SECDEF Gates: Iran’s Supply of EFPs to Afghanistan Increased

Feb. 1st 2009

Last week, the Washington Post reported that Iran’sshipment of explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) (also known as explosively formed penetrators) into Afghanistan has slightly increased. The Washington Post quoted Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,

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Gates also warned of Iranian interference in Afghanistan, pointing to a slightly increased flow of weapons including components of lethal munitions known as “explosively formed projectiles.” He said Iran wants to “have it both ways,” seeking economic and diplomatic benefits of relations with Kabul while still attempting to impose “the highest possible costs” on U.S. and coalition troops.

Gates also noted that Iran has been busy in the western hemisphere.

Iranian activities have been troubling in other parts of the world, Gates said, including Latin America, where Iran is setting up “a lot of offices and a lot of fronts.”

Analysis: Iran’s supply of EFPs to the Taliban in Afghanistan is not new. A 2007 report by the Washington Post described an interception of EFPs and other weapons from Iran. As the current economic situation occupies the new Obama Administration and leaders in much of the world, Iran and the IRGC Qods Force, the primary Iranian group responsible for such intervention outside of Iran, continue to work largely unimpeded and even little noticed.

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

The Telegraph: Iran’s Involvement in Gaza

Jan. 11th 2009

Con Coughlin analyzes the Israel-Gaza conflict as part of a larger continuing attack by Iran upon Israel in The Telegraph.

Israel’s relentless offensive to crush the radical Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza is the opening salvo of the country’s wider campaign to confront the mounting threat posed by Iran to the survival of the Jewish state.
While the Israeli military’s immediate focus is to destroy Hamas’s ability to terrorise Israel’s southern border, the military campaign should be seen within the wider context of Israel’s growing resolve to deal with the combined danger of Iran’s continuing support for Islamic terrorist groups and its controversial uranium enrichment programme. The Israeli government sees both of these as direct threats to the country’s existence.

So far as Israel is concerned, 2009 is the year that, given Iran’s current rate of progress with uranium enrichment, will decide whether the mullahs succeed in their dream of becoming a nuclear power. Given the repeated statements President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has made about destroying Israel, the Israelis are rightly concerned that a nuclear-armed Iran would constitute a grave threat to its future survival.

At the same time the Israeli authorities are deeply alarmed by Iran’s continued support for radical Islamic groups located on the country’s northern and southern borders, both of which are committed to Israel’s ultimate destruction. Both the radical Shia Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza are funded and equipped by the Iranian regime, whose Revolutionary Guards travel regularly to the region to brief the groups on strategy.

Even more detail is provided by a recent article in The Cutting Edge News.

Those 40 km missiles Hamas is unleashing against Israeli cities are certainly not “amateur rockets… nagging the residents” of Israeli cities, as a Palestinian journalist recently wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

The press calls the rockets “Grads” or “Katyushas,” the Russian name given several generations ago to the original Soviet-made surface-to-surface missiles. Today, it would be more correct to label some of the missiles by their real name, the “Arash,” the name given to them by their Iranian manufacturers. The long-range 120 mm mortars raining down on Israel are also Iranian in origin. The mortars are equipped with auxiliary motors to increase their range from six to ten kilometers.

The longest range “Grads” were manufactured in China and but (sic) many of these too were smuggled to Hamas via Iran. Visitors to Sderot’s rocket heap museum of spent missiles can view Iranian-made weapons for themselves.

Analysis:Most of the media is focusing on the death and destruction suffered by Gazans, many of whom are not guilty of any actions against Israel. But that focus benefits Iran as it continues to orchestrate a swirling maelstrom around Israel while continuing progress on the enrichment of Uranium. As both the Telegraph and The Cutting Edge News note, Israel recognizes the larger threat posed by this plan. The challenge for Israel is to find an effective strategy to counter Hamas in Gaza while retaining sufficient credibility to convince allies of the Iranian encirclement (threats from Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, and, in the future, nuclear armed rockets) strategy.

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

Iran’s Presidential Politics – Which IRGC Commander do You Prefer?

