Hizballah’s Ongoing Threat to U.S. National Security

by IPT News  •  Mar 7, 2017

Most analyses of Hizballah focus on the terrorist group’s intervention in Syria or its threat to Israel. But the Iranian-backed organization maintains a significant presence in and near the United States, threatening national security. Current American proposals to strengthen borders and immigration measures may be limited to address this important, yet poorly understood, threat.

A recent Al-Arabiya article examines Hizballah’s North American threat.

It has the expertise to build advanced tunnels on the southern U.S. border, enabling Hizballah terrorists and Mexican cartel operatives to infiltrate the United States. Relations between Iranian-backed proxies, including Hizballah, and Latin American drug cartels are well established. Mexican gang members learn from Hizballah’s combat experience and use of advanced weaponry. Hizballah, in turn, derives a significant portion of its finances from the drug trade and other illicit activities.

In recent years, security officials in southwestern states noticed a rise in tattoos featuring Hizballah’s insignia among imprisoned drug cartel operatives. This surprising trend indicates a strengthened relationship between the terrorist group and Mexican gang members. In line with its foreign policy, Iranian operatives infiltrating Latin America seek to convert individuals to adopt its extremist Shi’ite ideology. Over the years, pro Iranian websites have proliferated across Latin America, in an attempt to cultivate support for the Islamic Republic.

Powerful Latin American politicians also help Iran and Hizballah penetrate the region and threaten the United States. In February, CNN received a 2013 secret intelligence document from several Latin American countries demonstrating ties between Venezuelan Vice President Tarreck El Aissami and 173 Venezuelan identification cards and passports issued to people from the Middle East, including Hizballah operatives. El Aissami “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, and Iraqis,” the report shows.

Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the region is ripe for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking. Hizballah continues to exploit other Lebanese Shi’ite diaspora communities, including in the United States, to strengthen its presence worldwide.

In 2011, the United States disrupted a plot led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in cooperation with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington.

The problematic nexus between Iranian-backed operatives, including Hizballah, and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to earn big money to fuel their violent operations. These connections also enable Hizballah to make inroads into the United States through its porous border with Mexico.

American intelligence reports show that Hizballah maintains a significant network of sleeper cells in the United States. Though Hizballah has not conducted a major attack on U.S. soil, the group could decide to strike key American sites should U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate substantially. Preparations to combat Islamist terrorism broadly should strongly consider the nuanced and growing Hizballah threat to U.S. national security.

European Counter-Terror Official: IRGC, Muslim Brotherhood Are Not Terror Groups

Peter Neumann / AP

Peter Neumann / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Feb. 22, 2017:

A leading European counter-terrorism official is facing criticism after claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, are not terrorist groups.

Peter Neumann, an Austrian counter-terrorism official charged with working to combat violent extremism under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) attracted criticism this week after stating that both the Brotherhood and IRGC are not terrorist groups and should not be formally designated as such.

Neumann’s stance elicited criticism from U.S. terror experts who told the Washington Free Beacon that this line of thinking would not help European officials combat a rising threat from radical terrorists, many of whom have become radicalized through extremist doctrines promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood and the theocratic regime in Iran. The position also runs counter to views held by the Trump administration, which has vowed tougher action on radical organizations.

A senior White House official who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter disclosed that the Trump administration is keeping a keen eye on all of these groups and will not hesitate to take action as the administration works to combat radical groups.

“Like with Muslim Brotherhood, the main argument against designating them as terrorist organisation is that they aren’t one,” Neumann stated on Twitter Tuesday, a day before he was appointed as a special representative on radicalization for the OSCE.

Neumann, who also serves as director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence based in London, is tasked with helping the OSCE combat the rise of Islamic terrorism amid reports of growing threats across the continent. An estimated 10,000 individuals from OSCE member countries are reported to have traveled to Syria to wage jihad.

Neumann’s stance appears to clash with the national security vision backed by the Trump administration and many U.S. lawmakers, who view both groups as terror agents and have sought to formally designate them as terror outfits.

The White House is already considering a designation for the Brotherhood and could pursue similar designations for the IRGC.

“It is no secret that President Trump is deeply concerned about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and he’s made clear that while he’s prioritizing defeating ISIS, he knows the issue doesn’t end there,” one senior White House official told the Free Beacon. “We’re going to have to look at the root causes if we’re actually going to fight this enemy.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is already designated as a terror outfit by Egypt, Israel, and other nations due to its efforts to foment unrest and violence. The IRGC is a primary backer of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terror groups that have wreaked violence across the Middle East.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, said that the IRGC, in particular, represents the type of terrorism gripping the Middle East and other regions.

“The IRGC sees the world in black-and-white terms, and so it’s ironic that Western diplomats and academics want to read nuance into the group,” Rubin said after reviewing Neumann’s comments. “They can slap themselves on the back and believe they are sophisticated but, in reality, they are becoming useful idiots and legitimizing the bureaucracy of terror.”

The IRGC not only directly supports terrorism forces but also runs a massive propaganda effort meant to indoctrinate new recruits.

“Some analysts say the IRGC isn’t monolithic, and some Iranians only join for the privileges,” Rubin said. “Well, a designation would put these opportunists on notice that the short-term gain in gasoline rations isn’t worth a lifetime blacklist from seeing relatives abroad or visiting beaches without burqas.”

One U.S.-based terrorism expert who liaises with many in Congress told the Free Beacon that efforts to downplay these organizations harm the global response to terrorism.

“Neumann’s equivocation on the IRGC’s role in Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism is precisely why many don’t take the ‘experts’ so seriously,” said the expert, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “But what makes Neumann so dangerous is not that he is some fringe crackpot academic, but at the very pinnacle of the international ‘countering violent extremism’ effort. We already have these so-called ‘experts’ talking about ‘moderate al Qaeda’. What’s next in this effort to define down terrorism, ‘moderate’ ISIS?”

The Saudi-Iran Rivalry and Sectarian Strife in South Asia

sunni-vs-shia

Iran and Saudi Arabia are recruiting and radicalizing local Muslim populations in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan.

IPT, by Abha Shankar
The Diplomat
October 6, 2016

Note: This article originally was published at The Diplomat website.

Obama’s Cash-for-Jihad Program

(Dreamstime image: Dmitry Rukhlenko)

(Dreamstime image: Dmitry Rukhlenko)

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, Sept. 17, 2016:

The Obama State Department is convinced that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his regime’s cronies are financing terrorism. How come? Well, because they conduct business in cash.

In fact, in its most recent annual report on state sponsors of terrorism, State frets “that 60 percent of all business transactions [in Syria] are conducted in cash and that nearly 80 percent of all Syrians do not use formal banking services.” This has created a “vast black market,” the components of which are exploited by “some members of the Syrian government and the business elite . . . in terrorism finance schemes.”

Interesting thing about that: There are only three countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism — Syria, Sudan, and Iran. That last one is worth highlighting. Iran, after all, is not just the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism; it is also the world’s leading state sponsor of . . . Syria — providing it with lots of that cash the State Department is so concerned about.

Oh, I nearly forgot: Iran also happens to be the jihadist regime that President Obama just gave $1.7 billion to . . . in cash.

Or should I say, at least $1.7 billion.

