Thursday, March 22, 2007

“Loose lips sink ships” was a popular slogan during World War II, a reminder that misplaced words could help the enemy. But the reverse is also true: Purposely placed words can sink the enemy’s ships.

At a time when President Bush keeps reminding Iran that “all options are on the table,” a group opposed to the regime reveals new information on the Islamic republic’s involvement in Iraq.

An Iranian opposition group says Iran’s al-Quds force is heavily involved in training Iraqi death squads and militias. The latest reports from the Mujaheedin-e-Khalq, or the MeK, accuse the Iranian regime of secretly engaging in “the organization and training of large Iraqi terrorist networks in Iran and sending them back to Iraq.”

The group opposed to the ruling clergy in Tehran says Iran’s ultimate goal is to destabilize Iraq, forcing U.S. troops to leave the country, thus paving the way for the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iraq.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian opposed to the current regime in Tehran, divulged in New York Tuesday information he received from sources inside Iran — mainly from the MeK — with which he enjoys close ties. The MeK is lobbying hard to get off Washington’s list of terrorist organizations and recently released a list of nearly 32,000 Iraqis on Tehran’s payroll, including senior Iraqi government officials.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force has allocated several bases in the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Qom, Isfahan, as well as provinces near Iraqi borders, such as Kermanshah, Ilam, Kurdistan and Khuzestan — using veteran commanders — to train death squads and terrorist networks, the Iranian dissident said.

These individuals travel to Iran in different groups, under different covers and use various legal and illegal borders, and go back to Iraq after their training is complete. According to information obtained by the MeK, since February 2006 Iraqi militias affiliated with the Quds Force, such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — SCIRI — the Badr Corps, Hezbollah, Islamic Revolution Mujahideen, and Seyyed-ol-Shohada Movement have traveled to Iran in groups and are trained in various camps of the Quds Force.

The training includes urban guerrilla warfare, instruction on using light and semi-heavy weapons, mortars, missiles, sniping techniques, explosives and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.

Still, Mr. Jafarzadeh says, the Iraqi militias are trained under the command of IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Shahlaei, a Quds Force veteran commander in the Ramezan base. Information from the MeK in Iran indicates the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps operates a number of secret bases where Iraqi terrorists are trained.

Among them are the Imam Ali Base in northern Tehran’s Alborz-kooh Street, north of Saad-abad Palace. South of this base is another IRGC base called “Al-Zahra,” designed to train women. The MeK says: “There are many veteran instructors in Imam Ali base, with extensive experience in terrorist activities. The base is under the command of a Revolutionary Guard officer named Hossein Lotfi.”

Trainees are divided into small groups of eight. Each group has two trainers, an Iranian and a Lebanese member of Hezbollah. The training lasts 20 days. The personnel are instructed not to speak to anyone about training Arabs.

Several groups from SCIRI traveled from Sadr City near Baghdad to train in October 2006, according to Mr. Jafarzadeh. This base has been the IRGC’s main location for training foreign terrorists. In the past, the Imam Ali base was used to train terrorists; it is now reserved exclusively to train Iraqi militias.

Hezbollah Base in Jalilabad, Varamin, has been used by al-Quds Force to prepare Iraqi volunteers. An al-Quds Force commander named “Fouad” is the liaison officer. Two of the foreign trainers are named “Khalili” and “Vajih,” Iraqis who lived in Iran for years and are employed by the Quds Force. On Jan. 2, a group of 50 Iraqis from Sadr City completed their training and returned to Iraq.

The MeK reports that Abu Ahmad al-Ramisi, a former commander of the Badr Corps, has infiltrated the Iraqi government. He also goes by the Iranian name Muhammad Ali Hessani. Employed by the IRGC since 1986, he was dispatched in April 2003 to Iraq, where he became commander of the Badr forces in Al-Muthanna Province. He is presently governor of Al-Muthanna Province.

The list goes on: Bahonar Base in Karaj is another site for training Iraqi militias sent to this base in groups of 50 from Tehran. Their training lasts 30 days. Several groups have been trained in this camp since October 2006.

Bahonar Base is one of the most important training bases for foreign fighters. The operations and information about the trainees are strictly confidential. The training is organized so the trainees have the least possible information about each other. In this base are taught the principles of urban guerrilla warfare, deception and coverup, methods and tactics for collecting intelligence, various weapons training, body-building and working with explosives.

The MeK network inside Iran has proven accurate in the past, exposing Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program by revealing the nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002.

It is still worth remembering the reverse logic of the famous WWII slogan. In other words, proceed with care. Those rooting for a U.S.-Iranian military confrontation may end up sinking both ships.

Claude Salhani is international editor for United Press International.

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