Tehran Visit Showcases Role of Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq

ali-akbar-velayati-and-kabi-in-tehranSheikh Akram al Kabi just completed a high-profile visit to Iran, in which he pledged loyalty not to his native Iraq but to Supreme Leader Khamenei.

CounterJihad, Sept. 9, 2016:

The Long War Journal has an excellent piece on the recent visit to Tehran of Iraqi militia leader Akram al Kabi, of the Harakat al Nujaba militia.

Militia officials frequently travel to Iran, but the publicity surrounding Kabi’s visit is unprecedented. This indicates the rising clout of the Iraqi cleric among the political elite in Tehran.

Kabi boldly proclaimed his allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as well as the concept of velayat-e faqih, or guardianship of the jurist, which is the political and theological basis of the Islamic Republic as established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Kabi echoed Tehran’s propaganda claims, and boasted about targeting American forces during the Second Gulf War. He reiterated his commitment to the “Axis of Resistance,” an alliance of state and non-state actors led by Iran. Kabi vowed that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella organization of Iraqi paramilitary groups that includes Iranian-backed groups such as Nujaba, would participate in the anticipated operation to lay siege to Mosul, which has been held by the Islamic State since 2014. Following Mosul, Kabi called for Iraqi militias to shift resources to Syria and chase the Islamic State into the strongholds of Deir ez-Zour and Raqqah. He also threatened to target Turkish forces stationed near Mosul.

The role of velayat-e faqih in Iran’s control of regional militia forces cannot be overstated.  The core theory of the Iranian revolution, it holds that only a specialized class of Shi’ite clerics can properly manage human affairs through government.  Loyalty is thus not properly given to either the elected officials of the semi-modern states of the region, nor to the tribal leaders who are often the real powers in much of the Middle East.  Rather, both the state and the tribe should be subordinated to properly trained religious leaders.  What constitutes a “properly trained” religious leader?  One trained in Iran’s elite schools, of course, preferably holding at least the rank of Ayatollah.

This does not bar the existence of elected governments, to be sure.  Iran has one itself.  However, every aspect of the elected government is placed under the “guardianship” of some cleric or body of clerics.  Iran’s “Guardian Council,” made up of such clerics, determined who was even allowed to stand for office in the last round of elections.  They dismissed 99% of the proposed candidates from the moderate and reformist parties, requiring that those parties recruit cleric-approved hardliner candidates even to participate in the elections.  Thus, while there was still an election, and the ‘moderate and reformist’ parties did fairly well, actual power became even more concentrated among those hand-picked by the clerical leadership.

Kabi, a US-designated foreign terrorist, will be participating in the attack on Islamic State (ISIS) positions near Mosul.  The United States is deploying nearly five thousand troops in the same assault.  Kurdish forces will also be participating.  The aftermath of the battle against ISIS in Mosul will thus be nearly as contentious as the actual battle itself, as Iran, the Kurds, the Turks, and the United States all scramble to try to sort out what the final disposition of the highly-contested and strategic city happens to be.  As the Long War Journal points out, Kabi is vociferously opposed to the United States’ interests, and describes his militia (here labeled “PMF,” an acronym that means “popular mobilization forces”) as a counterweight to American ambitions in Iraq:

During the meeting with Rezai, Kabi claimed that the PMF’s participation in the Mosul operation would foil a U.S. plan to build permanent military bases there. He claimed that the U.S. opposes PMF participation in Mosul because it intends to build such a base. Kabi touted the Iraqi Prime Minister’s decision to deploy PMF forces to Mosul.

Iran clearly intends to use these forces to limit America’s ability to shape the final outcome.  Khamenei’s loyalists are not in any sense swayed to rethink their relationship to the United States, neither by the so-called “Iran deal” nor by the fact that the Obama administration’s policies are supporting Iran’s own ambitions in Iraq and Syria.  They still regard the United States as the enemy, and are acting accordingly.

