Tehran insider tells of US
black ops By an Asia Times
Online Special Correspondent
TEHRAN - A former Iranian ambassador
and Islamic Republic insider has provided
intriguing details to Asia Times Online about US covert operations
inside Iran aimed at destabilizing the country and
toppling the regime - or preparing for
an American attack.
"The Iranian government knows and is aware
of such infiltration. It means that the
Iranian government has identified them [the covert
operatives] but for some reason does not want to
show [this]," said the former diplomat on condition of
Speaking in Tehran, the
ex-Foreign Ministry official said the
agents being used by the
US "were originally Iranians and not Americans"
possibly recruited in the United States or through
US embassies in Dubai and Ankara. He also warned
that such actions will engender "some reactions".
"Both sides will certainly do something,"
he said in a reference to Iran's capability to
stir trouble up in neighboring Iraq and
Afghanistan for the occupying US troops there.
Veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh wrote
in a much-discussed recent article in The New
Yorker magazine that the administration of
President George W Bush has increased clandestine
activities inside Iran and intensified planning
for a possible major air attack as the crisis with
Iran over its nuclear program escalates.
Hersh wrote that "teams of American combat
troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover,
to collect targeting data and to establish contact
with anti-government ethnic-minority groups". The
template seems identical to the period that
preceded US air strikes against the Taliban regime
in Afghanistan during which a covert Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) campaign distributed
millions of dollars to tribal allies.
Iranian accusations are true," said Richard Sale,
intelligence correspondent for United Press
International, referring to charges that the US is
using the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) organization
and other groups to carry out cross-border
operations. "But it is being done on such a small
scale - a series of pinpricks - it would seem to
have no strategic value at all."
been a marked spike in unrest in Kurdistan,
Khuzestan and Balochistan, three of Iran's
provinces with a high concentration of ethnic
Kurdish, Arab and Balochi minorities respectively.
With the exception of the immediate
post-revolutionary period, when the Kurds rebelled
against the central government and were suppressed
violently, ethnic minorities have received better
treatment, more autonomy and less ethnic
discrimination than under the shah.
president hasn't notified the Congress that
American troops are operating inside Iran," said
Sam Gardiner, a retired US Army colonel who
specializes in war-game scenarios. "So it's a very
serious question about the constitutional
framework under which we are now conducting
military operations in Iran."
Warhorse is the major US military base in the
strategic Iraqi province of Diyala that borders
Iran. Last month, Asia Times Online asked the US
official in charge of all overt and covert
operations emanating from there whether the
military and the MEK colluded on an operational
level. He denied any such knowledge.
have a gated community up there," came the genial
reply. "Not really guarded - it's more gated. They
bake really good bread," he added, smiling.
But that is contrary to what Hersh was
told by his sources, According to him, US combat
troops are already inside Iran and, in the event
of air strikes, would be in position to mark
critical targets with laser beams to ensure
bombing accuracy and excite sectarian tensions
between the population and the central government.
As of early winter, Hersh's source claims that the
units were also working with minority groups in
Iran, including the Azeris in the north, the
Balochis in the southeast, and the Kurds in the
Last week, speaking on the
sidelines of a Palestinian solidarity conference,
Major-General Yehyia Rahim Safavi, the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, sent a
warning to the US and British intelligence
services he accuses of using Iraq and Kuwait to
infiltrate Iran. "I tell them that their agents
can be our agents too, and they should not waste
their money so casually."
On April 9, Iran
claimed to have shot down an unmanned surveillance
plane in the southwestern province of Khuzestan,
according to a report in the semi-official Jumhuri
Eslami newspaper. US media have also reported that
the US military has been secretly flying
surveillance drones over Iran since 2004, using
radar, video, still photography and air filters to
monitor Iranian military formations and track
Iran's air-defense system. The US denied having
lost a drone.
This new mission for the
combat troops is a product of Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld's long-standing interest in
expanding the role of the military in covert
operations, which was made official policy in the
Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, published
in February. Such activities, if conducted by CIA
operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and
would have to be reported to key members of
The confirmation that the US is
carrying out covert activities inside Iran makes
more sense out of a series of suspicious events
that have occurred along Iran's borders this year.
In early January, a military airplane belonging to
Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards went down close
to the Iraqi border. The plane was carrying 11 of
the Guard's top commanders, including General
Ahmad Kazemi, the commander of the IRGC's ground
forces, and Brigadier-General Nabiollah
Shahmoradi, who was deputy commander for
Although a spokesman blamed
bad weather and dilapidated engines for the crash,
the private intelligence company Stratfor noted
that there are several reasons to suspect foul
play, not least of which was that any aircraft
carrying so many of Iran's elite military
luminaries would undergo "thorough tests for
technical issues before flight". Later, Iran's
defense minister accused Britain and the US of
bringing the plane down through "electronic
"Given all intelligence
information that we have gathered, we can say that
agents of the United States, Britain and Israel
are seeking to destabilize Iran through a
coordinated plan," Minister of Interior Mustafa
Pour-Mohammadi said. This sentiment was echoed on
websites such as AmericanIntelligence.us, where
one reader commented, "We couldn't have made a
better hit on the IRGC's leadership if planned ...
sure it was just an accident?"
late January, a previously unknown Sunni Muslim
group called Jundallah (Soldier of Allah) captured
nine Iranian soldiers in the remote badlands of
Sistan-Balochistan province that borders
Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in mid-February,
another airplane crashed just inside Iraq after
taking off from Azerbaijan and transiting Iranian
airspace. The Iranian Mehr news agency reported
that the "passengers on board were possibly of
Israeli origin". It added that US troops have
restricted access to the site to Iraqi Kurdish
officials and that Western media were reporting
the passengers aboard as having been German.
The Iranian government has not sat idly by
and just taken these breaches of sovereignty.
Early this month, an unidentified source in the
Interior Ministry was quoted by the hardline
Kayhan newspaper as saying that the leader and 11
members of the Jundallah group had been killed by
Iranian troops. Then last Friday, Iranian missile
batteries shelled Iranian Kurdish rebel positions
inside Iraqi territory. They were targeting a
militant group called PJAK that seeks more
autonomy for Iran's Kurdish population and has
been operating out of Iraq since 1999.
former Iranian ambassador argues that in the event
that US pressure on Iran continues, "the end of
the tunnel" for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's
administration is "weaponization of the [nuclear]
technology ... and a military strike".
"The Americans are pushing Iran to become
a nuclear state. Iran just wants to be a supplier
of nuclear fuel. But [with their threats] they are
pushing it further."