Iran Recruits Terrorists through Cultural Centers

cultural terroristsIran has been abusing its diplomatic and cultural centers for the sake of strengthening its infrastructure of terrorism and subversion for years…a quick peruse of all my posts on this blog will testify to that.

And now, the mullahs in Tehran are at it again and this time, the abuse is justified in order to pit Jihadist Shi’ite terror against Sunni ISIS terror.

Last week, Sudan closed an Iranian cultural center and gave its members 72 hours to leave the country.

Why? Sudan’s foreign minister: “Lately, it was noticed that the center had violated its mandate and the activities it is allowed to carry out in a way that has become threatening to Sudan’s social and ideological security.” That’s the long version. The short one is this: Sudan chose Sunni Saudi Arabia over Shi’ite Iran.

Up until about two weeks ago, Iran consistently denied being worried about the possible threat of ISIS to Iran although it is next in line after Iraq. In order to deal with the threat of ISIS, Tehran is willing to cooperate with two of its biggest arch-enemies, the US and Saudi Arabia: The US, because it sees itself as the defender of the world against terrorism and Saudi Arabia because ISIS is reported to have been funded (and possibly still be funded) by Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, Tehran is recruiting Shi’ite Jihadists to fight ISIS in Iraq and once again, recruitment is organized through an Iranian cultural center, the Ahlul Bayt Islamic mission (AIM), which published a call for Jihadists on its website: “We must be ready to sacrifice, leave everything behind us and run for the defense of truth and its supporters, representatives, and relics…(to) prepare ourselves spiritually and deserve the honor of defending Islam. Every man must be ready to join the armed forces and every woman must urge the male members of her family to go seek this noble cause and do anything she can to serve this cause … May Allah (SWT) enable us to put our words into actions and to defend Islam and its principles till our last breathe and drop of blood!“. By the way, AIM is managed by one Muhammad Hassan Akhtari who just happens to be one of the founders of Hezbollah and it is believed that AIM is being directed by none other than Khamenei himself.

Hossein Abedini from the National Council of Resistance of Iran is not surprised: “We have had concrete information in the past that the theocratic regime ruling Iran has been recruiting people from European countries and dispatching them to terrorist camps inside Iran for training.” Unlike its Sudanese counterpart, AIM thrives in England and is yet to be shut down.

Last week, Iranian defense minister bragged about Iran’s growing sphere of influence in the world under Khamenei’s word, while the IRGC’s special Quds force chief, Qassem Suleimani, who is responsible for saving Assad’s ass in Syria is reputedly “secretly running” Iraq. Any way you look at it, Iran is getting ready to take on ISIS and is willing to work with the devil to do so.

And if you ask Henry Kissinger, we should be worried more of Iran than of ISIS:  “ISIS is a group of adventurers with a very aggressive ideology. But they have to conquer more and more territory before they can became a strategic, permanent reality. I think a conflict with ISIS — important as it is — is more manageable than a confrontation with Iran“. Somebody must have forgotten to tell Obama about this because he is rushing in to partner with Iran without really understanding that by doing so, he is partnering with Assad/Hezbollah/Quds and will find himself unable to effectively sanction his new-found partners if the nuclear negotiations flounder.

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Tehran’s Glass House Syndrome

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It starts, as always, with a bang. A rather big bang, that is still heard days later. We’re talking of course on the twin explosions that rocked Beirut on the 19th of October, Killing four people and leaving 38 wounded.

The explosion, which was carried by a car bomb and a motorcycle laden with explosives, targeted an Iranian cultural center, the 2nd time in 3 months that Iranian institutes are attacked in the Lebanese capital.

Although Tehran officials quickly assured that there were no Iranian diplomats or personnel affected by the bombing, it raises a question: Why is Iran being targeted? What makes it and its out-of-country establishments prone to terror attacks?

Well, Iran has been very active as of late in the international front – trying to get back with diplomatic ties with several countries (while discussing Syria). But what might be more important, is the active role that the Islamic republic takes when it comes to the Syrian civil war.

This active role is not simply in the demand Iran is making to be a part of the team that decides on Syria’s future. Iran has been supporting Assad, not only vocally in the news but with military forces going from Iran to the Syrian battlefields.

Although Iran’s efforts at subversion in neighboring countries are not new, their outcries against Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, although probably justified, make me think of the saying “people in glass houses should not throw stones”. Or in Tehran’s case, “people who throw stones should live in stone houses and expect to be hurt”.

Iranian Diplomacy Bit by Al-Qaeda Tiger

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What Goes Around Comes Around

Few recall anymore the information that has surfaced from time to time, ever since 9/11, regarding Iranian assistance to Al-Qaeda. Now, that assistance is coming back to haunt Iranian diplomacy.

