On Tuesday, August 28, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s bellicose president, publicly laid out his administration's nefarious agenda for Iraq. He boldly admitted that Iran was prepared to fill the power vacuum left in Iraq and the region. "You [the United States] cannot preserve your power over Iraq with a few tanks, artillery and weapons. Today, you are prisoners of your own quagmire," he said.
Indeed, Tehran’s escalated campaign in Iraq since Ahmadinejad’s presidency aimed for such an eventuality. With the all the resources of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) deployed, the regime of the ayatollahs has methodically spread its tentacles to all political, security and intelligence organs of the Iraqi government.
While Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is doing Tehran’s bidding by turning a blind eye to the bloodshed committed by his security agencies infested by Tehran’s proxies, in the streets of Iraq ayatollahs are fomenting instability. About 73 percent of the attacks against Americans in Iraq in July were committed by Iran-backed Shiite militias. These fighters are trained in IRGC camps inside Iran, and then smuggled back into Iraq along with arms, roadside bombs and cash.
In spite of U.S. attempts to capture a top IRGC commander in charge of operations in Iraq, the Iranian regime boldly dispatched him to the Iraq security conference in Egypt last April. Sitting next to Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki was IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Sahraroudi, also known as Mohammed Jafari. According to reports, U.S. forces had earlier targeted Jafari and IRGC intelligence chief Gen. Minojahar Frouzanda in Iraq in January, but they eluded capture.
Jafari is one of the highest-ranking commanders of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force. He was involved in the 1989 Vienna assassination of the Secretary General of the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party. Arrested by the Austrian police, he was ultimately released and sent back to Iran. According to reports, on the order of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2003, he directed a special unit in a failed attempt to assassinate the leader of the Iranian Resistance, Massoud Rajavi.
Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, is also a Qods Force commander. This, along with the Iranian regime’s bravado in sending a wanted terrorist to an international conference to secure Iraq, reveals not only the power of the IRGC in Iran’s foreign policy circles, but Tehran’s true intentions in Iraq.
Never before have the IRGC’s personnel infiltrated so deeply in all branches of government as they do today. When Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei handpicked former IRGC commander Ahmadinejad for the presidency, it was the first step in a well-calculated move to further militarize the nuclear program and infuse military hardliners into every tier of government.
The IRGC is now a self-sufficient machine, fed by its billion-dollar business holdings. But there is much more to the IRGC’s business dealings. A parallel stream of IRGC funds secretly flow through front companies that allow its projects to go undetected.
This month, my sources in Iran revealed that the Sadra Company is owned by the IRGC and recently obtained contracts from Venezuela to build several oil shipyards. The IRGC also owns the Sakhteman National Company and the Qorb Company, which both have received multi-billion dollar contracts to build a new subway system in Tehran. My sources had already uncovered more than a dozen front companies used to move the nuclear weapons program forward.
Washington is reportedly moving to designate the IRGC a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. Financially, the action will not have a huge impact on the IRGC’s businesses, because they do not directly deal with U.S. banks. Far more significant, however, is the message of decisiveness it sends to the ayatollahs’ regime and to the Iranian people. The IRGC is effectively the guardian of the “outpost of tyranny” ruling Iran. Branding it terrorist further legitimizes Iranian resistance which has been making a noble and heroic “stand for liberty.”
This is critical, because the Iranian people have been brutally tyrannized by the IRGC. Since 1981, as many as 120,000 Iranians have been reportedly killed for their political views or “crimes against Islam.” This year, the Iranian regime expanded that list of crimes and launched a bloody crackdown on everything from Western-style haircuts to the length of women’s trousers.
The IRGC has never been more crucial to the regime as it desperately tries to quell a discontented population. With every new government post taken over by a member of the IRGC, the Iranian regime reaffirms that its only means of survival is militarizing every facet of the government. Tehran’s desperate attacks against its own people at home and escalating terrorist activities in Iraq should be a wake-up call to those who still believe that Tehran will some day toss away its rogue behavior.
Until now, Washington’s policy toward Tehran, vacillating between appeasement and containment, has resulted in many strategic blunders. It has empowered a regional fundamentalist bully which today boasts of its readiness to fill a perceived regional power vacuum. Since the 1980s, as the IRGC committed blatant acts of murder and terrorism against Iranians, Americans and other foreign nationals, spanning three continents from Tehran to Beirut, to Dhahran, and Buenos Aires and Washington whitewashed the Guards’ involvement. Worse, in an attempt to mollify this monster, the State Department shackled the hands of only effective indigenous nemesis of the IRGC by blacklisting the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), as a terror organization. The MEK, as Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney and. Fred Gedrich wrote in the Washington Times on August 27, “is the largest, best organized, and most feared of all Iranian resistance groups ... This group helped expose Iran's secret nuclear program and currently provides the United States with critically important intelligence.”
Asked about the possible U.S. designation of the IRGC, Ahmadinejad mockingly said, "It would be a joke.” Washington must prove him wrong and replace the MEK with the IRGC on the terror list.
Alireza Jafarzadeh is a FOX News Channel Foreign Affairs Analyst and the author of "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran's terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
Prior to becoming a contributor for FOX, and until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of "The Iran Threat" (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org, and is on twitter @A_Jafarzadeh.