Iran: Armed Forces Chief of Staff Warns of Threats in Country’s East

Iran

London- Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, General Mohammad Bagheri warned on Monday of security threats against Balochistan, eastern Iran, a region of Sunnite’s popularity. He said that the enemies of Iran are seeking damage to it.

Commenting on the security tension in Balochistan during the past two years with ongoing armed conflict between Iranian military forces and Balochistan armed groups, Bagheri said that his forces have accomplished security in south eastern Iran.

As for the security tension on the Iranian-Pakistani border, resulting in the death of 10 from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Bagheri stated that the Pakistani Army will intensify its existence on the Iranian-Pakistani border and that Pakistan is currently considering suggestions presented by Iran to uphold security on the border.

In May, Islamabad summoned the Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost after Bagheri threatened to target Balochistan armed groups in the Pakistani territory.

“In the current delicate condition, some are trying to destabilize the country. Due to Balochistan’s location and its tribal and racial diversity, it is vulnerable to the danger and greed of enemies,” said Bagheri.

He added that the Baloch people are aware of the goals and priorities, and supports the regime despite the tough living conditions.

Sunnites residing in Balochistan – around 2.4 million – complain over intentional marginalizing and sectarian discrimination.

They also accuse Iranian security forces of provoking Sunnite tribes against each other for the purpose of laying hand over their region.

While Tehran accuses these groups of extremism, they say that they hold the weapon against the Iranian armed forces to defend national and religious rights of Balochistan residents.

Rouhani and Trump: Together against Iran’s Men with Guns?

Iran

These days something strange is happening with regard to Iran. You might say: so what? Strange things have been happening with regard to Iran ever since the mullahs seized power in 1979.

Alright, but what is happening now may merit closer attention because it represents an unprecedented convergence between the thinking of the Trump administration in Washington, on the one hand, and that of one of the factions involved in the power struggle in Tehran, on the other.

Last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the Trump administration is putting final touches to a new policy on Iran with the ultimate aim of regime change. While details of this new policy remain a mystery, one thing maybe clear: one of its aims would be the dismantling of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which US experts identify as the mainstay of the Khomeinist regime.

National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster has more than hinted at this, while a number of Republican policymakers, among them Senator Tom Cotton, have evoked the designation of the IRGC as a “terrorist organization.”

Parallel to those developments, the Islamic Republic’s own President Hassan Rouhani has launched a campaign of vilification against the IRGC.

Some analysts dismiss Rouhani’s attacks as mere posturing.

After all, they argue, Rouhani himself is a product of the military-security complex based on the IRGC. Thus, his attacks on the IRGC, labeling it “a state with guns within the state,” may be a trick to hoodwink the gullible Americans into continuing Barrack Obama’s policy of propping up “the moderate faction” in Tehran.

This may well be the case. However, the IRGC sees Rouhani’s attacks as the domestic angle of a “plot” being hatched in Washington.

In an editorial published in the daily Javan, principal organ of the IRGC, General Yadallah Javani, says so with surprising clarity.

“What the President is saying (against the IRGC) is exactly copied from what the Western media have been saying for years,” he writes.

Another commander, Hamid-Reza Muqaddam-Far goes even further by accusing Rouhani and his clan of “unsheathing their swords” against the IRGC by “lying across the board”.

The IRGC’s Commander-in-Chief General Aziz Jaafari has linked Rouhani’s statements to efforts by the US to limit or even halt Iran’s project of building long-range missiles.

“Yes, we own missiles that smash the enemy,” Jaafari said in a speech a day before “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei reappointed him as IRGC commander-in-chief for a further three years.

Never missing an opportunity to attract publicity, General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Corps, has also entered the debate by claiming that “without the IRGC there will be no country!”

The so-called “moderate faction” led by the late Hashemi Rafsanjani and former President Mohammed Khatami has always told Western powers, notably the US, that the IRGC is a the principal hurdle on the way to the Islamic Republic’s change of behavior and “normalization.”

This was the theme that Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif used with some success in numerous appearances in American policy circles and think-tanks. His claim was that Iran’s interventions beyond its borders were due to the IRGC’s ambition to make the Islamic Republic a regional superpower, while “the moderates” wanted nothing but “win-win relations” with the West.

Last week, that theme was taken up by Rouhani in a speech in Tehran. “Our aim should not be to become the strongest power in the region,” he said. “What we want is a stronger region.”

However, becoming the regional “first power” is clearly stated as the principal goal of the Islamic Republic’s 20-Year Strategy, approved by the “Supreme Guide” in 2014.

In an editorial last Tuesday, the daily Kayhan, reflecting Khamenei’s views, insisted that becoming “the regional superpower” was not a matter of choice, but one of necessity for the Islamic Republic. The principal means of attaining that goal is the IRGC and its growing military power.