It is hard to decide what is the most appalling thing about Obama’s $1.7 billion payoff to the mullahs: the ransom for the release of American hostages, which has predictably induced Tehran to take more hostages; the pallets of untraceable currency loaded on multiple planes of the national airline regularly used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to arm Assad and facilitate terror; the withdrawals from a shadowy Treasury Department fund structured in a manner designed to conceal that money was being transferred to Iran. The transaction is so shocking, one can easily forget that it is just the latest in a long series of payoffs.

The payoffs were made in Obama’s pursuit of legacy adornment — the nuclear deal with Iran he coveted at any cost. Beginning in January 2014 and continuing for a year and a half — the period during which the president was quietly folding at the negotiation table on every bold campaign-trail vow to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — the administration released $700 million per month in escrowed oil funds to the jihadist regime.

In congressional testimony last week, Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) did the math: That’s $11.9 billion. But that, literally, may not be the half of it. In July, U.S. government officials told the Associated Press that Iran had repatriated a sum approaching $20 billion in the half-year following implementation of the nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA).

Is that $20 billion from the JCPOA in addition to the pre-JCPOA $11.9 billion in oil revenues? Is it in addition to the $1.7 billion “settlement of a failed 1970s arms deal” (a.k.a. the ransom for American hostages)? The “most transparent administration in history” is not saying. But as Dubowitz runs the numbers, the “worst-case scenario” is that Iran has gotten its mitts on $33.6 billion — and “worst” assumes that we know about every shady backroom deal, which seems unlikely.

That staggering figure would amount to about 8 percent of Iran’s entire annual GDP. Whatever the true amount is, were the billions transferred in cash?

Remember, when the news first broke of the $400 million cash payment on the same day our hostages were released, the president looked us in the eye and told us he had to pay the mullahs that way — he couldn’t wire the funds or send a check because, owing to his professed respect for sanctions in American law, there is no banking relationship between the U.S. and Iran. As I explained at the time, this was simply false: The cash transfer violated the sanctions every bit as much as a check or wire transfer would have. Plus, the sanctions allow for presidential waivers, so Obama could easily have wired the money. He sent cash only because he chose to send cash.

So if the administration loaded up planes with $1.7 billion in foreign currency for the settlement/ransom, was a similar method used in connection with the $11.9 billion in escrowed oil funds? How about the $20 billion in JCPOA sanctions relief? Again, the administration won’t say — apparently relying on a nonexistent privilege of confidentiality in international relations to justify withholding such information from Congress and the public.

One sadly hilarious aspect of this spectacle is the administration’s tortured claims about Iran’s use of its Obama windfalls. The White House and State Department grudgingly admit that they cannot know for certain how much Iran has diverted to the terrorist activities that the administration even more grudgingly admits Iran continues to underwrite. But rest assured, Obama strongly suspects that very little money makes its way to the jihad, since Tehran must prioritize paying down crushing debt and repairing crumbling infrastructure.

How ridiculous. It is pointless to track how particular dollar streams are spent by a terrorist regime. Iran had crushing debt and crumbling infrastructure before Obama started lining its pockets; yet it was committed to exporting revolutionary jihad, so it spent its sparse resources on terrorism anyway. Consequently, if the new dollars Iran is reeling in are ostensibly spent on infrastructure or debt, the dollars that would otherwise have been spent on those activities are freed up for terrorist activity.

The logic is unassailable: Because money is fungible, not a thin dime can safely be given to an entity that supports terrorism. In the case of Iran, however, we need not rely on logical deduction; we know Iran is channeling funds to the jihad. As the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Saeed Ghasseminejad reports, the Iranian regime requires the transfer to its military of funds it receives from settling legal disputes with foreign countries and companies. That means, for example, that the $1.7 billion settlement that Obama paid when the hostages were released has gone to the IRGC.

That brings us back full-circle to the State Department’s annual report on state sponsors of terrorism. As the report explains, the IRGC, through its notorious Qods Force, “is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”

To summarize: The Obama administration explains that when a terrorist regime like Syria prefers to conduct business in cash, that markedly increases the likelihood that its funds will be used to finance terrorism. Concurrently, Obama is providing exorbitant sums to Iran, the world’s worst terrorist regime, and going out of his way to transfer it in the form of cash. And under the Iranian regime’s dictates, a goodly portion of that cash is going directly to the component of the Iranian government that oversees its prodigious international terrorism operations.

Not to worry, though — it’s not like they’re threatening our naval vessels, humiliating our sailors, massing Hezbollah forces on Israel’s border, or chanting “Death to America,” right?

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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Iran’s Terror Proxy Support Openly Defies Western Pressure

Getty Images

Getty Images

by IPT News  •  Sep 12, 2016

Several high profile Iranian officials recently boasted of the Islamic Republic’s steadfast support for terrorist organizations committed to opposing Western interests and the destruction of Israel, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

An adviser to Iran’s parliament speaker, Mansour Haqiqatpour, bragged that Iran would continue supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) despite ongoing negotiations taking place with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that seek to curb Iranian hardline behavior. Haqiqatpour referred to Hizballah and Hamas as “freedom fighter” groups, citing Islam and Islamic revolutionary ideology as primary motivations for Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.

Hardline Iranian factions and leaders accuse the Iranian government of preparing to offer significant concessions in return for the country’s removal from the FATF blacklist. Mohsen Kouhkan, an Iranian parliamentarian, referred to the Iran-FATF negotiations as a “Zionist–American plot.” In July 2015, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi insisted that ceasing support for Hizballah in return for an agreement was out of the question.

Since the July 2015 nuclear deal was signed, Iran has expanded its presence in regional conflicts, leading to mounting IRGC casualties. In the last two weeks, six additional IRGC fighters were killed in Syria, including a high-ranking officer. A leader of an Iraqi Shi’ite militia praised IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani’s support and confirmed that Shi’ite militias would continue their regional operations after Mosul is cleared of Islamic State fighters.

Moreover, on Sept. 1, an Iranian diplomatic delegation met with Ali Barakeh – a Hamas representative living in Beirut – to discuss Iran’s ongoing support for Hamas’ violent fight against Israel. Despite notable disagreements since the outbreak of civil war in Syria, predominately Shi’ite Iran continues to court the Sunni Palestinian terrorist organization. The relationship suggests that defeating the Jewish state remains a common objective that supersedes sectarian divisions.

Click here to read the full report outlining recent developments from the Meir Amit Center.

Proponents of the Iran nuclear deal, including many within the Obama administration, argued that the agreement would moderate Iran’s behavior. Earlier this year, senior adviser Ben Rhodes even admitted that the Obama administration misled the U.S. public to promote the nuclear deal by falsely alluding to the emergence of a more moderate Islamic Republic. On the contrary, Iran immediately enhanced its support for terrorist organizations, while extremist factions within Iran gained more ground. Though some may debate Iran’s long-run trajectory, post-nuclear deal Iran has proved to be even more emboldened to pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions, while more pragmatic Iranian leaders increasingly are silenced.

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US official: Navy aircraft threatened with shoot down by Iran

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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:

America’s Most Dangerous Enemy to Lead Mosul Assault

unnamed (1)

CounterJihad, Aug. 13, 2016:

According to The Long War Journal‘s Threat Matrix blog, Qassem Suleimani is going to be heavily involved in the leadership of the upcoming offensive against Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Mosul.

The spokesman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Front (PMF) announced on August 6 that Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, will play a major role in the upcoming operations to take the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. The spokesman defended the presence of Iranian military advisors in Iraq.

According to translations of his remarks published by IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency, the spokesman called Soleimani “one of the most important military advisors” from the Islamic Republic of Iran. He added that Soleimani and other Iranian advisors are in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government and that they provide important consultation.