Dec. 22nd 2008

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran is profiled as a likely opponent to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Boston Globe. The article describes Ghalibaf as a more modern, gentler replacement for Ahmadinejad:

As mayor of a city where Calvin Klein ads compete with portraits of war heroes and clerics, [Ghalibaf] is fashioning himself as a candidate of gradual change, who can appeal to younger voters while retaining enough conservative bona fides from his days as soldier to satisfy the powerful religious elite.

The reference to his days as a soldier is a bit misleading. As the article mentions, Ghalibaf was more than a soldier. Ghalibaf served not in the Iranian Army but instead with the IRGC. His last assignment: leader of the IRGC Air Force.

Analysis: Articles like the Boston Globe profile of Ghalibaf promote a false understanding of Iranian governance. Power in Iran resides with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC. The Supreme Leader’s power includes control over the IRGC and the authority to determine which candidates are eligible to stand for election. The anticipated contest in the June 12, 2009 election between the “progressive” Tehran mayor and the confrontational president would not be a chance for a new day in Iran. An election featuring Ghalibaf as the principal opponent to Ahmadinejad would ensure that a senior IRGC leader would remain as Iran’s President. The same IRGC controls Iran’s rocket force and the nuclear program that many fear seek to equip those rockets with nuclear weapons.

Additionally, Ghalibaf may have competition in his quest to replace Ahmadinejad. Although Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has stated he will not run in the June 12 election, other candidates have already announced their intention to run and some speculate that Mohammad Khatami will run as a reformist candidate.

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

Iran Reduces EFP Attacks in Iraq

Dec. 15th 2008

Attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq using explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) have reduced substantially according to LtGen Thomas Metz, past commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq and currently the leader of the military’s effort to defend against roadside bombs. According to a Los Angeles Times article, attacks dropped only because of a decision by Iranian backed groups that were employing EFPs:

“In the past three months, they have gone way down,” Metz said. “Someone has made a decision on the Shia side in connection with Iran . . . to bring them down.”

Armor-piercing bombs now being found are less-sophisticated versions built in Iraq, not smuggled in from Iran, he said.

The devices never accounted for more than about 5% of all roadside bombs but have caused about 35% of the casualties, Metz said.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh was also quoted in the LA Times article stating that Iran had taken a more “positive stance” in recent months.

Analysis: EFPs are devastatingly effective even against the improved armor on Humvees and against other armored vehicles. A Royal Air Force C-130 was so disabled by an EFP attack in Maysan that it had to be destroyed in place. Why Iran has elected to reduce EFP attacks in Iraq is debatable. Perhaps Iran does not want to upset the planned U.S. withdrawal from Iraq that will leave an Iraqi government amenable to Iran’s bidding. Such a result has been Iran’s goal since the 2003 invasion. Regardless, the EFP remains a formidable weapon that Iran will continue to deploy in irregular wars fought by its proxies.

Posted by Steven O'Hern | in 4GW, IRGC, Qods Force | No Comments »

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.

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 »

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 »

After Syria Raid, IRGC Says Don’t Try Raiding Iran

Oct. 29th 2008

Acting IRGC commander Mohammad Hejazi has told reporters that Iran is able to defend its borders. Brig. Gen Hejazi said, “IRGC forces have the determination and experience to guard Iran’s national interests.”

In the same article, the IRGC Navy commander noted the growing strength of the IRGC naval forces which should concern U.S. forces and shippers. Admiral Morteza Saffari said that Iran’s navy has been reorganized and is ready to defend the nation against all threats.

“Iran’s naval forces will make sure that the enemy will live to regret any act of aggression against the Islamic Republic,” said Admiral Saffari.

Analysis:The possibility of retaliation by Iran after a raid is a very real threat that U.S. forces must take into account. While U.S. forces could probably strike into parts of Iran near the Iraq border successfully, the United States would then be faced with the prospect of three problems:

  • Political problems with the Iraq government led by Shiites sympathetic to Iran
  • Retaliation by IRGC proxies inside Iraq where U.S. facilities and forces offer nearby targets
  • Retaliation by the IRGC Navy, especially against shipping in the Persian Gulf. Iranian naval forces possess anti-shipping missiles and other potent weapons that can inflict significant damage.
  • Posted by IntelWars | in IRGC, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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