Iran, Russia, and some damn thing in the Balkans

October 24, 2014
Bosnia-map

Bosnia

There are a couple of must-read articles today at XX Committee (1), both dealing with Iran’s schemes against the West. This first details Iran’s growing activities in Bosnia and Central Europe, where they have been working to cultivate Muslim extremists since Yugoslavia broke up. Note especially that Shiite Iran is quite happy to cooperate with Sunni jihadists, when the target is the “main enemy” — us and Europe. Here’s an excerpt:

…Iran has a considerable espionage base in Bosnia, which they view as a safe haven for their secret operations in the rest of Europe. Of greatest concern are the detectable ties between Iranian intelligencers and Salafi jihadist groups in Bosnia, some of which operate more or less openly (Sunni-Shia disputes notwithstanding, Tehran is happy to arm, train and equip Salafi jihadists, and nowhere more than Bosnia, where they have been doing that for over two decades). This Tehran-Sarajevo spy-terror nexus cannot be divorced from radical activities in Vienna, since Austria’s capital in many ways is the de facto capital of Salafi jihadism in Southeastern Europe, as well as a major playground for Iranian spies. These form an extended web of malevolence that stretches across Eastern and Central Europe.

…and…

Of particular concern is the large number of Iranian intelligence fronts operating in Bosnia that provide cover for operations and funding of terrorists and radicals: NGOs, charities of various sorts, and schools. For the Pasdaran, its most important cut-outs in Bosnia are the “Ibn Sina” Research Institute and the Persian-Bosnian College, but there is a long list of Iranian-linked fronts in the country (my analysis of these and how they provide cover for VEVAK and Pasdaran is here) that play an important role in Tehran’s secret war in Europe.

Should the West ever come to blows with Iran over its nuclear program, don’t doubt for a moment that the mullahs would use these assets to strike back violently in Europe.

Then Mr. Schindler also broke news today of a major Iranian-Russian intelligence cooperation agreement, aimed, of course, at us and the Israelis:

An indication of how cozy things are getting between Moscow and Tehran came this week with a visit to Iran by Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s National Security Council, who met with Iranian counterparts to discuss mutual threats. As Patrushev explained, “Iran has been one of Russia’s key partners in the region and it will remain so in future … [we] have similar and close views on many key regional issues and we had a serious exchange of views on the situation in Syria, Iraq and Libya.”

But this was not just a diplomatic gab fest. In the first place, Patrushev is a career intelligence officer and one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest confidants. A career counterintelligence officer with the Leningrad KGB, just like Putin, Patrushev served as head of the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) from 1999 to 2008, leaving that position to take over the National Security Council.

As you’ll discover in the article, Mr. Patrushev is not a friend of the United States. For him, the Cold War is still very warm. Continuing:

Now, however, a full intelligence alliance has been agreed to. As a Russian report on Patrushev’s visit explained:

“The events in Syria and Iraq, where contacts between the Russian and Iranian special services have not only been resumed but have also proven their mutually advantageous nature, particularly in assessing the threats and plans of local bandit formations, both “secular” and Islamist, with respect to Russian facilities in Tartus in Syria, have impelled Moscow and Tehran to the idea of the need to formalize these contacts in the shape of a permanently operating mechanism. Russian special services also valued the volume of information, voluntarily conveyed by Iran to our specialists, on the potential activity of the Israeli Air Force against the Russian humanitarian convoys to Syria in the period of the sharp aggravation of the situation in that country in the summer of last year.”

Let there be no doubt that this new espionage alliance is aimed directly at the United States and Israel. As the report added, “the Iranians are prepared to provide Russia on a permanent basis with information on American military activity in the Persian Gulf obtained from their own technical intelligence facilities” — in other words, the Russians and Iranians will be sharing SIGINT, the most sensitive of all forms of intelligence gathering.

As Mr. Schindler likes to say, there is a “secret war” going on against us and our allies, one which our enemies seem to be fighting better than we do. Now that Iran and Russia have buried the hatchet, their cooperation will likely pose us serious problems and threats, not just in the Middle East, but also in Europe, where Russia maintains significant intelligence operations.

Our enemies have stepped up our game; I wish I had faith our current leadership could do the same.

Footnote:
(1) Frankly, one can say that about all Mr. Schindler’s posts.