Soleimani is rumored to have arrived in Iraq last week to prepare for the battle of Mosul with the Iraqi government forces and PMF. An unnamed Iraqi parliamentarian claimed in an Asharq al Awsat article on August 3 that Soleimani arrived without a passport…

Soleimani directs IRGC operations in the Iraqi and Syrian theaters. The IRGC has deployed elite Iraqi and Lebanese proxies to Aleppo this past week to bolster the forces of Bashar al Assad, after rebels succeeded in breaking the siege of eastern Aleppo on August 6.

Now Suleimani is under international travel bans arising from  his attempt to lead a set of assassinations against diplomats worldwide.  Nevertheless, he has been allowed to travel freely to Iraq, Syria, and Russia.  In the course of those travels he has served as Iran’s point man in its unconventional warfare.  He has nearly succeeded in making Iran the dominant power in the northern Middle East, quite a feat given that it is managing to convince a more powerful Russia to follow its lead.

Suleimani led the Iranian efforts during the Iraq War, leading many proxy forces that killed some 3,000 Americans.  He was badly injured in Syria last fall, but seems to have recovered well enough to take a leadership position on the ground.  It is ironic to see him in the forefront of an effort that is backed by the United States, but under the Obama administration, such ironies abound.

Freed-Up Frozen Funds, Sanctions Relief and Ransoms Only Aid Iran’s Global Crime Syndicate

hCNS News, by Clare Lopez, Aug. 10, 2016:

“As long as Iran has money, Hizballah will have money,” Hizballah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah boasted in a late June 2016 interview. “We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added to Hizballah’s official Al Ahed newspaper.

Well, not quite everything.

In the past, Hizballah’s annual income from Iran was estimated at $100-200 million annually, with more received after the devastating 2006 war with Israel. More recently, however, as sanctions bit down on the Iranian economy even as the mullahs ramped up Iran’s nuclear weapons development and poured resources into the battle to save its Damascus proxy regime, the amounts Tehran could provide to Hizballah declined. Hizballah itself was called upon by Tehran to provide fighters, funding, and weapons to the Syrian effort. At least partly as a result, the time since 2011 has been marked by an expansion of Hizballah’s already-extensive global crime network. While Hizballah long has relied on a worldwide network of Shi’ite Lebanese businesses, criminal syndicates, and other supporters for financial and operational support, the urgent need to bolster its own funding efforts has pushed Hizballah increasingly into scaling up its narcotrafficking and related criminal activities—naturally with the full knowledge and approval of its Iranian masters.

Since its creation by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the early 1980s, Hizballah has been involved in the local drug trade, built on traditional smuggling operations across the Middle East. Then the Lebanese civil war sent a Lebanese diaspora to the Western Hemisphere in which Hizballah operatives easily blended. Its first foothold was in the lawless Tri-Border area of South America, where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. Partnership with Colombian cocaine traffickers and willing collaboration from Venezuela gave Hizballah a new revenue stream as well as a base of operations with hemispheric proximity to Tehran’s number one ‘Great Satan’ enemy.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the drug trade is now Hizballah’s number one source of income. Collaboration between Iran, the IRGC, Qods Force, Hizballah, narcotrafficking cartels, and organized crime has grown exponentially in recent years, according to Michael Braun, retired senior official for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In June 2016 testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, Braun reported that Hizballah today is smuggling “hundreds of tons of cocaine from the Andean Region of South America into Venezuela” and from there onto ships destined for European markets via West and North Africa.

Operation Smokescreen was the name given to a Hizballah cigarette-smuggling operation run out of Charlotte, North Carolina, with links across the U.S. and in both Canada and Lebanon. Describing the complex network of banks, criminal operations and front companies that garnered tens of millions of dollars in profit for Iran’s terror proxy, law enforcement spokesmen identified a restaurant, painting business, tobacco shops, and credit card, mail and visa fraud, all as part of this Hizballah operation that was shut down in 2002.

In December 2011, DEA unraveled a large Florida-based criminal used car operation whose known profits netted Hizballah close to $500 million through the sale of counterfeit currency and bulk cash smuggling, some of which was also used to procure “a long list of sophisticated weapons.”

And finally, in January 2016, Customs and Border Protection (CPB), DEA, and international law enforcement partners busted yet another narcotics trafficking and money laundering operation dubbed Project Cassandra. Once again, the direct involvement of Hizballah operatives—always under the authority and supervision of the Iranian IRGC, Quds Force and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS)—was uncovered. A South American network of drug cartels called the Business Affairs Component (BAC), set up by Hizballah terror chieftain Imad Mughniyeh (assassinated in 2008) as a criminal division of Hizballah’s External Security Organization, managed this drug trafficking operation and laundered the proceeds through the Black Market Peso Exchange (a drug money laundering system). Managed by senior Hizballah operatives, some of whom are Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) figures, the BAC was moving cocaine and money to Europe, Iraq, Lebanon and the U.S. The arrest of SDGT Mohamad Noureddine in connection with Project Cassandra may have put a temporary crimp in some of Hizballah’s drug trafficking, but officials point to an actual expansion of such operations since a nuclear deal was made with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that took effect in July 2015.

U.S. willingness to deal directly with the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world has emboldened both Tehran and Hizballah. The JCPOA was only supposed to be about Iran’s nuclear industry, but its criminal, narcotics and terror industries got the message, too: individual U.S. agencies do their best, but the mullahs still have top cover.

Billions in freed-up frozen funds, sanctions relief, and ransoms paid for American hostages don’t hurt either.

Clare M. Lopez is the Vice President for Research & Analysis at the Center for Security Policy.

All Men in Iran Village Executed

Iran flag of deathCounter Jihad, Feb. 26, 2016:

A member of the Iranian cabinet says that his government has executed every man in one of the country’s villages. The Daily Beast reports:

, an official responsible for the Islamic Republic’s division of women and family affairs, said violence could explode in the undisclosed area of the Sistan and Baluchestan province as a response to the executions. “The children of the executed criminals are also already drug traffickers,” she said. “They want to avenge the deaths of their fathers.” The total number of men killed has not been released.

The Iranian regime’s use of its sharia-inspired drug laws to execute regime opponents is infamous.  Yet the Praetorian guard of the Islamic Republic, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, is actually the major figure in the narcotics trade both in Iran and in the region.  The IRGC controls the majority of the flow of opium from Afghanistan into the Levant and the Middle East generally.  Illegal activities are a major source of the IRGC’s operating budget, of which narcotics are only one.

Drug trafficking is another major area of the underground economy that the IRGC controls. Iran’s long border with Pakistan and Afghanistan is one of the the world’s busiest drug smuggling corridors.  Iran’s interior minister recently declared that the value of narcotic  drug sales in Iran is $3 billion per year, not including commission from transporting the drugs from Afghanistan to other transit points, like the Balkans. The US Department of the Treasury has placed Quds Force Commander Esmail Baghbani on the US sanctions list for his role in drug trafficking. The IRGC also has close ties with the drug cartels in the South and Central America through Hezbollah.

