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Mixed Signals From Iran

File image of Iranian Revolutionary Guards doing their stuff.
by Arnaud De Borchgrave
UPI Editor at Large
Washington (UPI) Jul 05, 2007
The Swiss cartoon shows an angry U.S. general briefing a puzzled President George W. Bush with a map of the Middle East. "Here you can see the Lebanonization of Iraq, the Iraqization of Palestine, and the Palestinization of Lebanon." Baffling signals are the norm in the Middle East. The latest come from Iran.

The regular army and the Revolutionary Guards appear to be at odds over their respective strategic readings of U.S. intentions. Gen. Yahya Safavi, commander of the RG, evidently believes a military showdown with the United States is in the cards. "In time of war," said Safavi, "we can recruit an army of 12 million within 48 hours." And, "if God forbid, we face a disaster during war, each of our (RG) brigades will recruit 10 'Ashura' battalions from among the Basiji troops, and that way they will turn into a division."

Basij was founded by the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to provide volunteers for "human wave" attacks in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). Outgunned by the much better trained and equipped Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein and held at bay by Iraqi minefields, the Basiji were tens of thousands of boys as young as 12 who were drafted to serve as martyrs.

With golden-colored keys around their necks to enter paradise, they were trained to run straight into Iraqi fire and through the minefields in wave after bloody wave. The impoverished families from which the boys were selected were rewarded with emoluments hard to resist. Following the death of their children, families were publicly praised. At least 100,000 Iranian boys were thus sacrificed.

Today, the RG commander's 12 million "volunteers" include college students. They are not an embarrassment to Iran, but a source of pride, as they are willing to die as martyrs for Islam. During the eight-year war, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad served as one of the Basiji instructors who trained children. In fact, he came to power as the candidate of the Basij and some 1 million war veterans.

Today, these youngsters are trained to kill Americans and Jews. If Muslims are killed accidentally in the course of such operations, they, too, inherit the mantle of martyrs and go straight to the boudoir in the sky where 72 virgins await them.

When Safavi was asked whether 12 million Basiji could be mobilized quickly, he said: "Within 48 hours. The Americans are terrified about attacking Islamic Iran. The 12 million are a deterrent force." But he conceded that "the pressure on yours truly since the (war with Iraq) is much greater than the pressure during the war (when) we were on one side of the embankment, and the Iraqi enemy was on the other side, whereas now, our enemies -- the Americans -- are in Afghanistan, in the Persian Gulf, and in Iraq. We are facing an enemy that is not from the region. This enemy has come to us. Let's face it, this enemy is a great bully."

Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Mostafa Mohamed-Najjar clearly did not agree with the RG general, who reports directly to Supreme Religious Leader Ali Khamenei. He dismissed as "a sheer lie" U.S. accusations that Iran is supporting "terrorist groups" in Iraq. Such charges, he added, are designed to foment a U.S.-led psychological war.

Mohamed-Najjar also said Iran regards Iraq's security as its own and has repeatedly made clear its readiness for cooperation with the Iraqi government for "full restoration of security and peace. ... In this regard, Iran will spare no effort," he said, and would be in line "with the accords signed with the Iraqi national government." Anything to the contrary is disinformation "engineered by the CIA." He also denied as "totally false" reports Iran had transferred Iranian-made missiles to Syria.

The defense minister and the RG commander clearly had different perspectives on the same battle space. The government of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq deals directly with its opposite numbers in Tehran. But the RG acts pretty much as a rogue elephant; witness the 15 British sailors and marines captured last March by RG boats whose release 12 days later was a decision of the top cleric. If those had been U.S. sailors who had put up a fight before being captured, there is little doubt that U.S. retaliation -- most probably airstrikes -- would have been ordered by President Bush.

But there is a mounting body of national security opinion in Washington that sees a growing convergence of U.S. and Iranian interests. In a Newsweek interview, Mohsen Rezai, the grand old man of the RG, said the Maliki government in Baghdad "is of strategic importance to us ... We want this government to stay in power. Rival Sunni countries oppose Maliki. We haven't."

The key man in Iraq is still Moqtada Sadr. He is close to Tehran, but he is not an Iranian puppet. His Mahdi Army will emerge from the current U.S. surge in Baghdad virtually intact. His troops were ordered to stash their weapons and lie low pending the surge's end. Moreover, he does not want U.S. troops to leave precipitously. He agrees al-Qaida must be defeated first.

But then the influential Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and his neocon supporters have other views and ideas for what comes next. "The Iranian government by its actions," he said this week, "has declared war on us, and the U.S. must keep open the possibility of using military force against the terrorist infrastructure inside Iran." The RG, said Lieberman, backed up by intelligence presented by Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, "is training, funding and arming Iraqi groups," as well as Hezbollah operatives in Iraq. Bergner specified the RG sends weapons and $750,000 to $3 million per month into Iraq for terrorist organizations that would be hard-pressed to continue without this funding.

"These revelations should be a wake-up call to the United States about the threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran," Lieberman said. The neocons, faced with weakening influence, took heart. But there is no appetite for a wider conflict in the region. The half-trillion-dollar war could quickly escalate to a cool trillion.

Source: United Press International

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Israel Cannot Afford To Confront Iran Says Deputy Minister
Jerusalem (AFP) Jul 03, 2007
Israel's armed forces lack sufficient funds to confront the perceived threat posed by arch foe Iran's nuclear ambitions, an outgoing deputy cabinet minister charged on Monday. "We need more funds than we receive currently to deal with this threat," outgoing deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh told public radio. "If the (international economic) sanctions (against Iran) were adopted more firmly and more quickly, we may not have needed to talk about other options."

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