Ready to jump-start a massive new terror campaign in the Middle East, al Qods Brigades' covert terror-cum-espionage networks are in the process of being pulled out of their hidden foreign bases and relocated on the borders of Middle East countries, Iran and Afghanistan.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly military and counter-terrorism sources report that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the al-Quds commander, Gen. Qassem Suleimani, to effect this redeployment.
The Afghanistan networks were therefore planted near its borders with Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan; from inside Kuwait, they were moved to the emirate's borders with Saudi Arabia and Iraq; in Lebanon, they were relocated to the Israeli and Syrian borders and in Yemen and Sudan, the Al-Qods Brigades networks were shifted to face Saudi Arabia and Egypt, respectively.
This redeployment had two objects:
1. Iranian forces have been placed in position for rapid action in targeted countries on both sides of each of those borders. It therefore signals that the Baghdad massacre of Aug. 19 (see previous article) was merely the opening shot for an overall Iranian campaign of retaliatory terror across the Middle East in the event of US, Israel, Egyptian or Saudi actions against the Islamic Republic.
Tehran is preparing to embark on an aggressive pre-emptive policy against the US, Israel and its Arab neighbors on the principle of “strike before you are struck.”
2. As in the Baghdad attack, Iran hopes to keep its fingerprints on the campaign invisible, even though large units will be thrown into each operation.
A full-blown military contingent behind enemy lines
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that Al Qods has committed 60-70,000 men to the campaign, divided into five to seven divisions.
Al Qods' headquarters, logistics departments and training wing are housed in special facilities in central and western Iran. Their training techniques are regarded as among the most advanced of any undercover world agency. Handpicked operatives from overseas attend its courses, among them Afghans, Baluchis, Shia Pakistanis, Hizballah members, Saudis, Egyptians, and Palestinians, who return to their countries after graduating to join local networks there.
The training center also holds specialist courses for Iranian terrorists to study the language and mores of their countries of operation, much like the legendary FBI courses which trained agents to melt into enemy habitat. Some are taught to speak American-accented English and able to masquerade as native Americans in the US or as GIs posted overseas, or idiomatic Hebrew to pass as IDF soldiers living in Israel. These are the al Qods elite units.
The Brigades maintain at least 14 regional headquarters in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Asia, Africa, West Europe, East Europe, the Caspian and Central Asia. They have divided the West European headquarters into sub-arenas of special interest in the UK, France, Germany and Spain but, interestingly, have not set up specific units for Russia or China.
Their overseas units are well-equipped with technological devices for communications, decryption and surveillance.
Outside Iran, they also own civilian aircraft and ships, including speed yachts for transferring operatives from place to place. These fleets are kept handy for use at many points in the Persian Gulf, Pakistan and Lebanon.
At home base, al Qods runs labs for forging passports, documents and cash.
Even the al Qods budget is a close secret
The al Qods commander-in-chief Gen. Suleimani and his operational staff prefer to work under cover outside Iran in close proximity to the currently active arena. At different times, he has indeed been sighted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and some Gulf emirates.
The size of their annual budget is a well-kept secret; it is kept separate from that of the Revolutionary Guards. Expenditure is approved at private interviews between the C-in-C and the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly intelligence sources say that neither the Americans nor the Iraqis should have been surprised to find Iran's hand behind the Baghdad attacks or the al Qods redeployment, because they were given due warning.
The head of Iraq's National Intelligence Service, Gen. Mohammed al-Shehwani – who is considered one of the brightest and most innovative brain in the agencies combating Iran in the Middle East – warned trouble was afoot as early as June, when the post-election riots were at their peak in Tehran.
He predicted that the Iranian regime would try and extricate itself from the crisis by deploying al Qods resources to their fullest extent as never before. After all, the Brigades were created for the very purpose of shoring up the Islamic regime against all hazards.
But his warning fell on deaf ears in Washington, among US intelligence experts in Iraq and in Baghdad, among Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's advisers.
Why did al-Maliki “kill the messenger?”
Gen. Al-Shehwani emphasized in his briefings at the time to the Americans and Iraqi government heads that the al Qods Brigades were gearing up for broad action with new tactics.
No longer limiting cooperation to local Shiite extremists, they were now spending heavily on hiring Sunni elements, including al Qaeda, one of their devices for covering up Iranian tracks after attacks and in the long-term, buying the sympathies of the large Sunni Muslim populations in places like Egypt and Northern Lebanon.
Maliki did not quite kill the messenger but retired him.
Monday, Aug. 24, the Iraqi prime minister asked for a secret cabinet decision to pension Gen. Shehwani off on the grounds of age and longevity (six years) at the head of the same department.
Some US intelligence quarters suspect that the Iranians ordered Maliki to let the general go because he was too close to the US Central Intelligence Agency. According to this view, the Iraqi prime minister is now totally subservient to Tehran and follows orders unquestionably.
Middle East observers question this view. Had Maliki been their stooge, the Iranians would hardly have carried out a massive terrorist attack in Baghdad, whose main effect was to undermine him.
Furthermore, certain incidents this week indicate that Saudi Arabia is reconsidering its total hostility to the Shiite prime minister in Baghdad. Riyadh's favor would never be extended to an Iranian puppet.