As the report notes, the IRGC’s control of the opium flow has allowed the terrorist group Hezbollah to infiltrate Latin American drug cartels by providing cheap heroin.  One of Iran’s oldest and most successful proxy forces, Hezbollah has managed connections with both governments and drug cartels in Latin America.  Hezbollah’s access to the IRGC’s opium stream has made its heroin operations in Lebanon chief among its many fundraising schemes.  US prosecutors in 2011 named Hezbollah as a major participant in money laundering operations between the Middle East, America, and West Africa as a result of the heroin trade.  During the civil war in Lebanon of the 1980s, Lebanese migrants to South America became a bridgehead for Hezbollah into that continent.  Hezbollah’s access to hashish, and its capacity to create and ship heroin, allowed it to build important supply relationships to the drug cartels it found in South America.  This allowed Hezbollah access to other drugs coming from South America, broadening its capacity to raise money off the drug trade.  Cash and drug smuggling operations between Hezbollah and Latin America have been recently tied to Nicaragua, Panama (on multiple fronts), Venezuela, CubaEcuador, and Argentina.

The drug trade is thus a key part of Iran’s attempt to export jihad and its own Islamic revolution.  Yet with the next breath, “drug trafficking” is used to justify genocidal acts against its own ethnic minorities.

Also see:

Iran’s Naval Commander: We Took Extensive Info From American Sailors’ Phones, Laptops

Iran state media

Iran state media

Washington Free Beacon, by Morgan Chalfant, Feb. 1, 2016:

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) naval commander claimed Monday that his men harvested extensive information from cell phones and laptops confiscated from the 10 American sailors held in custody last month, according to Iranian media.

The Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, reported that Admiral Ali Fadavi made the admission during a session of Iranian parliament.

“We have extracted extensive information from their [American sailors’] laptops and cell phones,” Fadavi reportedly said. He added that the information could be made public if a decision were made to release it.

The U.S. sailors and their two small Navy boats were arrested by Iran on January 12 for allegedly drifting into Iranian territorial waters. While Iran initially promised to release them promptly, the American personnel were held overnight and released the following morning. A preliminary report om the Pentagon on the events found that Iran returned two of the sailors’ cell phones without their SIM cards.

The U.S. Central Command report also confirmed that the sailors were arrested at gunpoint.

Following the sailors’ release, Iran state media released images and video of the sailors in captivity, their weapons and equipment seized by the IRGC. Some photos also showed Iranian personnel sifting through their weapons and viewing their documents.

Fadavi claimed Monday that the IRGC has more footage–spanning several hours–of the U.S. sailors in detention. He said that the video would humiliate the United States 100 times more than the footage previously released.

However, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said last month that President Obama was not embarrassed by the footage of the sailors released by Iran.

Before his remarks Monday, Fadavi was honored by Iran’s supreme leader for arresting the American sailors. He and four other Iranian navy commanders were awarded the Order of Fat’h (Victory) medal for their actions.

Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Begins to Stall-What Now?

  • Putin Gives Assad mid-Nov. deadline for results with Aleppo offensive and that the Russian airstrikes weren’t “indefinite.”
  • Syrian Rebels gaining some ground and pro-Assad forces suffering supply shortages and taking casualties – most notably IRGC commander Hamedani causing low morale.
  • Lack of coordination and competition between IRGC-Qods Force, Hezbollah, SAA and Russian Army causing problems
  • In spite of ops in Ukraine and Syria causing logistical strain on Russia, no sign of opening another air base.
  • Russia’s plan to take Aleppo, forcing a negotiated settlement and then turning attention to hitting ISIS is not going well and the Sinai plane bombing has just made everything more complicated.
  • Russian propaganda aside, can you say “Quagmire”?

The ISIS Study Group, Nov. 7, 2015:

In late-OCT Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a surprise visit to Moscow. Although it was called a “working visit” and the Assad regime did confirm three meetings were held, most people in the international press were caught up with this being Assad’s first visit in a few years. However, something rather important occurred during this visit – Vlad put Assad on notice. Assad was informed by Vlad that he’s expecting results from the Aleppo offensive by mid-NOV since he has Russian military support. That’s mid-NOV as in starting next week. He also told Assad that the Russian airstrikes weren’t “indefinite.”

Syria’s Assad in surprise visit to Moscow
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/10/syria-assad-met-russia-putin-moscow-151021064340109.html

Source: ZB

Source: ZB

Indeed this is a bit of a departure from what Vlad told Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia (“No End in Sight in Fighting on the Arabian Peninsula Front”), but we see it as more of our favorite KGB officer beginning to feel a greater sense of urgency. Basil al-Asad Airbase is operating at full capacity and our sources in Syria have informed us that there are no plans to open up other airbases to expand Russia’s logistical footprint – which is going to come back to haunt them. The ongoing offensive in Aleppo that we discussed in “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention” has become the new priority for the pro-regime forces looking for a “big win.” The problem with this is it means resources and personnel involved in the operations occurring in Northwest Syria are being redirected. Despite the Russian military support and diverting of resources and personnel to the Aleppo front, the offensive has stalled.

No End in Sight in Fighting on the Arabian Peninsula Front
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8896

On Thursday the al-Qaida-flavored Jund al-Aqsa seized control of the Hama Province town of Morek. That town was the last SAA garrison along the main highway between Aleppo and Hama. This was a particularly important event since the anti-Assad factions now have control of a major line of communication from which reinforcements and supplies can be sent to support operations in Idlib and Aleppo. We’ve been covering this multi-pronged pro-regime offensive to retake Aleppo, Idlib, and Russia’s involvement in it from the start (“Russia Supports New Syrian Offensive and Begins Prepping For Russian Ground OPs” and “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention”). In those articles we discussed the first indicators of things not exactly going as well as Russian propagandists are spinning them out to be. Although its true that pro-regime forces retook multiple villages South of Aleppo, they sustained heavy losses in doing so.

Syria jihadists capture regime town along vital road
http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rebels-seize-key-regime-town-hama-aleppo-095717057.html

Russia Supports New Syrian Offensive and Begins Prepping For Russian Ground OPs
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8669

Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8778

BG Hamedani in his best pic yet Source: The ISIS Study Group

BG Hamedani in his best pic yet
Source: The ISIS Study Group

The IRGC continues to play a large role on the ground on the Aleppo front, although they haven’t been able to recover (yet) from the death of IRGC BG Hossein Hamedani (Reference – “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention”). The combined pro-regime forces were already having problems coordinating/prioritizing lines of effort, but BG Hamedani’s death made the situation worse. As of this writing the vast majority of the pro-regime forces are suffering from low-morale and supply shortages that are compounded by that failure to prioritize and coordinate operations – which is why the current Aleppo campaign is stalling. Such problems have watered down all the airstrikes and fire support, so it really shouldn’t surprise anybody that the ground forces are having a hard time seizing and holding territory.

