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Inside the Ring

Iranian terrorism

Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, chief spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, revealed this week the extensive Iranian government involvement in arming terrorists in Iraq through Lebanese Hezbollah proxies.

"The reality of this is they're not only killing American forces, they're killing Iraqis, they're killing Iraqi security forces, and they are disrupting the stability in Iraq, and it's a concern for the government of Iraq, for the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people, that they would expect their neighbor to play a more helpful and less damaging role in their country," Gen. Bergner told reporters.

The Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists train groups of 20 to 60 Iraqi terrorists in Iran, he said.

An Iranian opposition group in Paris provided additional information from its sources on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force activities in Iraq.

Shahin Gobadi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran said at least six Qods Force terrorists are based at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. The group also identified three IRGC camps training Iraqi terrorists near Tehran.

The council is viewed by the State Department as a front for the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a Marxist, nationalist and Islamist group that was listed as a terrorist organization because of its attacks on Iran. The council, however, provided the credible information in 2002 on Iran's illicit nuclear-arms program.

The six Qods Force terrorists are working with Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, and are posing as "consultants" to the ambassador, he said. They are involved in supervising the shipment of weapons and ammunition, including deadly shaped-charge penetrating bombs, Mr. Gobadi said. Other arms being smuggled in to the Iraqi terrorists are mortars, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank rockets and sniper rifles, he said.

The opposition group also has identified Qods Force bases near the Iran-Iraq border, and said the Iranian Embassy and Qods Force terrorists are linked to the Shi'ite Badr Brigade death squads in Iraq. The Qods Force leaders are using diplomatic cover to work with pro-Iranian political parties in Iraq.

Gen. Bergner said Monday that the Iranian paramilitary Qods Force has been supporting terrorists engaged in bombings, kidnappings, extortion, sectarian slayings, illegal arms trafficking and other attacks against Iraqi citizens, police, army and coalition forces and that Iranians are spending $750,000 to $3 million a month to back the insurgents.

The goal of the Qods Force is to set up terrorist networks in Iraq that are similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Gen. Bergner said.

China's missile sub

Google Earth commercial satellite imagery has provided the second published photo of China's newest ballistic-missile submarine, labeled the Jin-class by the Pentagon and Type 094 by the Chinese.

The photo shows the new submarine moored at the Xiaopingdao submarine base south of Dalian, about 193 miles north of Qingdao on China's coast. It was first disclosed yesterday by the Federation of American Scientists.

The satellite photo confirms the features of the new submarine that were revealed in a photo first posted on a Chinese Web site in August.

The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) disclosed earlier this year that China is building five missile submarines to be deployed with the new JL-2 long-range nuclear missiles.

The five new missile submarines will "provide more redundancy and capacity for a near-continuous at-sea SSBN presence," the ONI said, which noted that sea trials for some of the submarines are under way and the first deployments could begin as early as next year.

Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the new submarines could increase China's strategic arsenal by 576 warheads.

"That would be mighty impressive if true, but then we have no way of verifying such statements," he said. "We can no longer base U.S. security on Chinese statements about their 'limited development' of nuclear weapons."

Mr. Fisher said the danger is that China will outfit the new JL-2s with multiple warheads that would require a U.S. and allied nuclear response.

Nuclear messages

International radio operators picked up large numbers of coded Air Force communications being sent around the world on June 26 that indicated some type of military activity was about to take place.

A U.S. military official said the radio traffic was monitored from the Air Force Global High Frequency System (GHFS) that some observers regarded as "extraordinary" because of the unprecedented length of messages. They were sent to Air Force commanders at Andrews Air Force Base; Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island; Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Lajes Field in the Azores; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Salinas Air Base, Puerto Rico; Thule Air Base, Greenland; and Yokota Air Base, Japan. All are sites of GHFS ground stations.

The messages appeared to be emergency action messages, coded communications sent by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to U.S. Air Force strategic nuclear forces.

The messages sent June 26 included 174 characters, much longer than normal 30-character messages, and amateur radio monitors say they have not seen the size of this message since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Air Force Maj. Tom Knowles, a U.S. Strategic Command spokesman, said there were no large-scale exercises going on that would account for what were likely "routine" messages.

"We routinely exercise that capability to make sure of the readiness of our forces," he said.

A retired Air Force general said the strategic nuclear forces also dispatch command action messages that are part of a nuclear command system that requires force commanders to respond within two minutes.

c Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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