Mali coup was ‘contagious’, says West Africa bloc president

WASHINGTON, DC: The Iranian opposition group that exposed Iran’s secret nuclear enrichment facilities in 2002 has released new information about the leadership structure of the Quds Force Naval Command and the facilities it uses to train and arm Iran’s terrorist proxies in the Middle East.

The Quds Force is the arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations.

At a press conference at a hotel in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran shed light on the importance Tehran places on the Quds Force as a tool for special operations overseas – and the extent to which it is prepared to support its terrorist proxies in Yemen, the Gulf and Iraq.

In light of new information on recruitment, training and weaponry arrangements for the Al-Quds Force naval militia unit, experts say it is imperative that the talks in Vienna, Austria, on Iran’s nuclear program do not evade the issue of the expansion of the Islamic Republic’s network of proxy forces.

Iran is deeply involved in the seven-year war in Yemen, where it supports the Shiite Houthi militia in its fight against the internationally recognized government.

Over the past fortnight, missile and drone strikes have been launched by the Houthis targeting the United Arab Emirates, including an attack on Monday during a visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, in an escalation of the conflict with the Coalition for restore legitimacy in Yemen.

“Tehran must be held accountable for its proxy war in the region and the development of ballistic missiles, regardless of the outcome of the JCPOA negotiations,” Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI’s US office, told Arab News. banned in Iran. , referring to the official name of the Iranian nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“This is a very serious threat that must be immediately addressed by Western capitals.

“Missile parts were supplied to the Houthis from Iran. There would be no Houthi missile program at all without the Iranian regime. Even though they rename the missiles, the components are produced by the Iranian regime to serve its goals in the region.

Quds Force units were ordered by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to train Yemeni Houthi militants in the use of mines, speedboats, missiles and other weapons at secret Iranian bases. Recruits from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and African countries are also present at these facilities, according to NCRI information.

Jafarzadeh said the intelligence on the Al-Quds Force’s proxy naval operations was gathered by the NCRI sources in Iran. One of the main objectives of the Quds Force’s naval operations is to target commercial vessels in the Red Sea and the strategic Bab Al-Mandab strait which separates the coast of Yemen from the Horn of Africa, according to the revelations.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran has highlighted the importance Tehran places on the Quds Force as a tool for special operations abroad. (Provided)

The narrow waterway, considered a vital artery of global trade linking Europe to the Indian Ocean and East Africa, offers a tempting target for Iranian terrorist strategists, according to the NCRI.

Jafarzadeh said the importance given to the Houthis by Tehran is evident from the fact that the group’s representative in Tehran was the first foreign official to be granted an audience with Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, on August 4 this year. last.

At the press conference, the NCRI showed what it called a flowchart for the recruitment, deployment and training of naval terrorists by the Quds Force. The Imam Ali garrison in Tehran has been described as the nerve center of his proxy training activities.

The revelations come amid a surge in attacks and covert operations by Iran’s proxies – the Houthis in particular – against Washington’s Arab strategic partners and Israel.

New information provided by the NCRI suggests that Iran’s ability to supply drones and ballistic missiles to the Houthis largely depends on the naval operations of the Quds Force.

Naval terrorist training takes place in three specialized institutions: Ziba Kenar, on the Caspian Sea, and Farur and Qeshm, two islands in the Gulf.

Missiles fired as part of five-day military exercises dubbed Payambar-e-Azadm, or “Great Prophet”, were held in three provinces. (AFP/Iranian Revolutionary Guards via Sepah News/File Photo)

Ziba Kenar Academy serves as the primary location for naval commando training for the IRGC Navy, but its purpose is much larger than that: it is secretly used by the Quds Force to train proxy fighters, according to the NCRI .

In January 2020, a group of 200 Yemeni Houthi recruits were brought in for training and discharged with their newly acquired terrorist skills. In July 2020, a group of Iraqis received training and were sent to the Faw Peninsula and Basra to create an Iraqi militia.

The inclusion of Iraqi Shiite militants alongside the Houthis is significant given that the Iraqi group Alwiyat Al-Waad Al-Haq, an alleged Quds Force front, claimed responsibility for a failed drone strike on Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. . Her only other claim dates back to January 2021, when she said she launched a drone over Saudi Arabia.

“If Alwiyat Al-Waad Al-Haq came out of hibernation and launched drones into the UAE…then it was probably an Iranian-led or at least Iranian-tolerated operation,” he said. said Michael Knights, of the Washington Institute for Near. East Policy, said in a post on Twitter.

