quds Force was very active in Iraq, but suffered a series of defeats by American and Iraqi government forces. Now Quds Force is just waiting for more opportunities to expand Iranian power in Iraq.

Iranian support for Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, includes efforts to convert largely Sunni Palestinians to the Shia brand of Islam. This has caused more anti-Iranian activity among Palestinians, who are being pressured by oil rich Sunni Arab states in the Gulf, to join in the growing struggle between Arabs and Iran (which believes it, not some Arab state, should lead the Moslem world.) Hamas in particular, and the Palestinians in general, will take money from anyone, and say a kind (or whatever the suggested script calls for) word in return. Palestinian resistance groups have been living off charity for over half a century, and know how to play donors.

Earlier this year, a Quds operation in Nigeria was revealed and caused embarrassment. Last month, Nigerian police found 13 cargo containers full of weapons. The shipping documents listed the contents as building materials. Some detective work confirmed that the containers were shipped from Iran several months ago. Worse, at least two Nigerian Moslems were involved in the operation, as well as an Iranian diplomat. The unanswered question is whether the containers are being stored in Nigeria, before they can be shipped to some other destination (like Gaza, Venezuela or Eritrea), or were meant for someone in Nigeria (like a pro-Iranian Moslem politician up north). Iran has been supporting the Shia minority in northern Nigeria, which has brought forth denunciations from Sunni Islamic leaders. ). There are 5-10 million Shia (and over 60 million Sunni) in Nigeria and most Shia want a religious dictatorship like Iran, running the country using Islamic law. While many in the Sunni majority agree with this, the religious differences between Shia and Sunni cause tension and violence. There have been assassinations (of Shia and Sunni leaders) as well as riots and some battles. While the Nigerian Shia are considered less-than-orthodox by the senior Shia clergy back in Iran and Iraq, they are still recognized as Shia, and Iran has provided some support (most of it illegal, in the form of cash smuggled in to help sustain Shia organizations.) But the 13 cargo containers of weapons may be an escalation in this support.

Once you get to know Quds Force a little better, the Saudi ambassador assassination plot does not seem so outrageous.  Quds Force has always tolerated, and sometimes indulged, mavericks who were willing to undertake high-risk (but high-payoff) operations overseas.

It has not been a good year for Iran. The "Arab Spring" uprisings, which Iran officially supported (as any state that claimed to be "revolutionary" must) have been a disaster for Iran. In Libya, fiery rebel Moamar Kaddafi, a sometime Iranian ally, was deposed and killed. Syria, a loyal and paid-for client since the 1980s, appears to be heading in the same direction. This will hurt much more than Libya, because Syria is run by a Shia minority family (the Assads), and any new government is likely to be very hostile to Iran. This is already encouraging anti-Shia factions in neighboring Lebanon. Not all Arab Spring protests succeeded, and those that failed were the ones Iran supported most directly. These were the Shia majority in Bahrain, and the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia. The overthrown of Mubarak in Egypt seemed like a victory, but now Sunni Islamic radicals appear to be growing in power there. One thing Sunni radicals are really into is persecuting and killing Shia (considered heretics by hardcore Sunnis). In Yemen, the Shia majority has been forced to the sidelines by the uprisings that appear certain to put another Sunni coalition in power.

Then there are some non-religious problems. Security along the Afghan border is getting more aggressive, and the Afghans are getting more vocal complaining about it. Iranian border guards recently fired mortar shells into an Afghan village believed to contain smugglers. Afghanistan protested and Iran sort of apologized. But the Iranians know that the Afghan smuggler gangs bribe Afghan officials to ensure that opium and heroin reach the Iranian border safely. From there, the heavily armed and aggressive Afghan smugglers will battle any border guards they encounter in order to get the drugs across. The border area often resembles a war zone because of this.

Unhappy with how troublesome president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and some of his predecessors, have been, senior clerics are openly discussing doing away with the elected presidency. That would mean a cleric could be appointed head-of-state and a prime minister could be selected from among members of parliament (who have to be approved by the clerics before they can run for election). Prime ministers can easily be removed, as their tenure is determined by how long they can avoid losing a vote in parliament.

October 21, 2011:  As thousands of Turkish troops moved into northern Iraq, Iran pledged to continue cooperating with Turkey in finding and destroying armed Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq. While the Iraqi government protests these incursions, that's as far as it goes. The autonomous Kurdish government in largely Kurdish northern Iraq will not use force against Kurdish separatist rebels from Turkey and Iran (who use Iraq as a sanctuary). Moreover, no Iraqis want to go to war with powerful neighbors like Iran and Turkey either.

October 18, 2011:  Canada and Britain have joined the U.S. in freezing the assets of five Iranians accused to conspiring to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

October 17, 2011: The results of a UN investigation revealed that Iran had secretly executed hundreds of dissidents this year. The UN condemned such actions, and Iranian government security practices in general. Since the Iranian government is run by clerics, and doing God's work, such criticism means nothing.

October 10, 2011: An Iranian court sentenced an Iranian actress (Marzieh Vafamehr) to a year in jail and 90 lashes (a potentially fatal punishment, depending on how it is administered.) Vafamehr was found guilty of appearing in a film that did not have the proper permits. The film dealt with government censorship, and was shown overseas to great acclaim. These whipping sentences are usually not carried out on women, but a male student recently received 74 lashes for insulting president Ahmadinejad. The student survived.

 

 

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