Bosnia and the Global Jihad Revisited

August 23, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

I find it amazing that so many policy-makers have been in denial about the truth in Bosnia: that Saudi and Iranian money and proselytizers have been working for decades to radicalize Islam in that region and create a base for jihad — in Europe’s heartland. Self-delusion is a powerful thing.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

Back in 2007, my book Unholy Terror ruffled quite a few feathers by pointing out the unpleasant truth that, in the 1990s, Bosnia-Hercegovina became a jihadist playground and a major venue for Al-Qa’ida, thanks to malign Saudi and Iranian influences. This was off-message, to put it mildly, to critics eager to defend failed Western (especially American) policies in the Balkans, as well as the usual coterie of jihad fellow-travelers and Useful Idiots, plus those eager, for personal reasons, not to have anyone look too deeply into where Saudi money goes in Europe.

However, my essential message — that Islamist extremism, though a largely imported phenomenon in Bosnia, has put down local roots and is likely to metastasize further due to that country’s intractable socio-economic problems — has been proven sadly accurate over the last seven years. For years, the debate over Islamism in Bosnia, and Southeastern Europe generally, was divided…

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Who finances Hamas’s rockets?

July 14, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Almost anywhere you look in Mideast terrorism, you find the fingerprints of Iran.

Originally posted on Money Jihad:

Short answer: Iran.

Iran manufactures missiles, loads them up at its Bandar Abbas port, ships them to Sudan, where they are transported by ground to the Sinai for final transfer through smuggling tunnels to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Smuggling was rampant particularly when the Muslim Brotherhood controlled Egypt under Muhammad Morsi, making a significant contribution to Hamas’s 10,000 missile stockpile. “Under Morsi it was almost a highway,” said one observer.

Shorter-range missiles are built in Gaza itself. Technical expertise lent by Iran is helping develop Hamas’s homegrown rocket program, although even as recently as two years ago one analyst observed that Hamas lacks the capacity within Gaza to build a banana plantation, much less a missile factory.

Some missiles, such as the M-302, are manufactured by Syria “under license” from China, which designed it. Assad would not be able to produce these weapons or remain…

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Gaza air raids a message from Israel to Iran

July 10, 2014
x

Memo to the mullahs

Photo credit: PressTV

For the last three days, Israel has been launching air raids against Hamas targets in Gaza in retaliation for the murder of three Israeli teens (one an American citizen) and the hundreds of rockets fired at Israelis towns and cities — and at a nuclear plant. (1)

But Hamas isn’t the sole target of these attacks. Writing at National Review, analyst Tom Rogan points out that Iran and its increasingly likely acquisition of nuclear weapons, and the destabilizing consequences of that for the region, are very much on Jerusalem’s mind, even as they battle Hamas. And so the heavy air assaults on Gaza are also a message to Tehran:

Meeting Hamas and [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] rocket teams with decisive force, Netanyahu hopes to signal Israel’s unwillingness to cede its traditional security supremacy. This intent is encapsulated in Israel’s mobilization of ground-force deployments: Netanyahu seems determined to take major risks in pursuit of grand strategic objectives (in this case, the military dismemberment of Hamas). Nevertheless, Israeli operations in Gaza aren’t solely about damaging Hamas. They’re also about broadcasting specific capabilities. In this regard, the scale of Israel Defense Forces air sorties in Gaza has been notable. Advertising its conducting of hundreds of missions each night, the IDF is demonstrating its capability for large-scale operations: the kind of air campaign necessary to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Here, Netanyahu wants Iran to understand his willingness to gamble — even at potentially high cost. By extension, Netanyahu is also warning U.S., European, and Russian diplomats that he won’t accept any deal with Iran that he regards as weak.

Emphasis added.

It would be much better for the region and the world if this message were sent in conjunction with American and European efforts to encourage and support the opposition to the mullahcracy, a brittle, vulnerable regime that fears its own people. What worked against the Soviet empire –a clear willingness to defend oneself coupled with measures to support dissidents– would surely work here.

But, as our foreign policy under Obama is a feckless wreck that sees a diminution of American power as something desirable, while administration officials simultaneously urge restraint on Israel and praise allies of Hamas, Prime Minister Netanyahu is left on his own to make sure Ayatollah Khamenei gets the message loud and clear:

“Don’t push us.”