The Quds Force is synchronizing the activities of its regional proxies so that they can mount operations on multiple fronts – from the north and the south – against Coalition members to restore legitimacy in Yemen, according to NCRI information.

In further details provided by the NCRI:

* The Quds Force naval proxy training is overseen by Brigadier General Hassan Ali Zamani Pajooh, an IRGC veteran. Second Admiral Abdolreza Dabestani has been the head of the naval academy since 2019.

* Farur Academy is located on a small island near Qeshm. Five miles wide and 9 miles long, it serves as the headquarters of the IRGC Navy Commando Brigade, Abu Abdullah. Iranian officers under the command of IRGC General Sadegh Amoui train terrorist mercenaries from Yemen and Bahrain here.

* The Quds Force Marine training centers in Qeshm include an underground stockpile of weapons and various missiles. The Quds Force command in Yemen maintains docks in Iran which are exclusively used by its units to facilitate shipments to their terrorist proxies in Yemen.

The NCRI also believes the Quds Force sends arms shipments to the Houthis via Somalia and the Horn of Africa – a route other independent monitoring groups have accused Iran of using to illegally move weapons to its Yemeni proxies.

The smuggling route through Bab al-Mandab and into the Red Sea has been widely used in the past by the Al-Quds Force to smuggle weapons to terrorist proxies in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel.

The urgency to address the shared security challenges presented by the Quds Force’s proxy naval program has spurred increased security cooperation between Israel and some Gulf Arab countries.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s Defense Minister, paid a surprise visit to Bahrain on Wednesday and the Defense Ministry announced that it would sign a security cooperation agreement with Bahrain. An offer had previously been made by Israel to bolster the UAE’s defenses against Houthi missile and drone attacks.

Until now, the covert nature of the Quds Force’s terrorist training and arms transfer plans has shielded Iran from the direct military consequences of attacks carried out by its proxies.

The NCRI says arms deliveries are also being made from Iranian ships to smaller Houthi smuggling boats on the open seas in the Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden. The process is more cumbersome, but it allows Iran to avoid direct deliveries to Houthis at Yemen’s ports, unless highly sensitive arms transfers are involved.

Military officials inspect drones on display ahead of a military drone exercise at an undisclosed location in central Iran. (AFP/Iranian Army Office/File Photo)

Bandar e-Jask is one of the main ports used by Quds Force to deliver weapons to its terrorist proxies. According to NCRI sources, the origin of a huge weapons cache obviously intended for the Houthis and banned by the US Navy was Bandar e-Jask.

“The implications are clear: the Iranian regime is trying to cover its tracks as it pursues its phantom agenda,” Jafarzadeh said. “All of this should be further proof that the sanctions against the regime should not be lifted. As US Senator Bob Menendez recently said, there needs to be a major shift in US policy approach to the regime.

On Tuesday, Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised concerns about the Biden administration’s latest round of negotiations on the JCPOA. “We cannot ignore Iran’s infamous support of terrorism or accept threats to American interests and lives. … Iran cannot and must not possess a nuclear weapon,” he said in an address to the Senate.

The increase in drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has prompted waves of punitive strikes against Houthi military positions in Yemen. However, the Quds Force facilities in Iran – the springboard for these attacks – remained unscathed.

Israel has carried out regular airstrikes against Iranian land and sea shipments to terrorist proxies in Syria, while managing to avoid direct conflict with Iran so far.

The Quds Force is synchronizing the activities of its regional proxies so that they can organize multi-pronged operations against Coalition members to restore legitimacy in Yemen, according to NCRI information. (Provided)

On Tuesday, the Biden administration said it was sending fighter jets to help the United Arab Emirates after the latest attacks, one of which targeted a base housing US forces and followed the January 17 strike that killed three people in Abu Dhabi.

Analysts say the newly revealed identities of key Quds Force officers and the location of their terrorism training centers provide valuable additional pressure points against Iran, which so far has not hardly paid the price for his influence and his malevolent regional actions even as he drags his feet in Vienna. .

“We know what the Al-Quds Force is doing. We know that he uses commercial ships as fixed command platforms. These platforms must be intercepted,” Michael Pregent, a former Defense Intelligence Agency senior analyst with extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, told Arab News.

“The Biden administration has shown a propensity to defend a regime that uses Houthi attacks as leverage in the Vienna nuclear talks. He has the ability to respond (to attacks) but lacks the will.

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