Tehran Takes First Steps in Sectarian War for Shiite Domination

The clerical regime in Tehran is rushing toward the future. For starters, it is acting on a working hypothesis that American forces will not be able to hold on in Iraq much longer and will have to start pulling out in August 2007. Iran’s rulers are therefore planning to take their anti-American military and diplomatic offensive all the way and seek to drive the US out of all its positions in the Muslim world, including Afghanistan.

This new policy objective is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military, intelligence and Iranian sources. But it goes much further.

For Iranian intelligence, it is a foregone conclusion that the US army has lost the Iraq war to the Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda and must draw down fairly soon, with Afghanistan not far behind. The only difference they perceive between the situations in the two embattled countries is the tempo of the US retreat, which they expect to be slower and more drawn out from Kabul than from Baghdad.

Acting on this perception, Tehran is devoting all its attention now to a frontal assault for dislodging US positions in all Muslim lands, coupled with tactics to prevent al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents from running off with the credit for defeating the US-led coalition in Iraq. Whatever it takes, the Shiite regime in Tehran is determined to prove to the world – and above all, its Muslim peoples – that Iran was the prevailing force in the victory and therefore deserves primacy over the faithful.

In other words, Khomeinist-Shiite Iran plans to turn the Iraq crisis into a fulcrum for levering itself to the top of the Muslim tree.

However, the United States does not propose letting Tehran have the last word. Defense secretary Robert Gates Middle East mission, which is still in progress as we write these lines, was undertaken for the very purpose of overturning Iran’s plans for the region and beyond. Thursday night, April 19, found the defense secretary on an unannounced visit to Falluja, examining at close quarters the ongoing US-Iraqi campaign against al Qaeda in Iraq’s troubled western province of Anbar. He arrived in Baghdad straight from talks with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem.

On his return to Washington, Gates will present his report and the steps to foil Iran’s schemes will be formulated. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive sources will disclose and examine those steps in next week’s issue.

Meanwhile, our sources outline some of the actions on which the ayatollahs have already embarked:

1. Wednesday, April 18, they ordered the radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who spent the weeks since the US-Iraqi security offensive was launched in Baghdad in the central Iranian city of Yazd, to go home and pick up the reins of his Mehdi Army militia.

2. Orders went out from Tehran to the commanders of Iran’s covert terrorist and subversive cells in the relatively calm regions of southern Iraq to rally the Iraqi Shiite insurgent groups for large-scale attacks on US and British forces in that part of the country.


Iran beats Saudis, Afghans, Pakistan and Azerbaijan over the head


3. After a long pause, Tehran has revived its military ties with the Shiite cells buried in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Provinces. They are being armed with weapons and explosives and stand ready to launch terrorist attacks in the oil-rich regions which they inhabit. This is a form of blackmail. The Saudis are being given an Iranian ultimatum: Either halt their extensive support for Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and sign a mutual defense pact with Iran, or else face a violent indigenous Shiite uprising in their oil regions.

This ultimatum was spelt out by Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki when he visited Oman last week. He asked Sultan Qaboos to pass it on to Riyadh.

4. Iranian covert agents have been instructed to inflame eastern and northern Afghanistan, acting in those regions through the pro-Iran Shiite Hezb-I Islam, a Sunni faction that backs the renegade former Afghan prime minister, Guldbuddin Hekmatyar.

Against this background, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, and other senior sources in Washington disclosed Tuesday, April 17, that a shipment of Iranian-made weapons bound for the Taliban had been captured in the past month by allied forces near the southern Afghan town of Kandahar.

The general said it was not clear which Iranian entity was responsible for the shipment, which contained mortars and plastic explosives carrying markings indicating they were made in Iran.

He added cautiously: “We know that there are munitions made in Iran that are in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And we know that the Quds Force works for the I.R.G.C. (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps).”

General Pace went on to say: “Either the leadership of the country knows what their armed forces are doing, or they don’t know. And in either case that’s a problem.”

5. Spreading their wings still farther afield, Tehran has also pushed Pakistan’s Baluchi separatists into subversive operations against President Pervez Musharraf and US targets in the country.

6. Just as Iranian agents are lending powerful support to the Sunni insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan for the sake of grabbing a slice of the victory cake, Tehran’s clandestine cells are also backing the Sunni underground forces fighting the Shiite central government in Azerbaijan and its ruler Ilham Alyev.

Our sources have not reported similar subversive action in neighboring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzia, which will hardly have been overlooked in the revolutionary Iran’s far-flung drive for domination. However, Tehran may be treading gingerly in these areas of Russian influence, so as not to antagonize President Vladimir Putin, who is deeply involved in Iran’s nuclear program.

7. Iran is brandishing a stick over the heads of Iraqi Kurds, targeting most particularly Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, in support of a demand that they be more considerate of Tehran’s wishes and interests. Here, too, Iran is taking a strong stand to undercut Americans predominance in autonomous Kurdistan, and also deter (Sunni) Turkey from invading northern Kurdistan to destroy rebel PKK sanctuaries.


Emerging Islamic war protagonists: Iran, Sunni Muslims, al Qaeda


8. Tehran is accompanying this violent momentum with the expenditure of many millions of dollars on a huge propaganda campaign to implant an allegation that al Qaeda and its leaders are in fact American tools for perverting Muslims.

To western ears, this message may sound ludicrous and far-fetched, but Muslim audiences tend to be receptive to Western imperialist conspiracy theories. It is not hard for Iranian propagandists to invoke such false convictions as those which permeated the bazaars of the Muslim East after al Qaeda’s 9/11 hijack attacks on New York and Washington.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s experts of Islam and counter-terror estimate that, as Iran’s all-encompassing diplomatic, military and information drive develops – capitalizing initially on the Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict in Iraq – it will shift the focus from America’s military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan to the next emerging world conflict, the first Islamic war of the 21st century. Tongues of its flames are already touching Iraq and spreading towards the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.

As this Islamic sectarian war develops, it will undercut the sway US military forces hold over the course of events and the motivations of the rival Muslim forces present in these regions.

The protagonists shaping up for this contest are Iran and its Shiite following, Sunni Muslims and al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has picked up the gauntlet and begun operating on all Muslim fronts. Our sources in Iraq report that this week, the jihadist group hurled its suicide killers and car bombs against fellow Sunni insurgent groups, such as the Iraqi Army of Islam, as well as Shiites. Iran for its part is making no distinctions either.

Since the Americans failed to contain al Qaeda in Iraq, they will find it a lot harder to beat off the far more powerful Iran with its greater numbers and resources. The crisis peaking now in Iraq has dramatically shifted the strategic ground on which President George W. Bush based his security plan for Iraq and the US troop surge he ordered.

Although it appears there is no direct military means of halting Iran, there is still an option for less direct action, such as a military siege.

The new scale of attacks – close to 200 Iraqi civilian deaths in a single day on Wednesday, April 19 – aims at disrupting the American security crackdown – but equally carries the opening shots of the new Islamic war.

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