Tom O’connor, Newsweek, December 11 2019:… Until 2012, MEK was a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, something that represents the blurred lines that have long defined Washington’s Middle East policies. In fighting ISIS, the U.S. partnered with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group widely seen as tied to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and although Trump has adopted a hard-line stance against Iran, the Pentagon was forced to continue at least indirect collaboration with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a militia umbrella that includes the outlawed, Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, among other groups . MEK And ISIS Alternatives For Iran?
MEK And ISIS Alternatives For Iran?
IF IRAN FALLS, ISIS MAY RISE AGAIN
As disorder deepens in Iran amid widespread protests, fears are rising that the fall of Iran’s revolutionary Shiite Islamic Republic could lead to disaster in the region and the re-emergence of an even greater foe of the United States—the Islamic State militant group known as ISIS.
Violent protests sparked by a cut in gas subsidies continue to erupt across Iran, fueled further by a forceful crackdown on protesters from the government. The unrest, coupled with crippling U.S. sanctions and costly campaigns across the Middle East, has incensed those fighting for regime change from within the country, opening an opportunity for Iran’s enemies both at home and abroad to capitalize on this discord and vulnerability.
“Different groups hostile to the Iranian government, including ISIS, separatists or other ones, have and will take advantage of any unrest in the country,” Abas Aslani, a visiting scholar at the Istanbul-based Center for Middle East Strategic Studies and editor-in-chief of the Iran Front Page outlet, told Newsweek.
“They could find a way in this situation to bring more damage to the country,” he added. “This will not be limited to the groups, but also some foreign countries inside and outside the region will also use the opportunity for weakening or changing the regime in Iran and bring instability to the country.”
Iran has remained steadfast in the face of its foes foreign and domestic, and few expect the full demise of the government. But even those inside and outside Iran who support the rallies that continue day and night against the clerics running the nation fear the chaos alone could foster conditions for ISIS to breed.
“Any collapse or weakening of a state in the region is likely to fuel into more instability in the region,” Aslani told Newsweek. “This is also a concern of even opponents in Iran, in so that they are not sure in the case of the collapse of the current system in the country who will replace them and how the situation will be.”
To Iran, the fight against ISIS has always been an existential one. Just as the Pentagon began coordinating its own involvement in June 2014, Iran had begun mobilizing mostly Shiite Muslim militias in both Iraq and Syria to beat back lightning gains made by the Sunni Muslim insurgents that reveled in the slaughter of those deemed to be outside of their ultraconservative ideology.
This proved vital in turning the tide against the jihadis, who have been largely defeated in recent years.
“Iran was critical in providing logistical and advisory support to Iraqi paramilitary forces who battled ISIS in Iraq, particularly during the early days of the campaign,” Rodger Shanahan, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute’s West Asia Program and former director of the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre, told Newsweek.
As for Syria, where ISIS spread amid an ongoing civil war, Shanahan said Iran’s support for President Bashar al-Assad “also meant that it has contributed to the anti-ISIS campaign, although it is fair to say that that was by no means the aim of their support for Assad and the targeting of ISIS has been sporadic at best.”
In fighting ISIS abroad, Iran managed to help dismantle the jihadis and broaden the Islamic Republic’s own support network of partnered forces also hostile to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Establishing this so-called Axis of Resistance proved a major strategic victory, but it came at a steep price.
These campaigns cost Iran capital, both human and financial, and strict U.S. sanctions have choked up Tehran’s access to disposable income. Although the Iranian government is believed to still have access to considerable wealth to run its operations, the dual effects of a U.S.-imposed trade siege and domestic mismanagement have made life more difficult for everyday Iranians unable to take advantage of the economic reforms promised by President Hassan Rouhani.
The Rouhani administration’s decision to cut fuel subsidies last month and ultimately transition to a welfare-based system had actually been in the works for some time and was supported by the International Monetary Fund. Still, the sudden shift was seismic for Iranians accustomed to cheap fuel and people have taken to the streets to protest in massive numbers.
The government’s reaction on the ground was swift and, against who officials claimed were rioters, deadly.
Amnesty International has estimated that more than 200 Iranians have been killed during the unrest and Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, placed the casualties at “many hundreds, perhaps over a thousand”—a figure far higher than other estimates provided by human rights monitors. No conclusive count exists and the Iranian government has disputed these numbers.
