Washington's Covert War inside Iran
by Gregory Elich
Global Research, March 23, 2007
Much attention has been given to the Bush Administration’s preparations for possible war against Iran as well as its drive to impose sanctions. Meanwhile, a less noticed policy has been unfolding, one that may in time prove to have grave consequences for the region. There is a covert war underway in Iran, still in its infancy, but with disturbing signs of impending escalation. In the shadowy world of guerrilla operations, the full extent of involvement by the Bush Administration has yet to be revealed, but enough is known to paint a disturbing picture.
The provision of aid to anti-government forces offers certain advantages to the Bush Administration. No effort needs to be expended in winning support for the policy. Operations can be conducted away from the public eye during a time of growing domestic opposition to the war in Iraq, and international opinion is simply irrelevant where the facts are not well known. In terms of expenditures, covert operations are a cost-effective means for destabilizing a nation, relative to waging war.
There is nothing new in the technique, and it has proven an effective means for toppling foreign governments in the past, as was the case with socialist Afghanistan and Nicaragua. In Yugoslavia, U.S. and British military training and arms shipments helped to build up the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army from a small force of 300 soldiers into a sizable guerrilla army that made the province of Kosovo ungovernable. The very chaos that the West did so much to create was then used as the pretext for bombing Yugoslavia.
According to a former CIA official, funding for armed separatist groups operating in Iran is paid from the CIA’s classified budget. The aim, claims Fred Burton, an ex-State Department counter-terrorism agent, is “to supply and train” these groups “to destabilize the Iranian regime.” (1)
The largest and most well known of the anti-government organizations is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), operating out of Iraq. For years MEQ had launched cross-border attacks and terrorist acts against Iran with the support of Saddam Hussein. Officially designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997, and disarmed of heavy weaponry by the U.S. military six years later, Washington has since come to view MEK in a different light. Three years ago, U.S. intelligence officials suggested looking the other way as the MEK rearmed and to use the organization to destabilize Iran, a recommendation that clearly has been accepted. (2)
Accusing MEK of past involvement in repressive measures by former president Saddam Hussein, the current Iraqi government wants to close down Camp Ashraf, located well outside of Baghdad, where many of the MEK fighters are stationed. But the camp operates under the protection of the U.S. military, and American soldiers chauffeur MEK leaders. The Iraqi government is unlikely to get its way, as the MEK claims to be the primary U.S. source for intelligence on Iran. (3)
U.S. officials “made MEK members swear an oath to democracy and resign from the MEK,” reveals an intelligence source, “and then our guys incorporated them into their unit and trained them.” Reliance on the MEK began under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, and soon MEK soldiers were being used in special operations missions in Iran. “They are doing whatever they want, no oversight at all,” said one intelligence official of the MEK’s American handlers. (4)
The Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), is another organization that conducts cross-border raids into Iran. Israel provides the group with “equipment and training,” claims a consultant to the U.S. Defense Department, while the U.S. gave it “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.” Aid to guerrilla groups, the consultant reports, is “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.” (5) It has been noted that PJAK has recently shown an impressive gain in capability during its operations, both in terms of size and armament, a fact that can surely be attributed to Western support. (6)
Jundallah (God’s Brigade) is an extremist Sunni organization operating in Sistan-Balochistan province that has been launching armed attacks, planting explosives, setting off car bombs, and kidnapping. Based in Pakistan, it is unclear if this group is connected with the Pakistani organization of the same name, which has ties with Al-Qaeda. (7) Jundallah denies that it has any links to either Al-Qaeda or to the U.S. But Iranian officials claim that a recently arrested Jundallah guerrilla has confessed that he was trained by U.S. and British intelligence officers. There is no way to verify that such a confession has actually taken place, nor its reliability as it may have come as a result of coercion, but the claim would not be inconsistent with U.S. policy elsewhere in Iran. (8)
It is probable that in the coming months the Bush Administration will expand support for anti-government forces in order to more effectively destabilize Iran and gather intelligence. Already U.S. Special Forces are operating in Iran collecting data, planting nuclear sensors, and electronically marking targets. Separatist forces have cooperated in those efforts. “This looks to be turning into a pretty large-scale covert operation,” comments a former CIA official. U.S. and Israeli officials are establishing front companies to help finance that covert war. (9) To fully capitalize on ethnic discontent along Iran’s periphery, the U.S. Marine Corps has commissioned a study from defense contractor Hicks and Associates on Iran and Iraq’s ethnic groups and their grievances. (10)
That these separatist organizations clearly engage in terrorism hasn’t deterred the Bush Administration from backing them. The potential for baneful consequences is considerable. CIA support for the anti-Soviet and anti-socialist Mujahedin in Afghanistan spawned a worldwide movement of Islamic extremism. Western support for ethnic secessionists shattered Yugoslavia and the invasion of Iraq fired the flames of ethnic discord and made a shared life impossible. It remains to be seen if the Bush Administration can succeed in achieving its goal of effecting regime change in Iran. That process could have devastating consequences for the people of Iran. Those officials in the Bush Administration who advocated and implemented covert operations “think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilize the government,” explains a former CIA official. “They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, [and] all the world’s problems are solved. I think it’s delusional.” (11)
Gregory Elich is the author of Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit. Gregory Elich is a frequent Global Research contributor.
William Lowther and Colin Freeman, “US Funds Terror Groups to Sow Chaos in Iran,” Sunday Telegraph (London), February 25, 2007.
“Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO), Global Security.org Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Sleeping Forces Stir in Iran,” Asia Times, June 26, 2003.Gian Marco Chiocci and Alessia Marani, “Iranian Mujaheddin Gather Funds in Italy,” Il Giornale (Milan), October 2, 2006.
Ernesto Londono and Saad al-Izzi, “Iraq Intensifies Efforts to Expel Iranian Group,” Washington Post, March 14, 2007.
Larisa Alexandrovna, “On Cheney, Rumsfeld Order, US Outsourcing Special Ops, Intelligence to Iraq Terror Group, Intelligence Officials Say,” The Raw Story, April 13, 2006.
Seymour Hersh, “The Next Act,” New Yorker, November 27, 2006.
James Brandon, “PJAK Claims Fresh Attacks in Iran,” Global Terrorism Analysis, March 6, 2007.
Ali Akbar Dareini, “Explosion Kills 11 Members of Iran’s Elite Revolutionary Guards,” Associated Press, February 14, 2007.
Broadcast, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (Teheran), February 17, 2007.
Richard Sale, “Cat and Mouse Game Over Iran,” UPI, January 26, 2005.
Guy Dinmore, “US Marines Probe Tensions Among Iran’s Minorities,” Financial Times (London), February 23, 2006.
Julian Borger and Ian Traynor, “Now US Ponders Attack on Iran,” The Guardian (London), January 18, 2005.
|ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran|
April 03, 2007 5:25 PM
Brian Ross and Christopher Isham Report:
Iran_militant_group_nr A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.
The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.
It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.
U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.
Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.
Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to Pakistan.
The leader, Regi, claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians.
"He used to fight with the Taliban. He's part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist," said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.
"Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera," Debat said.
Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan.
Last month, Iranian state television broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the bus attack.
They reportedly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan.
The Iranian TV broadcast is interspersed with the logo of the CIA, which the broadcast blamed for the plot.
A CIA spokesperson said "the account of alleged CIA action is false" and reiterated that the U.S. provides no funding of the Jundullah group.
Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.
A senior U.S. government official said groups such as Jundullah have been helpful in tracking al Qaeda figures and that it was appropriate for the U.S. to deal with such groups in that context.
Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s
|Robert Fisk, the SAS and Iran|
Interesting comments from Robert Fisk on the Iranian crisis:
The Iranian security services are convinced that the British security services are trying to provoke the Arabs of Iran's Khuzestan province to rise up against the Islamic Republic. Bombs have exploded there, one of them killing a truck-load of Revolutionary Guards, and Tehran blamed MI5. Outrageous, they said. Inexcusable.
The Brits made no comment, even when the Iranians hanged a man accused of the killings from a crane; he had, they said, been working for London.
Are the SAS in south-western Iran, just as the British claim the Iranians are in south-eastern Iraq, harassing the boys in Basra with new-fangled bombs? (Independent)
What gives these comments a certain piquancy is the fact that Fisk is the man who exposed the presence of the SAS in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s.
In an article for the Daily Ireland last year, I revealed the existence of British Government files from 1974 acknowledging the truth of Fisk's allegations at that time. The file also showed that the SAS troops in the North had been seconded to a covert operations grouping called the Special Reconnaissance Unit.
The SRU was the precursor of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment formed in 2005. It has been reported that the two undercover British soldiers captured by police in Basra in September that year were members of the SRR.
In October 2005, Jamestown analyst Mahan Abedin made some interesting claims about British covert operations in south-western Iran:
According to journalistic sources in Tehran, over the past 16 months several British military intelligence operations have been thwarted by the IRGC, either right on the border with Iraq or inside the extreme eastern regions of Khuzestan.
In one case, it is claimed, the IRGC even detained two British soldiers (of Gujarati origin) who were presumed to be involved in a Force Research Unit (FRU) operation in Khuzestan. The IRGC wanted to publicly humiliate them, but was overruled by senior officials, who delivered the captured soldiers to the British Embassy in Tehran. (Asia Times)
The FRU was the agent-handling operation implicated in the murder of Pat Finucane. In its new guise as the Joint Support Group, it may now be a part of the SRR.
All these British covert units are well-known to be operating in Iraq. There seems little doubt that the Americans are running covert operations across the border. So are the British involved?
At the moment all we have are allegations from the Iranians themselves, allegations which are however plausible, and being picked up by some very credible journalists. Not enough information for a definitive conclusion, perhaps, but equally too much to discount.
|Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran|
May 22, 2007 6:29 PM
Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.
"I can't confirm or deny whether such a program exists or whether the president signed it, but it would be consistent with an overall American approach trying to find ways to put pressure on the regime," said Bruce Riedel, a recently retired CIA senior official who dealt with Iran and other countries in the region.
A National Security Council spokesperson, Gordon Johndroe, said, "The White House does not comment on intelligence matters." A CIA spokesperson said, "As a matter of course, we do not comment on allegations of covert activity."
The sources say the CIA developed the covert plan over the last year and received approval from White House officials and other officials in the intelligence community.
Officials say the covert plan is designed to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program and end aid to insurgents in Iraq.
"There are some channels where the United States government may want to do things without its hand showing, and legally, therefore, the administration would, if it's doing that, need an intelligence finding and would need to tell the Congress," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official.
Current and former intelligence officials say the approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran.
"Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike," said former CIA official Riedel, "but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides."
The covert action plan comes as U.S. officials have confirmed Iran had dramatically increased its ability to produce nuclear weapons material, at a pace that experts said would give them the ability to build a nuclear bomb in two years.
Riedel says economic pressure on Iran may be the most effective tool available to the CIA, particularly in going after secret accounts used to fund the nuclear program.