The current campaign to clip the wings of the IRGC is a reminder of the brief attempt by Khatami to disband the force by merging it with the regular armed forces.

It also echoes the campaign launched in the 1970s by the Shah’s many enemies to break the Iranian armed forces. At the time, the Khomeinists, the pro-Soviet Communists, the People’s Muajahedin, Libya under Moammar Gadhafi, the Palestinians led by Yasser Arafat, leftist parties in Western Europe and certain circles in the US worked together, albeit in an informal way, to vilify the Iranian army and mobilize Iranian and world opinion against it. Days after he seized power in 1979, Khomeini declared the destruction of the army as one of the top aims of his regime. The process of dismantling the army stopped only when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in September 1980.

Clipping the wings of the IRGC may be in the short-term interest of the “moderate” faction, which has held the presidency for 20 out of the past 38 years but, because of implicit or explicit opposition from the IRGC, failed to impose its full agenda on the Islamic Republic.

Thus by helping destroy the IRGC, Trump would be helping he “moderates”, often also known as the “New York Boys.”

The question is whether the “New York Boys”, who lack a popular base, would be able to keep Iran together, let alone implement policies that might please Trump or any other US president.

And what if, at some point and under certain conditions, one might need the very same IRGC to push the mullahs back to the mosques and seminaries?

To be sure, the IRGC is not the Shah’s army in the sense that it consists of more than a dozen bits and pieces with little esprit de corps and held together by expediency. However, one should not forget that Khomeini’s campaign to destroy the Iranian army amounted to a direct invitation to Saddam to invade Iran and to the USSR to occupy Afghanistan with all the consequences.

The dismantling of the IRGC may help the “moderates” for a while, but it could also open the way for ethnic revolts, civil war and larger scale terrorism in and around Iran. As Trump ponders his Iran policy, he should remember that nothing about Iran is as simple as the “New York Boys” claim. They sold Obama a bill of goods. Trump, the “dealmaker,” shouldn’t buy the same thing.

4 Wounded in Iranian Shelling on Iraqi Border Region

Iran

Erbil- The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps heavy artillery and rockets targeted on Monday wide regions of Iraqi Kurdistan, injuring four and displacing hundreds, as well as damaging agricultural lands.

Farzang Ahmad, the local administrator of the Haji Omaran, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “Iranian artillery continued on targeting a village in Haji Omaran until the evening, leading to the injury of a woman, who was among the region’s residents and working in the agriculture.”

He added that the attack caused material losses in farms, but no accurate data was yet available because of the continuous shelling.

“The continuous Iranian shelling causes damage to the agricultural sector and economy in Kurdistan. It also displaces hundreds of civilians,” he stated.

Ahmad stressed: “Since the beginning of the shelling, we sought through the border guards in Kurdistan to contact the Iranian border guards to resolve this problem and cease the attack to avoid a high number of victims and losses. Our efforts were vain however because Iran did not respond to us.”

Iran claims that it is shelling Iraqi Kurdistan because the Iranian Kurdish opposition is based there.

Kurdish parties have repeatedly said that they are not using Iraqi Kurdistan land to target neighboring Iran. They instead confirmed that they are using land from within the border and the mountain regions in Iranian Kurdistan to carry out operations against Tehran.

Bahrain: Execution to Terrorism Convict, Life-Sentence to Another

Manama- A criminal court in Bahrain issued an execution sentence in the case of a terrorism convict and a life-sentence in the case of another convict as well as a 3-year in prison for seven others convicted in the same case.

The court also ordered to revoke nationality from the first and second convicts and to fine them with the losses caused by the terrorist attack.

On June 30 2016, a terrorist attack took place in the street of Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah in Bahrain and killed one Bahraini woman – investigations revealed the committer.

They showed that a wanted man – currently a fugitive in Iran and working for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – assigned the convicted to carry out the terrorist attack and target police patrol.

Ahmad al-Hammadi, the head of the anti-terrorism public prosecution, said that 10 suspects were involved in the case for accusations of: intentional murder, having ties with a foreign state, possession of unlicensed weapons, carrying out blasts, subjecting public and private transportation to danger as well as getting trained over the use of arms and explosions to conduct terrorist crimes and get involved in them.

Director-General of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Science said that relevant security bodies headed to the site of the terrorist attack where required procedures were taken through preliminary inspection, gathering pieces of evidence and commencing investigations that led to identifying a number of suspects.

On May 23, the Ministry of Interior conducted a security operation in Diraz to break up illegal groupings that led to the death of five and the arresting of 286 wanted individuals.

