Iraqi Baathist guerrillas fighting US forces at home have gone to war for the first time outside their own boundaries.
Reporting this dramatic departure, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources have found them turning up suddenly in Iran’s oil-rich Khozestan province, where they have joined forces with a newly-formed local separatist underground of Iranian Arab separatists, calling itself the Ahwaz Arab Liberation Front. Ironically, the Arab separatists defying Tehran are armed by Western countries to wage attacks on Iranian military and government targets.
Iraq has long laid claim to Khozestan and its oil riches from the time of the late Saddam Hussein. In this latest twist of history, his former adherents are warmly welcomed by the Khozestan organization in revolt against the Islamic regime in Tehran.
That American weapons are flowing to more than one unforeseen destination was revealed this week by chance. Four defectors of the Turkish separatist Kurdish party, the PKK, stood up in Ankara and announced that two armored vehicles had been sighted carrying American weapons to PKK hideouts in the Kandil Mountain of northern Iraq!
Attempting to calm the Turkish government, the US ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson strenuously denied the claim. He said “the US was the first country after Turkey to designate the PKK a terrorist organization. We continue to classify it as such, and on the basis of that, we do not and will not negotiate with the PKK or its leaders, supply weapons to the organization or its personnel or assist them in any way,” the ambassador stressed.
He was telling no more than the truth. However, rather than assuming that the right hand does not know what the left is doing, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that the arms and war materials supplied through the American army posted in Kurdistan to the Iranian Kurdish separatist movement, the PEJAK (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan) appear to have been diverted at some point and by an unknown hand to the anti-Turkish Kurdish PKK.
Iraqi Baathist guerrillas fight with Ahwaz rebels in Iranian Khozestan
That is not the only new route opening up for channeling American weapons into the wrong hands in Iran. The Caspian Sea is another. American intelligence units operating in Azerbaijan are pumping arms and money to Turkemeni rebels fighting for their independence in the Caspian coastal towns of Gorgan, Gonbad and Bandar-e Turkmen in northeastern Iran.
Local Revolutionary Guards commanders have brought in reinforcements from Tehran to beef up their bases in Gonbad-e Kavoos and Bandar-e Turkmen, where a state of alert has been declared at the naval base. RG marine units are intercepting the arms smuggled by sea to the rebels.
Rajab Pouriani, deputy chief prosecutor of the Gorgan Public and Revolutionary Court, recently announced the arrest of six persons accused of espionage and impounded the smuggled weapons.
The security situation in Iranian Khozestan has deteriorated sharply with the incursion of the heavily-armed Iraqi Baathist guerrillas, who are well seasoned in combat by their years fighting the American army.
When attacks on Iranian government and military sites shot up by 30 percent, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad immediately fired the provincial governor, Revolutionary Guards Gen. Amir Muqadam. He was replaced by Jaafar Hijazi, until now director of water and electricity supplies in Iran’s oil regions.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report that the new Khozestani separatist group is giving sleepless nights not only to Iran but also to the heads of American, Iraq, British and Gulf emirate intelligence chiefs.
While they back the Arab separatist insurgency in the province, they have no way of controlling the wayward routes of the arms, cash and explosives they send Ahwaz, or be sure they do not end up in the hands of the Iraqi Baathist insurgents, just as the Americans cannot be certain their arms aid does not reach the wrong Kurdish separatist hands.