Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Add IRGC and Individuals to Terror Lists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Add IRGC and Individuals to Terror Lists

Tuesday, 23 October, 2018 – 15:00
Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards march during a military parade in Tehran September 22, 2007. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo
Riyadh- Asharq Al-Awsat
In multilateral action, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain added on Tuesday Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and senior officers of its Quds Force to their lists of people and organizations suspected of involvement in terrorism.

SPA quoted a statement from the security services saying Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, and the force’s Hamed Abdollahi and Abdul Reza Shahlai were named on the list.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s State Security Presidency and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a US-Gulf initiative to stem finance to militant groups, sanctioned and designated nine individuals associated with the Taliban and their Iranian facilitators.

TFTC has taken action “in a collective effort to identify, tackle and share information related to terrorist financing networks and their activities of mutual concerns, including threats emerging from countries supporting terrorism and terrorist organizations,” a statement on SPA read.

It designated the following Taliban figures and Iranian facilitators: Mohammad Ebrahim Owhadi, Esmail Razzavi, Abdullah Samad Farugui, Mohammad Daoud Muzzamil, Abdulrahim Manan, Mohammad Naim Barich, Abdulaziz Shah Zamani, Sadr Ibrahim, and Hafiz Abdulmajid.

The center was established in May 2017 during US President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and the US co-chair the group and Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. This action is the third collective TFTC designation action since the center’s establishment.

The TFTC is a bold and historic effort to expand and strengthen TFTC members cooperation to counter terrorist financing, coordination to disrupt funding of terrorism, sharing the information and capacity building to target the financing networks and the related activities that pose threats to the TFTC members national security.

As a result of this action, and pursuant to TFTC members domestic laws, all assets, properties and related revenues to these names will be frozen in the designating countries and persons are prohibited from engaging in any transaction with the designated names.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Humiliated by Attack, Vow to Retaliate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Humiliated by Attack, Vow to Retaliate

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A funeral ceremony in Ahvaz, Iran, on Monday for the victims of the attack on a military parade. Credit Attention Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Soldiers in dress uniform lay prone in the street. Others, apparently heavily armed, faced the assailants, then threw themselves to the ground without firing back. Some just ran for their lives.

Captured on video and widely shared on social media, the attack over the weekend on an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps parade in Iran was a humiliating blow. A local Arab separatist group claimed responsibility, but Iran said the perpetrators were backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

The moment terrorists struck a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran Credit Video by Press TV

On Monday, Iranian officials vowed revenge against all three countries and Israel.

The attack has escalated tensions between Iran and the Persian Gulf states and their American allies. The Trump White House has taken a hard line against Iran, withdrawing from a nuclear agreement and imposing sanctions that have damaged Iran’s flailing economy.

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Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have clashed with Iran over Yemen, Qatar and Syria. The conflicts are expected to take center stage at the United Nations General Assembly this week.

The attack on Saturday in Ahvaz, Iran, killed at least 25 people, including some children and other civilians who had been among the spectators, according to Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, and a dozen members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

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Iranians at the funeral on Monday. Iranian news accounts said the four assailants had worn Iranian uniforms.CreditEbrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

A widely posted image on Facebook showed members of the Revolutionary Guards military band, wearing tricolor sashes and carrying musical instruments, hiding in a drainage ditch — described by many commentators as a sewer — during the attack.

Iranian officials, including the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, focused blame on Arab kingdoms on the Persian Gulf, as well as the United States. “This cowardly act was carried out by those who are rescued by Americans wherever they are entangled in Syria and Iraq and their hands are in the Saudi and Emirati pockets,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on Monday, the Fars news agency reported.

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In a speech on Monday at a funeral ceremony for the victims of the attack, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said, “You have seen our revenge before,” according to the news agency Al Ahed, which is run by the pro-Iranian organization Hezbollah in Lebanon. “You will see that our response will be crushing and devastating, and you will regret what you have done.”

The Ahvaz National Resistance, a little-known group with roots among the Arab minority of Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday. So did the Islamic State, though the links to that group were ambiguous. It was the worst attack inside the country since an Islamic State-claimed assault on Parliament in 2017.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan Province in southwestern Iran, where many of the country’s Arabs live. The Islamic State posted a video that it said showed three of its fighters on their way to the attack, according to IRNA. Two of the fighters were speaking Arabic with an Iraqi accent.

الجزيرة مباشر الآن

@ajmurgent

عاجل | مراسل الجزيرة: وزير الاستخبارات الإيراني يعلن اعتقال شبكة من الأفراد لصلتهم بهجوم

G181@G18113

ـژ 🔴فـيــديـو لـ[ 3 ] من منـفـ››ـذي‌ےهـجـ››ـوم مـديـنـ›ـةےالأحـ›ـواز جـنــوب إيــران‌ےأمس‌ے🎥pic.twitter.com/kPrsp4mTap

The Islamic State claimed responsibility with bulletins on its Amaq news service, which also ran the video of the fighters. But the video did not explicitly say the attackers belonged to the Islamic State, nor did they pledge allegiance to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as similar claims from the group have done in the past.

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The attack killed 25, including children and other civilians who had been among the spectators, according to the state news agency IRNA.CreditEbrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

Iranian news accounts said there had been at least four assailants, who disguised themselves in Iranian uniforms and attacked from behind the viewing bleachers at the parade. They said three of the assailants had been killed and one captured.

Iranian officials provided no evidence that the countries they blamed were behind the attack. The United States and the Emirates issued statements dismissing the accusation.

But the attack came at a volatile time in Iran’s relations with those countries.

A prominent academic in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, added fuel to that fire by saying the attack had been part of an effort to bring the fight against Iran inside the country. Mr. Abdulla, who has frequently been described as an adviser to the Emirate government and as close to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, suggested support for the attack in a Twitter post on Saturday: “A military attack against a military target is not a terrorist act,” he said.