Also see:

Obama Signed Off on Iran’s Right to Nuclear Program in Secret 2011 Talks

AP

AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Aug. 10, 2015:

President Barack Obama approved of Iran’s right to operate a nuclear program in 2011 during secret meetings with Iranian officials, according to new disclosures by Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The comments, made earlier this year by Ali Khamenei, dispute claims by the Obama administration that it only began talking to Iran after the election of President Hassan Rouhani.

Khamenei revealed in a recent speech that talks began in secret with anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying former President Mahmoud Ahmadenejad. At this time, Obama told the Iranians he endorses Iran’s right to have a nuclear program.

“The issue of negotiating with the Americans is related to the term of the previous [Ahmadinejad] government, and to the dispatching of a mediator to Tehran to request talks,” Khamenei said in a recent speech translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

“At the time, a respected regional figure came to me as a mediator and explicitly said that U.S. President [Obama] had asked him to come to Tehran and present an American request for negotiations,” Khamenei disclosed. “The Americans told this mediator: ‘We want to solve the nuclear issue and lift sanctions within six months, while recognizing Iran as a nuclear power.’”

“I told that mediator that I did not trust the Americans and their words, but after he insisted, I agreed to reexamine this topic, and negotiations began,” Khamenei added.

Other Iranian officials also have admitted that Obama’s goal from the get-go was to endorse Iran’s nuclear program and then lift economic sanctions on the country’s economy.

Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter to Iran stating that the United States “recognizes Iran’s rights regarding” nuclear enrichment, according to another senior Iranian official, Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam.

“We came to the [secret] negotiations [with the United States] after Kerry wrote a letter and sent it to us via [mediator Omani Sultan Qaboos], stating that America officially recognizes Iran’s rights regarding the [nuclear fuel] enrichment cycle,” Al-Islam said in a recent interview with Iran’s Tasnim news agency, according to MEMRI.

“Then there were two meetings in Oman between the [Iranian and U.S.] deputy foreign ministers, and after those, Sultan Qaboos was dispatched by Obama to Khamenei with Kerry’s letter,” the official added.

Khamenei went on to tell him at the time: “‘I don’t trust them.’ Sultan Qaboos said: ‘Trust them one more time.’ On this basis the negotiations began, and not on the basis of sanctions, as they [the Americans] claim in their propaganda.”

This information has been confirmed by other senior Iranian officials, according to MEMRI.

Ali Akbar Salahi, the Iranian vice president and head of its Atomic Energy Organization, claimed in separate interviews this year that “the Americans initiated the secret talks with Iran in 2011-2012, and stressed his role in jumpstarting the process from the Iranian side,” according to MEMRI.

***

Also see:

Iran Rising: Tehran Using Hezbollah in Latin American ‘Cultural Centers’ To Infiltrate West

AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office, Mohammad Berno

AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office, Mohammad Berno

Breitbart, by JORDAN SCHACHTEL AND EDWIN MORA,  May 27, 2015:

The rapidly growing number of Shiite cultural centers in Latin America have provided the Islamic Republic of Iran with a means to expand its covert recruitment operations throughout the western hemisphere, leading military officials and experts to provide Breitbart News with statements that directly contradict the Obama administration’s narrative that Iran’s influence in the region is “waning.”

Breitbart News interviewed military and intelligence officials, policy experts, members of Congress, and a former White House official for this report, all of whom warned about the threat posed by Iran’s continuing encroachment into Latin America.

Iran is infiltrating Latin America thanks largely to Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group that has sworn loyalty to Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, showing overt preference to the Tehran dictator over its host-state Lebanon. Hezbollah, along with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have provided the on-the-ground support needed for the proliferation of Iran’s Khomeinist ideology.

Breitbart News’ sources have unanimously refuted the assessment of Obama’s State Department, which has claimed that “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.”

A U.S. military official told Breitbart News that the estimated 80-plus Shiite cultural centers backed by Iran are continuously multiplying, and are currently being operated by Hezbollah and Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force.

