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Iran: Transferring the battle from Syria to Yemen | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Washington/Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat – A US government report, which Asharq Al-Awsat obtained a copy of, revealed that Tehran has 30,000 intelligence assets around the world who are engaged in a wide variety of activities including espionage, terrorist attacks and political assassinations.

The 64-page report, entitled “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A profile”, was prepared by the Federal Research Division at the US Library of Congress and includes information obtained from a number of different US intelligence agencies. Amongst other things, the report revealed that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security [MOIS] is responsible for providing financial and logistical support to agents, whilst the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp [IRGC] is in charge of field operations.

The report asserts that MOIS is active everywhere that the Iranian government has interests, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Austria, Azerbaijan, Croatia, France, Georgia, Germany, Turkey, Sudan, Yemen, the United Kingdoms and the United States. According to the report, Tehran is not just concerned with supporting Shiite organizations across the world, but also extending its links with Sunni organizations and movements as well. The report said that MOIS provided “financial, material, technological or other support services to Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda in Iraq.”

In this regard, two independent US sources, working respectively in the US Department of Defense and State Department, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Iranian activity is on the rise inside Yemeni territory, but refused to confirm or deny reports that Iran is seeking to transfer its battle with Washington from Syria to Yemen after becoming convinced of the impending fall of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The US Pentagon source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said “the Iranian activity is no longer confined to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s backyard, but has strongly extended to the backyard of the United States itself” in a reference to Iranian presence in Latin America.

The US Library of Congress report asserted that “Latin America is an area of major interests for the Iranians. The existence of Iranian intelligence activities in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela, where Iran has political and economic interests, is also part of Iran’s strategy of establishing a presence in the backyard of the United States for purposes of expanding Shi’a and revolutionary ideology, establishing networks for intelligence and covert operations, and waging asymmetrical warfare against the United States.” The report added that Tehran uses Hezbollah to achieve its goals in Latin America.

In a related context, the US Pentagon source also confirmed information revealed by the “New America Foundation” think-tank in Washington yesterday, namely that 539 Al Qaeda elements were killed in Yemen over the course of last year but refused to comment on how many of these had been killed in US drone strikes. The US Department of Defense source also refused to estimate the number of civilians killed in drone strikes, saying only that this was far less than the number of alleged Al Qaeda cadres killed.

The “New America Foundation” think-tank revealed that US drone attacks in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, adding that for the first time ever, there were more drone attacks in Yemen than Pakistan in 2011.

At the same time that Washington is escalating its drone attacks on Al Qaeda cadres in Yemen, Al Qaeda is believed to have started to utilize motorcycle assassins to target Yemeni army and security forces. Unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles have been responsible for a series of assassination targeting intelligence and security officers in Yemen. The Yemeni government has attributed this spate of attacks to “terrorists” without specifying Al Qaeda, indicating that the Huthi rebels may also be implicated in this.

Yemeni sources reported that 72 security officers – of different ranks – were killed by Al Qaeda elements last year adding that the general Yemeni populace is equally afraid and intimidated by US drone strikes and motorcycle assassinations.

The Yemeni police have set up check-points across Sanaa to check car and motorcycle licenses and registrations as part of a campaign to ban unregistered vehicles.

Yemeni sources also revealed that tribal organizations in the Al-Bayda province town of Rada have begun to protest against US drone strikes by cutting off road links with Sanaa. This comes after three Al Qaeda suspects were killed in Rada on Thursday, which represents the fifth reported drone strike in this region over a period of just two weeks.

Tribal sources in Rada also claimed that the Shiite Huthi movement has begun to have a strong presence in the region, particularly amongst the tribes located near Riam. The sources stressed that this results in opposing tribal youth supporting and even joining Al Qaeda.