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla@Abdulkhaleq_UAE

هجوم عسكري ضد هدف عسكري ليس بعمل إرهابي.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned an Emirati envoy to complain about Mr. Abdulla’s remarks and warned that the Emirates “would be held accountable for individuals affiliated with official Emirati agencies that show clear support for terrorist acts,” the ministry said in a statement.

Analysts said the Revolutionary Guards, an elite militia that operates independently of the Iranian government, were bound to react strongly to such a public humiliation.

“They’re going to go for a strong reaction to remedy the horrible image this attack has given them, the imagery that they are running away, falling down on the ground and so on,” said Ahmad Moussalli, a regional expert and professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. “They could correct that with a heavy military blow somewhere.”

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The scene of the attack on Saturday. The Ahvaz National Resistance, a little-known group with roots among Iran’s Arab minority, claimed responsibility for the attack, as did the Islamic State.CreditMorteza Jaberian/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He said that he doubted the Revolutionary Guards would risk a direct military confrontation with the Emirates or Saudi Arabia and that the response would more likely occur in Syria or Iraq. The attack, though embarrassing, Mr. Moussalli said, “shows that the gulf and the United States is targeting Iran now, and gives Iran a pretext to flex their military power.”

The Emirates were not the only regional power cheering on internal resistance to the Iranian government recently.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, suggested a year ago that it was time to turn from external pressure on Iran to internal pressure. Prince Mohammed, in repeated interviews in the United States this year, also likened Ayatollah Khamenei to Hitler, saying at one point, “I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good.”

Saudi Arabia had also bitterly opposed the nuclear deal Iran signed with the United States and other world leaders, and it had cheered the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement.

President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, fueled claims of an American campaign against Iran when he addressed an “Iranian uprising summit” in New York on Saturday — hours after the attack in Ahvaz — saying that a leadership change in Iran was inevitable because of United States sanctions.

“I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them,” Mr. Giuliani said, according to a Reuters report. “It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years. But it’s going to happen.”

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Mohammad Taha Eghadami, the father of a 4-year-old boy killed in the attack, at the mass funeral on Monday.CreditEbrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, insisted that the Trump administration was not seeking a leadership change in Iran. In response to President Hassan Rouhani’s criticism of the United States, she said in an interview with CNN: “He can blame us all he wants. The thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”

After attacks in Tehran last year, the Revolutionary Guards said that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States were responsible, but most government officials blamed terrorists. This time, Iranian leaders described the attack not as terrorism, but as an act of foreign aggression — a significant difference, said Hussein Allawi, a national security analyst at Al Nahrain University in Iraq.

“The Iranian authorities denied that a terrorist organization did the operation,” he said. “Instead it accused states in the Middle East of carrying out the operation, even though signs of terrorism in the operation were clear.”

Despite the bellicose language from the supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, other officials seemed to adopt a more cautious reaction, at least initially.

Speaking at the funeral for the Ahvaz victims on Monday, the deputy commander of Iran’s regular army, Brig. Gen. Nozar Nemati, said it was too early to say whether Western intelligence agencies had been involved in the attack, and suggested it may have originated closer to home.

“They are the same people who were followers of Saddam at the onset of the war, and they are pursuing the same goal,” IRNA quoted him as saying. He was referring to the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who fought a bitter war in an attempt to destroy Iran in the 1980s.

Follow Rod Nordland on Twitter: @rodnordland.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Falih Hassan from Baghdad, and Rukmini Callimachi from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: Blaming U.S. and Gulf States, Iran Vows Revenge for Humiliating Attack. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

ISIS releases video claiming to show Iran parade attack gunmen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Islamic State releases video claiming to show Iran parade attack gunmen

Assailants disguised as soldiers attacked annual military parade in city of Ahwaz, killing at least 29, including women and children

Still form a video released by the Islamic State affiliated Amak news agencyy purporting to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack in a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left 29 people dead (Twitter)

Still form a video released by the Islamic State affiliated Amak news agency purporting to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack in a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left 29 people dead (Twitter)

A news agency affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group released a video Sunday which purports to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack at a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left at least 29 people dead, including women and children, and wounded dozens more, some of them critically.

The footage, released by the Amaq news agency, shows three men in a vehicle, apparently on their way to carry out the attack.

“We are Muslims, they are heretics,” one of the men can be heard saying in the video. “We will kill them with a guerilla attack, inshallah.”

Gunmen disguised as soldiers on Saturday attacked the annual Iranian military parade in the country’s oil-rich southwest, marking the anniversary of the start of its 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The attack saw gunfire sprayed into a crowd of marching soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, bystanders, and government officials watching from a nearby riser.

Iranian officials blamed a number of different targets, including Israel, the US, and regional-arch enemy Saudi Arabia, while two groups — the Islamic State and an anti-government Arab group — claimed responsibility.

But in the hours following the attack, state media and government officials seemed to come to the consensus that Arab separatists in the region were responsible.

An image made available by Iran’s Mehr News agency on September 22, 2018, shows an Iranian soldier carrying a child at the site of an attack on a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz, that was marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. (AFP/ MEHR NEWS AND AFP PHOTO / Mehdi Pedramkhou)

Ahvaz lies in Khuzestan, a province bordering Iraq that has a large ethnic Arab community and has seen separatist violence in the past that Iran has blamed on its regional rivals. The separatists, however, previously only conducted pipeline bombings at night or hit-and-run attacks.

The separatists accuse Iran’s Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority. Iran has blamed its Mideast archival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding their activity. State media in Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP / STR)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused US-backed Gulf states of being behind the attack, saying in a statement that “this crime is a continuation of the plots of the regional states that are puppets of the United States.”