Hezbollah provides operational and logistical support “for Iran’s covert activities in the region to include coordination and collaboration with Lebanese [Hezbollah’s] external operations arm the Islamic Jihad Organization” through Shiite Islamic centers dubbed “cultural centers,” the official told Breitbart News, contradicting the narrative put forth by the State Department.

Such centers can be found throughout Latin America, according to the official.

“Iranian cultural centers open possibilities for Iran to introduce members of its Revolutionary Guard-Qods Forces (IRGC-QF) to a pool of potential recruits within the centers population of Lebanese Shi’a Muslims and local converts to Shia Islam,” added the defense official.

David Shedd, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), echoed the U.S. military officials comments, telling Breitbart News via email that “the cultural centers may be used as platforms for truly nefarious purposes by the Iranian regime.”

“Iran has expanded its ‘cultural centers’ presence in locations such as Quito [in Peru] and Caracas [in Venezuela] where there is a strong anti-US government sentiment,” Shedd, currently a visiting distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Breitbart News.

“Iran’s overall expanded presence in the Western Hemisphere is troubling,” the former DIA director added. “The expanded presence in any capacity in the Latin American region should give the U.S. pause given the profound differences between U.S. values and those of a regime in Tehran that supports terrorism as an officially sanctioned tool of national power.”

Shedd warned that Hezbollah, which he described as the most prominent global terrorist group in Latin America, likely has “sleeper cells” in various countries in the Western Hemisphere.

“Hezbollah sympathizers also appear to have a presence in the tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil where they are involved in black market commercial activities,” he noted.

The Tri-Border region in South America includes Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. According to the Treasury Department, the Galeria Page shopping mall in Paraguay– at the heart of the tri-border– serves as central headquarters and a fundraising source for Hezbollah members in the region.

Members of Congress have also sounded the alarm about Tehran’s growing influence in Latin America.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a member of the House Armed Services, said that Iran’s presence was evident when he visited Quito, Ecuador. The congressman described it as a place where anti-American sentiment is strong and jihadist figures appear next to Latin American heroes.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee, has been warning against the presence and activity of Iran and its ally Hezbollah in Latin America, holding multiple congressional hearings on the issue, visiting the region, and sponsoring legislation — the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012.

Chairman Duncan told Breitbart News that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah “use many tools to deepen their influence in the region, including diplomatic missions and cultural centers; ties with terrorist organizations and criminal groups; training Latin American youth in Tehran; and exploiting loose border security policies and free trade zones to smuggle contraband.”

Rep. Duncan accused the Obama administration of not paying enough attention to the Iranian threat in Latin America, saying during a March 18 congressional hearing, “I believe this negligence is misguided and dangerous.”

Duncan is not the only one who disagrees with how the Obama administration is dealing the presence of Iran in the Western Hemisphere.

Bud McFarlane, who served as National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan, told Breitbart News that Iran continues to expand its influence operations throughout the region, tailoring its message to the Spanish-speaking world. He explained:

Iran’s existing network of agents in place, including members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), function through Iranian cultural centers where they seek to recruit candidates for conversion to Shia Islam and carry out other clandestine, subversive activities.  They also carry out what amounts to a form of brainwashing by encouraging teenagers to access Islamoriente.com, which features links to Iranian television for Spanish speakers, anti-American propaganda, essays on reasons to convert to Islam, chat rooms and a personal message from the supreme leader of Iran.

Iran’s propaganda and influence operations can be witnessed throughout the globe, not just in Latin America.

Dr. Michael Rubin, an Iran expert and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told Breitbart News:

The Iranian use of Hezbullah and Lebanese expatriate populations is actually neither new nor limited to South America. In the aftermath of the 1992 ‘Mykonos Cafe’ assassinations in Berlin, German police captured both Iranian and Hezbollah operatives, the latter of which represented sleeper cells in Germany.