A reminder: more than two years ago the US Administration made it official by reportedly accusing Tehran of “forging an alliance with Al-Qaeda in a pact that allows the terrorist group to use Iranian soil as a transit point for moving money, arms and fighters to its bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

According to reports at the time, the Administration – which designated six Al-Qaeda operatives in this context – blamed Tehran for running “extensive fund-raising operation that uses Iran-based operatives and draws from donors in oil-rich Persian Gulf countries such as Kuwait and Qatar.”

The bombs that blasted through the Iranian embassy in Beirut two weeks ago strongly indicate that the Al-Qaeda pupil has learned its Iranian lessons well: that terrorism can turn any target, including an embassy, into a battlefield.

Beirut is only the beginning

Following the attack in Beirut, Iran’s embassy in Somalia was attacked by Harakat al-Shabaab al Mujahideen, another Al-Qaeda related faction. No one seems to have been injured in the attack which was played down by Iran.

Both Hezbollah and the IRGC believe that Beirut was only the opening shot. Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s thinks that the Iranian embassy and its diplomats would continue to remain Al Qaeda targets in the future while the IRGC issued similar warnings believing that the bombings “are the beginning of the scenario through which terrorist groups under Western supervision intend to bully Iranian officials by creating insecurity at Iranian embassies”.

We can disregard the finger pointing at the West, but not the essence of the warning: Somalia will not be the last incident in this battle.

Tehran Should Blame Itself

Over the past decades, the regime in Tehran has constantly changed the rules by placing diplomats and civilians at the battlefront, or as Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon accused, turning embassies into terrorist outposts.

While host countries try to deal with these rogue tactics in a legal manner, Al Qaeda operatives will make up the rules as they go along. This should resonate at least a bit ironic to the folks back in Tehran, which now finds itself a target of the same modus operandi it implemented for decades.

Iranian Diplomatic Abuse Increases Visa Restrictions

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Following President Rouhani’s election and promotion of his agenda to lead meaningful change in Tehran’s foreign policy, a quick thaw in its international relations might have been expected.

Iran’s not there yet.

During the past three months five countries have hardened their visa regulations with Iran, making it more difficult to visit that country. According to this recent article in Farsi, Georgia http://shadow-diplomacy.com/2013/08/12/georgia-stops-irans-revolving-diplomatic-door/, Oman http://shadow-diplomacy.com/2013/09/30/with-friends-like-these-iranian-diplomacy-in-the-middle-east-part-1/, Indonesia, Egypt http://shadow-diplomacy.com/2013/10/08/with-friends-like-these-iranian-diplomacy-in-the-middle-east-part-2/ and now Malaysia seem unconvinced by Rouhani’s moderate rhetoric; instead of opening doors with Iran, they’re slamming them shut.

A few of the mentioned (and other) countries have enforced more stringent visa rules because of diplomatic and other abuses by Iranians on their soil. Some want to pressure Iran to alter its behavior, while others want to stop the flow of refugees from that country.

Of course, the Iranians are trying to put a brave face on the continuing deterioration in relations with countries from their core group, the Non-Aligned Movement (Tehran is group chair, a position it will hold for the next two years). Indeed, Tehran recently announced http://www.tasnimnews.com/English/Home/Single/159110 it is considering lifting visa requirements for certain states. Doesn’t seem like this plan will wash for the time being.

(We wonder whether the Iranians have an ulterior motive behind the move – in addition to boosting tourism – such as bringing in more foreign nationals to promote its darker activities http://shadow-diplomacy.com/2013/09/02/iranian-embassies-recruit-latin-american-students/.)

These developments might seem inconsequential at a time when Tehran is focusing on nuclear negotiations with the . But think again: since his election, Rouhani has been quite vocal about reintegrating Iran into the international community and improving relations with Iran’s neighbors – especially Saudi Arabia.P5+1

The Iranian president clearly has his work cut out for him. He definitely won’t attain his goal as long as the Revolutionary Guards, Ministry of Intelligence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs continue abusing the tools of diplomacy and fueling world suspicions.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Back Home in NYC


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Tehran’s ambassadors to the UN are a privileged class. First, because they hold one of the top – if not the top – post in Iran’s foreign service. Second, because they belong to an elite group of Iranian officials who studied and worked outside of Iran – and who know how to speak to the West.

It is therefore no surprise that current Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who served as his country’s UN ambassador from 2002-2007, and Mohammad Khazaee – who replaced him in 2007 (and is still there) – both studied in the US, and come off as so cool and smart.

Underneath their polished ways, however, lurks a darker side.

Let’s start with Zarif, a central figure in President Hassan Rouhani’s delegation to the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Few of those wining and dining him probably recall that while UN ambassador back in 2006 he was involved in a defamation lawsuit filed by the pro-regime lobby in the US, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), against Iranian–American journalist Hassan Daioleslam (a case which NIAC eventually lost).

The incident is certainly worth recalling, as made clear by documents brought to light during the case – include e-mails between Zarif and  NIAC head Trita Parsi , which clearly indicate that the two were collaborating to the point of breaking US information and tax laws.