“Their goal is to create insecurity in our dear country,” he added.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also immediately blamed the attack on regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained, armed, and paid” by foreign powers. The claim further raises tensions in the Mideast as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers is in jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz. Children and journos among casualties. Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, ordered the country’s security forces to identify those behind the attack, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency, and warned of an aggressive response.

“The response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the smallest threat will be crushing,” Rouhani said on his official website. “Those who give intelligence and propaganda support to these terrorists must answer for it.”

Earlier Saturday, a spokesman for the Iranian army blamed Israel and the US for the attack.

Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi told the state news agency IRNA, that the gunmen who opened fire at the parade were “not from Daesh [Islamic State] or other groups fighting [Iran’s] Islamic system … but are linked to America and [Israel’s intelligence agency] Mossad.”

Shekarchi also claimed “the terrorists have undergone training in two countries in the Persian Gulf.”

The Islamic State terrorist group had earlier claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Citing a security source, its propaganda agency Amaq said: “Islamic State fighters attacked a gathering of Iranian forces in the city of Ahvaz in southern Iran.”

An Iranian soldier runs past injured colleagues lying on the ground at the scene of an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, September 22, 2018. (AFP/ ISNA / MORTEZA JABERIAN)

In a further claim, Yaghub Hur Totsari, a spokesman for the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahvaz, told Reuters the Ahvaz National Resistance umbrella organization of Arab anti-government armed movements was behind the attack, but did not specify which particular group carried it out.

Shekarchi said the dead included a young girl and a former serviceman in a wheelchair.

“Of the four terrorists, three were sent to hell at the scene, while the fourth who had been wounded and arrested went to hell moments ago due to his severe wounds,” Shekarchi told state television.

Khuzestan deputy governor Ali-Hossein Hosseinzadeh told the semi-official ISNA news agency that “eight to nine” troops were among those killed, as well as a journalist.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

The Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard also has vast holdings in Iran’s economy.

Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif also said that an Arab separatist group funded by Sunni arch-rival Saudi Arabia carried out the attack.

“Those who opened fire on civilians and the armed forces have links to the Ahvazi movement,” Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif told ISNA. “They are funded by Saudi Arabia and attempted to cast a shadow over the Iranian armed forces.”

State television immediately described the assailants as “takfiri gunmen,” a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran faced a bloody assault last year from the Islamic State group, and Arab separatists in the region have attacked oil pipelines there in the past.

Saturday’s rally was one of many in cities across Iran held to mark the anniversary of the launch of the war with massive Iraqi air strikes.

In this photo provided by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Iranian armed forces members and civilians take shelter in a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, September 22, 2018. (AP Photo/ISNA, Behrad Ghasemi)

A rare attack

The attack came as rows of Revolutionary Guard soldiers marched down Ahvaz’s Quds (Jerusalem) Boulevard, which, like many other places around the country saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran’s long 1980s war with Iraq. Images captured by state television showed journalists and onlookers turn to look toward the first shots, then the rows of marchers broke as soldiers and civilians sought cover under sustained gunfire.

“Oh God! Go, go, go! Lie down! Lie down!” one man screamed as a woman fled with her baby.

In the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as soldiers, some bloodied in their dress uniforms, helped their comrades to ambulances.

“We suddenly realized that some armed people wearing fake military outfits started attacking the comrades from behind [the stage] and then opened fire on women and children,” an unnamed wounded soldier told state TV. “They were just aimlessly shooting around and did not have a specific target.”

Saturday’s attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. That attack had at that point been the only one by the Sunni extremists inside of Shiite Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where the militants once held vast territory.

In this photo provided by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Revolutionary Guard members carry a wounded comrade after a shooting during their parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, September 22, 2018. (AP Photo/ISNA, Shayan Haji Najaf)

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the 2017 attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives storm the parliament complex where a legislative session had been in progress, starting an hours-long siege. Meanwhile, gunmen and suicide bombers also struck outside Khomeini’s mausoleum on Tehran’s southern outskirts. Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran’s first supreme leader until his death in 1989.

In the last decade, such attacks have been incredibly rare. In 2009 more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack by Sunni extremists in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.

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Iran: Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’

Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 – 09:45
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (AP)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
In the latest in a wave of criticism against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s close associates, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb, describing him as “psychologically imbalanced” and not fit for the job.

He accused the judiciary and the IRGC of fabricating cases against his aides over political differences.

In a video, Ahmadinejad lashed out against Taeb, saying that all he does is “fabricate cases,” revealing that during his presidency, he was opposed to him assuming his current post.

The former president asserted: “All state officials know that he is imbalanced and everyone knows what he has been up to.”

Ahmadinejad said that “the fabrication campaign against him and his aides was launched by the Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC Intelligence in 2011 under Taeb’s leadership.”

Furthermore, he also wondered whether “the use of state power is permissible in political disputes.”

Ahmadinejad also revealed that Taeb, who served as deputy intelligence minister under former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, was removed from his post for sparking disputes among various officials.

“They kicked him out of the Intelligence Ministry, but they later violated the law and gave him a top post with full authority elsewhere,” said Ahmadinejad.

In April 2011, the European Union included Taeb and 23 other officials on the sanctions list for “gross violation of human rights” of Iranian citizens. He is barred from entering EU countries.

Ahmadinejad’s stances and criticism of the Iranian regime, coupled with growing public discontent as a result of the deteriorating economy and living conditions, have sparked widespread debate in the country. His opponents accuse him of adopting “populist” positions.

In another part of the video, Ahmadinejad stated that what he says is “not an insult or a propaganda against the regime… we want to reform the situation… we say that this is bad and damaging the regime, the Iranian revolution, and the people.”