Rubin added that Hezbollah must not be seen as an independent actor, but as a tool of the Iranian regime. He explained:

Hezbollah is a proxy founded and controlled by Iran. Talk of Hezbollah as having evolved to become Lebanese nationalist first and foremost is nonsense. I’ve been in Hezbollah bunkers in southern Lebanon. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and it’s telling that Hezbollah terrorists bunk down under photos of Khomeini and Khamenei. Current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains Hezbollah’s religious source of emulation. Any notion that Hezbollah was anything other than an Qods Force proxy should have been put to rest in 2008, when they turned their guns on fellow Lebanese in the center of Beirut, or when they supporter the worst atrocities in Syria since 2011.

But even with the overwhelming evidence that Iran’s influence in Latin America is expanding exponentially, the Obama administration has thus far refused to recognize its deep penetration of the Western Hemisphere.

The State Department, which falls under the purview of the Obama White House, has recently stated that the “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.”

But it appears as if other executive branch agencies are sending conflicting messages about Iran in Latin America.

In October 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which serves as the investigative arm of Congress, noted a discrepancy in the assessments provided by the agencies.

Although the State Department claims that key government agencies — including the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice — agree with its position, the GAO revealed that U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), which oversees most of Latin America and the Caribbean, does not agree that Iran’s influence is “waning.”

Obama’s Pandering to Iran Has No Limits

1578134015CSP, by Fred Fleitz:

The Obama administration is in desperation mode on the nuclear talks with Iran.  With the prospect of a Republican Senate taking action next year to thwart its controversial nuclear diplomacy and a fast approaching November 24 deadline for the talks, the Obama administration reportedly has doubled down on its previous one-sided concessions to Tehran by offering to allow it to operate up to 6,000 uranium centrifuges.

Further confusing this situation, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the president wrote a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in which he reportedly stressed that “any cooperation on the Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a November 24 diplomatic deadline.”

Although the Obama administration made several disturbing concessions to get Iran to the bargaining table, one of the worst was implicitly conceding to Tehran the “right” to enrich uranium by allowing it to operate uranium centrifuges.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly made this point when he visited the United States in September when he said Iran has no need for uranium enrichment and any enrichment it conducts is for one purpose: making nuclear bombs.

Charles Krauthammer made a similar point during the Fox News Special Report program last night, saying that to get a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration “has abolished the central idea of nonproliferation . . . you cannot enrich.”

Using 9,000 centrifuges currently operating, Iran is enriching to reactor-grade enough uranium to fuel about two nuclear weapons per year if further enriched to weapons-grade.  Although allowing Iran to operate 6,000 centrifuges means it would accumulate reactor-grade uranium at a slightly slower pace, this proposal ignores the risk from Iran’s large reactor-grade uranium stockpile and the fact that far fewer centrifuges are needed to enrich to weapons-grade from reactor-grade.

Using less than 2,000 centrifuges, Iran could enrich from reactor-grade to weapons grade in 2.2 to 3.5 months.  Iran currently has enough reactor-grade uranium to make enough weapons-grade nuclear fuel for at least seven nuclear weapons if further enriched.

The Obama administration’s decision to allow Iran to enrich uranium was unconscionable and made the negotiations to slow or halt the Iranian nuclear program an unacceptable risk to American and international security from the outset.  Over the last year, Obama officials gave away more and more to Tehran in the nuclear talks, setting the stage for a final agreement that is certain to be a diplomatic train wreck.

Words escape me to discuss the foolhardiness of the letter that President Obama reportedly sent to Ayatollah Khamenei last month.  Given that Iran is in part to blame for the surge in sectarian violence in Iraq since 2011 due to its ties to the Maliki government and its training of Iraqi Shiite militias, why would the United States be discussing cooperation with Iranian officials against the Islamic State and linking this to getting a nuclear agreement?  If the United States was to say anything to Iran about restoring stability to Iraq and defeating the Islamic State, it should be: “Stop meddling in Iraq!”

A Republican Senate and responsible oversight of the president’s abysmal foreign policy cannot come soon enough.