In effect, the Iranian ambassador took advantage of his formal position – to handle his country’s diplomatic affairs at the UN – in order to coordinate the activities of the pro-regime lobby in the US.

Zarif’s not alone in implementing this sort of modus operandi. Published documentation indicates that his successor, Khazaee, not only continued the cozy relationship with Parsi – he also hasn’t shied away from breaking US law when it serves Tehran’s interests.

Indeed, Khazaee is suspected of attempting to circumvent US sanction laws in at least two cases during his term:

  • ·         The Alavi Foundation case – Khazaee was implicated in a law suit for his active and personal involvement in managing the non-profit foundation, which served as a front for Iran’s state-owned Bank Melli – sanctioned by the US for its connection to Tehran’s nuclear program.
  • ·         The Ali Amirnazmi case – Khazaee was implicated for his involvement in a sanctions-busting attempt to transfer a sensitive business from the US to Iran (Amirnazmi was eventually convicted).

No country’s diplomats appear to be as skilled in maneuvering around diplomatic immunity as the Iranians. And nobody knows how to do it better than Zarif – now Tehran’s top diplomat – who clearly taught his successor Khazaee well.

Iranian Embassies Recruit Latin American Students

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The Washington Post recently supplied additional hard evidence of Iran’s aggressive diplomatic work at ground level in South America to advance its strategic goals there. A must-read for followers of this blog, the article by its respected correspondent Joby Warrick represents a sobering testimony to the manner in which Tehran abuses diplomatic privilege.

Content of the report is worth repeating here in some detail. It tells of “Carlos,” a Mexican law student who found himself targeted by Iranian diplomacy for recruitment purposes. According to his account, back in 2010 he met Mohammad Ghadiri, then Tehran’s ambassador to Mexico, at an Iranian embassy function. After expressing an interest in Islam, within a few months he was on a plane to Tehran with a scholarship – secured by the ambassador.

During a three-month stay, he underwent an “immersion” course in “anti-Americanism and Islam” in Spanish – with two dozen other Latin American students.

The graduates of these indoctrination schools returned back home as “committed disciples” and some are, in Carlos’s words, “crazy-obsessed” – becoming part of Tehran’s “capability to provide logistic, economic and operative support to terrorist attacks decided by the Islamic regime.” In this context, they help recruit more operatives through the mosques and cultural centers that have emerged throughout South America.

This is not the first mention of the involvement of Iranian diplomats in general, and Ghadiri in particular, when it comes to the recruiting of Latin American students. Indeed, in late 2011 the media exposed an Iran-Venezuela cyberplot intended to disrupt the websites of strategic US targets. Ghadiri was there, too.

Interestingly enough, one of the Iranian diplomats interviewed in that case admitted to contact with the students but insisted that he rejected the plan – not because it was an inappropriate situation for a diplomat, but rather because he thought the group was working for the CIA…

 

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Passport Forging in the Service of the Islamic Republic

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Behind the Headlines

About two weeks ago an Iranian national, Seyed Ramin Miraziz Paknejad, was arrested in Kuala Lumpur on suspicion of forging passports and visas for Tehran-backed terrorism and human trafficking organizations. Paknejad’s forgery syndicate operated for about five years in Thailand and sold more than 3,000 counterfeit travelling documents (making him a rich man, with estimated profits of approximately $3 million).

On the face of it, just another criminal opportunist. But no, take a closer look: turns out that Paknejad was part of Iran’s well-documented abuse of diplomatic privileges and instruments for very non-diplomatic activities.

In fact, Paknejad has been implicated in forging passports for the bombers in the botched Iranian terrorist attempt in Thailand back in February 2012, which led to the arrest of five Iranian nationals – including Paknejad himself, who managed to subsequently flee to Malaysia. There he will now be charged for entering the country on a forged Turkish passport, but will probably be extradited back to Thailand to face charges for his involvement in the terrorist plot.

Links Between Diplomacy, Terrorism and the Regime

From the initial evidence, it seems that Paknejad’s involvement with human trafficking was not directly related to the Iranian regime, but his work for Iranian terrorism definitely was. Tehran is known for this familiar mixing of diplomacy, crime and terrorism – as demonstrated  by its 2011 attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US. Indeed, the Bangkok terrorist incident was one of three other such attempts during the same period – in India, Georgia and Kenya – with the elite IRGC-Qods forces the common denominator. The Paknejad money trail is certainly bad news for the regime’s cover-up efforts.

Suspicions of the involvement of Iranian diplomacy in subversion activities surface regularly.  So while Iran’s diplomats in Thailand have yet to be directly implicated, the trail of evidence could very well lead to the doors of its Bangkok embassy in the near future. Stay tuned.

 

Update August 22nd: Thai court sentences Iranian terrorist, Saeid Moradi. to  life in prison for the attempted murder of Israeli diplomats. Hi accomplice, Mohammad Khazaei, was sentenced to 15 year in prison.