A few days ago, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, vice president, chief of staff, and senior aide to Ahmadinejad, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on charges of threatening national security.

In March, Mashaei protested in front of the British embassy and burned a court sentence against former vice president and close Ahmadinejad aide, Hamid Baghaei, in a symbolic reference to accusations of “links” between the Chief Justice and Britain.

Commenting on Mashaei’s charges, Ahmadinejad said it “distorts the image of the regime,” while also criticizing IRGC intelligence service for setting up its own prisons.

Last week, a group of Ahmadinejad supporters published a video of Mashaei in which he speaks of attempts to assassinate him in prison. He also accused Taeb of working to force confessions from Baghaei, who is serving a sentence in Evin prison.

IRGC intelligence service is a parallel organ of the Ministry of Intelligence. Khamenei appoints its chief, who is therefore considered one of the most powerful figures in the regime.

The Guards’ intelligence service is known for prosecuting senior officials accused of security violations. It is tasked with providing protection for the supreme leader and senior officials of state agencies, airports and nuclear facilities.

Ahmadinejad is not the first senior Iranian official to criticize the IRGC intelligence chief.

In recent years, current deputy speaker Ali Motahari and reformist opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi have sharply criticized Taeb and the IRGC intelligence service’s operation in parallel to the Ministry of Intelligence.

Among the most prominent arrests were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, and brother of Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, Mehdi Jahangiri, on charges of corruption.

Prior to the 2017 presidential elections, Rouhani had criticized the arrest of a number of activists on his electoral campaign by the Guards’ intelligence.

Behind Islamic Jihad’s barrage of attacks on Israel, the hand of Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Behind Islamic Jihad’s barrage of attacks on Israel, the hand of Iran

It is hard to believe that the Gaza terror group would have opened fire on Israeli citizens, potentially pushing the Strip toward war, without the support of its Iranian sponsors

Avi Issacharoff
Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists march during a military drill near the border with Israel, east of the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists march during a military drill near the border with Israel, east of the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Tuesday morning’s barrages of mortar shells and rockets into southern Israel were quickly rumored in Gaza to be the work of the Islamic Jihad terror group. And hours after more than two dozen mortar shells hit Israel, the IDF carried out retaliatory strikes that were mainly directed at Islamic Jihad’s military wing.

Islamic Jihad’s role indicates we are witnessing an attempt by Iran to spark a war on the southern border. And if the deterioration of the situation is not halted in the very near future, the attempt may prove successful. Already we have seen an attack on Israeli targets unprecedented since 2014’s Protective Edge conflict, with a consequent Israeli response against targets in Gaza.

The Islamic Jihad barrages were ostensibly aimed at avenging Israel’s reported killing of three of its operatives, who were attempting an attack, earlier this week in the Rafah area. That was the immediate pretext. But the nature and scale of the Islamic Jihad response — heavy fire at civilian targets in Israel — indicates that revenge was not the only motivation. It is possible that this is at root an Iranian move, seeking to have Israel pay a price in the south for targeting Iran in the north — across the border in Syria.

After all, it is hard to believe that Islamic Jihad, a smaller ally-rival of Hamas which is financed and trained primarily by the Iranians, would have initiated this kind of action, with its dramatic consequences for Gaza, without Tehran’s approval.

Israeli soldiers stand guard next to an Israeli Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed along the border with the Gaza strip on May 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Israel has been making clear of late that it operates freely in Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps there; it may well be that there are those in Tehran who want to counter that via the Gaza Strip, or at least to stir up Israel’s southern border and therefore distract Israel’s attention from the north.

Where does Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, fit into this? Hamas was quick to welcome the barrages fired at Israel. And the IDF has also targeted several Hamas facilities. Yet the fact remains that Hamas’s activities in recent months indicate that it is not particularly interested in an escalation, and Israel recognizes this.

Hamas has put the brakes on a potential deterioration into all-out conflict more than once of late, even after its forces were hit. The most obvious recent example of this was on May 14, the day the US inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem, Nakba Day, when more than 60 Gazans were killed in violent clashes with Israel at the Gaza border. Hamas later acknowledged that almost all of the fatalities were its members. Yet it ordered the dispersal of the protests at the border that evening, to avoid a potential descent into war.

Illustrative. A photo provided by the pro-regime Syrian Central Military Media, shows anti-aircraft fire rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, after the Israeli military says Iranian forces launched a rocket barrage against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights, in the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismael Haniyeh have been engaged in various secretive contacts of late — intermittently involving Egypt and, separately Qatar — intended to yield understandings for a long-term Hamas-Israel ceasefire. Evidently, however, there are other players — Islamic Jihad and Iran — who want to heat things up.

Islamic Jihad’s attacks on Israel are also embarrassing Hamas in the eyes of the Gaza public. Hamas knows that if its forces do not prevent a continuation of Islamic Jihad fire — whether through the use of force, or threats, or both — there is a considerable likelihood that Gaza will once again find itself at war with Israel. But if Hamas does intervene against Islamic Jihad, its image as the “resistance” against Israel will be undermined. It would risk becoming perceived as another kind of “Palestinian Authority,” collaborating with the Zionist enemy in return for quiet and/or economic benefit.

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COMMENTS

 

Israel urges Assad to ‘throw out’ Iranian forces: ‘They only harm you’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

LIBERMAN: ‘WE DID NOT CROSS IRAN’S BORDERS. THEY CAME HERE’

Israel urges Assad to ‘throw out’ Iranian forces: ‘They only harm you’

Defense minister reassures residents of the north that things are ‘back to normal’ following massive airstrikes in Syria

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (C) meets with Golan Regional Council head Eli Malka (L) and Katrzin Regional Council head Dmitry Apartzev (R) during a tour of the Golan Heights town of Katzrin on may 11, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (C) meets with Golan Regional Council head Eli Malka (L) and Katrzin Regional Council head Dmitry Apartzev (R) during a tour of the Golan Heights town of Katzrin on may 11, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Speaking in the north of Israel on Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sent a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad, telling him to “throw” Iranian forces out of his country.

