State-sponsored terrorism: U.S. doing it again


Richard Moore

Original source URL:;jsessionid=HDZB2432Z4F1LQFIQMGSFFWAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/02/25/wiran25.xml

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran

By William Lowther in Washington DC and Colin Freeman, Sunday Telegraph

Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an 
attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime is accused of repressing minority rights 
and culture

In a move that reflects Washington's growing concern with the failure of 
diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition 
militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border 

The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements 
that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the 
Iranian regime.

In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas
of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and 
government officials.

Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the
north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the 
south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran's 69 million 
population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million 
Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in 


Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA's classified 
budget but is now "no great secret", according to one former high-ranking CIA 
official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.

His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department 
counter-terrorism agent, who said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line 
with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the 
Iranian regime."

Although Washington officially denies involvement in such activity, Teheran has 
long claimed to detect the hand of both America and Britain in attacks by 
guerrilla groups on its internal security forces. Last Monday, Iran publicly 
hanged a man, Nasrollah Shanbe Zehi, for his involvement in a bomb attack that 
killed 11 Revolutionary Guards in the city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan. An 
unnamed local official told the semi-official Fars news agency that weapons used
in the attack were British and US-made.

Yesterday, Iranian forces also claimed to have killed 17 rebels described as 
"mercenary elements" in clashes near the Turkish border, which is a stronghold 
of the Pejak, a Kurdish militant party linked to Turkey's outlawed PKK Kurdistan
Workers' Party.

John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington,
said: "The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two 
years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of 
CIA activity."

Such a policy is fraught with risk, however. Many of the groups share little 
common cause with Washington other than their opposition to President Mahmoud 
Ahmadinejad, whose regime they accuse of stepping up repression of minority 
rights and culture.

The Baluchistan-based Brigade of God group, which last year kidnapped and killed
eight Iranian soldiers, is a volatile Sunni organisation that many fear could 
easily turn against Washington after taking its money.

A row has also broken out in Washington over whether to "unleash" the military 
wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group 
with a long and bloody history of armed opposition to the Iranian regime.

The group is currently listed by the US state department as terrorist 
organisation, but Mr Pike said: "A faction in the Defence Department wants to 
unleash them. They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they 
might cause a lot of damage."

At present, none of the opposition groups are much more than irritants to 
Teheran, but US analysts believe that they could become emboldened if the regime
was attacked by America or Israel. Such a prospect began to look more likely 
last week, as the UN Security Council deadline passed for Iran to stop its 
uranium enrichment programme, and a second American aircraft carrier joined the 
build up of US naval power off Iran's southern coastal waters.

The US has also moved six heavy bombers from a British base on the Pacific 
island of Diego Garcia to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which could allow them
to carry out strikes on Iran without seeking permission from Downing Street.

While Tony Blair reiterated last week that Britain still wanted a diplomatic 
solution to the crisis, US Vice-President Dick Cheney yesterday insisted that 
military force was a real possibility.

"It would be a serious mistake if a nation like Iran were to become a nuclear 
power," Mr Cheney warned during a visit to Australia. "All options are still on 
the table."

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany will meet in 
London tomorrow to discuss further punitive measures against Iran. Sanctions 
barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how were imposed in 
December. Additional penalties might include a travel ban on senior Iranian 
officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business.

Additional reporting by Gethin Chamberlain.

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