All Aboard! – Not Least al Qaeda – in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian Gaza and Yemen

A senior US officer in Baghdad put it in a nutshell:

“Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq. They are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guards who are connected right to the top of the Iranian government.”

US commanders, he said, are bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents to Tehran’s Shiite militia allies.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources report that exactly the same statement could have come from Israeli, Lebanese and Yemeni military leaders this week, because Tehran’s summer proxy offensive is already in full swing in at least five parts of the Middle East: Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Yemen.

The common factor is Tehran, although the proxy names might vary: For Iraqi Sunni insurgents, read Hamas in Gaza or the Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon; for Tehran’s Shiite militia allies in Iraq, read the Palestinian Jihad Islami. For Iraq’s Sunni insurgents, read the Yemeni Shiite-Zaidi rebel sect whose leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi is linked to both Tehran and al Qaeda.

But al Qaeda is a constant element in the proxy war Tehran is waging this summer.

As in Iraq, Iran has used middlemen, Syria and the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami, to raise a ragbag al Qaeda army of Sudanese, Egyptian, Saudi, Yemeni, Iraqi and North African mujahiddin to help fight its wars.

By deploying proxies, Iran can for the time being hold the bulk of its military might in reserve for future contingencies, such as an American military attack.

In Iraq, Iran’s main combat units and Revolutionary Guards are absent from the fray; they are drilling and getting ready for a decision in Tehran to invade Iraq, in the event of a US invasion of their country.

Our military sources report that, according to Iran’s contingency plans, the first US special force that steps on Iranian soil will be countered instantly by triple Iranian marine landings in southern, central and northern Iraq. For the time being, Tehran looks on as Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda join forces with Shiite militias manipulated from Tehran to attack US troops.


Target: Chasing UNIFIL out of South Lebanon


In Lebanon, the predominant Iranian surrogate, Hizballah, heavily armed now with the latest medium-range surface rockets, and anti-air and shore-to-sea missiles, stays out of the clashes between the Lebanese army and the radical pro-al Qaeda Fatah al-Islam in the northern town of Tripoli and the nearby Nahar al-Barad and Al Zabadni refugee camps. Iran and Syria have deployed a special mixed bag of fighters to terrorize Beirut and bring the Lebanese army low.

This bloody contest is pivotal for the future of Fouad Siniora‘s pro-Western government in Beirut and its authority outside the capital. Defeat in the north will strip the Lebanese army of any standing in the south. The UN peacekeeping force will be stranded there with two tough options: take on the Hizballah or else terminate its observer mission in South Lebanon, which is exactly what Iran is after. The disappearance of European military and naval contingents from the South will leave Israel eyeball to eyeball with Hizballah. US forces in Iraq will also be exposed to a threat from the rear.

In Gaza, a full-scale war is unfolding against Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Stacked against them are Tehran’s obedient pawns, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the Popular Resistance Committees. A hodgepodge of radical Palestinian “Fronts” whose headquarters are located in Damascus and al Qaeda-Palestine are happy to jump in.

Tehran has three strategic objectives for Gaza:

1. A second downfall for Israel and its armed forces less than a year of their severe setbacks in the Summer 2006 Lebanon War.

2. A second Iranian base of operations in the Gaza Strip after Lebanon on the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. From a foothold on this tiny 365 sq. km. strip, Tehran can command Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Suez Canal and its northern entrance. The Iranians can not only beleaguer Israel but deliver a strategic and intelligence comeuppance to Cairo for venturing to assume the role of supreme Arab power in the Gaza Strip.

3. To take Saudi King Abdullah down a peg for the sin of orchestrating Palestinian reconciliation accords in Mecca to pluck Hamas from Iran’s sphere of influence in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. The outbreak of violence in Gaza has scuttled the Saudi plan.


Target: Beleaguering Israel on four fronts


4. To transpose the winning side in Gaza to the West Bank and consolidate its grip there at the expense of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah. This would ensconce Iran and its cat’s paws in position for beleaguering and waging war on Israel from four fronts – Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

Washington and the US war planners are withholding action to anticipate the Iranian offensive in Lebanon and Gaza and also Iraq. Indeed the Bush administration is keeping the pro-Western governments of Fouad Siniora and Ehud Olmert in check to deter them from definitive military operations against the pro-Iranian forces. Their inadequacies in the face of aggression place both in embarrassing straits at home.

In Yemen, however, the Bush administration has pushed the central government into a frontal attack on rebel forces armed and aided by Tehran. For five months, scarcely noticed by the world media, President Abdallah Salah’s troops have been engaged in mortal combat with the Zaidi-Shiite sect headed by Abdul Malik al-Houthi, who is notorious for his ties to al Qaeda and Tehran alike.

American and Saudi special forces are directly involved in this conflict, either in combat or as military advisers to the Yemeni army. Yet Abdullah’s forces are falling back against the advancing Tehran-backed insurgents and Iran is gaining ground along Saudi Arabia’s southern border as well as a foothold on the Gulf of Aden within reach of a commanding position on the strategic Straits of Bab al-Mandeb, the point where the Gulf of Aden flows into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

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