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Insurgency-sponsor Iran gets a taste of its own medicine and doesn't like it

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By Fariborz Saremi

Iran, which has often employed proxies such as Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Asaib A Haq (League of Righteous) in Iraq to expand its sphere of influence, now finds itself the victim of this form of warfare.

Tehran is being forced to fight several low-level insurgencies in its border regions which, Tehran claims, are being financed and supplied by the intelligence services of Britain, the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

A Kurdish guerrilla from the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan patrols Kandil Mountain in Iraq near the border with Iran. / Warzer Jaff, New York Times

Iran contains some 75 million people of whom approximately 51 percent are ethnic Persians. Moreover, around 90 percent of the population is Shiite, the state religion.

The second largest group is Azeri, numbering around 15 million, who adhere to Shia Islam. Most of the five to seven million Kurds and four million Baluchis are Sunni.

Iran is concerned that western powers could foment ethnic tensions to try and destabilize the Iranian regime. In fact, the western powers are indeed highly active in gathering intelligence and organizing sabotage operations in some provinces

There has been clear evidence that these operations have unnerved the Iranian regime, which recently reacted by sending 5000 Revolutionary Guards to northwestern Iran, where they crossed into Iraq to combat Sunni guerrillas of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK). The Iranian government claimed that the Guards’ heavy artillery barrages on the Kurdish-held Kandil mountains helped them overrun a major PJAK base.

In Sistan Baluchistan in the southeast, Iran’s only Sunni majority province and a major route for drug smuggling from Afghanistan, the Jundullah, a Sunni armed group has assassinated numerous top Revolutionary Guard generals. In response, the Tehran Regime executed the leader of Jundullah “Abdelmalik Rigi” who launched the insurgency in 2003. But the group remains strong, concentrating its attacks on the IRGC.

Other insurgencies have affected oil-rich and largely Arab Khuzestan Province in the southwest. Owing to those oil fields in Khuzestan, Tehran has attempted to quell trouble there through coercion and concessions.

The Azeri region in the northwest has also been affected. Iran fears the government of President Ilham Aliyef, backed by Israel and even the U.S. could support a full scale revolt of its Azeris, who comprise about 25 percent of Iran’s population.

Israel and western powers deny involvement in these insurgencies but there have been repeated media reports of outside help for these groups.

For example, Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, and Israel’s special military forces are said to be active aiding the Kurds in northern Iraq, something they have periodically done since the 1960s.

Furthermore, Israel has sought to gain a major foothold in Azerbaijan, where it has been quietly building intelligence and military links. Azerbaijan is both oil rich and a largely secular Muslim state. Close ties to Azerbaijan give Israel the opportunity to monitor Iran, especially its controversial nuclear program, a major threat to Israel’s security.

Saudi Arabia’s concern about Shiite expansionism and the “Shi’ite Cresent” has led it to fund Sunni organizations in both Iraq and Iran, as well as other peripheral states.  This for Sunni militants in Iraq, is expected to increase sharply as the Kingdom’s religious and political conflict with Iran escalates and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq completes.

In September 2009 Lt Gen. David Petraeus, the then head of U.S. Centcom, signed what was to become the top secret seven-page directive known as the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute order.

The directive authorized major expansion of covert special operations across the region including “specific operations” in Iran. Subsequently in August 2011, Patreous became director of CIA, which as a highly militarized organization since 9/11 has been directing operations against Islamic terrorist groups.

It would seem the U.S. military and intelligence chiefs are pushing ever harder for more covert action to counter Iranian influence in the run up to the USA’s withdrawal from Iraq on Dec. 31.

Dr. Fariborz Saremi is a commentator on TV and radio (German ARD/NDR TV,SAT 1,N24, Voice of America and Radio Israel) on  Middle East issues and a contributer to FreePressers.com, WorldTribune.com and Defense&Foreign Affairs.

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