"The kind of dealings that the Iranian Revolution Guards are going to do, in terms of purchasing nuclear and missile components, are likely to be extremely secret, and you're going to have to work very, very hard to find them, and that's exactly the kind of thing the CIA's nonproliferation center and others would be expert at trying to look into," Riedel said.
Under the law, the CIA needs an official presidential finding to carry out such covert actions. The CIA is permitted to mount covert "collection" operations without a presidential finding.
"Presidential findings" are kept secret but reported to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and other key congressional leaders.
The "nonlethal" aspect of the presidential finding means CIA officers may not use deadly force in carrying out the secret operations against Iran.
Still, some fear that even a nonlethal covert CIA program carries great risks.
"I think everybody in the region knows that there is a proxy war already afoot with the United States supporting anti-Iranian elements in the region as well as opposition groups within Iran," said Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Mideast studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"And this covert action is now being escalated by the new U.S. directive, and that can very quickly lead to Iranian retaliation and a cycle of escalation can follow," Nasr said.
Other "lethal" findings have authorized CIA covert actions against al Qaeda, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Also briefed on the CIA proposal, according to intelligence sources, were National Security Advisor Steve Hadley and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams.
"The entire plan has been blessed by Abrams, in particular," said one intelligence source familiar with the plan. "And Hadley had to put his chop on it."
Abrams' last involvement with attempting to destabilize a foreign government led to criminal charges.
He pleaded guilty in October 1991 to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about the Reagan administration's ill-fated efforts to destabilize the Nicaraguan Sandinista government in Central America, known as the Iran-Contra affair. Abrams was later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush in December 1992.
In June 2001, Abrams was named by then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to head the National Security Council's office for democracy, human rights and international operations. On Feb. 2, 2005, National Security Advisor Hadley appointed Abrams deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for global democracy strategy, one of the nation's most senior national security positions.
As earlier reported on the Blotter on ABCNews.com, the United States has supported and encouraged an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, that has conducted deadly raids inside Iran from bases on the rugged Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan "tri-border region."
U.S. officials deny any "direct funding" of Jundullah groups but say the leader of Jundullah was in regular contact with U.S. officials.
American intelligence sources say Jundullah has received money and weapons through the Afghanistan and Pakistan military and Pakistan's intelligence service. Pakistan has officially denied any connection.
A report broadcast on Iranian TV last Sunday said Iranian authorities had captured 10 men crossing the border with $500,000 in cash along with "maps of sensitive areas" and "modern spy equipment."
A senior Pakistani official told ABCNews.com the 10 men were members of Jundullah.
The leader of the Jundullah group, according to the Pakistani official, has been recruiting and training "hundreds of men" for "unspecified missions" across the border in Iran
|Iran protests alleged U.S. espionage networks; says it has no information of missing Iranian-American man|
The Associated Press
Published: May 27, 2007
TEHRAN, Iran: Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador Sunday to protest what it called recently uncovered U.S. espionage networks, state television reported, the day before the Islamic republic planned ambassador-level talks with the U.S. on Iraq.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry's head of American affairs met with Ambassador Philippe Welti and demanded "necessary explanation" of spy networks Iran announced it had uncovered Saturday.
The Swiss embassy has been working as the U.S. interest section in Iran ever since Washington broke its diplomatic ties with the country in response to Iranian militant students storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
"Recently, several espionage networks were identified that were active, under guidance of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, to commit infiltration and sabotage in western, central and southwestern areas of the country," the television quoted the Iranian official, Ahmad Sobhani, as saying in the meeting.
State televison reported Saturday that the spy networks were "comprised of infiltrating elements from the Iraqi occupiers" using shorthand for the U.S and its allies.
The Iranian TV broadcast reported that Welti promised to relay Iran's protest to Washington. The White House has said it does not confirm or deny allegations about intelligence matters.
The diplomatic protest comes as the U.S. and Iran prepare to meet in Baghdad on Monday. Both sides say the talks will focus solely on the security situation in Iraq.
Also Sunday, Iran said it had "no exact report" about an Iranian-American employee of a U.S. foundation promoting democracy who went missing after traveling to his homeland. Kian Tajbakhsh is one of several people believed detained in Iran amid rising tensions with the United States.
The urban planning consultant, who has also worked for the World Bank, was detained around May 11, according to George Soros' Open Society Institute. The private foundation encourages democracy-building in countries around the world.
"We have no exact report about him from official authorities," said Mohammad Ali Hosseini, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, when asked about Tajbakhsh.
The Open Society Institute has called for his release, saying he was consulting on "projects that we undertook openly and with the knowledge of the Iranian government."
Hosseini also said he had no information about another Iranian-American, Ali Shakeri, who was supposed to leave Iran and fly to Europe on May 13 but never arrived at his destination. Shakeri is a founding board member at the University of California, Irvine's Center for Citizen Peacebuilding.
Earlier this month, Iranian authorities arrested Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Iran accuses Esfandiari, also an Iranian-American, of working for a group trying to topple its government. Esfandiari's family and the center deny the claims.
Another Iranian-American, Parnaz Azima, a journalist for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, has been prohibited from leaving Iran since her passport was seized in January. Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, disappeared in March after going to Iran's resort island of Kish.
Reporters Without Borders also has said a French-Iranian journalism student, Mehrnoushe Solouki, was arrested in February. She was released in March on bail but her passport was taken away and she has been unable to leave the country, it said.
|Terror agents 'trained by the US'|
From correspondents in Tehran
May 13, 2008 05:57pm
IRAN today said it had arrested 12 people for an deadly mosque bombing in April in the southern city of Shiraz who had confessed to being trained and financed by the US and Britain.
"So far 12 people involved in this terrorist incident have been arrested, who are the main agents,'' judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said, vowing that those convicted would be sentenced to the "harshest punishment''.
"The arrested people ... clearly confessed to having links with foreigners, especially the UK and the United States,'' he said.
"They had received training from foreigners to make bombs. It has become clear and transparent through bank accounts that foreigners gave financial support to the terrorists.''
Mr Jamshidi said the detainees had been arrested with explosives and bomb-making material and that they intended to carry out bombings in other crowded places.
Mr Jamshidi yesterday said Iran may take legal action against the United States and Britain over the April 12 blast, which ripped through a packed mosque during a prayer sermon by a prominent local cleric, killing 13 people.
Last week, Iran blamed Western-backed monarchists for the bombing which also wounded more than 200 people.
Iran has blamed US and British agents based in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan for launching deadly attacks in recent years in border provinces with significant ethnic minority populations.
But the strike in Shiraz was the first in decades in Iran's Persian heartland. The normally placid city is not in a border zone, nor is it home to any significant ethnic or religious minority population.
One of Iran's most famous tourist destinations, Shiraz is popular because of its proximity to important ancient sites from the Achaemenid Empire that ruled much of central and southwest Asia from 550 to 331 BC.
|Iran may press charges against US, Britain over blast|
2 hours ago
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's judiciary has said it may take legal action against the United States and Britain over a mosque explosion last month that killed 13 people in the southern tourist city of Shiraz.
"Fortunately the investigation into this case is complete and different governments, especially the United States and Britain, supported the bombers," judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told state television on Monday.
"I hope with the information that we have we will be able to present the case before international tribunals," he added.
"Those who claim to fight terrorism equipped and financed these elements" who bombed the mosque.
On Thursday, Iran blamed Western-backed monarchists for the April 12 bombing which also wounded more than 200. Initial reports said the explosion was a bomb attack, but officials later said it had been an accident.
The blast ripped through a packed mosque during an evening prayer sermon by a prominent local cleric.
Iran has blamed US and British agents based in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan for launching deadly attacks in recent years in border provinces with significant ethnic minority populations.
But the strike in Shiraz was the first in decades in Iran's Persian heartland. The normally placid city is not in a border zone, nor is it home to any significant ethnic or religious minority population.
One of Iran's most famous tourist destinations, Shiraz is popular because of its proximity to important ancient sites from the Achaemenid Empire that ruled much of central and southwest Asia from 550 to 331 BC.
|Bush sanctions 'black ops' against Iran|
By Tim Shipman in Washington
Last Updated: 1:18AM BST 28 May 2007
Details have also emerged of a covert scheme to sabotage the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran was sold defective parts on the black market
President George W Bush has given the CIA approval to launch covert "black" operations to achieve regime change in Iran, intelligence sources have revealed.
Mr Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilise, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.
Under the plan, pressure will be brought to bear on the Iranian economy by manipulating the country's currency and international financial transactions.
Details have also emerged of a covert scheme to sabotage the Iranian nuclear programme, which United Nations nuclear watchdogs said last week could lead to a bomb within three years.
Security officials in Washington have disclosed that Teheran has been sold defective parts on the black market in a bid to delay and disrupt its uranium enrichment programme, the precursor to building a nuclear weapon.
A security source in the US told The Sunday Telegraph that the presidential directive, known as a "non-lethal presidential finding", would give the CIA the right to collect intelligence on home soil, an area that is usually the preserve of the FBI, from the many Iranian exiles and emigrés within the US.
"Iranians in America have links with their families at home, and they are a good two-way source of information," he said.
The CIA will also be allowed to supply communications equipment which would enable opposition groups in Iran to work together and bypass internet censorship by the clerical regime.
The plans, which significantly increase American pressure on Iran, were leaked just days before a meeting in Iraq tomorrow between the US ambassador, Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart.
Tensions have been raised by Iran's seizure of what the US regards as a series of "hostages" in recent weeks. Three academics who hold dual Iranian-American citizenship are being held, accused of working to undermine the Iranian government or of spying.
An Iranian-American reporter with Radio Free Europe, who was visiting Iran, has had her passport seized. Another Iranian American, businessman Ali Shakeri, was believed to have been detained as he tried to leave Teheran last week.
The US responded with a show of force by the navy, sending nine warships, including two aircraft carriers, into the Persian Gulf.
Authorisation of the new CIA mission, which will not be allowed to use lethal force, appears to suggest that President Bush has, for the time being, ruled out military action against Iran.
Bruce Riedel, until six months ago the senior CIA official who dealt with Iran, said: "Vice-President [Dick] Cheney helped to lead the side favouring a military strike, but I think they have concluded that a military strike has more downsides than upsides."
However, the CIA is giving arms-length support, supplying money and weapons, to an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, which has conducted raids into Iran from bases in Pakistan.
Iranian officials say they captured 10 members of Jundullah last weekend, carrying $500,000 in cash along with "maps of sensitive areas" and "modern spy equipment".
Mark Fitzpatrick, a former senior State Department official now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said industrial sabotage was the favoured way to combat Iran's nuclear programme "without military action, without fingerprints on the operation."
He added: "One way to sabotage a programme is to make minor modifications in some of the components Iran obtains on the black market."
Components and blueprints obtained by Iranian intelligence agents in Europe, and shipped home using the diplomatic bag from the Iranian consulate in Frankfurt, have been blamed for an explosion that destroyed 50 nuclear centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant last year.
The White House National Security Council and CIA refused to comment on intelligence matters.
|Iran condemns EU for taking group off terror list|
55 minutes ago
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran is condemning a decision by the European Union to remove an Iranian opposition group from its terror list and lift restrictions on its funds. The country says the EU decision encourages terrorism.