A big indicator of these problems in coordination operations can be seen in the anti-Assad factions’ adapting to the Russian airstrikes that aren’t necessarily being reported up by the guys on the ground. The reason has more to do with personal pride and an overall pissing contest between the officers of the IRGC-Qods Force, Hezbollah, SAA and Russian Army. The establishment of joint-coordination centers have helped some, but thus far it appears to have been the most successful in better stream-lining logistical operations. The reason for the lackluster improvement has to do with the Russian military continuing to maintain their own C2 separate from the SAA, IRGC and Hezbollah. The Russians manage sorties and use embedded LNOs to process strike requests – which chews up a lot of time that the guys on the ground probably don’t have the luxury of wasting. As one would guess, this has only led to increased tensions between the Russians and the Qods Force – who don’t believe they need Vlad’s boys beat down the anti-Assad factions (Gee, that sure looks like a great opportunity for some IO messaging there, CENTCOM – HINT, HINT).

al-Nusra fighters in the Southern part of Aleppo Source: al-Nusra Media Office

al-Nusra fighters in the Southern part of Aleppo
Source: al-Nusra Media Office

The Islamic State (IS) had severed some of the primary supply lines (such as the Khanaser Road) linking support hubs to the Aleppo front. Although the Assad regime is trumpeting its “victory” in regaining control of the Khanaser Road, they had to reallocate units to reopen the line of communication (LOC) just to sustain the offensive. Unfortunately, that also meant losing considerable momentum in other, more critical areas on the front. Assad’s forces were stretched even further when they were forced to eject IS from an oilfield near Hama. Another issue the SAA is running into is the increasing reliance on militias such as the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) as a result of manpower shortages. The problem with relying on the militias is that they’re very hit or miss. Not all of the militias are as capable as Hezbollah, Badr Organization, Kitaib Hezbollah (KH) or Asaib al-Haq (AAH). As a result, the Russian ground force mix of Spetsnaz and conventional troops are seeing more action. Most of their operations (the conventional guys anyways) are centered around convoy security in the Ghab Valley, although their Naval Infantry guys are conducting more small-unit operations at the company-level and lower. The Spetsnaz continue to due their counter-terror raids in conjunction with the Qods Force, although neither side appears to be particularly thrilled with having to “share” responsibilities. Those Russian ground troops have already sustained 10 KIA and another 24 WIA (again, a great opportunity for an IO campaign for the US to regain the initiative – assuming anybody in the Pentagon still has their balls).

Syrian Government Forces Regain Key Aleppo Supply Route
http://www.wsj.com/articles/syrian-government-forces-regain-key-aleppo-supply-rout-1446740694

Syrian Regime Makes Gains For Aleppo Supply Lines, Uniting ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Syrian Rebels
http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-regime-makes-gains-aleppo-supply-lines-uniting-isis-jabhat-al-nusra-syrian-2165308

Syrian army, allied Hezbollah militia expel ISIS from key oilfield near Hama
http://aranews.net/2015/11/syrian-army-allied-hezbollah-militia-expel-isis-from-key-oilfield-near-hama/

Hollow Victory: The pro-regime forces threw a great deal of time and personnel – their most precious resource – at retaking this piece of real estate Source: George Ourfalian (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Hollow Victory: The pro-regime forces threw a great deal of time and personnel – their most precious resource – at retaking this piece of real estate
Source: George Ourfalian (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

The big problem Vlad is going to face if this war extends beyond 6 months (which we don’t see any end in the foreseeable future) is the strain on the Russian military’s logisitical capabilities. Sure, the talking heads in the media point to Russia’s vast numbers, but what they fail to realize is that Russia’s military is a conscript force – and one that doesn’t have the highest morale. They also overlook the fact that despite the Russian military’s size, they have a hard time providing logistical support to it on campaigns. Russia was beginning to struggle with providing support to the limited presence it has in Ukraine, so what do you think is going to happen in Syria, or Iraq for that matter (should they expand there)? The biggest sign of strain to Russia’s airlift capabilities will be felt in the ordnance-area, in a few months we’ll know why the airstrikes will begin to decline. This is why we find Russia’s decision not to open up another airbase to alleviate the strain placed on Basil al-Assad Airbase (which is currently operating at full capacity) so interesting. The implied task, therefore, would be to use more sealift transport. The problem with that is the Russian Naval base in Tartus may not have the infrastructure to expand that capability. Ultimately, this will lead to a lag in support operations.

So what’s next? With all the resources being thrown into this multi-pronged Syrian offensive with so little in results, Vlad is going to be forced to either invest even more in the regional war by expanding Russia’s military intervention, or lower the bar of what constitutes “success.” Vlad’s original plan was to push for a “big win” in Aleppo to use as a means of forcing the so-called “moderates” into a negotiated settlement on terms favorable to Assad. Once that happens, the combined pro-regime forces would turn their complete attention to IS. However, the bombing of a Russian airliner in Sinai changed all that (Check out “Sinai Plane Crash Update” and “Amplifying Details on the Sinai Plane Bombing and the Egypt-Libya Nexus” for more details). If anything, Vlad almost has to expand his military’s involvement in Syria if nothing else but to continue to push the narrative that he’s the “ironman” of the international community – and the “anti-Obama.” Thing is, by getting more involved in this regional war, Vlad will run the risk of falling into the same trap that his predecessors did in Afghanistan. Vlad may fill the leadership void left by the US government, but all its going to do is increase recruitment to Baghdadi’s cause. Jihadists may hate America, but they have a very special hatred for Russians. As much as the Rand Paul fanboys are excited about the possibility of somebody else carrying the load, region will become much more unstable because of it. This is going to affect both the West and the Russians. Keep in mind that although Russia prefers a more draconian strategy of laying waste to entire populations, that philosophy didn’t particularly work out in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Ingushtia or Dagestan. So welcome to the meat-grinder Vlad – sucks, don’t it?

Sinai Plane Crash Update
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9184

Amplifying Details on the Sinai Plane Bombing and the Egypt-Libya Nexus
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9230

Source: The ISIS Study Group

Source: The ISIS Study Group

Other Related Articles:

Vlad Uses Saudi Prince’s Thirst for Power to His Advantage Against US Influence
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9180

Islamic State Claims to Have Shot-Down Russian Plane in Sinai – But Did They?
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9157

Russia Providing Lethal Aid to Syria, Iran and Establishment of Intel Centers in Iraq
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8532

Russia Poised to Increase Military Presence in Middle East in Response to Islamic State’s Strength
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8416

What the Arrests of Pro-Regime Americans Tells Us About Iranian Leadership in Turmoil

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With the recent arrest and detention in Iran of Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, and Nizar Zakka, a U.S. legal resident, by intelligence operatives of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), murky jockeying for power at the top levels of the Tehran regime just got murkier.

Set against the backdrop of a nuclear ‘deal’ that nobody in Iran has either approved or signed and a generational shift underway between the by-now very wealthy founders of Khomeini’s 1979 revolution and a lean and hungry younger cohort of hardliners imbued with the zeal of true believers, the arrests seem at first glance to make little sense.

Namazi, a Dubai-based close associate of key Iran Lobby figure, Trita Parsi and his National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and Zakka, an IT executive with Beirut connections (and a checkered past involving Canadian accusations of running an illegal immigration racket), would appear to have all the right connections and credentials to stay out of this kind of trouble.

And yet, Namazi today sits in Evin Prison and Zakka was detained after being lured to a mid-September 2015 conference to promote entrepreneurship in Iran.

While some regime insiders, like President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who have been close to the top leadership since the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah, now seek a more open business and political environment to develop and protect their economic equities, powerful factions within the IRGC, some of which own (collectively) as much as one-third of the Iranian economy, and some of whom (like former Pasdar President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) oppose any opening whatsoever to the U.S. or the West on ideological grounds, are determined to keep Iran (and its financial assets) firmly within their own grip.

The big question is, where does Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, stand?

If perennial reports about his ill-health are to be believed, he might not be standing at all for long. But at this writing, it is his word that – probably – still defines Iranian policy. Unless elements of the IRGC finally have grown powerful enough to challenge even the Supreme Leader. In any case, these recent arrests are likely as much about the gathering succession struggle as sending a signal to over-excited American officials panting after a nuclear deal that never was and probably never will be.