Some of the fiercest resistance to the crackdown in recent weeks has emerged in Iran’s western Khuzestan province, where Arab separatist groups such as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz have reported “violent clashes between residents, occupation forces and militias” in western towns and cities. While protesters took their frustrations with the country’s economic situation to the streets here, too, another potentially more serious peril loomed: separatist groups in key border areas.
Those groups are “the biggest non-state threat to Iran today,” Ariane Tabatabai, an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation and an adjunct senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, told Newsweek. The most volatile border areas are Sistan-Baluchistan, Khuzestan and Kurdistan. Watchers worry that any escalation of insurgencies in these parts could propel Iran toward the sectarian strife seen in Syria.
“That’s part of what’s deterring many Iranians from outright pushing for regime collapse: The lessons of Syria loom large,” she added.
Insurgencies were waged by separatist Arab, Baluch and Kurdish militias for decades before ISIS, Al-Qaeda or even the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the pro-West shah, who long-enjoyed the CIA maintaining his rule. The Islamic Republic has managed to keep these restive communities in line, but deadly attacks persist, such as a February bus bombing that killed up to 27 members of the Revolutionary Guard.
The operation was claimed by Jaish ul-Adl, which along with fellow Sunni Islamist group Ansar Al-Furqan, has taken advantage of previous periods of unrest in an attempt to undermine the Iranian government. ISIS, notorious for its ability to build bridges across continents, has actively sought to exploit these national struggles as it does in countries as far away as the Philippines.
The group’s reach within Iran remains fairly insignificant, Tabatabai added. She explained, however, that “ISIS has mostly focused its efforts in the areas with significant Kurdish and Arab minority populations—because these are populations that have been historically neglected if not repressed by the central authority.”
While eradicating adversarial forces and projecting its own influence abroad were integral motivations for Tehran’s entrance into the fight against ISIS, so was disrupting any potential nexus between the influential jihadi group and other opponents of Iran within the country itself. Shanahan told Newsweek that from the beginning, “Iran was concerned at the threat ISIS posed to Iranian territory, and the possibility of support for low-level insurgencies amongst Arab and Baluch Sunni groups inside Iran.”
“They have limited support inside Iran but they may well seek to exploit security agencies’ focus on the protests to undertake some local tactical actions,” he added, noting that the current demonstrations were “about Iranians’ dissatisfaction with the system as a whole, with the lifting of fuel subsidies as the catalyst—it’s not about minority rights.”
Even with limited success in its infiltration, ISIS managed to strike at the heart of the Islamic Republic in June 2017 when several Sunni Kurdish militants aligned with the group staged twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and the shrine to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 18 people.
An attack last September at a Revolutionary Guard parade in Ahvaz commemorating the Iran-Iraq War—during which Saddam Hussein, too, tried to foster Arab separatism in Khuzestan—killed two dozen people, half of them soldiers, and was claimed by both ISIS and Ahvazi Arab separatists.
In response, Iran launched Zulfiqar and Qiam missiles that flew hundreds of miles across Iraq and into the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, an ISIS stronghold at the time assaulted by two rival campaigns led by the Syrian government and the U.S.-backed, majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. The unprecedented strike was seen not only as a message to ISIS, but as a testament of Iran’s missile prowess directed toward its top three national foes.
Iran has often blamed the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia for fomenting discord within the country in an attempt to overthrow a government they view as destabilizing to the region. No conclusive evidence of such a conspiracy regarding the current demonstrations has emerged, although top Washington figures—such as former national security adviser John Bolton, a devout war hawk—have openly courted opposition forces like Ahvazi Arab separatists and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK).
Until 2012, MEK was a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, something that represents the blurred lines that have long defined Washington’s Middle East policies. In fighting ISIS, the U.S. partnered with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group widely seen as tied to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and although Trump has adopted a hard-line stance against Iran, the Pentagon was forced to continue at least indirect collaboration with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a militia umbrella that includes the outlawed, Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, among other groups
Until 2012, MEK was a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, something that represents the blurred lines that have long defined Washington’s Middle East policies. In fighting ISIS, the U.S. partnered with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group widely seen as tied to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and although Trump has adopted a hard-line stance against Iran, the Pentagon was forced to continue at least indirect collaboration with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a militia umbrella that includes the outlawed, Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, among other groups.