PS: Yes, a Palestinian teen was murdered, probably in retaliation for the killing of the three Jewish teens. But note the difference: the evening of the day the boy’s body was found, Netanyahu was publicly denouncing the killing and calling for a swift investigation. Six Jewish Israelis have been arrested as suspects, and the nation is horrified. What was the reaction in Hamas-controlled Gaza to the kidnapping of the three Jewish teens? People handed out candy in celebration. You tell me who the real savages are.

Footnote:
(1) Unbelievably idiotic. Last I checked, radioactive fallout didn’t discriminate between Muslim and Jew.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Benghazi massacre an Iranian operation?

June 23, 2014
Qassem Suleymani

Qassem Suleymani

That’s the assertion of journalist Kenneth Timmerman in a forthcoming book, “Dark Forces.” In a summary article in the New York Post, Timmerman discusses Qassem Suleymani, the head of Quds Force, Iran’s external special operations forces that have conducted operations against us in Iraq and Afghanistan, helped establish Hizbullah, and carried out terrorist strikes around the world. He then talks about Iran’s concern over our presence in Benghazi, where we were monitoring jihadist groups (and, according to rumor, shipping guns to the Syrian rebels, who were fighting Iran’s client, President Assad), groups that Iran, per Timmerman’s sources, had a hand in creating and supporting. The Iranians were so concerned, in fact, that Suleymani set up an operation in which a Quds Force hit team, disguised as Red Crescent workers, were to kidnap Ambassador Stevens and destroy the CIA annex in Benghazi. The idea was to hit us hard to prove to Washington that there was no safe place for American personnel in the Middle East.

Trouble was, from the Iranian point of view, we were intercepting their communications, knew when the hit team arrived, and had them followed by Libyan militia members in our pay. That’s when things got weird:

Then at 1 in the morning, it happened.

All of a sudden, the deputy chief jumped up from where he had been dozing off. His guys were going nuts.

The ruckus got the chief’s attention. “What’s going on? What are they saying?” he asked.

The deputy translated the excited shrieks from the trackers. It seemed the Red Crescent team had been headed back to the Tibesti Hotel when they were ambushed by a half dozen Toyota pickups with .50-caliber machine guns mounted on the beds.

The militia guys forced the Iranians to get out, cuffed them, then bundled them into a pair of Jeep Cherokees and sped off.

Our guys decided it was more prudent not to follow them, he said.

So they’re gone, the chief said. That’s it. Kidnapped.

Based on information that came in later, the station chief and his deputy assumed the Iranians had been kidnapped in some Sunni-Shia dispute and were being held until they could be shipped back to Tehran.

But, what they didn’t know, per Timmerman’s sources, is that the Iranians were intercepting the CIA annex’s communications and knew we were on to them, so they staged the kidnapping of their team as a bluff, to make us think their operation was thwarted by sectarian rivalries. And it worked; the CIA station chief and his deputy bought it. In other words, we knew what the Iranians were up to, they knew we knew, but we didn’t know that they knew we knew. And that allowed them to play us for suckers, get us off our guard, and for their proxies in Ansar al Sharia (again, per Timmerman) to carry out the attacks on September, 2012. Which, by the way, the Iranians had changed to a straight “kill the ambassador” operation, since we had blown the cover of their original kidnapping squad.

Is it true? The trouble with Timmerman’s account is that it relies on anonymous sources. That’s not surprising in intelligence work, but it makes it impossible for the average person to verify.

On the other hand, I do find it at least plausible. The Iranians have considered themselves at war with us since 1979, a war we’ve only fitfully recognized. They were responsible for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and there’s widespread opinion that they were somehow involved in the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 (1). Iran has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, via the IEDs they supplied their proxies in both places. That a commander as daring and dedicated to his cause as Qassem Suleymani appears to be might order a hit on his enemy’s embassy is not outside the bounds of reason, however.

I suppose, until and if the Iranian government falls and their records become available, this will remain one of the mysteries of the shadow war between the US and Iran.

Footnote:
(1) This was later also attributed to al Qaeda, but there’s nothing that says Iran and bin Laden couldn’t have been working together.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


(Video) Hitler and Chamberlain, Putin and Obama

June 2, 2014

Obama as Chamberlain

(Photo via Israel Matzav)

I’ve been saying for years, almost since the Jihadi War began, that the state of international relations gives me a “1930s vibe,” a feeling that we may be on a path toward another World War. That feeling has come and gone as the years passed, as I’m sure it did for those living in the 30s, but it’s never quite gone away. In fact, Russia’s predatory moves toward Ukraine have brought that feeling roaring back, the parallels being striking.

