A significant chapter of Tehran’s terror campaign against US forces in Iraq is designed to peak at around the time of the American presidential election.
For this purpose, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian and counter-terrorism sources report, a body of about 800 members of the al Qaeda-linked Kurdish jihadist group, Ansar al-Islam, is in intensive training in Iran, preparing to be consigned to Iraq in late October, early November.
They are fundamentalist Sunni Iraqi Kurds, members of the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Islam, who fled to Iran when US missiles razed their bases in northeast Iraq during the March 2003 invasion. Some of the men have distinctive Kurdish features; others were chosen for the mission because they can pass as typical Iraqi Sunni small city dwellers.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly has obtained exclusive data on Iran’s special Kurdish project:
The Iranians house 350 of their Iraqi Kurdish surrogates, the elite vanguard of the force, in two special camps at Darband Dezli and Bahram Abad near the Iraqi border, surrounded by mountains and trees and well protected from sudden attack from Iraq.
Another 450 fighters live in the northwestern Iranian city of Marivan, some 12 miles (19 km) from the frontier, and in other Kurdish cities in Iran, such as Ghasr-e Shirin, Saghez and Sanandaj. They are dispersed so that the whole group cannot be taken out in a single air raid.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards trucks ferry the elite unit daily to a special training camp 25 miles (40 km) to the east, near the city of Sheykh Attar. There, they receive advanced instruction in bomb-making, suicide missions, hand-to-hand combat and the use of automatic weapons and explosives. The best of the crop are selected by their Iranian instructors for further training at a Revolutionary Guards base in the Sistan-Baluchestan area of southeastern Iran, near the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There, Al Qaeda instructors polish their skills, imparting sophisticated combat tactics and terror attacks developed uniquely by Osama bin Laden’s organization. They also learn how to use communications gear, computers, Internet and encryption codes.
The al Qaeda staff of instructors traditionally includes spiritual mentors. They are authorized by the Shiite Iranian authorities to provide intensive Muslim Sunni religious indoctrination to the Ansar trainees. Tehran hopes to use them to drive a wedge between religious and secular elements of the Iraqi Kurdish community.
Ansar graduates will also be taught subversion techniques to undermine the ruling Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and even the Marxist Komeleh.
Kurdish sources note ironically that the same Islamic Republican regime that not too long ago supported the Marxist Kurdish PKK in Turkey has no qualms now in using Kurdish Sunnis, followers of the fanatical Saudi Wahhabists, to divide the Kurds.
Ansar al-Islam top clerics and commanders are housed in luxurious quarters in four Iranian Kurdish cities, Boukan, Sanandaj, Marivan and Saghez. Their presence arouses resentment and suspicion among local Kurds, who fear it could attract aerial bombardments of their towns by Iraq-based coalition forces. Their lavish living conditions also generate bad feeling locally.
Every evening, several dozen Ansar recruits gather at these homes to hear sermons demonizing the Americans and the “Zionists” and charging them with the world’s calamities. They are promised a final Islamic battle that will soon wipe out the Christian heretics and establish Muslim supremacy throughout the world. The guerrilla war in Iraq is portrayed as America’s supreme ordeal and scene of its coming doom.
According to the Iranian master-plan, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terrorism sources learn that the elite Ansar al-Islam units will be planted in three parts of Iraq.
The men with Kurdish features will be sent to the northern towns of Mosul and Kirkuk, mixed population cities with a Sunni majority. The Iranians are still apprehensive about sending terrorists into purely Kurdish regions, fearing the local population will spot them and hand them straight over to Kurdish security authorities.
A second group will be sent to the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad and take up positions in Baqouba, Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra.
The last group consisting of men of non-Kurdish appearance will make for Baghdad, go undercover and find work until they receive further orders.