Archive for November, 2008

Ahmadinejad: Investigate Wealth Accumuulation by IRGC Officers

Nov. 22nd 2008

The FARS News Agency, the semi-official house organ of the Iranian regime, announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed introduction of a parliamentary bill to investigate the wealth of senior officials in Iran. The proposal results from criticism of Sadeq Mahsouli, President Ahmadinejad’s nominee for the position of interior minister, who won a vote of confidence on earlier this week on November 18, 2008.

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Mahsouli is reportedly one of the ten wealthiest people in Iran, having accumulated his fortune from property development according to FARS. But the forty-nine year old Mahsouli is also an IRGC veteran and previously served in provincial government posts and as deputy defense minister.

The Iranian Parliament approved Mahsouli as the new interior minister following the impeachment of former minister, Ali Kordan, over his forged Oxford University degree.

Analysis:Ahmadinejad’s call to investigate the source of wealth for former IRGC officers calls to mind the statement of Renault, the Vichy French police officer in the movie Casablanca, who declared “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” There is no secret to the accumulation of wealth in Iran – IRGC veterans dominate many key industries and the importation of goods into Iran.

Posted by Steven O'Hern | in IRGC | No Comments »

Qods Force Officer Arrested in Baghdad

Nov. 22nd 2008

The New York Times reported this week that an IRGC Qods Force officer was arrested at the Baghdad International Airport. The U.S. military announced that the man was arrested because of his involvement in smuggling weapons into Iraq. The Qods Force officer worked for “an organization within the Quds Force involved in the construction and repair of religious sites in Iraq.” The NYT also reported the man was carrying cocaine.

UPDATED NOVEMBER 23, 2008 – DETAINEE RELEASED: Reuters reported that the Qods Force officer, identified as “Nader Qorbani, the deputy head of the headquarters for reconstructing religious sites in Iraq,” had been released. Reuters also quoted Iraq’s Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi regarding the inappropriate arrest by US forces, “The Americans detained him. We called them and asked them to release him and we can confirm that the arrest was unlawful,” Abbawi told Reuters. “He’s working here on a contract and he’s been working here for some time.”

Analysis:The IRGC, of which the Qods Force is a part, operates numerous companies which conduct legitimate business while also providing fronts for operational activity such as intelligence gathering and weapons smuggling.

Posted by Steven O'Hern | in IRGC, Qods Force | No Comments »

IRGC Trains Syrians to Fight Sunnis

Nov. 17th 2008

According to the Jerusalem Post the IRGC has in the past four months established intelligence cells in Lebanon, comprised of Syrian agents and Lebanese Hizbollah members, whose aim is to track down and annihilate extreme Sunni armed cells. The Jerusalem Post cited reporting by the Kuwaiti-based daily A-Siyasa.

Beginning in late July 2008, approximately 200 IRGC officers previously posted in Iraq, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates began forming cells composed of Lebanese Hezbollah, Amal, and Syrian intelligence officers.

The IRGC trained intelligence cells are tasked to identify and locate Sunni terror cells and to learn their sources of money and weapons. The intelligence cells also have the mission to kill or capture Sunni terrorists.

Analysis:Syrian intelligence has again aligned itself with Iran against its fellow Sunni nations. The intelligence operation shows again how the IRGC positions itself as a trainer, supplier, and leader of proxy forces that carry out the actual missions, similar to its use of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraq Shiite militias in the past. This operation also displays the ability of the IRGC to surge forces capable of organizing, training and equipping intelligence and action forces into an area and commence operations in a relatively short period of time.

Posted by Steven O'Hern | in Hezbollah, IRGC, Qods Force | No Comments »

Latin America – Iran’s Next Target

Nov. 11th 2008

Iran is making inroads in a host of Latin American countries, most of which have populist leaders who distrust the United States, writes John Kiriakou, a former CIA counterterrorism official, in the Los Angeles Times.