Adding Namazi and Zakka to the four American hostages already being held by the Tehran regime may not trouble the Obama White House or its hapless negotiating team, but ought to serve as notice on several counts:

  • There will be no gush of reciprocity from Tehran for the abundance of U.S. concessions made during the protracted talks over Iran’s nuclear weapons program
  • Any American hopes for a new dawn of mutual understanding with Tehran on its human rights abuses, regional geo-strategic aggression, support for terrorism, or commitment to development of nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile means to deliver them need to be dashed like pumpkins after Halloween
  • The internal succession struggle over who or what eventually will take the place of current Supreme Leader  is well-underway and we understand next to nothing about it
  • The entire nuclear negotiations process, not to mention more American citizens and U.S. policy in the Middle East itself, could well end up as collateral damage if U.S. national security leadership doesn’t soon get a lot more sober-minded about who and what it is we are dealing with in Tehran: a jihadist regime bent on hegemonic regional power, locked in by a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.

Clare Lopez is Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Center for Security Policy. Ms. Lopez manages the Center’s counterjihad and shariah programs, bringing with her also an expertise on Iran, Hizballah, and southern border issues.

Also see:

European Influx of Militiamen Loyal To Iran Could Pose Problems

1249by John Rossomando
IPT News
October 19, 2015

Evidence uncovered on social media indicates that members of Iranian-trained Shiite militias may be entering Europe as refugees, a London-based Iraqi émigré group says. The Foreign Relations Bureau – Iraq (FRBI) identified images of 48 men on Facebook and Twitter who it says fought with Iranian-trained Shiite militias in Iraq and now are in Europe.

FRBI came into existence in 2014 and promotes women’s rights, equality, Iraqi independence from foreign control, and a non-sectarian approach to governance.

FRBI’s list shows pictures of militiamen in uniform and carrying weapons. Alongside those images are pictures showing the same people wearing Western street clothes and standing in places such as Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Greece and Finland. This same list also includes 16 people belonging to Iraq’s security services who similarly made their way to Europe and who FBRI accuses of crimes against the Iraqi people.

These militias engaged in serious human-rights abuses in places like Tikrit after they ousted the Islamic State, and Iraqi security forces similarly engaged in unlawful killings, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). FRBI refers to HRW’s research about human-rights abuses in Iraq as a reason why these men should not have been allowed into the E.U.

Images of these fighters began surfacing on social media in August and early September, said FRBI spokesman A. Al-Mahmoud.

“Our lists are compiled with the efforts of some of our affiliate analysts who follow social media of all sorts mainly militia related pages whom suddenly started posting images from within the EU as the refugee situation escalated,” Al-Mahmoud said in an email to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). “A public page was then set up on our website to document what can be from these accounts in hope that media would find it easier to have what they need all in one page.”

Thus far, FRBI has no evidence that the influx of Shiite militiamen into Europe has been organized or orchestrated by Iran or any organized crime syndicate in Europe, but the scale of the militiamen’s migration is unprecedented, Al-Mahmoud said.

They may have varying motivations, he said. Some may fear war crimes prosecutions and are trying to remake themselves into refugees. Others may no longer care about their government’s or clergy’s goals.

The men regularly posted images of themselves on the battlefield, Al-Mahmoud said, then suddenly began posting images showing them in Europe, which led FBRI to believe they had infiltrated the wave of refugees.

No matter the reasons for their move, FRBI fears these men are on a collision course with European values and trapped by a vicious sectarian ideology that makes them a potential threat to their host countries. It alleges that some of these men may have participated in war crimes in Iraq.

“[M]ost of the people who did join the militias do have sectarian leanings and they will export their irrational thought of non co-existence outside Iraq, which will collide with other open and liberal societies, so they will bring their problems with them,” Al-Mahmoud said. “Finally, the background they are from is very low and poor with minimal education; unskilled and foreign, they will quickly find it easy to get into the criminal/theft and drug world adding more problems to the European Union immigrant communities already suffering from stereotyping and media pressure.

“They were paid members of organizations that were trained to kill under religious banners; this is the first time they have come out of Iraq in such large numbers.”

The men belonged to deadly militias such as Al-Hashid al-Shaabi and its subsidiaries such as: Kataib Hizballah (aka Hizballah Iraq), Kataib Imam Ali militia, Saraya al-Salam militia (Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Peace Brigades) – all of which are trained and strongly influenced by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Qods Force under the command of Gen. Qasem Soleimani. He emerged as a controversial figure in the discussions of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Kataib Imam Ali militia formed from splinter elements of al-Sadr’s militia that fought American forces during the Iraq War and remain “extremely anti-American,” said Phillip Smyth, an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute and an expert on Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria. Kataib Imam Ali militiamen have been implicated in human-rights abuses similar to those carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS), he said. In one case, a video showed a militiaman dismembering the burned corpse of a Islamic State fighter as if he were “shwarma,” which sparked a reprisal video by the Islamic State in which two Shiite fighters were burned to death.

An IPT review of the information provided by FRBI lends credence to its contention that Shiite fighters have entered Europe among groups of refugees.

For example, the Facebook page of Al-Hashid al-Shaabi militia member Ali Spaakishows a clear progression from being on the battlefield in Iraq in June to making his way across Europe throughout September and on to Helsinki, Finland on Oct. 4. Spaaki’s Facebook page shows him getting off a ferry along with a crowd of people in a picture posted to his timeline on Sept. 20 in front of a Greek-flagged ferry and a large crowd. A related photo, also taken Sept. 20, shows him standing in front of a boat that reads “Bodrum” [Turkey] on its stern as its homeport, suggesting the ferry may have departed from that Turkish town. Bodrum has become a “magnet” for refugees, andlarge numbers of refugees have left the town hoping to make it to Greece since the summer, according to news reports. Spaaki’s departure date came weeks after the body of Aylan Kurdi, a toddler refugee, washed up onshore near Bodrum.

A similar story can be told by examining the Facebook page belonging to Al-Hashid Al-Shaabi fighter Mustafa Al-Azawi. There, he explicitly discusses his effort to enter Greece on the island of Lesbos on Sept. 17 via Izmir, Turkey, which news reports say is a common point of departure for refugees. Pictures on Al-Azawi’s timeline of himself posing on the shore of the island and of inner tubes and a crowd of likely refugees happened the same day a Getty Images photographer captured an image of migrants arriving on Lesbos. Days earlier, on Sept. 10, Al-Azawi posted Google Maps images of routes to Lesbos on Facebook, suggesting he planned his route to the island. Like Spaaki, Al-Azawi’s Facebook page shows his travel across Europe before making his to his final destination in Oulu, Finland on Oct. 3.

Al-Mahmoud also worries these militiamen could become entangled in organized crime and become involved in Iranian-controlled social organizations across Europe, and they will be used for Iran’s political ends.

“A lot of them believe in … Iran’s guiding ideology, and that political and social matters are presided over by Ayatollah Khamenei … so they follow what he says,” Smyth said. “They (Iraqi Shiite militiamen in Europe) do pose a risk.

“These groups believe that both America and the State of Israel are their existential foes.”

In the past, Hizballah supporters living in Europe, Canada or the United States have engaged in criminal activities. This includes cigarette smuggling in the U.S. andaccusations of organized crime in Canada and in the E.U. Hizballah supporters also plotted and carried out terrorist attacks in Argentina and Bulgaria. Although these Iraqi militias are not part of Hizballah, they are branches on the same Iranian Qods Force tree – first cousins in effect.

