Fox News, February 8, 2008
Groundbreaking revelations about the Iranian ayatollahs’ secret nuclear weapons program are not the only contributions the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the democratic opposition’s parliament-in-exile, has made to peace and stability in the world.
Since 2003, the NCRI, relying on the information provided by the personnel of its pivotal member organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) — currently in Ashraf City in Iraq — has revealed many dimensions of Tehran’s destabilizing campaign in Iraq. Acknowledged by many independent and democratic Iraqi political figures and tribal leaders, as well as U.S. military commanders, these revelations have saved countless Iraqi and American lives and have hugely contributed to putting in place appropriate counter-measures to deal with these threats.
Among these revelations were warnings about an elaborate scheme by the clerics in Tehran to rob Iraqis of their oil resources and use the revenue to fund their nefarious meddling in Iraq.
As I detailed in my book, The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis, (updated edition to be released in paperback in February 2008), in one of the biggest heists of the current century, Tehran has smuggled billions of dollars’ worth of Iraqi oil to Iran through Iraq’s southern borders. The stolen oil has provided for the huge expenditures of Iran’s meddling in Iraq. Many of the smuggling operations involve the exchange of Iraqi petroleum for Iranian weapons or narcotics.
Now, there are reports from Iraq that the Foreign Ministry has dispatched an official letter of warning to Tehran demanding immediate cessation of these activities following statements by Iraqi officials detailing how the ayatollahs’ regime is stealing the Iraqi oil.
According to the London-based Al-Hayat daily, Faraj Moussa, deputy head of the Iraq Commission on Public Integrity, has evidence indicating that the Tehran regime has “seized” at least 15 oil wells in southern provinces neighboring Iran. Moussa told the newspaper that “Iraqi reports have documented the Iranian violations of the Iraqi wells, by diagonal digging” — also known as slant drilling — “exceeding the borders and seizing the oil wells after expelling the Iraqi engineering cadres and workers.”
These revelations coincide with reports coming from Iraq about how the ayatollahs’ terrorist arm, the Qods Force, has expanded its terror campaign in Iraq by methodically targeting the leaders and personnel of the Awakening Council. This group, in partnership with the US-led Coalition forces, is fighting back extremist militia of various kinds, particularly in the Diyala Province where the Ashraf City is situated.
According to the New York Times, “citizen guardsmen and Iraqi intelligence officials say they have also captured Iranians with hit lists and orders to attack Awakening members. American military officials say they suspect that Iran’s paramilitary force, Al Qods, is directing the Shiite militias’ attacks against the Awakening movement.”
Specifically, some of both the Shiite and Sunni Iraqi officials point the finger at Abdel Aziz al-Hakim’s Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army, both of which are tightly linked with the Qods Force and have been implicated in death-squad operations against moderate Shiite and Sunni Iraqis.
An Iraqi intelligence official told the The New York Times that “two weeks ago, we captured one Iraqi and two Iranians meeting in a house in Baghdad … When we capture these Shiite militiamen, they tell us they have orders from Iran.”
Although the common perception is that the Awakening Council is a Sunni entity, many of the Awakening branches are made up of both Shiite and Sunnis, particularly in the Diyala Province north of Baghdad. The religiously mixed Awakening Councils have indeed displayed a higher degree of potency in their efforts to push back the terrorist militias. For example, “in contrast to community-based volunteer squads, their tribal forces thwart terrorist infiltrators more effectively because relatives vouch for one another,” The New York Times reported. This is again another fact on the ground that shows that not only is a non-sectarian counter-measure against Tehran and its Iraqi proxies achievable, it is also more effective.
It is true that given the length of Diyala’s border with Iran and its ethnically and religiously mixed demography, it has been a major area of operation for the Qods Force. The presence of the Iranian opposition in Ashraf City and the invaluable contribution Ashraf is making to exposing Tehran’s menacing campaign in Iraq has also made Diyala Province a roaming ground for Qods operatives. Over the weekend several thousand Iraqis in Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala, staged a protest rally and demanded the removal of the city’s police chief, Ghanim Abbas Al-Qoreishi, who is closely linked with the Badr organization and the Qods Force.
Of the three main conflicts fought by coalition forces in Iraq, “the third conflict, and perhaps the most vexing for U.S. commanders, is with Shiite extremist militias” organized in units called “Special Groups” by the U.S. military, The Washington Post reported on February 3, 2008. These units have shown a remarkable proficiency in using highly lethal explosively formed projectiles (EFPs). In an oblique reference to the high-level training and the EFPs provided by Tehran, Col. James Rainey, the 4th Infantry Division’s director of operations, told the Washington Post that “it’s high-end technology. It’s not four dudes making them in a basement.”
Last week in his State of the Union Address, President Bush stressed that “a failed Iraq would embolden the extremists, strengthen Iran, and give terrorists a base from which to launch new attacks.” He added that “we’re also standing against the forces of extremism embodied by the regime in Tehran, which is funding and training militia groups in Iraq.”
He called on Iran’s despotic rulers to “come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home, [and] cease your support for terror abroad,” and warned that “America will confront those who threaten our troops.” To effectively put these statements in practice, the administration must side with the nonsectarian and independent Iraqi leaders to politically undermine ayatollahs’ agenda directed through its surrogates in the Nuri al-Maliki government.
Many members of the United States Congress believe that the administration must also strengthen the strategic and irreplaceable contribution the anti-fundamentalist Iranian opposition residents of Ashraf City in Iraq are making to Iraqi safety and security by ending any restriction on their ability to operate inside Iraq. This would make Tehran unhappy, which is what it would take to solve the Iraqi problem.