Iran's Foreign Ministry says the hands of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran "are stained with the blood of thousands of Iranian and non-Iranian people." It also says the group has never renounced violence and has resorted to terrorism. The ministry statement was read on state television Monday night.
Monday's decision by the 27 foreign ministers of the EU means that as of Tuesday the assets of the group will be unfrozen. It is the first time an organization has been "de-listed" by the EU.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Union decided Monday to remove an Iranian opposition group from the EU's terror list and lift the restrictions on its funds, a move likely to further damage relations strained over Tehran's nuclear program.
The decision by the 27-nation bloc's foreign ministers means that as of Tuesday, the assets of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or PMOI, will be unfrozen. It is the first time an organization has been "de-listed" by the EU.
Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the group said $9 million (euro7 million) had been frozen in France alone, with "tens of millions of dollars" worth of assets also locked away in other EU countries.
The group had been blacklisted as a terror organization by the EU since 2002, but waged a long legal battle in the EU's court of justice to reverse that decision. Several EU court decisions went in the group's favor, concluding the EU had failed to properly explain why it froze the assets of the Paris-based group.
The group however, remains on the United States terror list. It was blacklisted by Washington in 1997.
"What we are doing today is abiding by the decision of the court, there is nothing we can do about the decision," said Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief.
Czech European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra said that if new evidence comes to light linking the group to terror activities, the EU "could decide to re-include the group" on a list that includes 60 groups and individuals, such as Osama bin Laden, Hamas and al-Qaida.
The People's Mujahedeen, also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, is the military wing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is based in Paris. The council said it is dedicated to a democratic, secular government in Iran.
However, it maintains a camp of disarmed fighters in Iraq, north of Baghdad. Iraqi officials on Saturday called for the group to shut down the camp and move to another country.
Iraq's Shiite-led government has long sought to get rid of the People's Mujahedeen, which fought alongside Saddam Hussein's forces during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. At the same time, many Iraqi Shiites fled to Shiite-dominated Iran and fought against Iraq.
The PMOI was founded in Iran in the 1960s and helped followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrow U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in 1979.
But the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq fell out with Khomeini, and thousands of its followers were killed, imprisoned or forced into exile. It launched a campaign of assassinations and bombings against Iran's government as a result.
The PMOI has long tried to shed its terrorist tag, despite a series of bloody anti-Western attacks in the 1970s — and nearly 30 years of violent struggle against Iran's Islamic establishment.
The group said however, it has renounced violence in 2001 and hasn't kept any arms since 2003.
Maryam Rajavi, who heads the Paris-based National Council of Resistance, the political wing of the PMOI, said Monday's decision was "a crushing defeat to Europe's policy of appeasement" with Iran.
"The blacklisting of the Iranian Resistance contributed to the prolongation of the rule of religious fascism in Iran," she said in a statement. "The Iranian regime did not refrain from using all political and diplomatic pressures to maintain the PMOI on the list."
Rajavi said her group would now focus its attention on getting the United States to drop the PMOI from its terror list.
Mohammad Safaei, a spokesman at the Iranian Embassy in Brussels, said he could not comment on the decision because it had not yet been officially relayed to Tehran.
The court-mandated move is likely to complicate difficult ties with Tehran just as the EU is trying to negotiate over Iran's nuclear program. The EU and the United States fear Iran is building atomic weapons.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband appealed to Iran to return to talks with European nations and the United States over its nuclear program.
"During 2009 there will and should be significant focus on this issue," Miliband said.
The group had established a camp for about 3,500 members in Iraq, which its forces used to launch cross-border attacks into Iran. After U.S.-led forces overthrew Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, American troops removed the Iranian group's weapons and confined its fighters to the camp.
|Israel launches covert war against Iran|
Israel has launched a covert war against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran's nuclear programme, US intelligence sources have revealed.
By Philip Sherwell in New York
Last Updated: 10:38PM GMT 16 Feb 2009
It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project, the experts say.
The most dramatic element of the "decapitation" programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran's atomic operations.
Despite fears in Israel and the US that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its ability to build atom bomb, Israeli officials are aware of the change in mood in Washington since President Barack Obama took office.
They privately acknowledge the new US administration is unlikely to sanction an air attack on Iran's nuclear installations and Mr Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Tehran puts any direct military action beyond reach for now.
The aim is to slow down or interrupt Iran's research programme, without the gamble of a direct confrontation that could lead to a wider war.
A former CIA officer on Iran told The Daily Telegraph: "Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way that they don't realise what's happening. You are never going to stop it.
"The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don't want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It's a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks."
Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the US private intelligence company with strong government security connections, said the strategy was to take out key people.
"With co-operation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear programme and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain," she said.
"As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration's outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result."
Mossad was rumoured to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran's Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported "gas poisoning" in 2007.
Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli "hits", intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the programme, according to Western intelligence analysts.
"Israel has shown no hesitation in assassinating weapons scientists for hostile regimes in the past," said a European intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. They did it with Iraq and they will do it with Iran when they can."
Mossad's covert operations cover a range of activities. The former CIA operative revealed how Israeli and US intelligence co-operated with European companies working in Iran to obtain photographs and other confidential material about Iranian nuclear and missile sites.
"It was a real company that operated from time to time in Iran and in the nature of their legitimate business came across information on various suspect Iranian facilities," he said.
Israel has also used front companies to infiltrate the Iranian purchasing network that the clerical regime uses to circumvent United Nations sanctions and obtain so-called "dual use" items – metals, valves, electronics, machinery – for its nuclear programme.
The businesses initially supply Iran with legitimate material, winning Tehran's trust, and then start to deliver faulty or defective items that "poison" the country's atomic activities.
"Without military strikes, there is still considerable scope for disrupting and damaging the Iranian programme and this has been done with some success," said Yossi Melman, a prominent Israeli journalist who covers security and intelligence issues for the Haaretz newspaper.
Mossad and Western intelligence operations have also infiltrated the Iranian nuclear programme and "bought" information from prominent atomic scientists. Israel has later selectively leaked some details to its allies, the media and United Nations atomic agency inspectors.
On one occasion, Iran itself is understood to have destroyed a nuclear facility near Tehran, bulldozing over the remains and replacing it with a football pitch, after its existence was revealed to UN inspectors. The regime feared that the discovery by inspectors of an undeclared nuclear facility would result in overwhelming pressure at the UN for tougher action against Iran.
The Iranian government has become so concerned about penetration of its programme that it has announced arrests of alleged spies in an attempt to discourage double agents. "Israel is part of a detailed and elaborate international effort to slow down the Iranian programme," said Mr Melman.
But Vince Canastraro, the former CIA counter-terrorism chief, expressed doubts about the efficacy of secret Israeli operations against Iran. "You cannot carry out foreign policy objectives via covert operations," he said. "You can't get rid of a couple of people and hope to affect Iran's nuclear capability."
Iran has consistently asserted that it is pursuing a nuclear capability for civilian energy generation purposes. But Israeli and Western intelligence agencies believe the 20-year-old programme, which was a secret until 2002, is designed to give the ruling mullahs an atom bomb.
| Iran to execute 14 convicted in 2006 terror attack|
* Twenty-two civilians killed, six wounded during attack on highway
* Jundullah group claimed responsibility, provided footage, Press TV said
* Government invites public to attend executions on Tuesday morning
(CNN) -- Fourteen people convicted in connection with a 2006 attack on civilians will be publicly executed Tuesday in Iran, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported Monday.
Abdolhamid Rigi, brother of Abdolmalek Rigi -- identified as the leader of the Jundullah terrorist group -- will be executed along with 13 others, Fars reported.
The news agency cited a statement from the Judiciary of the Province of Sisan and Baluchestan as saying the 14 were "convicted of warring against God, being corrupt on Earth, killing innocent people and taking hostages while carrying firearms during the terrorist attack in Tasooki and Darzin in Bam."
The executions are scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Tuesday at a park in the provincial capital, Zahedan, according to the news agency. "The judiciary has asked the people of Zahedan, particularly the families of the victims, to attend the execution."
On March 25, 2006, armed militants shut down the Bam-Kerman highway in southeastern Iran and fired on passing cars, according to Iran's government-funded Press TV. Twenty-two civilians were killed and six were wounded.
Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack and provided Arab television channels with video footage of the incident, some of which was broadcast, Press TV said. The group is also thought to be responsible for other incidents
|Cheney secret team involved saboteurs as well as assassins|
July 24, 2009
By Wayne Madsen, Online Journal Contributing Writer, Jul 24, 2009
(WMR) — WMR has learned from U.S. and foreign intelligence sources that Dick Cheney’s super-secret clandestine operations team, primarily made up of Department of Defense Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel, in some cases worked closely with their Israeli commando counterparts to carry out sabotage against Iranian and Pakistani nuclear facilities, as well as assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, other individuals who were knowledgeable about the role of Israelis in supplying nuclear materials to Pakistan and Iran, and commit terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft.
Although the CIA decided against working closely with the Cheney-directed JSOC team, agency officials were well-aware of its operations and special relationship with Mossad “Kidon” department, which is responsible for conducting assassinations and kidnappings. “Kidon” is the Hebrew word for bayonet.
During the time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in charge of the Pentagon, his neoconservative subordinates, including Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, authorized the entrance into the Pentagon of top Israeli Defense Force and Mossad officers, including Kidon personnel, according to information obtained by WMR. There were no records maintained of the Israeli visits or the identities of the visitors in what was described by Pentagon officials as a complete violation of Pentagon security procedures.
The operations of the JSOC-Mossad team were coordinated by the Office of Special Plans, a unit that operated as a CIA rival under the direction of Feith and other pro-Israeli elements within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, including Feith’s deputy, William Luti, a close adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich recently called for stepped up U.S.-led sabotage against Iranian targets. The JSOC-Mossad team also utilized the services of the Iranian terrorist organization, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, to coordinate sabotage and assassinations inside Iran.
Because of the rift between the CIA under George Tenet and the Department of Defense under Rumsfeld and his neocon deputies, the CIA backed off the operation for two major reasons: the CIA did not trust the Mossad and Langley saw Cheney as a major threat to more legitimate CIA operations.
In February 2007, Radio Farda, a neocon contrivance operated under the aegis of the State Department, broadcast a news item that Dr. Ardeshire Hassanpour, 44, a nuclear scientist at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan, died from “mysterious causes.” Hassanpour died on January 18, 2007, and it is believed by many that the scientist was one of many “enemies” assassinated by the joint U.S.-Israeli assassination and sabotage team operating under the aegis of Cheney’s office in the White House.
Cheney’s team reportedly struck earlier, on December 23, 2002, when a Russian-built Antonov An-140 crashed into the side of a mountain in central Iran while on its final approach to Isfahan airport. Between 44 and 48 people aboard the aircraft were killed, including 6 Russians and a number of Ukrainian engineers. A woman and child were also on board. The plane was en route to Isfahan from Kharkiv after making a refueling stop in Turkey. Although press reports stated that on board the aircraft were Ukrainian and Russian engineers, the fact that the plane was heading to Isfahan, a major Iranian nuclear research and engineering site raised eyebrows at the time.