Venezuala, Paraguay, and Bolivia are cited by Kiriakou as countries eager to grow closer to Iran in opposition to the United States. Paraguay’s president, Fernando Lugo Mendez, for instance, named Hezbollah sympathizer and fundraiser Alejandro Hamed Franco as Paraguay’s new foreign minister. In Bolivia, Iran has invested $1.1 billion in Bolivia’s gas facilities. Iran has also agreed to produce Spanish-language programming for the Bolivian state television allowing Iran to supply propaganda directly to Bolivians.

Kiriakou argues that reversing Iranian influence in Latin America will require the United States to stop ignoring the region

Analysis:Mr. Kiriakou correctly details the slow but continuing invasion of Latin America by Iran and its proxy, Lebanese Hezbollah. And where Lebanese Hezbollah goes, so goes the IRGC. Iran’s expenditure of billions of dollars in Latin America will force the United States to make a similar if not larger investment. President-elect Obama’s stated desire to use diplomacy to deal with the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power will bump up against his opposition to free trade, a key interest of Latin American countries. The failure of the Congress to approve the free trade agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration with Colombia signals to Latin American leaders that the United States is not serious about being a viable alternative to Iran’s radical and violent influences in the region.

Posted by Steven O'Hern | in Hezbollah, IRGC | No Comments »

Iran’s Micro-submarine Threat

Nov. 7th 2008

Iran has taken delivery of micro submarines according to the blog Naval Open Source Intelligence No details are provided regarding the submarines which are described as “stealth” submarines.

ANALYSIS: Small stealthy submarines pose big issues for shipping in the Persian Gulf but also give the IRGC increased capability for attack and insertion of agents. Larger “submersible” vessels have been used to smuggle drugs from South America to the United States. A Washington Post article described such submersibles. Miniature submarines that are stealthy (apparently hard to detect because they produce little noise and are so small rendering sonar and other detection devices ineffective) add to the growing Iranian military and special operations capability. It seems likely such vessels would be operated by the IRGC Navy.

Posted by Steven O'Hern | in IRGC | No Comments »

U.S. Increases Sanctions on Iran – No more U-turn transactions

Nov. 7th 2008

The U.S. Treasury Department announced new restraints on Iran in a press release issued yesterday.

Under the new rules, U.S. banks “are no longer allowed to process “U-turn” transfers to or from Iran, or for the direct or indirect benefit of persons in Iran or the Government of Iran. The prohibition on U-turns applies not only to state-owned Iranian banks and the Central Bank of Iran, but also to privately-owned Iranian banks, Iranian companies, and the settlement of third-country trade transactions that involve Iran.”

U-turn transfers are financial transactions (money payments or transfers, sales of goods, etc.)  that pass through U.S. banks even though the parties, companies, and banks involved in the transaction are all offshore.  The ban affects Iran-related transactions that only pass through the U.S. financial system on their way from one offshore non-Iranian financial institution to another.

This broadens prior restrictions on banks and companies that are Iranian owned or based in Iran.

As the Miami Herald points out, U.S. restrictions have been ratcheted up, but one sanction remains to be imposed — Iran’s central bank is not yet blacklisted. Stuart Levey, the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence told reporters the new U-turn restrictions would affect a relatively small number of transactions.

An earlier post reported on Stuart Levey’s use of financial sanctions to influence Iran.

Posted by Steven O'Hern | in IRGC | No Comments »

Iranian Embassy Takeover Anniversary – The War Continues

Nov. 4th 2008

Today is the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that occurred twenty-nine years ago. In Tehran, students were bused in for demonstrations, according to an Associated Press report.

The dispute between the United States and the clerics who control Iran has raged and simmered at various times since the embassy takeover. Recently, the New York Times profiled Stuart Levey, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department and his efforts to establish a new type of sanctions against Iran. The new sanctions seek to prevent Iran, a country that has traditionally benefited greatly from foreign trade, from doing business with foreign banks.