Shiites who support Hizballah and Iran in places like Sweden already have been recruited as foreign fighters by Iranian proxies to fight in Iraq, said Smyth, who traveled to Scandinavia last year on a related research trip. Having a passport from someplace like Sweden means a foreign fighter can come and go from hot zones like Iraq or Syria without the same hassles someone traveling on a Lebanese, Syrian or Iraqi passport.

While most attention has been given to Sunni foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State and other Sunni jihadist groups, Smyth said, not enough attention has been given to Shiite fighters with ties to Iran.

“You now have a new transnational threat that is loyal to the Iranians, that is anti-American, is anti-Western, is anti-Israel,” Smyth said. “There is a direct threat that’s there.”

It is hard to tell how many people on the FRBI list actually are refugees or if they are in the E.U. vacationing or are there for some other reason. But Smyth sees them as a national-security threat either way.

“Here are examples of these guys when they are out of uniform, when they are possibly still militiamen, and they are traveling to Europe, which says something. How did they get there with a visa? Why, after all of this has been publicized, are they all still going?” Smyth asked in a phone interview with the IPT. “There are already examples of Shia militiamen, Hizballah for instance, who have used Western passports to go different places and to engage in bad deeds.”

This also has U.S. Customs officials concerned. The ease in which these Shia militiamen have entered Europe raises fears that they will be able to travel to the U.S. on E.U. passports, said one Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent who spoke under the condition of not being named. Anyone with a passport from places like Germany, Sweden can easily get on a flight to the U.S. without the sorts of hassles they might experience traveling on an Iraqi or a Syrian passport.

A spokeswoman for Europe’s top law enforcement agency, EUROPOL, told the IPT her agency was unaware of any organized effort by terrorist organizations to infiltrate the E.U. However, none of the Shia militia groups whose members have made their way to Europe are listed as terror groups by the E.U.

“There are however concerns about the use of the Mediterranean routes. While the majority of irregular migrants and refugees are in search of safety, other groups such as returning foreign fighters and other individuals linked to IS (Islamic State), might make use of the services provided by the organized crime groups,” EUROPOL spokeswoman Agnieszka Biegaj wrote in an e-mailed statement. “Given the hazardous nature of the illegal migratory routes, from a terrorists’ perspective, it makes more sense to use regular travel methods and other resources such as false or genuine travel documents.”

Iranian Officials Ratchet Up Genocidal Anti-Israel Rhetoric After Nuclear Deal

by Steven Emerson
IPT News
August 18, 2015

1216A video shows the Revolutionary Guard Corps massing on a hill overlooking Jerusalem.

A conference of religious scholars features speaker after speaker calling Israel’s annihilation inevitable and promising that a “new phase” in that effort is about to begin.

While some in the United States and among its Western allies may hope that a nuclear weapons deal with Iran might steer the Islamic Republic in a new, more responsible direction, hardliners draw new lines and issue new threats.

On Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei took to social media to attack the United States and Israel. “We spare no opportunity to support anyone #FightingTheZionists,” wrote the ayatollah, whose regime supplies Hizballah and Hamas with rockets and other weapons of terror.

Perhaps more chilling is an animated video from the Islamic Revolution Design House, a media outfit associated with Iranian hardliners. It shows a soldier preparing for battle. He puts on a Revolutionary Guard patch, and then a Qassam Brigades headband, followed by a ski mask and a Palestinian scarf around his neck, while arming himself with a machine gun and a pistol. As he puts on a helmet, we see him looking over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, home of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque. The image pulls back, showing the soldier amid a sea of conquering troops.

A concluding message invokes Ayatollah Khomeini’s threat that Israel must be wiped off the map and promises that day is coming soon.

A conference held in Beirut late last month reinforced that message over and over again. The General Assembly of Islamic Resistance Ulema (Scholars) held its first gathering under the banner “Unity for Palestine.” The weekend meeting included fiery rhetoric from an Iranian ayatollah and Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.

“Annihilation of the Zionist regime is a sure thing and Quranic pledge,” Ayatollah Mohsen Araki told the assembly. Araki is secretary general of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, emphasizing the importance of unifying “Muslims in countering the regime of Zionism and the arrogant World.”

Many of the speeches were uploaded to YouTube and translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Nasrallah called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and said “It is only a matter of time” before it is defeated.

“We believe with certainty that Israel, this cancerous tumor, is headed for extinction, and that Palestine and Jerusalem will be returned to their people. It is only a matter of time and [this outcome] is linked to the will, action, jihad, and sacrifices of the Ummah, according to the principle: If you achieve victory for Allah, Allah will lead you to achieve victory.” Nasrallah said it was Allah’s will for Muslims to achieve “final victory over the Zionist scheme” and urged the assembly not to waste the opportunity.

“The day in which we will all pray in Jerusalem, Inshallah (God willing) is inevitably coming Inshallah. All of these calamities, conspiracies, and crises are merely trials to strengthen and make fit all those who believe in this project and in this path to enable them to be worthy of the coming victory. Some people may gain victory but then waste it.

Allah Almighty wants our Ummah (nation) in its final victory over the Zionist project and in restoring Palestine and Jerusalem to be worthy of this huge historic victory and to be worthy of preserving this victory and not to lose it as many victories have been lost.”

Muhammad Hasan Zamani, a former Iranian cultural counselor in Egypt who runs the Department of International Islamic Madrasas for the General Assembly of Islamic Resistance Ulema, maintained the theme, insisting there is no peaceful resolution that would end in Iran’s acceptance of a Jewish state.

“Israel must be erased from the map of the world. These are the golden words Imam Khomeini (may God have mercy on him) uttered. Why do we assert the obligation of erasing Israel from the world, and not speak of erasing America and other unjust countries from the world? We in Iran say slogans in marches, Death to Israel, Death to America, Death to the English, and so forth and so on.”

Iran considers America the “greater Satan,” Zamani went on to say, but the Islamic Republic respects other governments which were chosen by their people. By contrast, he claimed Israel is not legitimate: “I say that the example of the rule of the Zionists is the example of thieves who attack a house and occupy the house and the people of the house defend their house.”

Sheikh Abdel Halim Qadhi, a professor at Zahidan University, explained that the conflict is inherently about religion. “[T]he Holy Quran makes it know that Jews are the enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and their holy places and rites,” he said.

“Jihad is the most powerful and only way to liberate Palestine and defend Jerusalem,” he added, saying “God loves those who fight in his way.”

In a final statement from conference attendees, the group emphasized “the first and most important obligation is to unite the Umma to liberate the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem, reported Al-Manar, a Lebanese news outlet considered close to Iran’s proxy Hizballah. The group also said “resistance” was the way “to achieve victory in Lebanon and Palestine, despite the unlimited support received by the Zionist enemy and continuing inaction of the countries in the region.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, published a 416-page book earlier this month outlining the destruction of Israel, referring to the Jewish state as an ally of “The American Great Satan.”

The book features a long-term strategy that entails terrorizing Israel in a war of attrition that would lead to Jews leaving Israel for other countries.

Supporters of the nuclear deal say it’s a fantasy to expect a better outcome should Congress override President Obama’s expected veto of a vote to defeat the agreement. The combined statements of Iran and its supporting clerics makes clear, however, that the true fantasy is any expectation Iran will turn away from terror as a result of its engagement with world powers.