The Iranian newspaper, Jam-e-Jam, reported that Mossad agents operating in Turkey had sabotaged the aircraft while it was being refueled in Turkey.
In February 2002, Iran AirTour flight 956 a Tupolev Tu-154, crashed into the side of a mountain near Khorramabad, 270 miles southwest of Tehran, killing all 119 passengers and crew on board. Residents of a village near Khorramabad said they heard a “big explosion.”
On January 9, 2006, a Falcon jet carrying 11 members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) crashed near Orumiyeh, capital of Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. The ground commander for IRGC’s forces, General Ahmed Kazemi, was one of the victims. The joint JSOC-Mossad team, operating from neighboring Azerbaijan, where the Mossad and CIA have major stations, is suspected of being behind the crash. WMR is aware that JSOC personnel, some ex-Delta Force contractors operating under journalistic cover, had already been in Iran to identify “soft targets” for assassinations and sabotage. These personnel allegedly reported directly to Colonel Steven Bucci, the personal military assistant to Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
On February 19, 2003, another plane, a Russian-built Ilyushin-76, carrying elite IRGC soldiers crashed into a mountain in central Iran. The plane was transporting 302 members of the IRGC from Zahedan in southeastern Iran to Kerman, 500 miles southeast of Tehran.
On November 27, 2006, an Antonov-24 of the IRGC crashed at Meharabad International Airport in Tehran after its engines caught fire on take-off. 36 IRGC members and the crew died. The plane was en route to Shiraz on a “military mission.”
On December 8, 2005, an Iranian C-130 military aircraft transporting a number of journalists from Meherabad Airport to Bandar Abbas crashed into a 10-story building after take-off from the airport. One hundred eight passengers and crew were killed as well as 34 on the ground. The plane was attempting to make an emergency landing when it crashed. The Iranian journalists and photographers, 68 in total, were en route to Chabahar to cover a military exercise. The JSOC-Israeli team is also suspected of being behind the crash of the journalists’ plane.
On May 30, 2009, a bomb was found onboard Kish Air flight Y9-7030 MD-82 with 131 passengers. The bomb on the plane, which was en route from Ahvaz, Khuzestan to Tehran, was successfully defused after the plane made an emergency landing. The bomb incident took place just prior to the Iranian presidential election.
And in what may represent a warning by the special U.S.-Israeli assassination and sabotage unit not to probe too deeply into its past clandestine work, a Caspian Airlines Tupolev-154 crashed on July 15 75 miles northwest of Tehran after take-off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran en route to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Iran and Armenia maintain close relations. All 168 people on board the plane were killed. Caspian Airlines is an Iranian-Russian joint venture airline. An eyewitness is reported by the AP as saying the tail section of the plane burst into flames as it circled for a place to make an emergency landing prior to crashing near the city of Qazvin.
There are also suspicions that the JSOC-Israeli team, with the then-involvement of the CIA, was operational under Cheney’s aegis prior to 9/11. On July 11, 2001, Ali Mahmudi Mimand, the “father of Iran’s missiles,” including the Shihab III medium range missile, was reportedly killed in a mysterious explosion at the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group, south of Tehran. Mimand was chief of Iran’s secretive “Zelzal” missile development group. The JSOC-CIA-Mossad team is believed to have been behind the assassination of Mimand.
The JSOC-Mossad team is also strongly believed by some U.S. intelligence sources to have been behind the February 12, 2008, car bombing assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus and the poisoning deaths of a number of targets, including Palestinian President Yasir Arafat who was reportedly blood poisoned at his headquarters in Ramallah on the West Bank.
Poisoning with a later conclusion of “death by natural causes” was a favorite method employed by the JSOC-Mossad team. Their fingerprints are suspected in the May 11, 2007, poisoning of Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Almaz Atambayev when he declared, in the same month, that the U.S. airbase at Manas could not be used in any attacks on Iran. The poison team may have also been behind the sudden death in December 2006 of Turkmenistan’s dictator Saparmurat Niyazov or “Turkmenbashi.” Niyazov maintained a position of strict neutrality and forbid the U.S. from using Turkmenistan territory for military operations in Afghanistan or the use of Turkmen airspace in operations against Iran.
Fast cancer agents, courtesy of the JSOC-Mossad team, also reportedly took the life of Tajikistan’s Islamic opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri who died from cancer on August 7, 2006, at age 59. Nuri favored establishing an Islamic state in Tajikistan and was seen as close to Iran.
WMR previously reported that the JSOC team carried out the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalapindi on December 27, 2007.
The Cheney joint Pentagon-Israeli team goes to the heart of covert activities conducted by the Bush-Cheney administration. The Obama administration has shown every indication of protecting Cheney and other top Bush administration officials from scrutiny. Obama recently extended Cheney’s Secret Service protection by six months, an indication that the White House is concerned that international arrest warrants for homicide may soon be issued against the former Vice President.
|QUOTE (Financial Times)|
Suicide bomber kills Iran Guards
A suicide bomber killed around 20 people, including two senior Revolutionary Guards commanders, in southeastern Iran on Sunday, Iranian media reported.
Another 40 people were wounded in the most severe attack on the Revolutionary Guards in recent years.
State television suggested that a Sunni rebel group called Jundollah (God’s soldiers), linked by some analysts to the Taliban in neighbouring Pakistan, was the likely suspect for the attack.
”Attacker detonated explosives strapped to his body during gathering of tribal heads,” state Press TV said in a headline, adding that civilians and tribal leaders were also among the victims.
The Revolutionary Guards blamed ”foreign elements” linked to the US for the killings, which underlined deepening instability in Iran’s southeast bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Tehran accuses the US of backing Jundollah to create instability in the country but Washington denies this.
State broadcaster IRIB said the attack took place in the morning at the gates of a conference hall in the city of Sarbaz in Sistan-Baluchestan. The province is the scene of frequent clashes between security forces, Sunni rebels and drug traffickers.
The two high-ranking commanders were the deputy head of the Guards’ ground forces, General Nourali Shoushtari, and the Guards’ commander in Sistan-Baluchestan province, General Mohammadzadeh, news agencies reported. Shoushtari was also a senior official of the Guard’s elite Qods force, media said.
State TV said several senior officers were killed, but did not give additional names.
Citing authorities and experts, a presenter of English-language Press TV said ”the finger of accusation is directly pointed at the Jundollah group,” referring to ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgents who have been blamed for previous attacks in the region.
The Revolutionary Guards pointed the finger at US involvement. ”Surely foreign elements, particularly those linked to the global arrogance, were involved in this attack,” a Guards statement quoted by television said. Iran often uses the term ”global arrogance” to refer to the US, its old foe.
The Revolutionary Guards is an elite force seen as fiercely loyal to the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution. It handles security in sensitive border areas.
Jundollah, which claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a Shi’ite mosque in May that killed 25 people, says it is fighting for the rights of the Islamic Republic’s minority Sunnis.
Some analysts believe that Jundollah has evolved through shifting alliances with various parties, including the Taliban and Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who saw the group as a tool against Iran.
Predominantly Shi’ite Muslim Iran has also linked Jundollah to the Sunni Islamist al Qaeda network. Most people in Sistan-Baluchestan are Sunni Muslims and ethnic Baluchis. Iran rejects allegations by Western rights groups that it discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.
© Reuters Limited
|QUOTE ("Fars News Agency")|
15:45 | 2009-10-18
Larijani Blames US for Terrorist Attack on IRGC Commanders
TEHRAN (FNA)- Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that the terrorist attack on a number of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders in southeastern Iran this morning resulted from the US double-standard approach towards terrorism.
"If we review the past, there have been many secret and public reports on the US connections and aids to the terrorists in the province (Sistan and Balouchestan) and this shows Americans' enmity towards Iran's progress," Larijani told reporters before leaving the country for Geneva.
An Iranian parliamentary delegation headed by Larijani left Tehran for Geneva, Switzerland Sunday morning to attend the 121st meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Larijani also reiterated that Iran considers the recent terrorist attack as a result of the US actions against Iran's national interests.
During the attack, about 57 people including IRGC commanders and also a number of tribal leaders of the region were martyred.
Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) ground force Brigadier General Nourali Shoushtari, Sistan and Balouchestan province's IRGC commander General Mohammadzadeh, Iranshahr Corps commander, Sarbaz Corps commander and Amiralmoemenin Brigade commander are among the martyrs.
The commanders had traveled to the southeastern province to provide the ground for the "Shiite-Sunni Tribes' Solidarity Conference".
|Jundullah claims responsibility for terror attack|
Sun, 18 Oct 2009 11:34:34 GMT
Jundullah has accepted responsibility for the deadly attack that rocked a security gathering in southeast Iran, killing 35 people and wounding another 28.
The Jundullah terror ring, which is led by Abdolmalik Rigi, has claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted a unity gathering between Sunni and Shia tribal leaders in the borderline Pishin region, near the city of Sarbaz.
Several top regional security officials such as provincial commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) including Brigadier Nour-Ali Shoushtari and Brigadier Rajab-Ali Mohammadzadeh were also killed in the explosion.
The explosion, which occurred at 08:00 local time (4:30), also claimed the lives of a group of tribal leaders and well known local figures of both the Shia and Sunni communities.
The IRGC has condemned the attack as a gross act if “global arrogance” and a “horrific crime against humanity, carried out as revenge against the people who were working together to ensure the security of the region.”
Jundullah is a Pakistan-based terrorist group closely affiliated with the notorious al-Qaeda organization.
The terror ring has carried out countless bombings and other violent attacks in Iran. Some of the attacks for which it has claimed responsibility are the killings of at least 16 Iranian police officers in a 2008 attack, nine Iranian security guards in 2005, and another 11 in a 2007 bombing.
A 2007 Sunday Telegraph report revealed that the CIA created Jundullah to achieve 'regime change in Iran', and said the US intelligence agency was trying to destabilize Iran by 'supplying arms-length support' and 'money and weapons' to the group.
Another report posted by ABC also revealed that the US officials had ordered Jundullah to 'stage deadly guerrilla raids inside the Islamic Republic, kidnap Iranian officials and execute them on camera', all as part of a 'programmatic objective to overthrow the Iranian government'.
In a recent interview with Press TV, Rigi's brother Abdulhamid also confirmed that the Jundullah leader had established links with the US agents.
His brother said that in just one of his meetings with the US operatives, Rigi had received $100,000 to fuel sectarianism in Iran.
|Iran presses Pakistan as terror attack kills 42|
Sun, 18 Oct 2009 19:21:34 GMT
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls on Pakistan to arrest the agents of terrorist attack soon.
A deadly suicide attack by a Pakistan-based terrorist group has prompted a top commander to pledge a crushing response while President Ahmadinejad presses Islamabad on the issue.
