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Iran: secret visits by militants

By: Meir Javedanfar - www.meepas.com

13/03/2006

By: Meir Javedanfar

News

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, and Moghtada Al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army in Iraq, both made unofficial, and unannounced visits to Tehran last week. It must be noted that this is Moghtada Al Sadr's second visit to Iran in less than a month.

Source

The information about the visit was disclosed in an article in Farsi by Roozonline this morning. This online publication is based in Holland, and staffed by former members of the reformist movement in Iran. Roozonline has proven itself to be one of the most credible source of news about Iran. Its agenda is to support the reformist movement, and not regime change.

Analysis

The timings of the visits, which were carried out after Iran's referral to the IAEA, is in accordance to Iran's message last week that it could inflict "harm and pain" to those countries (meaning US, EU 3, and Israel) who are calling for Iran's referral to the UN security Council, and wish to force it to give up its nuclear programme.

Apart from oil, Iran's other offensive tool is its relations with militant groups. Its has had a long term relationship with Hezbollah, and it is expected by many analysts that Iran will use Hezbollah to retaliate if Israel attacks its nuclear facilities.

Therefore Nasrallah's visit to Tehran last week, explains the recent alert on Israel's northern borders regarding an expected attack.

However it must be noted that Iran's alliance with Mughtada Al Sadr in the media has only began to blossom recently. Although covertly relations have been good, with Al Sadr's Mahdi Army receiving weapons from Iran's Revolutionary Guards, nevertheless overtly Al Sadr had always denied any relations.

This changed last month when Al Sadr visited Iran, and had talks with Iranian officials, including Ali Larijani, who is the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. Several Iranian news publications, such as Aftab objected to his visit, due to the fact that previously Al Sadr had attacked Iran in the press.

The continued visits by Al Sadr should send a warning sign to coalition forces in Iraq. Increased co-operation between Iran and Al Sadr's Mahdi Army means that:

•  Iran has co-operation with one of the most militant Shiite forces, who has control in sensitive areas such as Najaf and Karbala.

•  US and UK forces will face increasing attacks, especially in the south, if and when Iran decided to use Al Sadr's army to punish the coalition forces. This will be especially true for UK forces, as majority are based in the south of Iraq.

•  Iraq's internal security will now be even more dependent on Iran. This is especially true as with the recent upsurge in sectarian violence, the Iraqi government needs the co-operation of the Shiites to try to avert a civil war.

•  Iran's increased influence with Al Sadr will place coalition plans to reconstruct Iraq's oil infrastructure in danger, as most of Iraq's oil is situated in the south, where most Shiites, and soldiers of Al Sadr's Mahdi Army are based.

Iran's strengthening of relations with militant forces is backed by logic. The use of militant forces in Iraq and Lebanon is a more economical for Iran, and will have a more direct impact in terms of attacking only those who wish to harm it.

Despite claims that Iran can use the oil weapon, it must be noted that 80% of Iran's export income is from oil. By banning oil sales as means of retaliation, Iran will also be damaging itself, whilst punishing countries who are not directly involved in the argument over its nuclear program.

“Smart weapons” and “smart sanctions” are not only a purely western idea. It seems that Tehran may very well come up with its own versions.

End of Analysis

 
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