Summary: There are reports that the US has supported terrorist groups seeking to overthrow Iran’s government. This is the first post in a series; at the end are links to the other chapters.
A description of the situation and what we know
Evidence of covert support for terrorists: leaks and speculation
What might be our objective, or the results?
Other posts in this series
Other posts about a strike at Iran by the US, and sources of more information
Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. …
And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. …
We ask every nation to join us. … Perhaps the NATO Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an attack on all. … They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. And you know what — we’re not going to allow it.
— President Bush’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress, 20 September 2001
Of course, not everybody sees things in such simple terms.
Theory becomes infinitely more difficult as soon as it touches the realm of moral values.
— Clausewtiz, On War — Pages 577-627. (He makes a similar statement in Book 1, Chapter 1)
(2) A description of the situation and what we know
“Will the U.S. Support Terrorists to Destabilize Iran?”, William O. Beeman (Professor and Chair of the Dept of Anthropology, U Minnesota), New America Media, 7 July 2008 – Excerpt:
Continually frustrated in their attempts to launch any legitimate attack against Iran, Vice President Cheney and a group of die-hard neoconservatives hovering in and around his office, particularly his former Middle East adviser David Wurmser, have long been rumored to be engineering active support for dissident opposition groups who share their goalto overthrow the current Iranian regime. Many of these groups are aligned with non-Persian ethnic factions in Iran, notably Arabs, Kurds, Azerbaijanis and Baluchis. Serious analysts in the region have tended to dismiss these efforts as silly and ineffective. Nevertheless, neoconservative organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Near East Policy and the Hudson Institute have quietly championed the idea that Iran could be successfully dismembered along ethnic lines.
… Iran specialists have been aware of these groups for years, and largely discounted them. However, assertions of active United States support for them, awakened by journalist Seymour Hersh in the July 7 issue of the New Yorker, have become real cause for concern. The groups include:
(a) *The M.E.K-Mujaheddin-e Khalq-officially a terrorist group in the United States for having killed Americans before the Revolution. They are Marxist in orientation, and are despised in Iran, since they were protected by Saddam Hussein all during the Iran-Iraq war, and are directly supported by the United States today.
(b) *The PJAK-the “Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan,” a trans-national Kurdish militant organization dedicated to an independent Kurdistan. They are supported by the United States when they launch attacks against Iranian forces, but faulted when they launch attacks against Turkish forces in Turkey.
(c) *The Jundallah-based in Sunni Muslim Balochistan. They are supported by extreme conservative Salafi groups in Saudi Arabia. The Salafi movement also forms the religious philosophy of the Taliban of Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda. Claims of U.S. support for Jundallah are now several years old. In April 2007 Brian Ross and Christopher Isham of ABC News reported that the United States had been aiding Jundallah to attack Iranian targets. Jundallah’s leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, appeared on the Iranian service of the Voice of America, where he was identified as “the leader of popular Iranian resistance movement.” More disturbing are Jundallah’s wider connections. As Seymour Hersh points out: “Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.”
(d) Sunni Arab separatists in the Southeast Iranian province of Khuzistan, especially in its capital, Ahwaz, have been active since the time of Shah Mohammad RezaPahlavi. There is no identifiable organization as with the other groups above, but Iranian security forces claim that the current round of violence, which includes the assassination of an Iranian Shi’ite cleric, Hojjat ol-Eslam Hesham Seymarion June 26, 2007, were “trained under the umbrella of the Americans in Iraq.” The militants have also been linked with the London-based Ahvaz Arab People’s Democratic-Popular Front.
(e) The Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement, SANAM or GAMOH, led by Mahmudali Chehregani was founded in 1995, and is perhaps the weakest of the ethnic separatist movements today. Nevertheless, Chehreganiwas hosted in Washington by the U.S. Department of Defense in June 2003, according to the Washington Times, and addressed a number of neoconservative venues. One difficulty with this movement is Chehregani’s antipathy to Kurds, whom he calls “guests” in the Azerbaijan region of Iran.
These separatist movements continue to have support in some legislative circles. Two of the most avid supporters are Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinenof Florida, both Republicans. Both favor removing the MEK from the list of terrorist organizations, and Brownback served as host to Mahmud Ali Chehregani in Washington.
No serious analyst of Iranian affairs believes that a strategy of ethnic division would bring down the central government of the Islamic Republic. Iran expert Vali Nasr, who teaches at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University was quoted by Hersh as saying, “Iran is an old country–like France and Germany–and its citizens are just as nationalistic. . . . working with the minorities will backfire, and alienate the majority of the population.” Not to mention serious consequences for the United States.
(3) Evidence of covert support for terrorists: leaks and speculation
(a) “The Secret War Against Iran”, ABC, 3 April 2007 — Excerpt:
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.
(b) “Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran“, ABC, 22 May 2007 — Excerpt:
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.