During a unity conference between Sunni and Shia tribal leaders in the borderline city of Pishin in Sistan-Baluchistan on Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least 42 people, including raking commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
The commander of the IRGC's ground force, General Mohammad Pakpour, said the perpetrators will be dealt a crushing response.
President Ahmadinejad reacted to the attack and demanded Pakistan eradicate the terrorist group Jundullah, which has taken responsibility for the bombing.
"We have heard that certain officials in Pakistan cooperate with main agents of these terrorist attacks in eastern parts of the country. It is our right to ask (for extradition) of criminals," Ahmadinejad said after a Cabinet session on Sunday night.
“Those who carry out such brutal attacks are unhappy with boosting confidence and coherence among Iranian officials and people.”
Earlier, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned Pakistan's charge d'affaires to protest against the terrorists' use of Pakistani soil to conduct activities against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
|From The Times|
October 20, 2009
Britain and US reject Iranian accusations over terror attacks
Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent and Michael Evans, Defence Editor
The corrosive mistrust that festers between Iran and the West stretches from the British and US-backed coup of 1953 to the present day, with continuing covert foreign programmes aimed at regime change. British intelligence sources strongly deny Iranian assertions that Britain is backing the Sunni rebel group behind the weekend’s suicide attack on the Revolutionary Guards in Sistan-Baluchistan. Washington also denies involvement.
In 2005, the year that the opposition Jundallah turned to violence, Washington began the latest covert programme of lending assistance to Iranian militant opposition groups, hoping to effect regime change from within.
In 2007 President Bush requested, and received, a budget of $400 million from Congress to back such groups violently opposing the Islamic regime — among them Jundallah and the Mujahidin e-Khalq. The latter, although proscribed by the State Department as a terror organisation, has proved valuable in passing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear programme, including the 2002 reports of a secret nuclear plant at Natanz that blew the lid on Iran’s current nuclear programme. The group, also known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has an office in London.
The Bush Administration’s backing for internal regime change sprang from a realisation of the risks of military action against Iran to halt its nuclear programme. The question is whether such programmes have continued under President Obama and whether they may now threaten to derail the diplomatic track that he espouses.
Colonel Sam Gardner, a retired US Air Force commander, argued in a study last year that such clandestine activities only made the regime more paranoid and distrustful of the veracity of a diplomatic approach. “It is bad policy and it is dangerous,” he wrote in October 2008. Comments out of Tehran on Sunday suggest that the regime does not believe that anything has changed.
“Mr Obama said that he will extend his hand toward Iran but with this terrorist action he has burnt his hand,” Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Iranian parliament said.
British officials said it would make no sense for the West to be involved with a violent terrorist organisation such as Jundallah, given its informal links to groups like the Taleban and al-Qaeda.
They also argue that its Baluchi nationalist platform threatens the integrity of its ally, Pakistan. Yet Jundallah’s leader denies a separatist platform, saying that he is only fighting for the rights of Sunni Baluchis in Shia-majority Iran.
Pakistani military officials have themselves complained about the US backing Jundallah on its soil. Yet Pakistan itself is believed to train and assist Jundallah as a tool of influence in Iran, just as it created the Taleban to give it leverage in Afghanistan.
Operation Ajax, the CIA/MI6-backed coup which overthrew the democratically elected Iranian Government in 1953, serves as a reminder that Western intelligence services historically have been prepared to intervene in Iran.
British officials insist that their relationship with Pakistan rules out any tie-up with Jundallah. MI6 may have some history with Iran but it has strict guidelines about covert action. If intelligence officers from the service become involved in an undercover mission, backed by Special Forces — the two organisations frequently operate together — approval is required from the Foreign Secretary if there is any risk of political or diplomatic damage to British interests.
|Iranian parliamentary speaker Larijani: US behind terrorist attack in Iran|
Fri, 30 Oct 2009 20:13 EDT
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani
In the wake of a terrorist attack in southeastern Iran, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has accused the United States of helping terrorist carry out acts of violence in Iran.
"Reliable evidence shows the US played a role in the recent move," Larijani said referring to the recent bomb blast in Sistan-Baluchistan Province.
At least 41 people, including seven senior commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), were killed in the bombing on October 18 during a unity gathering of Shia and Sunni tribal leaders in the town of Pishin on the Iran-Pakistan border. The Jundallah terrorist group claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
Larijani criticized Washington's policies on Iran and said the US acts against Iranian interests despite making offers to hold talks with the country.
"The Iranian nation should correctly recognize the US for what it is. The United States and Israel are the main culprits of these events and known enemies of the Iranian nation," added Larijani, who represents the city of Qom in Majlis.
Spearheaded by Abdulmalek Rigi, Jundallah terrorists have staged a tidal wave of bombings and terrorist attacks in Iran, one of which left at least 25 Iranians dead in early June.
Abdulhamid Rigi, the apprehended brother of the Jundallah point man, told Press TV in a recent interview that Abdulmalek had held several "confidential" meetings with FBI and CIA agents in Karachi and Islamabad.
He added that during one of the meetings, two female US agents had offered weapons, safe bases in Afghanistan and professional trainers and had attempted to recruit volunteers.
|Sistan attack aimed at spoiling Pak-Iran friendly ties: FM Qureshi |
TEHRAN, Nov 2 (APP): Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said Islamabad has no dispute with Tehran and will cooperate fully to halt terrorist activities along the Sistan-Balochistan border, arguing that the same forces operating in Pakistani Balochistan are also active in Sistan. In a meeting with the visiting Iranian media delegation, including Iran Daily’s Managing Director Aziz Shahmohammadi, in Islamabad on October 27, the Pakistani minister said the recent attack by the terrorist group Jundullah was aimed at spoiling friendly ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Qureshi said there are forces that seek to spoil Pakistan’s relations with Iran, but bilateral ties are strong enough to counter these machinations.
The suicide attack was a conspiracy against brotherly relations and Pakistan will provide full assistance to Iran in the probe, he said.
The Iranian delegation thanked the Pakistani minister for providing an opportunity to hold the face-to-face meeting.
In response, he welcomed the Iranian delegation and expressed hope that such meetings could further help improve ties between the two neighbors.
Qureshi answered a host of questions related to bilateral, regional and international issues. The interview was published by Iran Daily.
Question: How do you assess Pakistan’s ties with Iran?
Answer: Pakistan has a huge population of Shiites who are more than willing to visit the holy cities of Mashhad and Qom in Iran because of their spiritual links.
Since the new government took office more than a year ago, Islamabad has been making great strides to improve bilateral ties with Tehran. These brotherly relations go back to many decades.
The two sides have been working closely on regional levels to promote and extend cooperation in trade and cultural spheres. The Pakistani officials are aware of the cultural efforts taken by Iranian institutes in Pakistani cities to bring the two people closer.
Pakistan’s government recognizes that Iran is important for its future development. It seeks secure borders and it believes that the two sides can help improve trade and social ties.
There are grounds for closer and broader cooperation in all areas. For instance, the two sides signed an important agreement in Tehran recently to transfer natural gas to Pakistan via the Peace Pipeline.
The energy project would help develop and strengthen Pakistani economy and trade, and the government is of the opinion that it did the right thing to sign the deal.
Pakistan is also trying to help Iran have an integral role in regional affairs, especially in relation to Afghanistan. The three countries have been through difficult times in recent years and these have had implications for Iran and Pakistan.
The two neighbors have had to deal with the growing number of Afghan refugees that have affected their security due to criminal activities and organized crime as a result of the war, extremism and terrorism.
Within this trilateral process, the three states understand each other’s views and concerns. Islamabad is waiting for the situation in Afghanistan to settle down after the presidential election. With the new government, hopefully the three sides could have constructive talks on issues of mutual interest.
Question: What is your perception about bilateral cooperation on regional issues?
Answer: Pakistan and Iran are two important regional powers and they must work together for regional prosperity and peace. They have unbeaten relations within the framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Pakistani officials have always enjoyed the great hospitality of their Iranian counterparts and they use the platform of ECO to promote regional integration, trade and transportation, especially through the experimental cargo train service between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. The new transportation project needs to be taken seriously as an efficient cargo train service can connect them to the European markets and gain immensely.
There are, however, elements that do not like to see such a growing partnership. Terrorist elements keep creating incidents to affect bilateral ties. However, relations between Iran and Pakistan are too important and too great to be affected by such desperate moves. Still, the two sides need to remain cautious about these attacks and work together to resolve them accordingly. Indeed, Iran is a democratic state and Pakistan seeks greater exchange of academics, parliamentarians and cultural attaches. We should engage at the parliamentary levels. We should also highlight common grounds for the purpose and build relations on our extensive commonalities.
Question: Despite the friendly relations, the volume of trade and cooperation has not been up to the mark. For instance, Iran and Pakistan have signed energy deals such as power exports but this is yet to be implemented.
Answer: This is a misperception. Initially, Iran was not pursuing a bilateral approach with regard to the power and gas transfer. Iran also wanted to have India on board with regard to the gas pipeline transfer project. However, the Indians were reluctant as they were at the time having nuclear talks with the US and did not want to lose the deal over the gas pipeline project. Therefore, they stepped back from the trilateral project, leaving the Iranians unable to make up their minds on whether to have a bilateral agreement with Pakistan instead.
The bilateral agreement is a win-win situation as Pakistan has a well-developed national grid and it would be very easy to inject the Iranian gas to its pipeline. Then again, the Iranian side remained reluctant to go ahead with the plan. Just as importantly, Tehran agreed to a certain pricing formula. Pakistan approved the formula but the Iranian Parliament later rejected the deal. Tehran resumed gas talks again but that took time. So, the delay was on the Iranian side. Now, the situation has changed and the two neighbors have finally finalized the gas purchase agreement earlier this year in Istanbul.
Question: Which trade sectors are of importance to Pakistan?
Answer: Pakistan needs Iranian electricity and there is no need to think otherwise. The project would help develop the Pakistani economy and infrastructure, especially its industrial hubs. The industry needs Iranian electricity. Theoretically, the Foreign Ministry supported the idea as it would serve the interests of both parties.
The attitude was also the same with regard to other trade opportunities such as rice exports to Iran, train links to Turkey via Iran, as well as agro exports, such as citrus fruits. Pakistan has a surplus of citrus fruits but Iran is no longer importing it as it is only interested in exporting oil. Both sides further need to have joint banks to facilitate the issuance of LCs and the Pakistani officials are trying to find ways to build the necessary financial infrastructure for the purpose.
Question: The two neighbors are members of ECO, but the organization is yet to find its true place in the region and no one seems to know why?
Answer: There is a need for political will in the organization. Indeed, the European Union did not come up overnight. Its members first settled their political differences and bolstered trade ties in order to build confidence for having a common market. It is now fashionable to have regional trade bodies all over the world. Therefore, it would take time for the ECO to become an influential power in the region.
Question: As far as security situation along the borders is concerned, Tehran believes that Islamabad is not doing enough to reduce attacks on Iranian border guards by terrorist groups such as Jundullah ?