All three experts interviewed by Newsweek said they believed the collapse of the Iranian government was unlikely in the near future, despite the “maximum pressure” campaign by the U.S. against it. Even for Washington, this may not necessarily be a bad thing: It has repeatedly learned that an enemy government’s loss of control often had far-reaching repercussions in the form of mass refugee flows, the formation of new, more powerful enemies, and costly military interventions to fight them.
The fall of Iran—a nation whose population is higher than all three of those war-torn nations combined—would likely have even more devastating side effects and give ISIS and other underground forces new room to operate.
For now, the threat of ISIS appears to be under control. But worsening economic woes resulting from U.S. restrictions and political infighting among Iran’s own hard-liners and moderates ensure the militant group will continue to root for, if not actively seek out, Iran’s capitulation.
MEK And ISIS Alternatives For Iran?
Camp Ashraf 3 Albania . MEK , ISIS , Al Qaeda Joint Terrorist Training Camp
Costantino Ceoldo, Pravda, August 26 2019:… The MEK is not independent of Washington. The Ashraf-3 base opening was attended by many senior-level U.S. officials. National Security Advisor John Bolton told the MEK at its 2017 conference in Albania, “Before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran”. He was wrong. But John Bolton still intends to overthrow Iran. I am not convinced that Iran was behind the tanker attacks. The attacks seemed staged and implausible. In one case, the State Department insisted the Kokuka Courageous was damaged by Iranian magnetic mines. But tanker crew said that flying ordnance pierced the ship’s hull. The holes pierced the ship above the waterline. That means the magnetic mines had to jump up from the water and cling to the ship’s side. It seems that a covert intelligence action was the more likely source of the damage. Camp Ashraf 3 Albania . MEK , ISIS , Al Qaeda Joint Terrorist Training Camp
Camp Ashraf 3 Albania . MEK , ISIS , Al Qaeda Joint Terrorist Training Camp
Richard Black speaks about Syria (and not only)
Syria is still torn by the conflict that has endangered its very existence since the distant 2011. It is a war that has never been simply internal to the Syrian society but that has involved, on the contrary, numerous players each moved by own interests and own purposes. The official West has always stood firm against the legitimate government of Damascus, endorsing every possible lie against it. But some voices of dissent have also been heard: Richard Black of the Virginia State senate is the only Western politician to have spoken openly in defense of Syria and its people, immediately highlighting the Western absurdity of trusting that international holding of terror headed by Al-Qaeda.
For some months now, international diplomacies have been in flux over the possibility of an open war between United States and Iran. It would be a war that would drag the entire Middle East and the Western hemisphere into a conflict with devastating and unpredictable results. There is something tremendously irreconcilable between Washington and Tehran, an antagonism that also sees Israel as co-protagonist: the Jewish State in fact lives the Iranian presence in Syria and Iraq as a clear existential danger and craves to eliminate that danger once and for all.
I asked Senator Black to express once again an opinion on the current Middle Eastern situation, which develops its tragedy having as a background, also and unfortunately above all, the moral decadence of the West. There is indeed a subtle and hidden thread who connect Jeffrey Epstein’s perverse behavior with the stolen children scandal of Bibbiano, Italy, to which I have dedicated a previous column .
1) Do you feel that Syria is making progress in the war?
A) Yes. In particular, Syria is making excellent progress in recapturing Idlib Province. This month, the SAA, led by the Tiger Forces, skillfully outmaneuvered al Qaeda in Syria near Khan Shaykhun. They attacked from the east and west, creating an untenable salient, which was then choked off, besieging the Khan Shaykhun pocket. Syrian forces are rapidly clearing the pocket, and they are poised to advance more deeply into enemy-held territory.
2) The war in Syria has entered its eighth year and yet there is no end to it despite the successes of government forces and their allies. In your opinion, who still hinders the end of this terrible conflict?