Liberman visited the northern city of Katzrin to debrief residents following Israel’s largest air campaign in Syria in more than 40 years, in which it says it bombed over 50 Iranian targets.

The sortie came after Iran fired 20 missiles toward Israel just after midnight on Thursday morning, the IDF said, forcing residents of the north into bomb shelters. Four of the missiles were knocked down by the Iron Dome air defense system and the rest fell short of Israeli territory, according to the military.

Liberman urged Syria to expel the Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, which Israel blamed for the missile attacks early Thursday morning.

“I want to use this opportunity to give Assad a message,” he said. “Throw out the Iranians, throw out Qassem Soleimani and the Quds force. They don’t help you, they only harm you, and their presence causes only problems and damage.”

Liberman also told Israelis they should not let the threat from Syria deter them from visiting the north. “You can come, you can return to the bed and breakfasts, to tour, to hike,” he said. “There are truly amazing views and among the most beautiful places, and there is no problem. We are back to normal.”

He said that it was a mistake to think that Thursday morning’s attacks on the Iranian bases had completely solved the problem, but that the army was ready for anything and would continue to do whatever necessary to ensure Israel is secure.

“I don’t think it’s all over,” he said,” but we certainly have our finger on the pulse.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 9, 2018. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AFP)

Liberman said Israel was in a unique position of being able to speak with the leaders of both the US and Russia, though he refused to say whether Israel was responsible for Russia refusing to send better air defense systems to Syria.

The defense minister welcomed Iran’s statement that it did not want an escalation between the two countries and stressed that Israel was also not looking for more confrontation with anyone.

“We did not cross Iran’s borders,” he said. “They came here.”

He reassured residents that if anyone was planning to launch missiles against Israel the IDF would try to carry out preemptive strikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday Iran had “crossed a red line” and that Israel’s bombardment against targets in Syria “was a consequence.”

Israel has long warned it will not accept Iran entrenching itself militarily in neighboring Syria, where the Islamic Republic backs Assad’s regime in the country’s seven-year civil war.

Israel was blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that have killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged those raids.

The Jewish state said it had conducted dozens of operations in Syria to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Iran-backed Hezbollah, another key foe of Israel.

Amid a series of retaliation threats from Tehran, Israel had been preparing itself for weeks for possible Iranian retaliation.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

( I FIRST POSTED THIS ARTICLE ON SEPTEMBER 19th OF 2016. I FEEL THAT THIS IS AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE, ONE THAT i HOPE YOU WILL TAKE A MOMENT OF YOUR TIME TO READ AS IT IS VERY ‘TELLING’)

Special Dispatch Memri
Iranian General Discusses Shi’ite Liberation Army Under Command Of Qassem Soleimani, Who Is Subordinate To Supreme Leader Khomeini September 15, 2016 Special Dispatch No.6611

On August 18, 2016, Ali Falaki, a retired general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who commanded a brigade in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and claims to have volunteered to fight in Syria, gave an interview to the Iranian website Mashregh, which is close to the IRGC. In it, he spoke of the “Shi’ite Liberation Army” that Iran has deployed on its three battlefronts in the Middle East – in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – stating that it comprises divisions based on ethnicity that Iran has established for this purpose. These divisions, he said, are the Afghan division (Fatemiyoun), the Pakistani division (Zaynabiyoun) and the Iraqi division (Hayderiyoun), in addition to the Lebanese Hezbollah division that is operating in Lebanon and Syria. Falaki explained that these divisions comprise the Shi’ite Liberation Army that operates according to the ethnic model adopted by Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.[1]


Ali Falaki (Image: Farsnews.com)

Falaki stressed that while the Shi’ite Liberation Army forces on the various fronts are divided by ethnicity, their command structure is Iranian, and is headed by IRGC officers under the command of Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force, which operates outside Iran’s borders. He added that Soleimani answers directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini.

Falaki, who said that he maintains direct contact with the top echelons of the Iranian Army and IRGC, proudly reported that he had commanded, as part of the Afghan division, many Iranian Army soldiers who had volunteered to fight in Syria since February 2016. He said that it had been decided that they would be incorporated into the Afghan division of the Shi’ite Liberation Army as commanders. Falaki appears to be referring to February reports that Iran had replaced IRGC officers in Syria with Iranian Army soldiers and to relations between the IRGC and the Iranian Army, which have had their ups and downs.

Like other Iranian spokesmen, Falaki stressed that Iran is not sending Iranian forces to directly fight on the various fronts in the Middle East, but is creating local fighting forces that it provides with “guidance, organization, and management” by means of IRGC officers, and, when necessary also reinforces with the ethnic divisions of the Shi’ite Liberation Army. Wherever “there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized and supplied with the necessary forces,” he said. He added that the Shi’ite Liberation Army was established “because of the existence of Israel,” which Khamenei has vowed will cease to exist in about 20 years, though in practice the Shi’ite Liberation Army is fighting against Sunnis in the Middle East.

It should be mentioned that Falaki uses the term “Shi’ite Liberation Army” to mean two things: one, that its mission is to liberate Shi’ites, and two, that it is itself distinctly Shi’ite.

Following are excerpts from Falaki’s interview on the Mashregh website:[2]

“The First Seed Of The Shi’ite And Muslim Liberation Army Was Germinated In Syria”

“We have certain weaknesses in Syria that I do not wish to currently discuss, but some of them stem from a weakness we have in Iran. From here [in Iran], we come to South Lebanon and support the Shi’ites there; we come to Bahrain and Yemen at great expense and support the Shi’ites there.