Answer: The Iranian media delegation could act as an ambassador in Tehran to help change the public opinion in this regard. Pakistani officials were horrified to hear the news about the recent attacks on Iranian border guards in which several people, including top commanders, were martyred and wounded. The Pakistani president called his Iranian counterpart immediately to express his condolences and to announce Islamabad’s readiness to cooperate with Tehran to tackle the security issue along the border areas. Since then, there have been high-level exchanges of information among the security officials of the two countries. A security delegation visited Tehran to discuss the matter with their Iranian counterparts. Pakistan does not support any organization or terrorist group that might try to undermine its ties with Iran. Pakistan handed over to Tehran several terrorists, including the brother of Abdulmalik Rigi, the ringleader of the terror cell Jundullah. This highlights the determination on the part of Islamabad to cooperate with Iran in security matters.
The terrorists who attacked the IRGC guards and commanders are not in Pakistan at all. These criminals also come into Pakistan to carry out attacks on police stations, mosques and universities. Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism. These terrorist do not differentiate between nationality, color, religion or class. Islam does not advocate violence, therefore they do not represent Islam at all. We must work and support each other in this fight. We must trust each other. Only greater interaction and understanding as well as exchange of security information could help us tackle the security situation along our border areas.
Question: The intentions of Pakistan are genuine in this respect. Will the two sides form a joint security commission to help monitor and bolster border security?
Answer: The interior minister of Iran (Mostafa
Mohammad-Najjar) met with Pakistani officials to discuss a mechanism for greater security cooperation. We must be sensitive to the public opinion in Iran. The same also goes for Iran.
Some of the statements that came out from Iran initially after the recent border attacks were not friendly at all. At the same time, it would be wrong and unconstructive for the Iranian guards to cross the Pakistani border in the hot pursuit of terrorists. Even under these circumstances, Pakistan did not doubt Iran’s genuine intentions and that explains why it handed over a number of terrorists to Tehran.
Pakistan has taken the initiative by sending security delegations to Tehran and even hosted several Iranian delegations in Islamabad. It is true that the two sides have had limited cooperation in the past, still Pakistan also has to take into consideration the interests of other neighbors.
Question: What is Pakistan doing to develop the Balochistan region?
Answer: Improved relations could help stabilize the situation along the borders. The gas pipeline project would help create jobs and improve security across the region. The region is rich in natural resources but because of many reasons they are yet to be exploited. If the two sides are truly interested in the region’s future development, they must improve their ties in all spheres. The energy transfer from Iran would benefit the region immensely.
Question: Where does Pakistan’s relation with India stand at present?
Answer: Islamabad seeks friendly ties with New Delhi but that can happen when the two sides have resolved their outstanding differences such as the disputes over Kashmir and water reserves. Islamabad has always condemned the terrorist attacks in India and expects the same treatment from New Delhi. Iran and India have great relations and some of the Iranian officials have even studied in India. Therefore, they should advocate relations between Pakistan and India as well. Iranians should help the two sides engage. We also do the same by supporting the idea of engaging Iran to resolve its disputes with the West through diplomacy as any conflict with Iran could go against Pakistan’s national interests. I have even told the American officials that they must engage with Iran over its nuclear dispute.
Similarly, the Iranian officials should urge their Indian friends to resolve their disputes with Pakistan through diplomacy and dialogue. South Asia and the Indian subcontinent have remained underdeveloped all because of their unresolved disputes. Tehran can convince the Indians to have legitimate interests in Afghanistan that could serve the interests of all parties involved. It is time for us all to show by deeds that we are only party to regional peace, development and prosperity.
|Last update - 10:38 13/01/2010 |
Israel tight-lipped about mysterious death of Iranian nuclear physicist
By Yossi Melman and Barak Ravid
Tags: Israel news, Iran nuclear
Israel refused Tuesday to react to Iranian accusations that it or the United States was behind a mysterious explosion that killed an Iranian nuclear physicist in Tehran Tuesday.
Iran blamed Israel and the United States Tuesday for the death of Dr. Massoud Ali Mohammadi, 50, a nuclear physics professor who is believed to have publicly backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. The Iranian government said that Israel and the United States had used a militant opposition group to carry out the assassination of Mohammadi, who was involved in Tehran's nuclear program.
Mohammadi was killed in a powerful bomb blast as he was leaving home in northern Tehran for work.
Both the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the explosion or the Iranian accusations. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied the charge the United States was behind the blast yesterday, calling accusations "absurd."
But the Iranian foreign ministry had a different take on the bomb blast.
"One can see in preliminary investigations signs of the triangle of evil of the Zionist regime, America and their mercenaries in Iran in this terrorist incident," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
"Such terrorist acts and the physical elimination of the country's nuclear scientists will certainly not stop the scientific and technological process but will speed it up," he added.
"Given the fact that Massoud Ali Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist, the CIA and Mossad services and agents most likely have had a hand in it," Iranian prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said.
Iran's state-run Arabic-language television Al-Alam identified Mohammadi as a "hezbollahi" teacher - a term used for staunch supporters of the Iranian regime. However, opposition Web sites described Mohammadi as an outspoken supporter of Mousavi.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Ali Mohammadi was involved in a regional research project that also involved Israeli scientists. The project, called Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME, is based in Jordan and operates under United Nations auspices.
Iranian and foreign scientists told the Washington Post the project has applications in industry, medicine, nanotechnology and other fields unrelated to nuclear power.
Palestinians also participate in the project, whose last meeting was held in November in Jordan.
An Israeli scientist present at the meeting told the Washington Post that he talked to Ali Mohammadi during an informal group meeting. "We did not discuss politics or nuclear issues, as our project is not connected to nuclear physics," Rabinovici told the paper.
An Iranian scientist involved in the project denied that there had been any direct meetings between his delegation and the Israelis. "They are present in the same room, but there are no direct meetings," Javad Rahighi, a nuclear researcher, told the Washington Post. "We are all shocked," he said. "I couldn't imagine anybody wanting to kill him. He was a scientist, nothing more."
| Tehran asks U.S. to extradite terrorists over killing of scientist|
Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN – Tehran on Tuesday called on Washington to extradite members of a terrorist group who have claimed responsibility for the assassination of an Iranian university professor.
The Los-Angeles based “Tondar” terrorist group had claimed responsibility for the killing of nuclear physicist Masoud Ali-Mohammadi in a bomb attack in northern Tehran on January 12.
The Swiss ambassador, whose country takes care of the U.S. Interests Section, has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to protest against Washington for harboring the terrorist group, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast announced.
“The American administration must answer why such a terrorist group is active in that country,” Mehmanparast told a regular news briefing.
The Foreign Ministry told the Swiss envoy that Iran seeks the extradition of members of the Tondar terrorist group, Mehmanparast stated.
Pointing to the policies adopted by the Obama administration, Mehmanparast said Obama has been pursuing his predecessor’s foreign policy.
The U.S. policy has not “changed” whatsoever, the spokesman insisted.
“The Obama administration’s policies have not made any changes, compared to that of the Bush administration,” he noted.
Obama’s embrace of Bush’s policies is being criticized at home and many Americans now believe that the Obama administration is following the previous government’s policies, he explained.
“We have been waiting to see the results of the (promised) change, but we have observed nothing except old, wrong U.S. policies,” the Press TV quoted the Foreign Ministry official as saying
|Iran arrests 'terrorists with British links’|
Iran have arrested four people it claims were Kurdish terrorists with links to Britain, according to state television.
A fighter of the Islamic group of Kurdistan 'Komala Islamy' carries his machine gun
9:22AM GMT 04 Nov 2010
The Intelligence Ministry said it arrested four “terrorists” they say were paid by a Kurdish militant based in Britain to carry “five assassinations in the last two years”, according to Press TV.
The report said the men were paid by a commander of Komala, an Iranian Kurdish group it described as a “terrorist” organisation which it said had carried out assassinations in western Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
It said the men were all members of Komala and received weapons and cash on the Iran-Iraq border to carry out their attacks. It did not say who were their victims.
Iran arrests 'terrorists with British links’ - Telegraph
|Iranian hardliners threaten to overrun British embassy|
Iranian hardliners threatened to overrun the British embassy in Tehran after the Islamic regime accused the intelligence services of supporting terrorist attacks inside Iran.
Iranian protestors attend an anti-British demonstration in front of the British Embassy in Tehran last Thursday
by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent 5:27PM GMT 12 Nov 2010
Sardar Mohammad Reza Baghdi, a leader of the Basij militia that led the orchestrated assault on pro-democracy demonstrations following last year's rigged presidential election, condemned the British mission as a "nest of spies".
Iranian newspapers said that British intelligence was offering terrorist groups a $20,000 (£13,000) bounty for attacks on officials and installations.
Heydar Moslehi, Iran's interior minister, accused MI6 of supporting at least two underground groups it has branded as terrorists.
Iranian hardliners threaten to overrun British embassy - Telegraph
|QUOTE (Bridget @ Nov 13 2010, 04:27 PM)|
|Covert war against Iran's nuclear aims takes chilling turn|
Sophisticated cyber-worms, motorcycling assassins: but who is behind the increasingly sinister campaign against the Iranian energy programme?
* Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Dehghan
* The Observer, Sunday 5 December 2010
Iranian police beside the car in which Majid Shahriari was killed Iranian police beside the car in which Majid Shahriari was killed in a bomb attack. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images
Tehran's streets at the height of the morning rush hour resemble a vast, sprawling car park. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, much of it stationary, the acrid steam of a thousand exhausts hanging in the cold winter air. If you wanted to kill someone, this would be the moment to do it: when they are stuck in their cars – sitting targets.
At 7.40am last Monday, in north Tehran's Aghdasieh district, a motorcycle threaded its way through the long lines of cars on Artesh Boulevard. It edged up to a silver Peugeot 405, hesitating alongside for moment, before moving off into the maze of vehicles. A few seconds later there was a bang from the side of the Peugeot, as a small bomb stuck on to the window detonated, killing one of the men inside. The driver and a woman passenger were wounded.
At the same time, a few kilometres to the west, an identical attack was under way. A motorcycle came up beside another Peugeot and then moved on, but this time a man immediately jumped out of the car, ran around to let a woman out on the other side, and both of them managed to scramble a couple of metres from the car before the bomb went off. They were bloodied, but survived.
The dead man was Majid Shahriari, a senior Iranian nuclear scientist. The head of Iran's nuclear programme, Ali Akbar Salehi, who attended his funeral, said Shahriari had been "in charge of one of the great projects" at Iran's atomic energy agency – a project he did not describe any further.
The wounded man, Fereydoun Abbasi, was a 52-year-old nuclear scientist working for Iran's defence ministry, one of "Iran's few experts on fissile isotopes and the ministry's laser expert". He is also named in a UN security council sanctions resolution as working on "banned nuclear activities" with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist suspected by inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency of running Iran's secret nuclear weapons programme. The wives of both scientists were wounded in the attacks.
The attacks had clear echoes of the unsolved assassination in January this year of one of their colleagues, particle physicist Masoud Alimohammadi. He was killed in north Tehran on his way to work, at about the same time of the morning, by a bomb strapped to a motorcycle. After his death, to the surprise of many of his students, it was reported that he also had links with Iran's nuclear programme.