Iran Supreme Leader: Prepare for the ‘New World Order’

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, President Hassan Rouhani kisses the forehead of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after his surgery at a hospital in Tehran, Iran / AP

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, President Hassan Rouhani kisses the forehead of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after his surgery at a hospital in Tehran, Iran / AP

By Adam Kredo:

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the “new world order is emerging” and that “Iran will have a strong role in creating” it, according to a Farsi language transcript of Khamenei’s remarkslate last week to the country’s Assembly of Experts.

Iran will lead this “new world order” that will replace American influence as capitalism and Western influence collapses, according to Khamenei, who underwent surpriseprostate surgery on Monday.

“Iran will have a strong role in creating the new world order,” Khamenei said, explaining that Tehran will expand its already growing influence in Latin America and even Asia.

“We have important potential outside Iran, we have supporters, we have strategic depth, in the region, some because of Islam, some because of language, some because of Shia religion, they are our strategic depth, these are all our strengths, we should use them all,” Khamenei said, according to a translation of his remarks provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

“And it is not only in the region, outside the region, in Latin America we have strategic depth, in some important parts of Asia we have strategic depth, we have the tools to use these opportunities and we have to use these opportunities, using them makes the country strong,” Khamenei said.

A sign of the West’s waning power came when “the Zionist regime of Israel” purportedly “lost the battle against the small population of the Muslims in Gaza,” according to a separate recounting of Khamenei’s remarks published by the state-run Fars News Agency.

“The recent war in Gaza was an example of miracle; a small region with limited capabilities accomplished a task that brought the Zionist regime, as the symbol of the West’s power, to its knees,” he was quoted as saying. “The current world order cannot continue and a new order is emerging.”

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

Iran’s Supreme Leader Likens Zionists to Nazis

Iran dictates Khamenei’s “fatwa” as basis for nuclear negotiations. US fails to update Israel on Geneva talks

 

By Justyna Pawlak and Fredrik Dahl GENEVA | Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:46pm EDT

By Justyna Pawlak and Fredrik Dahl
GENEVA | Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:46pm EDT

Debkafile:

The Iranian negotiators arrived in Geneva Tuesday, Oct. 15, armed with inflexible positions verging on all-or-nothing for the talks with the six powers in Geneva on their country’s nuclear program.

The most important step for an accord, said Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, was for the powers to accept the Supreme Leader’s 2006 fatwa banning the development of nuclear weapons.

DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources note that although President Barack Obama cited this “fatwa,’ it was issued as a propaganda ploy with no binding religious value. The Iranian tactic is to use this “edict” to force the six powers (five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) to bow to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s authority and accord him equal status as the leader of a world power.
The Iranian team started the two-day meeting with a PowerPoint presentation, but then said the details of the proposals presented were “confidential.”
The other delegations agreed to this, although to say they were disappointed is an understatement. They were bowled over by the four Iranian stipulations:

1. The world powers must accept Iran’s right to enrich uranium without limitations. All the enrichment sites at Fordo and Natanz and the Arak heavy water plant under construction for plutonium production will remain in place.
2.  All sanctions on the Iranian economy whether imposed by the UN Security Council, the US or Europe must be removed at once.

3.  Iran guarantees to provide transparency and accept the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) but rejects snap inspections.
4. Khamenei’s “fatwa” is the first step towards an agreement with the world powers.

At the end of the first day of talks, EU foreign policy executive Catherine Ashton, who chairs the Geneva conference, took the Iranian negotiator Araghchi aside and told him to bring to the table more serious proposals.

Up until Tuesday night, the Obama administration had not relayed a single word on the Geneva proceedings to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was waiting in Jerusalem for a promised update.
His response to Iran’s arrogant intransigence at the Geneva talks and the fact that he was kept in the dark was not long in coming.
Addressing a Knesset session marking the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war, Tuesday afternoon, the prime minister said: One lesson Israel learned from the Yom Kippur war was “never disallow the option of a preemptive strike a priori.” While this option may not meet all situations, it deserves careful and earnest consideration.
Netanyahu went on to say: The potential international reaction to such an attack is of less consequence than the price in blood Israel is apt to pay from a future “strategic blow” and the necessity to hit back.