Iran has Moved Missiles into Iraq and Syria

Two planes have moved weapons from Iran to Beirut via Damascus. The airline is known as Qeshm Fars Air and is used by both the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as al Quds, but led by Qassem Soleimani. The weapons are bound for Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, Iran has also been moving missiles to Iraq and Syria. These are short range missiles  which Iran says are for defensive activities. There are two types of missiles. They are the Zelzal Fateh-110 and the Zolfaqar. Both have ranges estimated up to 700 km. That means based on the locations, they can strike both Riyadh and Tel Aviv. This too is being managed by Qassem Soleimani. This is not fully a new condition for Iran as they have been transferring missiles to the Houthis in Yemen where some have been launched at Saudi Arabia.

The number of transferred missiles is unknown at this time but it appears the most recent transfer to Iraq is designed to supply Iraq as a forward operating base for Iran. Officials of the West have said that the missiles are being manufactured in al Zafaraniya, which is East of Baghdad. Another location that has been noted is Jurf al Sakhar, north of Kerbala.

The al Zafaraniya location is producing warheads using the same operations owned by Saddam Hussein. Shiite engineers have been recruited and hired to make all locations fully operational.

So, what does European intelligence have as a response to all of this considering they are still working to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. Not so much it seems.

In another meanwhile, we have the former Iraqi militant cleric and killer of U.S. forces,  Muqtada al Sadr who appears to have joined with Prime Minister Haider al Abadi to announce a new Parliament in Iraq. al Sadr has the largest bloc now in the Iraqi Parliament known as ‘The Alliance of Reform and Building’ that is made up of yet another set of tribal political groups. No Kurds are part of this new Parliament at all.

Sadr to announce new political project Thursday

The question now is will al Sadr openly or covertly cooperate with Tehran? Can a radical deadly cleric become an ally of the West? Not so fast… al Sadr promises reform, he is already under some influence of Tehran. The negotiations continue, the outcome uncertain.

In June, al Sadr met with Iran officials for some weird alliance and perhaps this was to ensure votes for seats in the new Parliament.

The Parliament has held the first session but no official Speaker or deputies have been elected or named.

2004 was an especially deadly year for Americans in Iraq due to al Sadr leading a militia, the Mahdi Army. So, has Muqtada al Sadr remade himself into a moderate or is he just plotting? What ultimate direction will Iraq go in coming months/years remains to be determined.

Mass Graves Covered up in Iran

Iran: Road to be built over individual and mass graves

The families of political dissidents who were forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially killed in Ahvaz, southern Iran, in the 1980s are suffering untold mental anguish and distress as the authorities are destroying the individual and mass graves of their loved ones. They are afraid of facing further persecution if they speak out.


Amnesty International reports that Iran’s regime is destroying a mass grave of the victims of the 1988 massacre. According to estimates from the opposition, these victims number in the 10s of 1000s (the vast majority from the MEK).


The Trump administration must now prepare for near-term Iranian terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland, because the leader of Iran’s revolutionary guards, or IRGC, external action force gave a very aggressive speech on Thursday.

Addressing followers in the ancient city of Hamedan (a location probably chosen as a metaphor of Iranian durability), Qassem Soleimani warned Americans, “We are closer to you than what you think. You should know that I am your foe. The Quds Force alone and not all the Armed Forces is enough to be your rival. You are aware of Iran’s power in asymmetric war.”

Soleimani means for his words to be taken as references to terrorist attacks. In specific terms, IRGC modus operandi and tactical capability render “closer to you than what you think” and “asymmetric war” as references to Quds force attack cells and cyber-strike teams in the U.S. homeland, South America, and Europe.

But Soleimani wasn’t done there.

Again emphasizing “We are so close to you in places that you might not even think of,” Soleimani declared “You should know that there is not even a single night that we don’t think of destroying you.” Soleimani also drew a sharp reference to his role subjecting U.S. forces in Iraq to explosively formed penetrator attacks, stating “”have you forgotten when you had provided adult-size diapers for your battle tank crews?” EFP attacks killed hundreds of Americans and wounded many more.

Soleimani loved the EFPs for their brutality. In David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers, we hear about U.S. Army Specialist Joshua Reeves, whose vehicle was hit by an EFP in Baghdad. Reeves “wasn’t breathing, his eyes weren’t moving, his left foot was gone, his backside was ripped open, his stomach was filling with blood …” Reeves died the same day that his wife had told him that she had given birth.

And in a reference to Iranian martyrdom ideology, deeply vested in the revolution’s theological appropriation of the Battle of Karbala, Soleimani concluded, “We are thirsty for martyrdom and annihilation of arrogant powers.”