If there were any doubts after Alimohammadi's killing back in January, there could be none after last week's double attack. Someone is trying to kill nuclear scientists linked to Iran's defence establishment – the people most likely to be involved in the covert side of Iran's nuclear programme, the making of nuclear weapons.
In the febrile atmosphere of Iranian underground politics, speculation quickly spread that the dark forces of the state were at work against would-be dissidents, leakers or defectors, but those rumours quickly evaporated. The Islamic Republic has many other ways of taking people it suspects out of circulation. It has little to gain by sacrificing the nation's must strategic asset – its nuclear know-how, the teachers of a new generation of atomic scientists. After last week, that new generation must be wondering whether to change career.
The Tehran regime itself had little doubt over who was to blame. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly pointed the finger at "western governments and the Zionist regime".
Ahmadinejad blames almost every national setback on the same culprits, but in this case there were no snorts of derision from the security analysts and intelligence experts in the west, but rather murmurs of assent.
There is general agreement that the nature of the simultaneous attacks was too sophisticated to be entirely home-grown – the work of the handful of groups who harry the Islamic Republic around its ethnic edges, like the Sunni Jundullah group, the Kurdish rebels in the north-east, or the People's Mujahedin (which has vowed to give up violence to win removal from the US state department's list of terrorist organisations).
The assassination had the hallmark of well-practised professionals. The explosives were shaped to focus the blast and fire a hail of projectiles into the car at an individual target, with minimal "collateral damage". The targets were obviously carefully chosen and the attack would have required weeks of surveillance. So even if local assassins were involved, the questions of who trained and funded them and assigned the targets would remain.
Time magazine last week claimed to have been given details of the attack from "a western intelligence expert with knowledge of the operation" and asserted that it "carried the signature of Israel's Mossad".
It is certainly true that, while the discovery of any involvement in the killings of civilian scientists would be career-endingly embarrassing for the CIA or MI6, the Mossad is known for such exploits. It is widely believed to have killed scientists working on Iraq's nuclear programme in the 1980s.
The outgoing Mossad director, Meir Dagan, has stepped up the use of assassinations against Israel's enemies, and has won plaudits for doing so. The Israel Hayom news website remarked on the occasion of Dagan's retirement: "[He] will be leaving an organisation that is far sharper and more operational than the organisation he received, and all of the accusations from Tehran yesterday are a good indication of that. Iran will be the focal point for the next Mossad director, too."
If it does indeed turn out that the Mossad was involved, the bloodshed in the middle of Tehran represents a bloody episode in a secret war over Iran's nuclear programme that has been under way for years.
It has come at a time when diplomacy is at a standstill. Officials from six major powers – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – are due to meet Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva tomorrow for the first time in more than a year. But expectations are low. Iran has shown no interest in complying with UN demands to cease the enrichment of uranium, despite four sets of sanctions. Tehran has also turned down a deal to swap some of its stock of low-enriched uranium for ready-made fuel rods it urgently needs for a medical research reactor.
Military action has been contemplated for years, in Washington and Tel Aviv, but both have concluded that air strikes on nuclear sites would have an uncertain and far from fatal impact on Iran's programme, would unleash years of unpredictable, painful reprisals, and would probably spur Tehran on in the quest to develop nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon has contingency plans, but there is no real likelihood of the US starting a third war in the region any time soon. Israel is another matter. Israeli officials say they are well aware of the downsides of military action, but they insist that none compares with the "existential threat" posed to their country by a nuclear-armed Iran.
Without giving a green light, the US has supplied the tools Israel would need to do the job. One of the US cables made public by WikiLeaks describes a meeting of a US-Israeli joint political military group in November last year. It said: "The GOI [Government of Israel] described 2010 as a critical year – if the Iranians continue to protect and harden their nuclear sites, it will be more difficult to target and damage them. Both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of bunker-busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the US is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran."
The bombs duly arrived a few months later. The WikiLeaks cables also underpin a prediction made by western military officials earlier this year, that if Israel flew above Saudi Arabia to reach Iranian targets Saudi radar operators would somehow "fail to see them".
Yet Israel has hesitated. It is not the first time a year it deemed "crucial" has come and gone. Iran has now accumulated 3,000kg of low-enriched uranium – enough for two weapons, if further enriched. And this year Iranian scientists have stepped up the level of enrichment they are working on to 20%, which in terms of the technical obstacles that need to be overcome, is well on the way to 90% weapons-grade purity.
With each milestone passed, Iran has flaunted its achievements, yet Israel's sword has remained sheathed. It is clear that war is the last resort. Given diplomacy's ineffectiveness and the unknowable but terrible consequences of air strikes, it is easy to see why covert action is the least bad option; most of the successes and failures in this war will remain unsung, but some have made news.
In September last year, Barack Obama announced the discovery of a secret enrichment plant burrowed into a mountain near the city of Qom. It had been under satellite surveillance for some time. Western officials say that it was information from defectors and agents on the ground that confirmed the nature of the facility. Iran subsequently allowed IAEA inspectors into the site, but withheld blueprints which would have given away more of its ultimate purpose.
In June 2009, an Iranian nuclear scientist called Shahram Amiri disappeared while making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Three months later, the Iranian government claimed he was being held by the US – a claim echoed by several western reports that Amiri had defected and was living somewhere in America under a new identity. However, in July this year the scientist turned up at the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani embassy, claiming he had been held against his will and wanted to go home. Amiri returned to a hero's welcome in Iran, while back in the US he has been portrayed as a defector who lost his nerve.
Ahmadinejad admitted last week that Iran's uranium enrichment plant had been affected by the Stuxnet computer worm, which targeted the industrial management software that Iran uses to run its centrifuges. Like most computer viruses and worms, Stuxnet does not bear fingerprints, but a western military source recently told the Observer that it was an Israeli creation.
Ahmadinejad claimed that the damage caused by Stuxnet had been overcome, but the enrichment programme clearly has major problems that cannot be easily fixed. The IAEA reported last week that enrichment ceased altogether in mid-November. The centrifuges at the Natanz plant continued to spin, but no uranium gas was fed into them, a very rare stoppage that suggested there was a fault in the system.
The main centrifuge the Iranians are using, known as the P-1, is rudimentary and outdated and prone to crash, so that may be part of the problem.
But the US, Israel and other western spy agencies have also spent years slipping faulty parts into black market consignments of equipment heading to Iran – each designed to wreak havoc inside the delicate machinery requirement for enrichment.
Last week's events suggest that, as Iran continues to built up its stock of enriched uranium despite such difficulties, finesse is giving way to more brutal methods in this secret war.
Its first victim may have been Ardeshir Hassanpour, another top nuclear scientist, who co-founded Iran's nuclear technology centre in Isfahan. Officially, Hassanpour died from radiation poisoning in 2007. But some reports, yet to be confirmed, claimed he was killed by the Mossad. If that is true, the toll so far is three scientists dead, one wounded.
The front line in the war of Iran's nuclear project is not where most expected it to be drawn – at the enrichment plant in Natanz, or the mountain cavern at Qom, or the Revolutionary Guard bases where Iran tests its missiles. Instead it runs through university faculties and the leafy suburbs of north Tehran where Iran's academic elite make their homes. It is a covert war, with very high stakes, in which civilians are the primary targets, and Majid Shahriari is unlikely to be the last victim.
|But the US, Israel and other western spy agencies have also spent years slipping faulty parts into black market consignments of equipment heading to Iran – each designed to wreak havoc inside the delicate machinery requirement for enrichment.|
|French investigators drop terror-linked charges against Iranian opposition group|
By Associated Press,
PARIS — Judicial officials say that investigators have dropped terror-linked charges against 24 members of an exiled Iranian opposition group arrested in a spectacular raid in 2003.
Among those who initially faced preliminary charges was Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, based outside Paris. The arrests led several followers of the group to set themselves afire in protest.
Judicial officials said Thursday that nine people remain under investigation for suspected financial misdoings.
The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named.
The People’s Mujahedeen is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. The European Union removed the group from its terrorist list two years ago.
|Iran: CIA spy network broken up, claims Tehran|
Iran says it has arrested 30 people after breaking up a spy network run by the US Central Intelligence Agency.
It said the network had operated out of US diplomatic missions in the Malaysia, Turkey and the UAE.
Iranian spies had been recruited and asked to spy on Iran's research institutes, universities, nuclear programmes and other sites, it added.
Iran occasionally announces the arrest of people allegedly linked to foreign intelligence agencies.
"Due to the massive intelligence and counter-intelligence work by Iranian intelligence agents, a complex espionage and sabotage network linked to America's spy organisation was uncovered and dismantled," an intelligence ministry statement read on state TV said.
"Elite agents of the intelligence ministry in their confrontation with the CIA elements were able to arrest 30 America-linked spies through numerous intelligence and counter-intelligence operations."
|QUOTE (nmollo @ May 21 2011, 02:01 PM)|
|Sorry, my above post was intended to be added to the "Covert Operations inside Iran" thread, not create a new thread.|
|Iran Says Scientist's Murder Reveals Global Terror Campaign|
Ladane Nasseri and Nicole Gaouette
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Iranian government said in a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that a civilian nuclear scientist who was killed by a bomb yesterday was the latest victim of a foreign terror campaign.
"Based on the existing evidence collected by the relevant Iranian security authorities, similar to previous incidents, perpetrators used the same terrorist method in assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, i.e. attaching a sticky magnetic bomb to the car carrying the scientists and detonating it," Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the UN, said in the letter yesterday. "Furthermore, there is firm evidence that certain foreign quarters are behind such assassinations."
Iranian officials have accused the U.S. and Israel of targeting Iranian nuclear scientists in an effort to halt Iran's nuclear program, which Western nations say may be aimed at producing atomic weapons. Tensions have risen over U.S. and European efforts to increase economic sanctions on Iran because of the nuclear program.
Khazaee said Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan, who was killed in a Tehran bomb blast, was the fourth prominent Iranian scientist to be targeted in similar attacks. Roshan, a deputy director at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan province, and another person died in the latest attack, Khazaee said.
"This terrorist action was undertaken by elements of the Zionist regime and those who claim to fight against terrorism," the official Islamic Republic News Agency cited Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi as saying.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said by telephone that he had no comment on the reports.
"I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters yesterday in Washington. "There has to be an understanding between Iran, its neighbors and the international community that finds a way forward for it to end its provocative behavior, end its search for nuclear weapons and rejoin the international community."
Some Republican presidential candidates in the U.S. have supported efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program by attacking its scientists. In a November debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed "taking out their scientists," and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum called it "a wonderful thing" when Iranian scientists are killed.
Previous attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists involved the assassination of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, killed by a bomb outside his Tehran home in January 2010, and an explosion in November of that year that took the life of Majid Shahriari and wounded Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who is now the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.
"While it is difficult to gauge the impact of the scientists' deaths on the country's nuclear development, Iranian officials have already acknowledged they have a human resources problem in the program, largely because of the sharp political differences within the country," Meir Javedanfar, lecturer on Iranian politics at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, said in a telephone interview.