“In Lebanon, we found [Hizbullah secretary-general] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, but here [in Iran], we could find no leader among all the active revolutionary [Afghan] clerics willing to be on the frontlines [like he is], nor could we organize such large forces [as Hizbullah]. We were not able to properly support the three million Shi’ite Afghans [living in Iran as refugees], and it is very unfortunate that for 30 years we ignored Afghan Shi’ites who, despite their oppression, resisted the arrogance of the east [Russia] and the West [the U.S.] in Afghanistan. We saw them as mere laborers waiting [for work] at intersections or as criminals. This generation [of Afghans in Iran] stepped up and showed heroism, altruism, courage, and daring in Syria. They shone under the command of the Iranian forces…

“Under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem [Soleimani], the Afghans prevented Zaynabiyya, Damascus, and the airport from falling [to the Syrian rebels]… We must not think that we [Iranians] are fighting in Syria, [but rather that] the Afghans are being courageous there under our command…

“The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ refers to explicit aid from God. The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ produced two great events… [for Iran] in the world of Islam. First, during the [Iran-Iraq] War, we were tasked with creating unity among [ethnic] sects [in Iran] – Lors, Kurds, Baluchis, Persians, and Arabs – [albeit] in separate frameworks,  [which all fought] the Ba’ath Party [in Iraq]. We transformed all the [ethnic] sects into military divisions, and during the war never dared to say that some of the brothers were Sunnis and some were [Shi’ite] Afghans.

“The Fatemiyoun banner was raised, and thus the first seed of the liberation army of Shi’ites and Muslims was germinated in Syria. Today we have the privilege [of forming the Shi’ite Liberation Army] because back then, we created the unity among the [ethnic] sects; now, we have created international [Shi’ite] unity. The [Pakistani] Zaynabiyoun division comprises Pakistanis under the command of IRGC officers. The [Afghan] Fatemiyoun division has several brigades comprising Afghans, and even has some Sunni members. IRGC [officers] guide this division. These divisions include IRGC commanders and [Afghani] commanders, from squad commanders to staff officers. These divisions have a single uniform and a single banner. They come under a single umbrella organization and fight on a single battlefront. We also have the Hayderiyoun division, which comprises Iraqis. We also have a Hezbollah division, which is divided into two: one part is Hezbollah in Lebanon and the other is Hezbollah in Syria, which comprises the people of Damascus, Nubl, and Al-Zahraa.

“The [Shi’ite] Liberation Army was formed because, with God’s help, in 23 years there should be no such thing as Israel. These divisions are on the Israeli border. The Fatemiyoun have laid the groundwork for this fight.

“The second thing, that we are happy to see is spreading to everyone, is that our previous [patronizing] view of these [Afghan] brothers has changed…”

“Wherever There Is A Need For This Army, The People In That Region Will Be Organized And Supplied With Necessary Forces”

“The Shi’ite Liberation Army was established, and it is currently under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem Soleimani, who obeys the leader [Khomeini]. One of this army’s fronts is in Syria, another is in Iraq, and yet another is in Yemen. The forces in this army are not meant to be only Iranian; [instead], wherever there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized [to form it] and supplied with the necessary forces…

“We [Iranians] are not meant to come [to Syria] as forces operating [on the ground]. We want [Iranian] elements who know how to teach, organize, and manage to come to Syria. This way, the forces in that region can spring into action…

“Some of the commanders of the army [of the Syrian regime] fled abroad, and some of its bases were captured. The crushed Syrian army units have today regrouped with renewed strength. Therefore, there is no need for us [in Iran] to send an army there. We can stand alongside the Syrian army, organize Syrian forces, and prepare them for battle. [In the future] we can remove the enemy occupation of Syria, just as we did in [Iranian] Kurdistan, which took a year or two – but controlling foreign incursions into Syria is up to the Syrians themselves and we cannot prevent it.

“Regime change and changes of president can happen only when the enemy is no longer [in Syria]…  For example, we succeeded, within two years, to expel the enemy presence in Kurdistan in western [Iran], but it took us years to impose law and order there… Today, this region is considered one of the safest in Iran… even though 20 years ago, they were beheading IRGC personnel with pottery shards…”

The Iranian Army Felt It Had A Roll To Fulfill In Syria

“The Iranian army felt that it had to fulfill a role in this [Syrian] arena. According to my knowledge, the army told Qassem Soleimani that it wants to fulfill its duty in this matter [i.e. fighting in Syria]. Qassem Soleimani told this to the leader [Khomeini], and the leader gave his blessing… Some volunteers from various military units, who were mostly experts in aerial combat, were sent to Syria in mid-February 2016.

“These [Iranian army] forces were competent enough to operate independently, but we decided that they would operate as part of the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun [division]. God rewarded me by placing me in command of them as part of the Fatemiyoun [division]. I placed them in charge of the area and transferred means to them, and after a short period, the [Afghan] unit was placed under their command. Neither their rank nor their weapons in Iran were the same as they were [after they joined] the Fatemiyoun [in Syria]. But due to their presence in Syria and after a short time fighting alongside the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun brothers, they became one organization, wore the same uniform, and fought in the same trenches. They became fast friends.

“I also told [Iranian ground forces commander] Amir Pourdastan that I was proud to fight along with the brothers from the [Iranian] army on one of the global battlefront outside of Iran, just like during the sacred defense period [the Iran-Iraq War]. [Back then] there was no difference [between us and them] and they were like the Basij boys [of the IRGC].

“I spoke with the commander who was tasked with sending [Iranian soldiers to Syria] and he said: ‘One of my concerns is to curb the wave of volunteers who want to be sent [to Syria]. According to the needs of the [Iranian] General Staff, we only send the necessary amount of forces [to Syria]. Had I allowed it, we would have had several divisions of [Iranian] volunteers [in Syria].’