Iranian Army Stages Exercises between Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb

London- Iranian Naval Commander Admiral Habiballah Siari has announced that navy maneuvers began in a two million square kilometer area that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz to the north of the Indian Ocean near Bab-el-Mandeb.

Siari stated that some segments of the Iranian Navy will take part in the concluding phase of maneuvers code-named ‘Velayat 95’ – similar drills code-named ‘Velayat 94’ were conducted in 2016.

“These maneuvers will show the Iranian Navy power in the international seas,” he said, denying that they are a threat to other countries.

Iranian maneuvers coincide with tension between Washington and Tehran that erupted last month after the ballistic missile test in Iran. Trump’s administration issued an official warning to Tehran, considering it the biggest state sponsor of terrorism.

US Navy’s Fifth Fleet refused to comment on the Iranian maneuvers, knowing that the fleet protects sea lanes from the Gulf to the Strait of Hormuz.

During the past years, Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz and prevent the entry of oil tankers to the region became a source of concern for the international community, but Iran says that its military forces’ alertness in that region falls under the framework of protecting Iranian ships from piracy.

Iran is facing accusations of transferring arms to conflict zones in the region, especially to the Houthis in Yemen. Yet Siari said: “The maneuvers contribute to the region’s security and confronts maritime terrorism.”

During his electoral campaign, Trump warned of targeting the Iranian Navy in case it approached US ships.

Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Army Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan pointed to recent war games staged by the Iranian Army and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and said the main objective behind them is to create preparedness and prevent sudden attacks.

“In case of any foreign aggression, the aggressor will definitely regret its action,” Pourdastan added.

Documents Disclose Iran, Venezuela Involvement in Missile Manufacturing Program

Program

Caracas- Mass media in Brazil and Venzuela reported that Tehran and Caracas developed a program to manufacture Cruise missiles. Veja Magazine said it received a document that reveals Iran supporting a Venezuelan program in 2009 to develop missiles and chemical compounds following the sanctions imposed on Tehran then.

Security Expert Joseph Humire told Asharq Al-Awsat that around twenty Iranian operations were conducted in North America and that there are several military deals sealed by Iran that seem to be legal but actually imply other motives.

“Iran signed a considerable number of military deals with Latin countries, especially ALBA countries, through members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and this boosted Iranian military cooperation there,” said Humire .

Humire added that this type of agreements usually cover unannounced programs to develop weapons.

“In 2009, Iran contracted for five years with Venezuela to repair air force weapons. Venezuela had the opportunity to benefit from Canada maintenance services but Iran insisted to handle this project despite the sanctions imposed on it,” continued Humire.

Humire also told Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran, through the Houthis and the so-called Hezbollah, is working tightly with North America. He added: “Recently discovered documents, that reveal involvement of Houthis in transporting weapons from Brazil to Yemen, is an enough evidence.”

Humire said that other pieces of evidence show that the so-called Hezbollah is involved in the illegal weapons trade in Brazil especially that these militias have connections with Brazilian criminal organizations known as PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital which means First Command of the Capital).

In the same context, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited earlier this month six Latin countries, majority of them from the ALBA. This visit reflects Iran’s interest in establishing strategic cooperation with these countries and not an economic one.

Iran’s Role in Latin America Criticized

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

La Paz-The visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif to Latin America upset the political and media circles, which was seen as a support to the Iranian regime, including the militia members of the so-called Hezbollah and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Critics started to hint to the Iranian role in the continent during the first hours of the tour. La Razón Newspaper, issued in Bolivia, stated that the Iranian regime has been interfering for decades in the countries’ policies and damaging their relations with other states.

The so-called Hezbollah militias also benefited from the Iranian support to increase activities of drugs smuggling and communicating with criminal members through the Venezuelan border, added the newspaper.

La Razón warned of upcoming problems that will be caused by the Iranian role in the continent, especially after the western sanctions were canceled.

Bolivia holds a strategic importance to the Iranian regime given their cooperation in various fields plus the funding of Bolivian economy and energy projects.

It seems that the visit of Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodríguez to Tehran one week ago compelled Zarif to change his schedule and visit six Latin countries instead of five between August 21-27 – Venzuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Strategic analysts see that Iran’s involvement in Latin America has dangerous dimensions, describing it as a cold war.

The analysts consider the visit unjustified amid the political changes the world is witnessing, saying Iran’s practices are suspicious and that it is supposed to prove it’s bona fide.

Sergio Eban, researcher in Costa Rica University Middle East Center, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Iran pursues to be an enemy of the West through colliding with these anti-capitalist countries especially that Iran has a real plan to spread the revolution concepts in the world.

Khomeini’s Former Heir Recording Sparks off Debate

Heir

London- An audio file released on Wednesday sparked off a debate as it revealed a discussion on executions between Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s former heir, and high-ranking judicial officials 28 years ago. During the meeting, Montazeri warned the “death commission” members of the fall-outs of executing by fire squads thousands of opponents.