Also see:

Iranian Regime, GOI Take Issue With US SECDEF’s Assessment that the IA are Cowards

Screen-Shot-2015-05-25-at-10.18.13-PMMay 26, 2015 /

As we wrote in our 24 MAY article titled “What ISIS Has in Store For Baghdad,” SECDEF Ash Carter stated that the Iraqi Army (IA) “lacks the will to fight.” We agree with his assessment, although its nothing particularly “new.” The IA has a long and not so proud history of cowardice and poor leadership going as far back as the 6-Day War. The Iranian regime is also fully aware of the cowardice of Iraqi Arab “men” (and we do use the term “man” loosely here) from their own personal experiences in the Iran-Iraq War. In that war, the regime found that using human wave attacks utilizing suicide bombers quickly broke the will of the IA to fight. The Islamic State (IS) perfected those TTPs in today’s regional war that has engulfed Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Yet despite these rather inconvenient truths Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi and IRGC-Qods Force commander GEN Suleimani both came out swinging against Carter’s assessment. Abadi’s spokesman issued a public statement saying that Carter had “incorrect information” while Suleimani is reported to have said that the US “didn’t do a damn thing in Ramadi.”

What ISIS Has in Store For Baghdad
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6693

Our staff has been covering how Suleimani has been pushing the narrative that the Government of Iraq’s (GOI) faith in the US was the reason for all the defeats in the country – and to a certain extent he’s right. How so? The US government’s strategy to combat IS has been a total failure and the overall foreign policy is best described as “schizophrenic.” However, Suleimani’s public statements are geared towards one thing: positioning the Popular Mobilization Committee into a stronger standing within the government for the purpose of having them from the core of the new National Guard – which Suleimani and his allies hope to model after the Iranian regime’s own IRGC. And why is he doing this? He’s pushing the PMC becoming the core of the National Guard because he knows the IA are poorly led and plagued with mass cowardice. In fact, Suleimani has privately voiced his frustrations to colleagues about the ineffectiveness of the IA and how deep that yellow coward’s streak runs within the “men” serving in the ranks. Indeed, we have a people who give the French a run for the money for the title of “world’s biggest coward.”

Iraq, Iran push back on US defense chief over Ramadi loss
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fc6d6bbc6fa54f32b32eb51e3112259e/report-iran-adviser-says-us-let-islamic-state-take-ramadi

GEN Suleimani kneels before his master – Ayatollah Khameini Source: Reuters

GEN Suleimani kneels before his master – Ayatollah Khameini
Source: Reuters

The IA was actually much better when it was still an inclusive organization. Unfortunately, Maliki purged the ranks of all Sunni influences as soon as the US military pulled out of the country. Since that time the IA’s capabilities and readiness have deteriorated significantly while competent commanders who were sacked and avoided being arrested joined IS. That said, there’s a culture of cowardice that runs deep in the hearts of the average Iraqi Arab man. In fact, they have a hard time being given the freedom to do what they want and seem to prefer being told what to do. Some countries just do better with a dictator in-charge. Iraq is one of those countries. It doesn’t help that when faced with major battles that the IA tends to collapse with troops breaking ranks in panic. As we’ve stated in several past articles on the matter, the Shia militias (PMC) have become bigger players in the government’s security strategy as a means of addressing this problem. We’re aware that in mid-May Suleimani presented a defense plan to Abadi that calls for a greater PMC role in defending Baghdad and Karbala – which Abadi approved. Regarding the defense of Baghdad, the PMCs have become the security force of choice in these critical areas in the city:

1. al-Khadra
2. al-Amiriyah
3. al-Ghazaliyah
4. al-Bakriyah
5. al-Shula

(Its worth noting that the above-mentioned neighborhoods are viewed as the most at-risk for IS moving into and using as staging areas for sustained attacks throughout the city)

Meanwhile in the North, our friends the Kurds don’t seem to have any of these problems. Our staff has extensive experience in Iraq – Northern Iraq in particular. The author recalls one particular time during a key leader engagement where the Peshmerga commander he was meeting with stated that a Kurdish woman is worth 10 Arabs serving in the active duty IA. From the author’s own personal experience – and that of the Study Group’s staff – the Peshmerga commander’s statement is accurate. The Kurdish women serving in the Peshmerga are as beautiful as they are deadly. Iraqi Arab men seem to have a problem with cowardice contaminating their DNA, so we can’t say that we’re surprised by IS fighters being so scared of being killed by a Kurdish woman. Perhaps Abadi should just fill the IA ranks with Kurdish women? Its not like the IA has any real “men” to begin with so he might as well.

The Kurdish women fighting ISIS
http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/12/world/cnnphotos-female-peshmerga-fighters/

ISIS fighters terrified of being killed by female troops
http://nypost.com/2014/09/19/isis-fighters-terrified-of-being-killed-by-female-troops/

Meet the female peshmerga forces fighting IS
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/iraq-kurdistan-female-regiment-peshmerga-fight-is.html

Modern day Athena: She wouldn’t run from a fight – which is more than we can say for her Arab male counterparts in the IA Source: Vocativ

Modern day Athena: She wouldn’t run from a fight – which is more than we can say for her Arab male counterparts in the IA
Source: Vocativ

Kurdish pop star Helly Luv has recently come out with a new single that has a special message for IS:

She doesn’t seem to have a problem using the sites on her assault rifle Source: imgurl.com

She doesn’t seem to have a problem using the sites on her assault rifle
Source: imgurl.com

 

Maybe the women of the Peshmerga should hold some classes for the ISF on basic rifle marksmanship? Source: Reuters/Stringer

Maybe the women of the Peshmerga should hold some classes for the ISF on basic rifle marksmanship?
Source: Reuters/Stringer

Consequently the Obama strategy for Iraq involves trusting a large quantity of disinterested cowards to maintain unity in a nation where the three major sects hate and distrust each other. As a nation we refuse to accept the idea that Iraq is a failed social experiment. We pretend there’s some hope of creating an “Iraqi melting pot of diversity” where all are welcome to worship as they choose and live in peace. Therefore the US government will continue to promote the wrong Iraq strategy with the smallest number of troops possible ensuring that we will never get the desired result – the fall of IS. If the Iraqi Arab men won’t stand up and fight the nihilistic cult of IS, then they deserve to have their country taken from them and to have their wives and daughters raped and murdered while they watch – after all, a man who won’t defend his home or family isn’t a man at all. That said, the only people worth a damn in Iraq are the Kurds. Every man, woman and child in Kurdistan is willing to lay down their lives in defense of their homeland. We have a great amount of respect and admiration for the Kurdish people. Its about time that the US government start empowering them. The IA? If they haven’t developed a spine by now, they never will.

Helly Luv: IS fighters are more scared of her than the IA – which is a major source of frustration for GEN Suleimani and the Qods Force Source: http://www.europe-israel.org/2014/09/helly-luv-la-shakira-kurde-qui-nargue-les-djihadistes-de-letat-islamique-videos/

Helly Luv: IS fighters are more scared of her than the IA – which is a major source of frustration for GEN Suleimani and the Qods Force
Source: http://www.europe-israel.org/2014/09/helly-luv-la-shakira-kurde-qui-nargue-les-djihadistes-de-letat-islamique-videos/

Other Related Articles:

ISIS Moves Against Targets in Haditha, Habbaniyah While Qods Force and Proxies Launch Counterattack
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6668#comment-113539

Suleimani’s Gambit: Bid to Deal Crushing Blow to ISIS in Bayji
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6576

“JV Team” Solidifies Hold on Anbar With Ramadi Purging
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6542