(c) “Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran“, Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, 7 July 2008
(d) “U.S., Saudi Arabia: Holding the Chechen Card”, Stratfor, 14 August 2008 — Excerpt:
The United States is stretched too thin to get involved in conflicts in Russia’s periphery at the moment. However, in the covert world, the United States could cooperate with Saudi Arabia to stir up separatist sentiments in Russia’s Muslim regions – including Chechnya – to keep Moscow occupied.
… But after watching Russia’s recent power surge in Georgia, the Saudis now share a common interest with Washington in keeping the Russians at bay. And withthe Saudis now making roughly $1 billion a day on oil revenues, Riyadh has ample cash to spare to revive its links with Islamist militants in the Russian Federation.
Saudi support is not only limited to Chechnya, however. The republic of Tatarstan also is a prime candidate for a covert strategy that aims to inflame Russia’s Muslim minorities. This Muslim belt is key because it separates the ethnically Russian portions of Russia from sparsely populated Siberia and runs through all of Russia’s transport networks (road, rail and pipeline). If Tatarstan, which has become more independent in developing its vast oil wealth, revved up a resistance movement against Moscow, Russia would have no choice but to focus its efforts on quashing the rebellion at home rather than spreading its influence abroad.
… Ramping up Muslim fighters in Chechnya and Tatarstan is a logicalstep for the United States to take in coordination with its Saudi allies. If Washington and Riyadh do decide to play the Islamist militancy card, however, Moscow will be ready for it.
(4) What might be our objective, or the results?
“Blood borders”, Ralph Peters, Armed Forces Journal, June 2006 — How a better Middle East would look.
International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference – often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.
The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa’s borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East – to borrow from Churchill – generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.
While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone – from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism – the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region’s comprehensive failure isn’t Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshiped by our own diplomats.
… As for those who refuse to “think the unthinkable,” declaring that boundaries must not change and that’s that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovoto the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips).
Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works.
… Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible. For now. But given time – and the inevitable attendant bloodshed – new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once.
Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform will continue to fight for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself. The current human divisions and forced unions between Ankara and Karachi, taken together with the region’s self-inflicted woes, form as perfect a breeding ground for religious extremism, a culture of blame and the recruitment of terrorists as anyone could design. Where men and women look ruefully at their borders, they look enthusiastically for enemies.
From the world’s oversupply of terrorists to its paucity of energy supplies, the current deformations of the Middle East promise a worsening, not an improving, situation. In a region where only the worst aspects of nationalism ever took hold and where the most debased aspects of religion threaten to dominate a disappointed faith, the U.S., its allies and, above all, our armed forces can look for crises without end. While Iraq may provide a counterexample of hope – if we do not quit its soil prematurely – the rest of this vast region offers worsening problems on almost every front.
If the borders of the greater Middle East cannot be amended to reflect the natural ties of blood and faith, we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own.
(5) Other posts in this series
- Is the War on Terror over (because there are no longer two sides)?, 3 September 2008 — Rumors of covert ops by us against Iran, including aid to terrorists
- Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 January 2009
- Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 2 January 2010 — Forecasts of an Iranian bomb really soon, going back to 1984
- About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war), 4 January 2012
- Have Iran’s leaders vowed to destroy Israel?, 5 January 2012 — No, but it’s established as fact by repetition
- What do we know about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?, 6 January 2012 — US intelligence officials are clear: not as much as the news media implies
- What does the IAEA know about Iran’s nuclear program?, 9 January 2012 — Their reports bear little resemblance to reports in the news media
- What happens when a nation gets nukes? Sixty years of history suggests an answer., 10 January 2012
- What happens if Iran gets nukes? Not what we’ve been told., 11 January 2012
- Status report on the already-hot conflict with Iran – and the looming war, 12 January 2012
- Continuity and dysfunctionality in US foreign policy (lessons for our conflict with Iran), 13 January 2012 — Insights about today from Cold War strategist Colin Grey
- What the conflict with Iran teaches us about modern State-to-State war, 16 January 2012
- Has Iran won a round vs. the US-Israel?, 17 January 2012
- Is Killing Iranian Nuclear Scientists Terrorism?, 19 January 2012
(6) Posts about a strike at Iran by the US
- 4GW at work in a community near you, 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
- War with Iran , 9 November 2007 — Why Iran is not necessarily our enemy.
- Is Iran dangerous, or a paper tiger? , 13 November 2007
- The new NIE, another small step in the Decline of the State , 10 December 2007
- Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? , 17 March 2008
- More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran” , 18 March 2008
- A militant America, ready for war with Iran , 6 May 2008
- Another step towards war with Iran? , 7 May 2008 — About Andrew Cockburn’s article in Counterpunch.
- “War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think” , 13 May 2008 — About Philip Giraldi’s 9 May story in The American Conservative (see below).
- The most expensive psy-war campaign – ever! , 13 July 2008
- ISIS: “Can Military Strikes Destroy Iran’s Gas Centrifuge Program? Probably Not.”, 8 August 2008
Here is the full archive of posts about a possible strike at Iran by Israel or the US.