US President George W. Bush and his speechwriters may not have bargained on his call for reforms in Tehran on July 13 precipitating full-scale preparations for a war of terror against the United States. But for the Islamic Republic of Iran, the tinderbox of the past is never far below the surface.
Its founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, knew that Iran’s military had no chance in a face-to-face battlefield showdown with “Big Satan” – or even to pose a real threat to US naval and air forces in the Persian Gulf. Yet Islamic Iran has gained the upper hand in every confrontation with America since the rise of the Shi’ite revolution in 1979, ever since the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the seizure of Western hostages in Lebanon in the 1980s.
The ayatollahs’ answer to American might was and is terror. In an asymmetrical campaign, Khomeini’s disciples believe they can cut down Washington’s military and technological preponderance as well as overcoming the innate weakness of the Iranian regime, while yet leaving Iran’s armed forces intact.
The two high-level state councils summoned hurriedly into session the day after the Bush speech (See first article in this issue: Next in Line after Iraq?) formulated a detailed plan of campaign in the face of a potential American attack.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Tehran report the main steps they approved:
A. To block the Strait of Hormuz. This mission was entrusted to the Iranian Navy, which is under the command of the Revolutionary Guards.
B. To set fire to all or a large number of Persian Gulf oil fields, including those of Saudi Arabia. This task will be assigned to special Marine units of the Revolutionary Guards stationed on the Iranian islands of Bandar Abbas and offshore Kish. They are trained as naval commandos and equipped with fast missile craft.
Those Marine units will also be called upon to strike at US aircraft carriers and warships sailing the Persian Gulf or docked in its ports. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources add the same units will use their fast boats and helicopters to sow the waterway with large quantities of mines.
The Iranian defense minister, Revolutionary Guards Admiral Aly Shakhmanei, has been given supreme command of terrorist- sabotage operations at sea. The navy is the only arm of the Iranian military controlled by a body outside the formal military hierarchy – the Revolutionary Guards.
C. To attack strategic targets, airports, financial and business centers and military installations in the United States.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources, some 800,000 Iranians now live in the United States. Ninety-five percent oppose the Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran, but five percent – a little more than 30,000 people, including some 5,000 agents in clandestine cells — are loyal partisans of the revolution. Some of these sleeper agents are trained for terrorist operations.
D. Radiological, or so-called dirty, bombs will be used for attacks in the United States. From the early 1990s, Tehran has stepped up their manufacture, with the help of nuclear devices purchased from stockpiles left by the defunct Soviet Union in Central Asia and the Ukraine.
Our intelligence sources estimate Iran’s stock of radiological bombs – between eight and 12 – as the largest of any entity in the fundamentalist Moslem world. They believe that three or four of these devices were smuggled into the United States even before the September 11 attacks and are now in the hands of Iranian sleeper cells.
Former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati will coordinate terrorist operations in the United States.
E. A general, global call-up of all Hizballah cells in the Far East, Africa, the Middle East, South America and Europe to join the worldwide Iranian terror campaign.
Former interior minister Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pour, will oversee Hizballah’s activities.
F. To launch a worldwide recruitment drive for Muslim volunteers similar to the American campaign in the 1980s, which bolstered Mujahideen fighting strength against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan. By the end of the year, 500 training camps will be waiting to absorb Muslim student recruits from around the world, especially from Arab countries.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports that the two biggest camp complexes are to be located near Zahedan, the capital of Iranian Baluchistan, and at Mazanderm on the Caspian shore. Recruits will be instructed in Islamic doctrine and receive rudimentary weapons and explosives training. Top achievers will be singled out for the Revolutionary Guards’ special units or terrorist networks.
G. Palestinians will be co-opted to Iran’s battle plans. At the secret session, former president Rafsanjani declared that the Palestinians must not be allowed to confine their Intifada to Israel and the West Bank. Large numbers of Palestinians the world over should make their logistical capabilities and fighting zeal available to the Islamic cause.
After the conference, Mohtashami-Pour called the Iranian judiciary chairman, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi who was visiting Damascus, instructing him to call at once on Syrian president Bashar Assad and talk to Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
According to our sources, Shahroudi was told to test Syria’s willingness to join forces with Iran’s campaign of terror outside the Middle East and order Nasrallah to place Hizballah’s international agents, especially in the United States, at Iran’s disposal in an emergency.
Assad received the Iranian emissary promptly, but was cool to his request. The Syrian president affirmed his government’s ideological solidarity with Tehran but declined any direct involvement in its war of terror. At the same time, he would not object to Iranian contacts, or cooperation, with Palestinian terrorist groups based in Damascus or Lebanon. Neither would Damascus interfere in the operational links between Tehran and the Hizballah.
Monday night, July 15, Shahroudi had a long talk with Nasrallah, urging him to draw up a detailed plan for the recruitment of Muslim fighting strength in Lebanon and elsewhere. Citing the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Turkey, north and south Iraq and Chechnya, Shahroudi demanded that the sleeper cells Hizballah had planted so carefully around the world be woken up.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources, Shahroudi then had a secret conversation with Imad Mughniyeh, meeting him in southern Lebanon because the arch-terrorist does not feel safe in Beirut. That encounter held the key to the terror campaign Tehran means to unleash in America, because Mughniyeh is one of only three people at the top of the Iranian terrorist chain of command with an exact map of the locations of every Iranian terrorist cell in the United States. US and other intelligence services, including Israel’s, conversant with the Iranian terrorist structure in the United States, believe those cells are currently concentrated in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle and Houston.