He wants the U.S. to know the IRGC will proudly die for their cause.

The U.S. may now have to help them on that course, because the U.S. must respond deliberately to this speech.

First off, President Trump should recognize that the Iranians aren’t playing around here. Soleimani has the pedigree to render very bloody terrorist attacks into action. He also has no qualms about massacring U.S. civilians (the Quds force nearly blew up a Washington, D.C., restaurant in 2011) and recently tried to blow up a Paris conference attended by U.S. officials. Indeed, Soleimani’s words exemplify why we argued this week that Trump must be more focused in his red-line warnings to Iran.

But what specifically should be done?

Both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should take the lead in warning that any terrorist attacks on the U.S. will result in two immediate effects.

First, aggressive U.S. military strikes on IRGC infrastructure belonging to the Quds force and the IRGC at large. Pompeo’s role is important here because the former CIA director took a tough line against the IRGC, and Soleimani knows he means business.

Second, the U.S. should make clear that Soleimani and his senior leadership figures will be personally targeted. While some, like former Obama administration official Tommy Vietor, believe such threats would be outrageous, it is important that the Iranian hardliners know any terrorist attacks will not meet a standard fare response. They must know that the U.S. will metaphorically gut them if they come for our citizens. If Soleimani and his cadre do not understand that U.S. deterrent posture, they will kill innocent Americans. Evidencing their willingness to up the ante, the Quds Force directed Houthi rebel forces in Yemen to target cargo vessels passing through the Red Sea on Wednesday.

But the Trump administration should also be clear about where this is heading. As it attempts to destabilize the Iranian regime with economic pressure, the Iranian regime is showing that it will not go down without a fight.

Ultimately, Qassem Soleimani’s threats should be taken very seriously. He is a skilled commander with significant terrorist capabilities and an ideologically vested hatred for America. He must be dealt with as such.



Iran to Hit Infrastructure with Cyber Attack

Primer: (Reuters) – Iran has built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 centrifuges a day, the head of its atomic agency said on Wednesday, upping the stakes in a confrontation with Washington over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work.

Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The other signatories have been scrambling to save the accord, arguing it offers the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb.

The Aspen Security Forum Releases 2017 Agenda - Aspen ...

*** At the Aspen Security Summit on Iran

In part:

ASPEN, Colo. — Iranian hackers have laid the groundwork to carry out extensive cyberattacks on U.S. and European infrastructure and private companies, and the U.S. is warning allies, hardening its defenses and weighing a counterattack, say multiple senior U.S. officials.

Despite Iran having positioned cyber weapons to carry out attacks, there is no suggestion an offensive operation is imminent, according to the officials, who requested anonymity in order to speak.

Cyber threats have been a major theme of the 2018 Aspen Security Forum, with administration officials from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Chris Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein all warning of the pervasive danger from Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

In Aspen Thursday, DNI Coats said that Russia was a more active cyber foe than Iran or China — “by far” the most aggressive, he said.

While Russia may be the most aggressive, the U.S. officials said Iran is making preparations that would enable denial-of-service attacks against thousands of electric grids, water plants, and health care and technology companies in the U.S., Germany, the U.K. and other countries in Europe and the Middle East.

“Iran has a penchant for using such tools against the West,” said Ben Taleblu. “The cyber domain permits the Islamic Republic to engage in graduated escalation, a hallmark of Iranian security policy.”

U.S. officials have alerted America’s allies in Europe and the Middle East to the potential Iranian threat and have begun preparing a menu of possible responses, according to both current and former US officials. It’s unclear if the options include a preemptive cyberattack to deter Iran from launching one.

Senior U.S. officials remain divided over the use of a preemptive cyberattack. More here.

Perhaps it is almost important to be reminded about the bomb plot last month in Paris. For a full summary of events at the #FreeIran event in Paris, go here.

Israel’s Mossad spy agency thwarted a terror attack in a Paris suburb last month, giving authorities in France, Germany, and Belgium crucial intelligence that led to arrests of a cell headed by an Iranian diplomat, Hebrew media reported Thursday.

The cell, headed by an Iranian diplomat at the Austrian embassy in Vienna, also consisted of  two Belgian nationals and an alleged accomplice in France. They planned to bomb a June 30 conference organized by an Iranian dissident group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran.

The operation included tracking the suspects and eavesdropping on them,  Hadashot said.

The Belgian nationals, a husband and wife identified as Amir S. and Nasimeh N., were charged earlier this month with their role in the plot.