“The presence of these forces has been hugely beneficial [in the Syrian arena]. They also suffered martyrdoms and injuries, but this did not damage their morale or make them less determined. They were experienced, brave, and passionate…

“The [volunteers] coming from Iran to Syria are given a monthly stipend of $100.”

“We Do Not Wish To Produce An Atomic Bomb… [But Rather] Prove… That [We] Can Reach Higher Than France [And] England… In All Fields… Even On The Military Level”

“Until our power grows, the world of the arrogance [the U.S.] will never let us be. Some wonder why there is a need for tension between us and the Western world. I must say that if we tolerate this tension for a while, we will be a match for [the enemy] and then they will no longer dare fight us. We do not wish to produce an atomic bomb. We only want to prove that our people and country can reach higher than France, England, Austria, and Denmark in all fields – humanities, science, economy, technology, as well as human rights, and even on the military level.

“If we destroy the enemy that is currently mobilizing against us, there will be no room for any other country [to mobilize against us]. When we show our true might, they will no longer be able to do anything against us…”

 

End notes:

 

[1] In the first part of the interview Falaki refers to the problem of the Afghan refugees in Iran, who number some 3,000,000. The Iranian regime recruits young men from among these refugees to fight in Syria as part of the Afghan division. The fighters receive a monthly stipend and, if they fall in battle, their families’ social status is enhanced.

[2] Fars (Iran), August 18, 2016. It should be mentioned that the interview was deleted from the Mashregh website shortly after publication.

Iranian drone shot down in northern Israel in February was armed with explosives

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iranian drone shot down in northern Israel in February was armed with explosives

Thwarted attack was first direct Iranian targeting of Israel; drone was sent from T-4 base in Syria, where 7 Iranians were killed in alleged devastating Israeli airstrike this week

The remains of an Iranian drone that was shot down by the Israeli Air Force after it penetrated Israeli airspace on February 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The remains of an Iranian drone that was shot down by the Israeli Air Force after it penetrated Israeli airspace on February 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel revealed on Friday that an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace in February after launching from an airbase in Syria was carrying explosives. The base was attacked on Monday, allegedly by Israel, in a strike that reportedly targeted Iran’s entire attack drone weapons system — prompting soaring tensions between Israel and Iran.

The Iranian drone shot down in February was carrying enough explosives to cause damage, military sources said. Its precise intended target in Israel was not known, they said.

The February incident marked an unprecedented direct Iranian attack on Israel. Israel’s acknowledgement of the nature of the drone’s mission “brings the confrontation” between Israel and Iran “into the open” for the first time, Israel’s Channel 10 news noted Friday.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day this week to warn Iran: “Don’t test the resolve of the State of Israel.”

Iranian officials, for their part, have been vowing a response to the Monday airstrike, and an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday threatened Israel with destruction.

The alleged Israeli attack this week on the base from which the drone was despatched is understood to have targeted Iran’s entire drone weapons system at the Syrian base, which was protected by surface-to-air missiles and other defenses, the TV report said.

“This was a harsh blow” to the Iranians, it added. “It is clear they will react.”

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on Monday April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

“An analysis of the flight path and operational and intelligence research performed on parts of the Iranian UAV that entered our territory on February 10 shows it carried explosive material and its mission was to carry out a destructive operation,” the Israel Defense Forces revealed Friday.

“The drone’s interception by attack helicopters thwarted the attack and the Iranian intention to carry out an operation on our territory,” it added.

The drone was tracked from Syria and shot down by IAF Apache helicopters 30 seconds after it crossed into Israeli airspace.

The army said that because it tracked the unmanned aerial vehicle throughout its flight, it did not pose any danger while in Israeli airspace.

Immediately after shooting down the Iranian drone on February 10, Israel carried out airstrikes against a number of Iranian targets in Syria, including on the T-4 base in central Syria where the Iranian operator of the drone was located.

During the aerial raids, an Israeli F-16 was downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft battery, crashing to earth in Israel, prompting further Israeli retaliatory raid against Syria’s anti-aircraft systems. Both the Israeli pilots ejected.

In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of an Israeli F-16 is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, February 10, 2018. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)

The statement from the army Friday came after the airstrike in Syria this week — blamed on Israel by Syria, Iran and Russia — reportedly killed 14 people, including seven Iranian military advisers, one of whom was a colonel in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps air force.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Iranian-armed Hezbollah terror group, said Friday that the alleged Israeli airstrike on the Iranian air base in central Syria was a “historic mistake” that has brought Israel into direct conflict with Tehran.

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Iraq’s drug habit is a threat to its stability

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MIDDLE-EAST MONITOR)

 

Iraq’s drug habit is a threat to its stability

Image an Iraqi hospital with wounded patients [file photo]

Iraqi hospital with wounded patients [File photo]

Inside Baghdad’s Ibn Rushd hospital are wards populated by male patients, old and young, battling drug and substance addictions. The hospital provides recovery services, but the misery of sufferers is kept out of sight and few possess the faith to let their tales be heard. The lasting imprint of wars, old and continuing, potentiates these habits. As a relief from suffering and with the degeneration of once sturdy belief systems, hundreds and thousands have turned to hard drugs.

A cauldron of illicit drugs covers all 14 of Iraq’s provinces with narcotics most visible in Basra where methamphetamine has emerged as a local staple. Some place the usage of meth here — or crystal as it’s known locally — at 62.1 per cent of the country’s consumption, as reports by The New Arab show.