The 40-minute audio file disclosed the talks, held on August 15, 1988, between Montazeri and a judicial committee composed of Hossein-Ali Nayeri, the regime’s sharia judge, Morteza Eshraqi, the regime’s prosecutor, Ebrahim Raeesi, deputy prosecutor, and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, representative of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), currently the minister of justice.

He was heard saying to the death committee members: “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic was executing by fire squads 6,000 political activists. This reign carried out, in its first years only, more executions than during the Pahlavi regime.”

“History will condemn you,” Montazeri added.

During the August 15 meeting, Montazeri expressed concern that history will remember Khomeini as a bloody assassin.

He held Khomeini’s son Ahmed Khomeini, Lord chief justice Abdul-Karim Mousavi Ardebili and other officials responsible for the executions; he also criticized the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) for confiscating funds of opponents and political activists.

The audio was removed hours after being published. Media sources revealed that Ahmed Montazeri, son of Montazeri and head of his media bureau in Qom, was subject to intelligence pressure that led him to remove the audio.

Khomeini’s press office considered that publishing this tape is an attempt to distort the image of Montazeri and to reactivate Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO), which has lost a great number of followers during executions.

Kurdistan Freedom Party Denies Iranian Regime Arrested PAK Member

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani uses a walkie-talkie at the frontline during offensive operations against Islamic State militants in the town of Tal Ksaiba in Salahuddin province, March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Erbil-A Kurdistan Freedom Falcons leader, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat that during the past three days “our fighters succeeded in defying an attack by the Nabi al-Akram Corps, one of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Intelligence Organization formations”.

The source added, “The Iranian regime forces carried out attacks throughout the past three days but failed to advance towards our points because our fighters showed stiff resistance and killed more than three IRGC soldiers”.

“Despite fierce clashes, there were no human losses in our army”, added the Kurdish leader, mentioning that IRCG used mortar shells, heavy artilleries and helicopters to bombard points at the Dalahoo Mountains. Thus wide space of forests were on fire.

Kurdistan Freedom Falcons leader denied what has been announced by the Iranian regime about arresting a number of the party fighters and leaders, commenting as follows, “After the huge losses of IRGC, the Iranian regime refuged as usual to making up occurrences and lies in order to boost morale of its collapsing forces and bodies and to arrest innocent civilians through spreading rumors about arresting three leaders from Kurdistan Freedom Party and Kurdistan Freedom Falcons”.

He denied these rumors and affirmed that the regime did not arrest anys member or fighter.

Mutiny within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard after it incurs heavy losses in Syria: source

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers march during an annual military parade in Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2013. (EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh)
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers march during an annual military parade in Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2013. (EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh)

Tehran and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A rising death toll within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria is leading to a mutiny among some senior commanders, who have refused to obey orders to fight in the war-torn country, according to a source close to the Revolutionary Guard.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat the commanders, who are also joined by a number of junior officers, have now been referred to a court-marshal on charges of “mutiny and treason.”

Iran, which alongside Russia is Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s main international ally, has denied it has combat troops in Syria, claiming it has only sent officers and generals within an advisory capacity to assist both the Syrian army and Hezbollah militias.

The semi-official Fars news agency said on Tuesday some 30 military personnel from the Revolutionary Guard have been killed in Syria in recent weeks, including high-ranking figures such as Col. Mostafa Ezzatollah, Gen. Farshad Hasoonizadeh, and Gen. Hossein Hamedani, who were all killed in Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the source told Asharq Al-Awsat several Revolutionary Guard generals from Ahvaz province, which has a large Iranian–Arab population, have “chosen retirement and pursuing business activities” rather than having to head to Syria.

The Revolutionary Guard court-marshals have now opened an official investigation into the large numbers of suddenly retired generals from the region in what they called “this critical time” for the Revolutionary Guard, according to the source.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is charged with defending the values of Iran’s Islamic Revolution both inside the country and abroad and members must pledge unwavering loyalty to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The source also said a recent rise in deaths among the much-feared Quds Force—an elite paramilitary unit of the Revolutionary Guard charged with carrying out foreign missions—has led its leadership to begin recruiting higher-ranking officers to fight in Syria.

Iranian opposition publication Rooz Online has reported recently that the Revolutionary Guard have begun utilizing new recruitment initiatives in the Sistan and Baluchistan province, in order to bolster their depleting ranks.

Recruiters are targeting the province’s religious and ethnic minorities—which include Kurds, Baluchs, and Sunni Muslims—as well as the poor, offering the equivalent of 830 dollars for six weeks’ service in Syria following training.