A) The war would end if the United States left Syria. Throughout the war, the U.S. has sent arms and equipment across Turkey’s borders into Syria. We needlessly keep the war alive in order to squeeze Iran, which has lost many men fighting against ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria. General Westley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, described a 2001 meeting with a high-ranking general in the Pentagon War Room. The General said, “I just got this down from upstairs today.” He was referring to the Secretary of Defense’s office. “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” So U.S. planners sought to overthrow Syria as early as 2001.The U.S. war plans developed quickly afterwards. In 2006 William Roebuck, chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Damascus, issued a cable outlining strategies for destabilizing and exploiting perceived weaknesses in the Syrian government. His objective was to instigate and uprising and overthrow Syria. Under the bloodthirsty regime of President Obama, the United States relentlessly pursued their war plans. After toppling Libya, we quickly started the Syrian War. We did this by shipping stolen Libyan arms through Turkey and Lebanon immediately after the U.S., U.K. and France destroyed Libya in 2011. The war against Syria began within months of Libya’s fall in 2011, when the CIA established a “Rat Line” to infiltrate stolen Libyan weapons into Syria. This was a top-secret plan code-named Project Timber Sycamore. Tunisian terrorists became the first foreign fighters sent by Turkey and the West to fight the ill-prepared Syrian soldiers. However, the United States is not the only obstacle to peace in Syria. Turkey is a major stumbling block. Turkey provided most of the military hardware to ISIS, and supplies heavy military equipment to al Qaeda in Syria, which now controls most of Syria’s Idlib Province.
3) The Iranian front is being added to the Syrian front, with provocations that seem a prelude to war. Do we see a war between United States and Iran in our future?
A) John Bolton, the National Security Advisor to the President, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would like to trigger a war with Iran. However, President Trump knows the American people are tired of fighting wars in the Middle East. I don’t expect anything dramatic to happen with Iran before the 2020 elections. Predicting what will happen after that is difficult, but I do not think President Trump is anxious for war. However, a number of provocations have already been staged and others are likely. Bolton and Pompeo would like nothing better than to see the President forced into a war with Iran. Of course, going to war with Iran would be disastrous for America.
4) Is there a risk that MEK, the Mojahedin-e khalq, will openly take in Iran the place that ISIS has had in Syria, giving way to a bloodbath in the Islamic Republic as well?
A) That is a distinct possibility. However, Iran is a cohesive, unified nation. Despite their internal political disagreements, Iranians are patriotic and even its dissidents are generally unwilling to undermine the unity of the nation. For that reason, I do not believe the MEK will find fertile ground to grow like ISIS did in the deserts of Iraq and Syria. Nevertheless, the West has decided to employ MEK-led terrorists to overthrow the duly-elected government of Iran. The Ashraf-3 base has just opened in Albania. Its purpose is to coordinate terrorist training, logistics and military action against Iran. The Ashraf-3 facility will be used to plan the infiltration and destabilization of Iran. It may use both MEK terrorists and battle-hardened ISIS and al Qaeda troops who are moved there from Iraq and Syria. The massive Ashraf-3 base is a complete city. It has parks, shopping centers, conference centers, and a luxury hotel. The heavily-guarded facility will be home to 3,000 MEK terrorists and families. If MEK succeeds in toppling Iran, Maryam Rajavi has already been designated as its first interim president. The United States designated the MEK as a terrorist organization in 1997. However, the push to overthrow seven Middle Eastern countries (including Iran) began to move forward rapidly in 2011 with the invasion of Libya. MEK was removed for the list of terrorist organizations in 2012 in order to bring about a violent regime change in Iran.
5) Has the west had much success working with organizations like MEK or al Qaeda in the past?
A) Employing the terror weapon has not produced good results for Western countries. The CIA fielded a quarter-million-man army of terrorists against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia built a vast system of madrassas to indoctrinate youth in Wahabism, a remarkably murderous version of Islam. Although CIA’s jihadists did defeat the Soviets, they also gave birth to al Qaeda, which attacked the U.S. on 9-11 and went on to spread terror across the globe. Every time the West and its Gulf State allies use terrorists to overthrow governments, the results are disastrous. By recruiting and supplying affiliates of al Qaeda in Libya and Syria, we flooded Europe with a tidal wave of culturally-incompatible refugees. This gravely damaged countries like Germany, whose people were startled when foreign immigrants assaulted and raped German women with wild abandon soon after their arrival. The resulting crime and social disorder shocked Germans and Scandinavians, who may be permanently afflicted by these unpleasant social conditions.
6) Some investigations made by Iranians point to a MEK responsibility in the recent oil tankers attacks. Is Washington still trusting this organization?