The results of the new sanctions have been promising:

Levey has since made more than 80 foreign visits of his own to talk to more than five dozen banks. Several countries required multiple trips to reassure suspicious (or just annoyed) governments about American intentions — and then to persuade the banks. Levey offered specifics. U.S. intelligence, he told them, had traced $50 million transmitted by Iran’s Bank Saderat through a London subsidiary to a charity affiliated with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Saderat, which has 3,400 offices worldwide, is Iran’s equivalent of Citibank. Its Lebanon branch, Levey said, also supposedly sent millions of dollars to Palestinian extremists.

The Treasury Department then started blacklisting Iran’s biggest banks, urging other nations to follow suit. In 2006, Saderat was barred from direct or indirect business with U.S. banks. In early 2007, the department sanctioned Bank Sepah for financing projects to develop missiles that could carry nuclear weapons. (Sepah, meaning “army,” was established with money from Iran’s military pension fund and is now associated with Revolutionary Guard projects.) The Treasury Department then blacklisted Bank Melli, Iran’s largest bank, for supposedly helping to finance defense industries under U.N. sanctions.

Iran has angrily denied illicit activity. Its banks pledged compliance with international practices. Tehran complained to the International Monetary Fund. Some banks even wrote to the Treasury Department to protest. Iran’s Central Bank governor spoke of “financial terrorism.” Yet the innovative efforts have spread. Actions against Iranian banks became a feature of Security Council sanctions resolutions, beginning in 2006. Last June, the European Union blacklisted Melli and froze its assets. Last month, Australia sanctioned Melli and Saderat, while the U.S. blacklisted the Export Development Bank of Iran, which it claimed had taken over many of Sepah’s accounts and provided services for missile programs. The Treasury Department is also scrutinizing Iran’s Central Bank and considering blacklisting it too, which could undermine not only the country’s banking system but also international support for the U.S. campaign.

The New York Times article also describes how the sanctions focused on compliance with international banking laws have been effective and led to other financial based sanctions:

For the first time in 30 years, U.S. officials contend, Washington has found a tangible way to pressure Iran. Whatever happens with the Bush administration’s diplomatic or intelligence efforts, this is the program most likely to be continued by the next administration because it has bipartisan support.

And Levey is continuing to pick new battlefronts. In September, the Treasury Department sanctioned Iran’s national shipping company and affiliates in 10 countries for falsifying documents and for transporting cargo on behalf of entities tied to weapons of mass destruction by the United Nations. Treasury officials say the insurance industry is next. “This is one of the most powerful actions that can be taken, short of military action,” Paulson told me. “It’s not a knockout punch, but it is effective.”

But the New York Times suggests these sanctions, while having some effect on Iran, will take a decade or longer to be fully effective at curbing Iran’s aggressive and will that be sufficient to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The war continues 29 years after “students” took over the U.S. Embassy.

Posted by IntelWars | in Hezbollah, IRGC | No Comments »

Retired CIA Operations Officer: HUMINT Needed in Afghanistan

Nov. 2nd 2008

Based on Jeff Stein’s blog on the Congressional Quarterly website, Spytalk, I just ordered Gary Berntsen’s new book, Human Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and National Leadership: A Practical Guide. According to Jeff Stein’s description, Berntsen, who after retirement from duty as a CIA operations officer signed up as an advisor to the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade. Berntsen concluded after his tour in Afghanistan that the CIA is in a battle with the military over intelligence operations. The military is conducting most of the human intelligence operations in Afghanistan and according to Stein’s post, Berntsen doesn’t believe the military is very good at it.

Posted by IntelWars | in HUMINT | No Comments »

Books

In Iran's Revolutionary Guard, a thoroughly researched investigation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Steven O'Hern reveals new information about Hezbollah and IRGC operations inside...

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The Intelligence Wars: Lessons from Baghdad, a book that is a critical review of U.S. intelligence operations in Iraq, explains why human intelligence must be better managed to fight future enemies.

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