The Guardian 9 July, 2008

US funding terror groups in Iran

Susan Webb

As worry mounts that the same right-wingers who went to war in Iraq are now pushing for war with Iran, journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration is supporting terrorist groups in Iran that are believed to be linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Writing in the New Yorker on July 7, Hersh reports that the administration has significantly escalated covert operations in Iran aimed at "regime change," including actions such as killings and kidnappings.

Among groups receiving US support, he reports, is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement. "This is a vicious Salafi [Islamic Sunni fundamentalist] organisation whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists," Iran scholar Vali Nasr, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, told Hersh. "They are suspected of having links to al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture."

Another group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, Hersh reports, yet has recently received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the US.

Navid Shomali, of Iran’s Tudeh (Communist) Party, confirmed Hersh’s report. "US provocations in the border areas of Iran have been happening for some time, exploiting a complex political situation because of the neglect and brutal suppression of the rights of national minorities residing in these areas," Shomali said via e-mail. "These provocations only make the lives of the people of these areas more difficult."

He called the covert operations "a part of, and manifestations of, a US policy that seeks to establish its unchallenged hegemony in the Middle East/ Persian Gulf region." The US, he said, "has proven that it has no real interest in the legitimate campaign of the national minorities for democratic rights in Iran."

Fingers are increasingly pointing to Vice-President Dick Cheney and fellow neo-con hawks as the driving force for war with Iran. Israeli right-wingers are also threatening to pre-emptively attack Iran and the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee is bombarding Congress with anti-Iran pressure.

The administration is apparently deeply divided on Iran, with top Pentagon officials opposing a military strike.

A Democratic senator told Hersh that, in an off-the-record meeting with Senate Democrats late last year, Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned of the consequences of a pre-emptive strike on Iran. According to the senator, Gates said, "We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are said to be "pushing back very hard" against White House pressure for a military strike against Iran. A Pentagon consultant told Hersh that "at least 10 senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders have weighed in on that issue." Admiral William Fallon, until recently head of US Central Command, resigned under pressure in March after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an attack on Iran. An official told Hersh, "Fallon went down because, in his own way, he was trying to prevent a war with Iran."

Nevertheless, Hersh says, late last year Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran — up to US$400 million. Some congressional Democrats are now saying the administration is engaged in actions far beyond what they believed they were authorising.

Bush’s request for funding came at the same time that the administration was dismissing a National Intelligence Estimate, released in December, that concluded that Iran had stopped work on nuclear weapons in 2003.

Carah Ong, Iran policy analyst with the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, told the People’s Weekly World newspaper, "Congress has really abdicated so much of their oversight" over the administration’s actions on Iran. "They are so worried about being accused of being weak on national security — and they really want to win the elections — that they are allowing Iran to be the scapegoat."

It’s true there are real concerns about Iran, she said, but "even Reagan talked to his enemies."

Ong also works with the bipartisan Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran, which held a "Time to Talk with Iran" action on Capitol Hill last month.

Another member of the campaign, the Council for a Liveable World, issued a series of "talking points" on July 1 urging members of Congress to oppose Resolution 362, which calls for expanding sanctions against Iran.

Calling it "the latest in a series of provocative and counter-productive congressional initiatives on Iran," the council said the resolution "reprises and magnifies the Bush administration’s longstanding sticks-and-sabre-rattling-and-no-carrots approach to dealing with Iran — an approach that is increasingly recognised even by senior US intelligence and military officials as inadequate and unconstructive."

"Worse still," the group warns, the resolution "risks reinforcing the most reckless tendencies of those in the Bush administration who have not yet given up on the idea of striking Iran militarily before leaving office."

The impact of the new sanctions, it says, "would be to undermine any chance for diplomacy to succeed in achieving a negotiated resolution to all of the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran."

People’s Weekly World

Back to index page