A) The MEK is not independent of Washington. The Ashraf-3 base opening was attended by many senior-level U.S. officials. National Security Advisor John Bolton told the MEK at its 2017 conference in Albania, “Before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran”. He was wrong. But John Bolton still intends to overthrow Iran. I am not convinced that Iran was behind the tanker attacks. The attacks seemed staged and implausible. In one case, the State Department insisted the Kokuka Courageous was damaged by Iranian magnetic mines. But tanker crew said that flying ordnance pierced the ship’s hull. The holes pierced the ship above the waterline. That means the magnetic mines had to jump up from the water and cling to the ship’s side. It seems that a covert intelligence action was the more likely source of the damage.
7) Recently, you wrote a letter to President Trump . Why did you feel the need for such a step? Have you got any answer from the White House? Or from the media of your country?
A) I was concerned that covert actions were being undertaken to trigger a war against Iran. I sent the letter to President Trump through certain channels. I also sent copies to every member of congress. I hoped to educate the Members about the actual situation in Iran. My goal was to block Bolton and Pompeo from drawing the nation into a war that would kill thousands of American servicemen and perhaps a million Iranians. It would also destabilize the entire world, and that could lead to a world war involving Russia, China, Europe and the Gulf State dictatorships.
8) “But the CINC does not ‘hope’, he commands” as you wrote about Trump’s hope to avoid a war with Iran. Do you think there is a lack of firmness by the current American President?
A) President Trump has only a tenuous hold on the government’s foreign policy establishment. The House of Representatives is firmly under Democrat control. Large portions of the federal court system are under Democrat control as well. The Senate is narrowly divided 53-49 in favor of Republicans. However, many senators in both parties are quite hawkish and anxious for new wars. Moreover, the State Department and CIA are heavily invested in war. Furthermore, unlike Presidents Nixon and Reagan (who were masters of foreign affairs) this is not Trump’s area of expertise. And since he surrounded himself with hawkish advisors like Bolton and Pompeo, he has little support for peaceful initiatives. Because of this, Trump has very limited maneuvering room in matters of foreign policy. For example, Trump announced a total, immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria on Dec 19, 2018, saying, “Our boys, our young women, our men – they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now.” Within a week, John Bolton had flown to Tel Aviv and rescinded the President’s order. Today, there is no evidence that any troops ever left Syria. They even remain at the isolated outpost of al-Tanf, which plays no role in fighting ISIS and probably never did. Bolton sometimes exercises powers that are the traditional domain of the Commander-in-Chief. That’s especially ironic, since Bolton was a Vietnam draft-dodger who shirked has duties and avoided the dangers of combat.
9) The case of Bibbiano is similar but not the same as that of Epstein who ran an environment of pedophiles for political blackmail. Don’t you think our Western decline has passed a terrible level of watch?
A) President Obama ordered the rainbow-sodomy flag flown directly beneath the American flag at U.S. embassies across the globe. He even bathed the White House in rainbow colored lights to celebrate sodomy in America. Under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. State Department was ordered to promote gay sodomy as a human right. Naturally, this offended nations with strong moral values. Fortunately, the situation has improved a bit under President Trump, and the rainbow-sodomy flag is not flown over U.S. embassies today. Nonetheless, Western morality has suffered enormously by elevating immoral sexual behavior and permitting homosexuals to parade in various states of nudity, while committing lascivious acts in the presence of families with children.
Homosexuals seek out youth and children. We now permit homosexuals to serve openly in the military. The practice allows homosexuals to dominate young men and women. Incorporating homosexuals into the military has undermined good order and discipline.
I know a young Marine woman who was mocked for her Christian faith and for refusing to participate in lesbian sex during boot camp. That is a far cry from the high standards maintained when I attended the Marine Corps boot camp as a young man. Integrating homosexuals into the military ranks was designed to force waves of recruits to accept homosexuality in order to spread this acceptance throughout society. Today, homosexuality has been forced into every facet of life. Homosexuals are even allowed to adopt children, despite their well-known inclination toward sexual activities with minors. Public schools in my own county provide children with books that describe a six-year-old transvestite child performing illicit sex acts with older youth. So, the cultural decay is evident everywhere. The U.S. suffered a grave moral collapse in 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court created homosexual marriages. Although such marriages are an illusion, that illusion is a toxic one that has far-reaching, destructive ramifications. There is little evidence that open homosexuality and Christianity can co-exist. And since Christianity is the moral bedrock of Western Civilization, it is unclear whether civilization will survive this reckless social experiment at all.
Costantino Ceoldo – Pravda freelance
Camp Ashraf 3 Albania . MEK , ISIS , Al Qaeda Joint Terrorist Training Camp