Iran Sends Fighters to Strike US Troops in the South

Iran while offering to give up al Qaeda terrorists has piled on a threat to deter America from impeding its nuclear weapons program: a guerrilla campaign against US forces in southern Iraq.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror and Persian Gulf sources, the Iranians are working round the clock building centrifuges for enriching uranium and installing them in their underground enrichment plants. They are assisted by Pakistani and North Korean nuclear experts and engineers. American and Israeli intelligence estimate that Iran is racing much faster than believed possible towards the moment when it will have all the components needed to produce a nuclear bomb, the moment the signal comes from the rulers in Tehran. Even the most cautious experts on Iran’s nuclear program agree that Iran is weeks, not months, away from its goal and advanced too far to be stopped. Two secret plants for assembling the first bombs are standing ready.

The only way to create a last-minute delay might be to hold up the supply of certain vital components from a foreign source. But that is a forlorn hope, even after the Russians agreed for the moment to hold back spent fuel rods from the Bushehr reactor. The Iranians are certain that Moscow will eventually relent.

This is the background to the expeditious response by the Iranian intelligence minister Ali Yunesi to President George W. Bush’s charge Tuesday, July 22, that Iran and Syria are assisting and harboring terrorists. Al Qaeda was specifically mentioned in relation to Iran.

Wednesday, July 23, he became the first Iranian official to publicly acknowledge that his country is holding some senior al Qaeda figures – after weeks of flat denial. He said Iranian authorities had “arrested a large number of them”. Iran’s interior minister Mousavi Lari added an offer to hand the terrorists over to their countries of origin, barring the United States. Al Qaeda members whose governments refuse to accept them would be tried in Iran, he said.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports exclusively from its Middle East sources that the Egyptian head of intelligence, General Omar Suleiman, arrived unexpectedly in Tehran Tuesday, July 22, to join a group of his officers cooling their heels for some weeks in the hope of the al Qaeda military commander Egyptian Saif al-Adel being handed over. Most of all, the Egyptians seek the extradition of Showqi al-Istambuli, wanted for taking part in the 1995 assassination attempt against President Hosni Mubarak.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals from its counter-terror sources that the Iranian government is making its offer to extradite al Qaeda operatives contingent on Washington’s praise for Tehran’s war on terror.

What the Iranians hope to achieve by this and other moves is to deny the Americans the pretext for any action that would interfere with the final stage of its nuclear weapons production. In case that “concession” is not effective, DEBKA-Net-Weekly has learned from its military sources that Iran is ready with a deterrent. Its agents have laid the groundwork for a full-scale guerrilla war in southern Iraq – intelligence cells and combat units are spread out in the Shiite towns and villages of southern and eastern Iraq. On Thursday, July 24, the supreme council of the Iraqi Hizballah circulated an open letter forbidding the Shiite faithful to cooperate with the American enemy and his collaborators, a reference to the Shiite members of the fledgling Governing Council convening daily in Baghdad and the American commanders in their regions. The letter declares: Our sole object is to kill the American invader and his collaborators. If American troops are not out of Shiite cities of Iraq by August 2, the Hizballah will begin to attack them.

Our intelligence and counter-terror sources report that the Iraqi Hizballah commands several hundred fighters, members of the Lebanese organization who infiltrated Iraq through Syria during the war. They have been put on the mark to mount guerrilla operations against American forces in southern Iraq. The intensity of those attacks will be calibrated according to the pressure applied by Washington against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

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