The couple, described by Belgian prosecutors as being “of Iranian origin,” carried 500 grams (about a pound) of the volatile explosive TATP along with a detonation device when an elite police squad stopped them in a residential district of Brussels.

The arrests came days before Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif met with European nations to try to shore up the 2015 nuclear accord, after US President Donald Trump walked away from the deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to the operation ahead of the meeting.

“There is a meeting this week by the P4 without the United States…” and “the P4 invited Iran’s President Rouhani to attend,” Netanyahu said derisively at an event to mark US Independence Day. More here.


IRGC a Terror Organization? Ah, Yeah

Why would there need to be some consideration to list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization? Anyone?

Begin with Hezbollah:

US State Department-designated terrorist group Hezbollah announced that Facebook and Twitter had terminated its main accounts. In a post on encrypted messenger, Telegram, Hezbollah opined that the shutdowns were “part of the propaganda campaign against the resistance due to the important role of the organization’s information apparatus in various arenas.” Hezbollah then began redirecting people to other Hezbollah accounts on social media. More here.

Strait of Hormuz Once Again at Center of U.S.-Iran Strife ... photo

*** The U.S. Navy stands ready to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command said on Thursday, after Iran warned it will block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has threatened in recent days to close the strait, a vital route for world oil supplies, if Washington tries to cut Tehran’s exports.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Wednesday Iran would block any exports of crude for the Gulf in retaliation for hostile U.S. action.

“The U.S. and its partners provide, and promote security and stability in the region,” Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban said in an email to Reuters.

Asked what would be the U.S. Naval Forces reaction if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, he said: “Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy (IRGCN) lacks a strong navy and instead focuses on an asymmetric warfare capability in the Gulf. It possesses many speed boats and portable anti-ship missile launchers and can lay naval mines. Full story.

*** Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Stock Photos and ...

The Trump administration is weighing whether to label a powerful arm of Iran’s military as a terrorist group, part of an effort to use every possible tool in the box to pressure Tehran.

Senior current and former officials familiar with the matter tell CNN the White House is considering designating Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, a debate that has senior Cabinet officials squaring off on both sides.
The designation decision, formally under the State Department’s purview, is taking on heightened importance as part of the White House’s increasingly aggressive strategy towards Iran. Officials have been debating it for several months and have yet to reach a consensus.
While some warn a designation could pose risks to US personnel and installations overseas, it would allow the White House to freeze IRGC assets, impose travel bans and levy criminal penalties on top of pre-existing economic sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.
“The United States is trying to change malign behavior of the Iranians and deter their aggression,” said Chris Costa, the executive director of the Spy Museum and a recently retired special adviser to Trump on counterterrorism. For that goal, “the special designation is a very important tool,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in favor of the designation, sources familiar with his thinking say.
“There’s lots of things that are being discussed, things that will prove, we believe, very effective at the end goal-which is, at the end of the day, what matters, right?” Pompeo told CNN in a recent interview. “The end goal is to convince the Islamic Republic of Iran to be a normal country.” He declined to discuss specific plans for future sanctions and designations.
But labeling an official state military as a terror group, particularly a group with the reach and force of the IRGC, would be unprecedented and could expose US diplomatic and military officials to additional hazards, some warn.
The powerful military and security body is key to Iran’s influence in the Middle East, often linked to Iran’s support for terrorism. The organization controls wide swaths of the Iranian economy, including the energy sector.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has cautioned the administration that designating the IRGC could pose dangers to US forces, according to one source familiar with the matter. While the intelligence community doesn’t make policy decisions, its head, Coats, is the lowest common denominator who pools the analysis and assessments of all the agencies to advise policymakers.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke publicly about the potential dangers of designating the IRGC.
“There are particular risks and complexities to designating an entire army, so to speak, of a country where that then puts in place certain requirements … that then triggers certain actions that we think are not appropriate and not necessarily in the best interests of our military,” Tillerson told reporters during a press briefing in October.