The meth boom in Basra can be explained by the port city’s strategic position as it is able to handle the steady flow of goods and illicit drugs entering the country. Trafficking gangs are not strangers to using Basra as a transit point to sustain the expansion of the narcotics trade in the region.

Gangs in neighbouring Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have no doubt toyed with the idea of using Iraq as a gateway for drugs consignments that Saddam Hussein’s toppling made possible in 2003. For them, the Iraqi arena is particularly profitable and it’s where drug Czars can capitalise on the need of young people to numb the pain and grief of war. The nightmare this poses is difficult for local security forces to combat as they are split between those aiding and abetting traffickers and those disgraced by the phenomenon but ill-equipped to fight it alone.

In Samawah alone a total of 600 dealers reside in the province according to jurist Wael Abdul Latif. In the decades before 2003 the Iraqi arena was clean of drugs: “one of the very few regional states that could claim that drug abuse was not a problem in society,” security consultant Mustafa Al-Ani expressed years ago, citing “strict laws” and “severe punishment” by the Baath regime as the reason for this. However, the security gap America’s invasion opened up caused a near-complete reversal of the past Al-Ani describes.

Indications of heroin trafficked from Iraq mentioned in the 2015 World Drug Report, speaks of the effectiveness of organised networks that operate along the east-west axis and the weakness of internal security and the inability to patrol Iraq’s unmanned borders.

Read: Investment in Iraq smacks of exploitation; regional big-hitters should open their coffers

Statics on the problem might be inconclusive but the protracted nature of drug abuse confirms predictions made by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in late 2003 that drug trafficking would increase. In Afghanistan opium generates one third of Afghanistan’s economic output, underscoring the need for its continuation and expansion in the minds of local narcotics actors.

Drug gangs are notably active in Iraq’s shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, where there have been major seizures in the last 13 years. Drug-trafficking gangs enter these cities disguised as pilgrims, distributing heroin, hashish and amphetamine pills from Afghanistan, through Iran. Near weekly seizures are reported locally.

There is no one culprit but a convergence of actors and Iranian, Afghani, Iraqi and Turkish cartels. Shipments from Afghanistan pass through Iran into Iraq, bound for Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and even European markets. Rising levels of drug dependency are also felt in Jordan, with the entry of hashish and opium. Jordan’s public security directorate (PSD), as quoted by the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (2006), conceded that 28 seizures at the Iraqi border occurred in 2005.

These menacing developments cannot be divorced from pervasive corruption and the rise of international terrorism, both of which are fed by drug-related proceeds. Expansive illicit networks are also working to satisfy multiple demands. Captagon tablets to enhance battle performance, intoxicants for Gulf-bound expat and local communities in the region, prescription drug abuse to feed the habits of Iraqi soldiers as reported in The New York Times in 2008, and above all else, the need for hard cash.

A US State Department report from 2013 rued Iraq’s leadership for failure to “devote significant resources to drug cases,” but unverified images and Twitter posts allege that Iraq’s special forces were dispatched last weekend to southern Iraq to combat the drug trade in southern Iraq.

Read: IRGC uses crack epidemic as a means of destroying resistance among Ahwazis

The funds needed to build public rehabilitation services are lacking and rarely considered; it is a priority eclipsed by defence spending. The high potential for abuse of certain drugs, for example meth, will crush the educational potential of Iraq’s millennials.

“Meth of course boosts dopamine levels and gives users a certain rush – the bigger problem are withdrawal symptoms. Addiction happens very quickly and weaning yourself is not without numerous challenges,” Dr Usama, director of Ibn Rushd rehabilitation hospital told Sumaria news.

Relapse, he added, is as much of an uphill struggle as the addiction and threatens to render an entire generation inoperative at a time when their contribution to national growth has never been needed more.

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AfghanistanArticleAsia & AmericasIraqMiddle EastOpinion

Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship over Training with IRGC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

(Commentary: Bahrain government shows it has far more intelligence than their counterparts in the U.S. or in Western Europe.)(trs)

Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship over Training with IRGC

Thursday, 5 October, 2017 – 09:15
Bahrain’s Public Prosecution Building, Bahrain, BNA
Manama- Obaid Al Suhaimy

Bahrain’s public prosecution on Wednesday sentenced two nationals to jail terms and revoked their citizenship after they were convicted of training in Iran and the “possession of weapons for terrorist purposes”.

One of the two accused received special training in weapons and explosives provided by the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, while the second facilitated travel for the first suspect.

The High Criminal Court convicted them of the counts of charges leveled against them and revoked their nationality, the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) cited Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate Esa Al-Ruwaei.

Based on a notification from The General Directorate for Criminal Investigation (CID), an inquiry was launched into the case of one the convicts who received military training in Iran.

The investigation confirmed that the first convict, who was among the most active participants in acts of rioting, rallying, and sabotage, was in contact with terrorists in Bahrain and abroad, BNA reported.

The inquiry also established that he left Bahrain in 2015 and headed to Iran in coordination with terror leaders based abroad, with the help from other elements in the Kingdom.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard trained him on using, dismantling and assembling all types of military armament as well as shooting so as to prepare him to perpetrate terrorist operations. The second convict, who helped the first travel to Iran, was also involved in recruiting him.

The investigation revealed that terrorists tasked the first convict with monitoring sensitive locations inside the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Based on results of the investigation, the two accused were arrested and referred to the Public Prosecution to face charges, in compliance with constitutional measures.

The public prosecution based its charge on the verbal testimony of a witness, the confessions of the first accused and the monitoring of their movement in and out of Bahrain.

The two accused, who were provided all legal guarantees, stood trial at the Criminal Court in the presence of their defense lawyers.

The convicts have the right to challenge the verdict before the Court of Appeal within the legal deadline. The Bahraini judicial system also stipulates post-appellate guarantees for the case to be reviewed by the Court of Cassation.

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