Clandestine war´s pressure on Iranian leaders (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Anshel Pfeffer 03/29/12)
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The series of mysterious bombings at key locations throughout Iran
and assassinations of nuclear scientists over the last few months
have obviously got under the skin of the regime´s intelligence
This morning, the official FARS News Agency tells us of a "terrorist
team" that was arrested in an operation by the Islamic Revolution
Guards Corps (IRGC); the news was also broadcast last night on
Iranian state television.
There are very few details in this report that allow us in any way to
ascertain its veracity, but a few details are intriguing. In the
past, similar reports have usually indicated the source of such
groups, (the U.S, Israel, Britain), but today the Iranians are
ascribing them to "the arrogant powers."
The location of the operation is also interesting: southeastern Iran,
which would mean probably Balochistan, somewhere near Iran´s borders
with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)
has been waging a low-key campaign for independence against both the
Iranian and Pakistani governments, and Tehran and Islamabad have
accused foreign powers for aiding it.
But this is a region of Iran that is far removed from the centers of
nuclear research, so it is hard to see how it could be connected to
the current crisis, unless someone is simply interested in creating
yet another headache for the regime.
Perhaps the most interesting detail in the report is the fact that it
names the Iranian Quds Force as the specific agency that carried out
the operation against the "terrorist team." The Quds Force is
normally Iran´s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) special department
tasked with furthering the Islamic revolution outside of the
country´s borders, and is also responsible for arming and training
Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad – as well as supporting Iran-
backed terror operations around the world.
The appearance of the Quds Force as an anti-terror unit within Iran
is new, and indicates a need to burnish its credentials. It will be
interesting to see if any new details emerge about this operation,
including the identity of those arrested and pictures of
the "enormous amount of equipment, flammable material and grenades"
which were apparently captured.
The fact that Iran´s intelligence services feel the need to defend
their record was made clear from another FARS report about a speech
made by Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi Tuesday in Medina, in
which he claimed that "Iran has the most powerful intelligence
service in the region" and that they had "identified and disbanded
large U.S. and Israeli spy networks with tens of branches, centers
and nodes in different world countries, and has arrested a large
number of spies during its operations."
Moslehi´s speech came in the wake of a rare public appearance two
weeks ago by the mastermind of Iran´s intelligence network himself,
the commander of the Quds Force, Major General Qasem Suleimani, who
said that "the armed forces will show Iranian zeal in the face of any
possible aggression against the country." It is unclear to whom and
where he said this, though the quotes appeared days after the
Lebanese media published that Suleimani had visited Hezbollah in
Beirut, a report strenuously denied by the Iranian government.
Whatever the truth regarding his movements, this is the second time
in two months that the Iranian media has published quotes from
Suleimani which indicate that he is under increasing pressure to show
results while the clandestine war against Iran is intensifying.
On the same issue, the Sunday Times reported this week that "Israel
is using a permanent base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch cross-border
intelligence missions in an attempt to find ´smoking gun´ evidence
that Iran is building a nuclear warhead." The report by the paper´s
Tel Aviv correspondent is based on "western intelligence sources,"
and was preceded two months ago by a similar story in Le Figaro
informed this time by "a security source in Baghdad."
There is no way that an Israeli news organization can independently
and professionally verify these reports without breaching the
military censorship´s guidelines. Whether or not all the details in
the Sunday Times report are accurate, the story is not outlandish
considering Israel´s historic relations with the Kurds in northern
Iraq - dating back to the early 1960s - and the basic geography of
the region which makes it an ideal base for operations into Iran.
Israel´s engagement with the Kurds, which included military training
and advisers, ended in 1975 following the signing of agreement
resolving Iran-Iraq border disputes with the U.S.´s blessing - but
the reports of an Israeli return to the region have been circulating
for nearly a decade. The deterioration of Israel´s strategic alliance
with Turkey - the Kurds´ traditional enemy - and the urgency of
launching clandestine missions against Iran could only have increased
the impetus to rejuvenate the relationship (The connection between
Israel and the Iraqi Kurds is not only of a security nature, at least
one Israeli NGO is also building other bridges – have a look at the
moving stories of Iraqi-Kurdish children treated in Israeli hospitals
through Save a Child´s Heart).
The fragile internal situation in Iraq - and Jerusalem´s desire to
salvage relations with Ankara - mean that any Kurdish connection will
by necessity remain secret. But Israel is making less of an effort to
hide its burgeoning relationships with two other of Iran´s neighbors –
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, exploiting both countries´
disagreements with Iran over Caspian Sea resources and their fears of
Islamic intervention in their secular dictatorships.
The timing of the public announcement last month - of the mammoth
sale of Israeli weapon systems to Azerbaijan is just another stage in
the alliance which has seen the country become one of Israel´s main
oil suppliers - was hardly coincidental. The unmanned aerial
surveillance drones and radar systems will not only cement the
defense ties between the two nations, it will also allow Israel an
eye across the border. The security services both countries have
cooperated to prevent Iranian-backed terror attacks against Israeli
and Jewish targets in Baku. Last month, an alleged Israeli agent
working in Azerbaijan was quoted in a Times report saying that "this
is ground zero for intelligence work. Our presence here is quiet, but
substantial. We have increased our presence in the past year, and it
gets us very close to Iran. This is a wonderfully porous country.”
Ties with Turkmenistan have taken longer to get off the ground. The
Turkmen government refused two potential Israeli ambassadors due to
their former intelligence ties but recently has been warming up. Two
months ago, an Israeli Foreign Ministry delegation publicly visited
Ashgabat. Tehran cannot have failed to notice. (© Copyright 2012
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