Bill Whittle has noticed the same trends and, in this video for Truth Revolt, compares a lion, a bear, and two lambs:

But it’s not Russia that worries me most, unless it’s in combination with other powers. Russia is a dying state, its demographic trends signalling serious future decline. Its military, outside of special elite units, just isn’t all that good, and, while they’ve made steps to rebuild, they’re still  a long way off. (They had trouble mobilizing the limited forces they used to assault Georgia in 2008.) Their economy is far too dependent on natural resources, especially oil, but Russian oil is notoriously expensive to extract. Fracking technology in the West promises to cut the legs out from under Putin and his successors as it drives the price of oil and gas down, making Russia’s less marketable.

China concerns me more: a rising power with a strong hyper-nationalist faction, an aggressive foreign policy, and a strong sense of (as Bill notes about Russia) historical grievance. Some incident in the South or East China Seas could easily be the spark for a major conflagration.

And then there’s Iran: a fascist theocracy that has promised to destroy Israel and is desperately seeking its own nuclear weapons to do just that.

We face a bear, a dragon, and a lion, while we are lead by lambs.

Yep. I have a bad feeling about this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Why Iran’s mullahs should never have nuclear weapons

May 12, 2014

x

In the words of Bret Stephens below in the Prager University video, we must never allow Iran to get “the bomb,” because they are likely to use it:

All of what Stephens says is true, but the key is that the real power in Iran is held by millenarian fanatics who see it as their duty to bring about the Shiite “End Times.” To these people, the temptation to use nuclear weapons in fulfillment of what they see as a religious duty might well be irresistible.

What’s so very frustrating in this situation is that all too many see only a binary choice: either accept Iran as a nuclear power, or preemptively invade the country at a potentially tremendous cost in blood and treasure. There is a third way, though we’ve wasted much time.

My friend Michael Ledeen has often written about the brittleness and vulnerability of the Iranian regime, which lives in desperate fear of the people it rules. (If you’ve read any Iranian history, you’ll know why.) Here’s an example from a recent column:

The wreckage of the Iranian state is not just the result of corruption and incompetence;  it also derives from the intense infighting within the elite.  Unconfirmed stories have appeared in the Iranian press reporting phone taps organized by the Revolutionary Guards Corps against members of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s inner circle, as well as against one another within the Guards.  There are documented fractures within the ranks of Hezbollah.  Assassinations continue apace, as in the case of Mojtaba Ahmadi, the head of the Cyber Army, in October.  The Iranian Embassy in Beirut was bombed in November by a terrorist group the Iranians had actually created.   And, in a telling blow to the regime’s ideology, Christianity is booming, and the regime is resorting to public meetings to warn the people about its dangers.

The regime does not seem to know how to cope with this crisis.  On the one hand, it increases repression.  The tempo of executions has famously increased since Rouhani’s election, and the recent brutality in Evin Prison–discussed by Ben Weinthal–shows that regime leaders are even afraid of prisoners.  For good reason:  last year many leading political prisoners refused to join the regime’s call for easing sanctions, despite torture and isolation.

It’s a hollow regime.  Its internal opponents hold it in contempt and do not fear it, and it is palpably failing.  

Between acquiescence to a nuclear Iran and outright invasion lies the choice of aiding the democratic opposition, which is large and growing. In the 1980s, we undertook a similar program in Poland, aiding the anticommunist resistance both with non-lethal aid (radios, etc.), but also open, loud public support for the rights of the people against the regime they hated. It was part of a broader American-led effort to resist Soviet aggression, and it worked. The fall of Communism in Poland was the crack that eventually lead to the collapse of the whole Soviet Empire.

Something similar could well work in Iran, whose people are desperate for the only genuinely revolutionary nation on the planet to lend its still vast moral authority on behalf of a nation that wants to free themselves from the schemes of the mad mullahs.

We missed a great chance to do this in 2009, when massive street demonstrations brought the regime to the edge of collapse. When the world needed the moral clarity of Ronald Reagan, there was instead the diffidence of Barack Obama.

And now, five years and one farcical agreement later, Iran is that much closer to having a nuclear weapon. We had better hope that they don’t achieve it before 2017, when, we again hope, a new and competent administration comes takes over. One that will not fool itself about the dangers of an Iran with a nuclear bomb.

Because, otherwise, they will use it.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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