The attacks on scientists may be the work of a foreign intelligence agency such as Israel's Mossad, according to a U.S. official who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because intelligence matters are classified. They also could have been carried out by an Iranian exile group such as the People's Mujahadeen Organization of Iran working independently or in cooperation with a foreign intelligence agency, the official said in a telephone interview.
Attributing the murder to the Mujahadeen is "absolutely false," the group said in an e-mailed statement.
It's also possible that internal opponents of the Iranian regime might have helped the Mujahadeen e-Khalq or foreign agents identify, locate and target important figures in Iran's nuclear program, the official said.
That alone is difficult, said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency specialist on Iran who is now at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington foreign- policy research organization.
"It's not as if you can look people like this up in the Natanz phone book," he said in a telephone interview.
It's conceivable that Iran's Interior Ministry may have targeted at least some of the scientists because it suspected they were disloyal, according to Gerecht and the U.S. official. Using magnetic bombs attached to their vehicles would make it appear that Israel was behind the killings.
Mossad was suspected of using such a "sticky bomb" to kill Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in February 2008, although that was never proved, the official said.
Other incidents in Iran in recent months have raised suspicions of sabotage against the country's nuclear program.
A November explosion at a military base west of Tehran killed at least 17 people including a director in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, state media reported at the time. Last year, malicious software known as Stuxnet affected computer systems controlling several centrifuges used in Iran's uranium- enrichment program, Iranian officials have said.
The latest killing also follows an Iranian court's Jan. 9 decision to sentence an American of Iranian descent, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, to death for spying. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has said allegations that Hekmati worked for the CIA were "simply untrue."
Iran is under increasing pressure to curb what the International Atomic Energy Agency and a number of western nations have said may be a program to build nuclear weapons. The IAEA reported in November, citing unidentified sources it called "credible," that Iranian work toward a nuclear weapon continued until 2010 -- seven years after U.S. Intelligence agencies determined with high probability that Tehran's government had stopped.
European Union foreign ministers plan to meet on Jan. 23 to discuss imposing an oil embargo on Iran. Iranian officials have threatened to shut the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for a fifth of the world's oil, if crude exports are sanctioned.
Crude rose 0.7 percent to $101.53 at 8:30 a.m. in London, after reaching an eight-month high above $103 last week. Futures are up more than 10 percent in the past year.
Yesterday's attack "comes in the middle of heightened tensions, and it helps Iran to play on a sense of threat that it is under a lot of pressure," Gala Riani, a Middle East analyst at London-based forecaster IHS Global Insight, said by telephone. "It can also be beneficial to more extremist elements in the government who are supporting further military drills in the Strait of Hormuz."
Iran conducted naval exercises near the Strait for 10 days that ended early this month. Iran also announced on Jan. 6 plans for "naval war games" to be conducted by the Revolutionary Guard Corps next month.
A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.
BY MARK PERRY | JANUARY 13, 2012
Buried deep in the archives of America's intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush's administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives -- what is commonly referred to as a "false flag" operation.
The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah -- a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according to the U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.
But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel's Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel's recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel's ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.
The officials did not know whether the Israeli program to recruit and use Jundallah is ongoing. Nevertheless, they were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad's efforts.
"It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," the intelligence officer said. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."
Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.
The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services -- the Mossad -- were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.
There is no denying that there is a covert, bloody, and ongoing campaign aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, though no evidence has emerged connecting recent acts of sabotage and killings inside Iran to Jundallah. Many reports have cited Israel as the architect of this covert campaign, which claimed its latest victim on Jan. 11 when a motorcyclist in Tehran slipped a magnetic explosive device under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young Iranian nuclear scientist. The explosion killed Roshan, making him the fourth scientist assassinated in the past two years. The United States adamantly denies it is behind these killings.
According to one retired CIA officer, information about the false-flag operation was reported up the U.S. intelligence chain of command. It reached CIA Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, his deputy Michael Sulick, and the head of the Counterintelligence Center. All three of these officials are now retired. The Counterintelligence Center, according to its website, is tasked with investigating "threats posed by foreign intelligence services."
The report then made its way to the White House, according to the currently serving U.S. intelligence officer. The officer said that Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when briefed on its contents.
"The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk," the intelligence officer told me. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
Israel's relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, this same intelligence officer noted. Israel's activities jeopardized the administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel.
"It's easy to understand why Bush was so angry," a former intelligence officer said. "After all, it's hard to engage with a foreign government if they're convinced you're killing their people. Once you start doing that, they feel they can do the same."
A senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off" with Israel, according to a U.S. intelligence officer. But the United States did nothing -- a result that the officer attributed to "political and bureaucratic inertia."
"In the end," the officer noted, "it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat." Even so, at least for a short time, this same officer noted, the Mossad operation sparked a divisive debate among Bush's national security team, pitting those who wondered "just whose side these guys [in Israel] are on" against those who argued that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
The debate over Jundallah was resolved only after Bush left office when, within his first weeks as president, Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, according to multiple serving and retired officers.
The decision was controversial inside the CIA, where officials were forced to shut down "some key intelligence-gathering operations," a recently retired CIA officer confirmed. This action was followed in November 2010 by the State Department's addition of Jundallah to its list of foreign terrorist organizations -- a decision that one former CIA officer called "an absolute no-brainer."
Since Obama's initial order, U.S. intelligence services have received clearance to cooperate with Israel on a number of classified intelligence-gathering operations focused on Iran's nuclear program, according to a currently serving officer. These operations are highly technical in nature and do not involve covert actions targeting Iran's infrastructure or political or military leadership.
"We don't do bang and boom," a recently retired intelligence officer said. "And we don't do political assassinations."
Israel regularly proposes conducting covert operations targeting Iranians, but is just as regularly shut down, according to retired and current intelligence officers. "They come into the room and spread out their plans, and we just shake our heads," one highly placed intelligence source said, "and we say to them -- 'Don't even go there. The answer is no.'"
Unlike the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the controversial exiled Iranian terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the Tehran regime and is supported by former leading U.S. policymakers, Jundallah is relatively unknown -- but just as violent. In May 2009, a Jundallah suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan, during a Shiite religious festival. The bombing killed 25 Iranians and wounded scores of others.
The attack enraged Tehran, which traced the perpetrators to a cell operating in Pakistan. The Iranian government notified the Pakistanis of the Jundallah threat and urged them to break up the movement's bases along the Iranian-Pakistani border. The Pakistanis reacted sluggishly in the border areas, feeding Tehran's suspicions that Jundallah was protected by Pakistan's intelligence services.
The 2009 attack was just one in a long line of terrorist attacks attributed to the organization. In August 2007, Jundallah kidnapped 21 Iranian truck drivers. In December 2008, it captured and executed 16 Iranian border guards -- the gruesome killings were filmed, in a stark echo of the decapitation of American businessman Nick Berg in Iraq at the hands of al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In July 2010, Jundallah conducted a twin suicide bombing in Zahedan outside a mosque, killing dozens of people, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The State Department aggressively denies that the U.S. government had or has any ties to Jundallah. "We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate again that the United States has not provided support to Jundallah," a spokesman wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal, following Jundallah's designation as a terrorist organization. "The United States does not sponsor any form of terrorism. We will continue to work with the international community to curtail support for terrorist organizations and prevent violence against innocent civilians. We have also encouraged other governments to take comparable actions against Jundallah."
A spate of stories in 2007 and 2008, including a report by ABC News and a New Yorker article, suggested that the United States was offering covert support to Jundallah. The issue has now returned to the spotlight with the string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and has outraged serving and retired intelligence officers who fear that Israeli operations are endangering American lives.
"This certainly isn't the first time this has happened, though it's the worst case I've heard of," former Centcom chief and retired Gen. Joe Hoar said of the Israeli operation upon being informed of it. "But while false-flag operations are hardly new, they're extremely dangerous. You're basically using your friendship with an ally for your own purposes. Israel is playing with fire. It gets us involved in their covert war, whether we want to be involved or not."
The Israeli operation left a number of recently retired CIA officers sputtering in frustration. "It's going to be pretty hard for the U.S. to distance itself from an Israeli attack on Iran with this kind of thing going on," one of them told me.
Jundallah head Abdolmalek Rigi was captured by Iran in February 2010. Although initial reports claimed that he was captured by the Iranians after taking a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, a retired intelligence officer with knowledge of the incident told me that Rigi was detained by Pakistani intelligence officers in Pakistan. The officer said that Rigi was turned over to the Iranians after the Pakistani government informed the United States that it planned to do so. The United States, this officer said, did not raise objections to the Pakistani decision.
Iran, meanwhile, has consistently claimed that Rigi was snatched from under the eyes of the CIA, which it alleges supported him. "It doesn't matter," the former intelligence officer said of Iran's charges. "It doesn't matter what they say. They know the truth."
Rigi was interrogated, tried, and convicted by the Iranians and hanged on June 20, 2010. Prior to his execution, Rigi claimed in an interview with Iranian media -- which has to be assumed was under duress -- that he had doubts about U.S. sponsorship of Jundallah. He recounted an alleged meeting with "NATO officials" in Morocco in 2007 that raised his suspicions. "When we thought about it we came to the conclusion that they are either Americans acting under NATO cover or Israelis," he said.
While many of the details of Israel's involvement with Jundallah are now known, many others still remain a mystery -- and are likely to remain so. The CIA memos of the incident have been "blue bordered," meaning that they were circulated to senior levels of the broader U.S. intelligence community as well as senior State Department officials.
What has become crystal clear, however, is the level of anger among senior intelligence officials about Israel's actions. "This was stupid and dangerous," the intelligence official who first told me about the operation said. "Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us. If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true."
False Flag - By Mark Perry | Foreign Policy
The Strange World of the People's Mujahedin
Media : Listen now (25 minutes)
Availability: Available to listen.
Last broadcast today, 02:05 on BBC World Service (see all broadcasts).
The People's Mujahedin of Iran - a group of dissident Iranians who have been fighting to topple the Mullahs since the 1980s - say they fear they are about to be massacred.
Over 3,000 PMOI members – designated terrorists by the US and a cult by some former members - live in Iraq at Camp Ashraf, 40 miles north of Baghdad and 70 miles from Iran itself.
The camp residents say they are vulnerable because with the US now having left Iraq, they are at the mercy of the pro-Iranian, Iraqi government, which is demanding the camp be closed down.
Whether they leave voluntarily, or by force, leave they must.
The PMOI has a history of killing Americans and mounting attacks within Iran.
But it now says it has renounced violence and should be removed from America's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations.
Its high profile PR campaign involves paying senior retired US officials who then speak on its behalf.
We report on the way in which a former pariah group accused of killing Americans has won over intelligence experts, generals, and congressmen from both sides of the political divide.
As the deadline for the closing of Camp Ashraf draws near we ask just who are the People's Mujahedin of Iran - terrorists or freedom fighters?
A cult or a deeply committed army who could be used by the US to fight for change in Iran?