Turning Up the Heat

In March, Trump ousted Tillerson, who had advocated for staying within the Iran deal, replacing him with Pompeo, then his Central Intelligence Agency director.
In contrast to Tillerson, Pompeo has been a hardline voice on Tehran. According to sources familiar with the matter, the top US diplomat wants as many designations against Iran as possible to squeeze its economy. He has not been shy in speeches or social media posts about stopping Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei from wreaking havoc in the Gulf.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said talk of the possible terrorist designation was in keeping with an American tendency to use terrorism for political aims.
“The US a long history politicizing the term ‘terrorism’ for its own political ends, which undermines others fighting terrorism,” Miryousefi said. “To associate the term with the IRGC is categorically preposterous, especially considering their central role in fighting terrorism in the Middle East, including ISIS and al-Qaeda.”
The US will have to consider its allies in Europe if it takes the step of designating the IRGC.
Since Trump announced his intention to abandon the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal in May, his administration has imposed a swath of new sanctions, including one that will require all countries to eliminate Iranian oil imports by November. That move is particularly unpopular with European allies struggling to hold the deal together and keep a lid on Iranian nuclear development.
Trump administration officials leave next week for a second round of international trips to get partners on board with its broader strategy of increased sanctions and strictures on Iran. The National Security Council did not comment on that effort. Europeans say they remain unconvinced.
“The Americans haven’t explained how they want to reach their goals” with regards to Iran, said one European official. National security adviser John Bolton, meeting last month with European officials to talk about the US campaign against Iran, told them there would no exemptions from sanctions for European companies or entities that do business with Iran under UN sanctions, European officials said.
Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, stressed that point in a Monday briefing, telling reporters that the US is “not looking” to issue waivers to European companies.

‘Unconditional surrender’

Bolton told Europeans that Washington was looking for Iran’s “unconditional surrender,” harkening back to demands on Iran made by Pompeo during a speech in late May. The top US diplomat said at the time that the US wanted Iran to abandon its nuclear program, pull out of the Syrian war, and cut ties to terrorism.
Another senior State Department official said “we are looking at a range of avenues to increase pressure.”
Several other administration officials have suggested taking other steps to ramp up pressure on Iran before taking the dramatic step of designating the IRGC.
Successive administrations engaged in a similar debate on whether to designate the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization, ultimately deciding such a move would hamper efforts to negotiate a political solution in Afghanistan.
According to one former senior intelligence official, the debate about Iran has resurfaced many times over the years, often based on a specific incident or piece of intelligence. The intelligence community will “tell [the administration] what might happen if you do this, what might happen if you don’t,” the official said. “If we declare them terrorists, and we put pressure on them, you do have a number of people who say, ‘what would that do to our forces in Iraq and Syria?’”
Iranian forces might retaliate and “ramp up anti American activities in Iraq,” the official said. Iran could also call American special forces terrorists or threaten embassies, potentially endangering the long-term US presence in Iraq and Syria.
The IRGC, in particular a special unit called the Quds Force, which is the equivalent of US Joint Special Operations Command, has also attempted to recruit “operatives around the world to undertake activity on behalf of Iran,” the official continued.
While the Quds Force has done humanitarian work and conducted military operations over the years, “its current focus remains proxy activities in the region” in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, for example, the official said.
The IRGC “provides weapons, training for regional proxies, regional forces … it focuses on terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, the Houthis,” Costa, the former National Security Council counterterrorism adviser told CNN. “They’re a regional spoiler.”
Officials also suggested a designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, while dramatic, would be largely symbolic because it is already considered a terrorist entity under a 9/11-era executive order signed by President George W. Bush to block terrorist financing.
In October, Trump authorized sanctions aimed at the IRGC under that order, calling the Revolutionary Guard “the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia.” He urged US allies to follow suit and impose sanctions against Iran to target its support for terrorism. With a special foreign terrorist designation, the administration could levy a wider and more severe set of sanctions.

‘Another 120,000 terrorists’

Former top CIA lawyer John Rizzo told CNN that a special designation would likely not change how the CIA targets the IRGC.
“The longstanding legal criterion for how US [intelligence] agencies target foreign based threats is if a nation or group engages in international terrorist activities threatening the US or its allies,” he wrote to CNN. “‎For many years, the Iranian government and its entities has fit that bill.”
Many former military and intelligence officials told CNN that US troops are already in significant amounts of danger in the regions where our forces collide with Iran’s military or its proxy forces. Calling them out as terrorists wouldn’t make a big difference, they argue.
“It’s a specious argument to suggest the US military is more vulnerable” if the US makes this call, said Costa.
Anthony Shaffer, a retired US Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who directed several major intelligence operations in the Middle East, told CNN,” My recommendation has always been that they should be a terrorist group,” Shaffer’s book “Dark Heart” describes his experience directly encountering the IRGC funding terrorist efforts in Eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t see how there’s any downside,” he continued.
But if the US takes this unique step, labeling the military branch a terrorist group, it runs the risk of making the IRGC a “hero in the eyes of probably most Iranians for ‘resistance’,” said James Durso, a former US Navy officer and staff member on the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While the move would likely be “symbolic” at this point, “if we designate the entire IRGC, that’s another 120,000 ‘terrorists’ we will have to track,” he said. “We will have normal relations with Iran someday, so let’s not make 120,000 more future enemies unless there’s a real benefit.”

