Bush Picks up the Alarm Sounded by Jordan’s Intelligence Chief
In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Jan. 23, President George W. Bush spoke emphatically about the radical Shiite threat, which he called second only to that of al Qaeda. He warned Iran against supporting Shiite attacks against Sunnis in Iraq. “Shiite extremists backed by Iran are as determined as their Sunni counterparts to create a Middle East governed by repressive regimes,” he declared.
“The Shiite and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat,” said Bush. “But whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes.”
These words were tantamount to an American declaration of war – not only on the Sunni brand of global terrorism, but the Shiite terrorist machine driven from Tehran as well.
What the US president omitted to mention was the fact that before America invaded Iraq in March 2003 – and removed the Saddam Hussein threat holding Iran’s revolutionaries in check – the clerics of Tehran had made hardly any headway in inculcating the Shiite creed anywhere in the Arab Middle East, aside from its Hizballah surrogate in Lebanon. But today, the Shiites are the ruling force in Baghdad and, for the first time in centuries, command an autonomous armed force.
The rise of Iraq’s Shiites has had the effect of empowering Tehran to use the Shiite communities across the Middle East as stepping stones to attain its long-frustrated imperial ambitions. The ayatollahs are now driving hard to spread the Shiite faith and plant paramilitary and intelligence structures on the Iraqi model in the countries targeted for expansion.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources disclose that the US president was prompted to dwell on the Shiite menace by an alarming intelligence report from Jordan which was placed on his desk a few days before his speech.
The report was drawn up by General Muhammad Zaaby, chief of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) (Dairat al-Mukhabarat al-‘Amma). The GID is the Hashemite kingdom’s leading intelligence agency, charged with investigating threats to national security.
His reports usually make Washington sit up. A highly-accomplished intelligence officer, General Zaaby has the reputation of hitting the nail squarely on the head with the data and analyses he offers – especially on Iraq’s Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda’s activities there and in other parts of the region.
Some of Zaaby’s findings on the methods Iran employs to extend its Shiite thrust have reached DEBKA-Net-Weekly.
More than 800,000 Iraqis live currently in Jordan, half a million of whom are Shiite Muslims. Some are adherents of the ruling Iraqi Shiite parties, SCIRI and a-Dawa, but at least 15,000 have enlisted with bodies created by Iranian intelligence to aggressively disseminate the Shiite creed while operating under cover as paramilitary and intelligence networks.
Ahmed Chalabi pops up as a super-missionary
General Zaaby counted three clandestine groups and described their modes of operation:
1. A small group of Jordanian academics, including doctors, studied or spent short periods in Iran and returned home after secretly converting to Shiite Islam. They brought with them a stock of books, pamphlets and videotapes, all appealing to Sunni Muslims to embrace Shia. This missionary literature was copied by nimble Jordanian tradesmen and has flooded book and newspaper stalls and shops in outlying towns of the Hashemite kingdom – especially Irbid in the north and Salt in the south. These agents are now preparing to push their wares in Amman too.
2. Several thousand of the Iraqi Shiite expatriates who settled in Jordan in the last three years are active Shiite missionaries who have been notably successful in the Palestinian refugee camps of Amman. When Saddam Hussein was hanged on Dec. 30, these Palestinian converts danced in the streets just like the Shiites in other parts of the Arab world.
According to General Zaaby’s intelligence estimates, 150,000 Palestinian families in the Beqaa refugee camp of northern Amman have adopted the Shiite faith.
3. Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, the controversial Iraqi Shiite Ahmed Chalabi, has hitched his horse to Tehran’s wagon. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Chalabi had a successful career as a prominent Iraqi exile who was financially supported by the Bush administration for providing intelligence on the Saddam Hussein regime.
He has a score to settle with Jordan, where he is wanted for financial crimes. Washington dumped him in 2004 after catching him passing to Iranian intelligence American secrets and confidential data on the Baghdad government.
Chalabi is now active in Tehran’s campaign to bring Jordan’s Sunni Muslims into the Shiite fold. Jordanian intelligence estimates that he personally has been responsible for 30,000 conversions. Many were caught in his net in the fallout from the Israel-Hizballah war of July-August 2006. In those months, a sudden peak was registered in the number of Jordanians traveling to Syria. A watch on these travelers found many of them attending the big Shiite mosques in the Syrian capital and undergoing ritual conversions. Iran also paid for them to have a good time in Damascus.
Iran’s Shiite-propelled drive is not limited to conversions.
Tehran is pouring out funds for building mosques and Shiite prayer houses across the Hashemite kingdom. Its agents are seeking out derelict sites and turning them into centers of regional pilgrimage. General Zaaby recounts how a ruin situated on a hill north of Amman was born again overnight as the tomb of the Shiite saint, Jofaar Bin Avi Talb, who is held by Shiite tradition to be the brother of the Caliph Ali (680), founder of the Shiite faith.
Here, there and everywhere in the region
The Jordanian intelligence ace warns that Jordan is falling prey to a witches’ brew made of Iraqi Shiite expatriates, well-organized Shiite missionary-agitprop and Iranian cash. If this brew is allowed to bubble and boil unchecked, the Hashemite kingdom will soon be the home of an armed Shiite movement on the lines of Lebanon’s Hizballah.
Jordan is not the only Sunni Arab nation targeted in this way. According to the Jordanian general, Egypt is another. He estimates that Egypt, which never had a Shiite community, may today have as many as a million crypto-Shiite Muslims who practice their faith in secret.
In Syria, Zaaby counts more than 300,000 Iraqi Shiites, who are activated from Tehran in the same way as the Jordanian networks. Similar Shiite networks are in the making in Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco, none of which was ever before home to Shiite Muslims.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terror sources reveal that the captain of this ambitious endeavor for the wholesale export of revolutionary Shia is Ayatollah Mohammed Taskhiri.
His official title is director of Iran’s relations with Arab and Islamic nations.
But his real duties are less innocent: the management of Tehran’s links with Arab liberation-terrorist organizations and Muslim terrorist groups.
Taskhiri is of Iraqi origin. His fluent Arabic and intimate knowledge of the various religious groups in the region, especially Sunni Muslims, has bought him a regional reputation and made him a natural for running Tehran’s religious dissemination mission and ties with radical Islamist groups.
Last Saturday, Jan. 20, a group of prominent Shiite and Sunni clerics met in Qatar to exchange views. Ayatollah Taskhiri was there. The Sunni television preacher Sheik Yusuf Qardawi warned that Iran’s efforts to convert Sunni Muslims to the Shiite creed would lead to the biggest fraternal war in Muslim history.
Taskhiri was unmoved; he took the platform to answer Qardawi and brush off his forecast. Any talk of Sunni conversions to Shia, he said, was nothing but the fruit of an American-Israeli conspiracy for polarizing the Muslim world and stirring up sectarian warfare.