The Bombing Plot in Paris Reveals Wider Iranian Threat

Tower: Two Iranian nationals, recently arrested by France and Germany, will be extradited to Belgium in connection to a terror plot that targeted an Iranian opposition rally outside of Paris, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The rally, which took place Saturday, was held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an Iranian opposition group. Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, spoke at the rally calling for the removal of the regime’s rulers.

On Saturday, Belgian authorities arrested an Iranian couple who had 500 grams of a homemade explosive and a detonator in their car.

France has arrested a man of Iranian origin and Germany had arrested an Austria-based Iranian diplomat. According to Reuters, Belgium asked France and Germany to extradite their suspects. A European intelligence source told Reuters that Belgium was taking the lead in the investigation.

On Wednesday, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the  ambassadors of France, Germany, and Belgium to protest the arrest of the Iranian diplomat. Earlier in the day, Iran had also protested to France over allowing the NCRI meeting to take place on French soil. Iran considers the group to be a terrorist group.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi dismissed the European claims about a terror plot, saying that the arrest was part of a plot by the United States and Israel to damage European-Iranian relations. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif similarly referred to the charges as a “sinister false flag ploy.”

Iran has been accused in the paste of planning terror attacks, especially targeting opponents of the regime, on European soil. In November of last year, an advocate for Iranian-Arabs was fatally shot in the Hague. In 2012, an al Qaeda terrorist testified in court that Iran facilitated the travel of  him and his accomplices to carry out terror attacks in Europe.

In one of the most notorious of these cases, Iranian agents entered a Berlins restaurant and killed three Kurdish activists and wounded several others in a hail of gunfire. The conviction of the assassins, who were tied to the regime, led to a rupture in relations between Germany and Iran.

*** Deeper dive:

An Iranian diplomat and members of what authorities described as an “Iranian sleeper cell” were arrested this week in Belgium, Germany and France, as they were allegedly planning to a bomb a high-level meeting in Paris. The arrests came after a complex investigation by several European intelligence agencies and were announced by Belgium’s Minister of the Interior, Jan Jambon.

The operation against the alleged sleeper cell began on Saturday, June 30, when members of Belgium’s Special Forces Group, stopped a Mercedes car in Brussels. The car was carrying a married Belgian couple of Iranian descent, named in media reports as Amir S., 38, and Nasimeh N., 33. According to the Belgian Ministry of the Interior, Nasimeh N. was found to be carrying 500 grams of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosive and a detonator inside a toiletries bag. On the following day, Sunday, July 1, German police arrested Assadollah A., an Iranian diplomat stationed in Iran’s embassy in Vienna, Austria. According to reports, the diplomat was driving a rental car in the southeastern German state of Bavaria, heading to Austria. On the same day, a fourth person, who has not been named, was arrested by authorities in France, reportedly in connection to the other three arrests.

The four detainees were in contact with each other and were allegedly working for the Iranian government. All four have been charged with an alleged foiled plot to bomb the annual conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that took place last Saturday, June 30, in a Paris suburb. The National Council of Resistance of Iran is a France-based umbrella group of Iranian dissidents, led by Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a militant group that has roots in radical Islam and Marxism. Between 1970 and 1976, the group assassinated six American officials in Iran and in 1970 tried to kill the United States ambassador to the country. It initially supported the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but later withdrew its support, accusing the government of Ayatollah Khomeini of “fascism”. It continued its operations from exile, mainly from Iraq, where its armed members were trained by the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Arab leftist groups.

Until 2009, the European Union and the United States officially considered the MEK a terrorist organization. But the group’s sworn hatred of the government in Iran brought it close to Washington after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. By 2006, the US military was openly collaborating with MEK forces in Iraq, and in 2012 the group was dropped from the US Department of State’s foreign terrorist organizations. Today the group enjoys open protection from the EU and the US. According to Belgian authorities, the four members of the Iranian sleeper cell were planning to bomb the MEK-sponsored NCRI meeting in Paris under instructions by the Iranian government. Conference participants included over 30 senior US officials, including US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who addressed the meeting. Stephen Harper, Canada’s former prime minister, also spoke at the conference.

Speaking in Brussels this week, Belgium’s Interior Minister Jambon praised the country’s intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies for foiling the alleged bomb plot in Paris. But Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, dismissed claims of an Iranian sleeper cell as “fake news” and described reports of a foiled bomb attack as “a sinister false flag plot”.