Another terror blurb

Quick note: If you hear something in the news in the near future about the “Abu al-Fadal al-Abas Brigades” in Iraq, these are a new arm of Hezbollah which Iran has set up in Iraq, specifically to act as Iran’s proxy fighters against the US. Apparently they moved from silent setup mode to active attacking mode on 4 Jul, and we can expect them to be trouble in the future.

Related: Notice that ever since Ahmadinejad took power in Iran, and made Mughniyeh his defense minister, Iran has been very actively founding Iranian-controlled terror groups in as many places as possible: AaFaA Brigades in Iraq, its old Hezbollah setup in Lebanon and Syria, its infiltration & takeover of Hamas in Gaza, etc. If I were running a government anywhere vaguely in that region that had a Shi’ite minority, I’d be keeping my eyes open for whatever satellite group Iran were setting up there. And note that this is an international network of professional terrorist groups with the systematic sponsorship, supply and control by a government that’s trying to become a nuclear power: the worst hypothesis is confirmed.

Iran is gearing up for a major proxy war. If they set up these units in every Middle Eastern country with a Shi’ite population, they could effectively destabilize the local governments and install friendly regimes, or at least create friendly circumstances “on the ground:” the true creation of an Iranian sphere of influence. The other thing these teams are for is for fighting against the US/Israel alliance, which it views – quite rightly – as a competitor for geostrategic power in the region. Such a force would certainly back even non-Shi’ite groups to further its aims; (remember that Iran supplied weapons to the [Sunni] PLO for years) direct alliance with groups like al-Qaeda is less likely, since those groups have very strong ideological leanings which aren’t that compatible, but these guys have the potential to be much more strongly unified.

The question of just how broad Iran’s ambitions are is open: they want this network, they want ICBM’s (they already have intermediate-range ballistic missiles, like the Shahab-3; once North Korea finalizes the Taepodong-2 ICBM, Iran will probably be the first customers), they want the Bomb. Do they want to take on China or India for regional power? Would they want to press engagement with US/Israel even beyond the scale needed to push them out of the area?

Another interesting question: How will Russia come down in this? They haven’t decisively allied with either the US or Iranian side in this conflict, and have been willing to work with both. At some point it will probably become very difficult to do this. Which way it goes depends e.g. on how Iran decides to involve itself (or not) with Chechnya, but it could have a big impact on how much free rein Iran ends up getting in the Central Asian sphere.

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Published in: on July 20, 2006 at 09:18  Comments (32)  
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32 Comments

  1. Why does an Iranian arm have an Arabic name?

  2. Why does an Iranian arm have an Arabic name?

  3. They’re named in honor of some historic general. The people there are Shi’ite Arabs, local people.

  4. They’re named in honor of some historic general. The people there are Shi’ite Arabs, local people.

  5. joy, joy, joy.
    I forsee this going rather poorly, really. I just hope that the US doesn’t decide to do for Iran what they attempted to do for Iraq. That would just make things so much worse.
    However, if Iran does go after more and more US troops in Iraq, I’m not sure what the response will be, or what response would be appropriate.
    Zealots, in any flavor, really scare me.
    It really feels like the US has stepped on a hornets nest with going into Iraq, and it’s only going to get worse.
    Even if we were magically able to leave the region, leave it fully with our money, we’d still be in a bad situation. I figure that the attacks would just move to our soil. We’ve pissed some people off, and I don’t know what it will take to end it. Or, really, if we did anything more than give them more of an excuse, and now they’ve always hated us (thinking back to the plane hijackings of the 70s/80s).
    We’ve created a lot of responsibility now in the region, and we’re stuck with it.

  6. joy, joy, joy.
    I forsee this going rather poorly, really. I just hope that the US doesn’t decide to do for Iran what they attempted to do for Iraq. That would just make things so much worse.
    However, if Iran does go after more and more US troops in Iraq, I’m not sure what the response will be, or what response would be appropriate.
    Zealots, in any flavor, really scare me.
    It really feels like the US has stepped on a hornets nest with going into Iraq, and it’s only going to get worse.
    Even if we were magically able to leave the region, leave it fully with our money, we’d still be in a bad situation. I figure that the attacks would just move to our soil. We’ve pissed some people off, and I don’t know what it will take to end it. Or, really, if we did anything more than give them more of an excuse, and now they’ve always hated us (thinking back to the plane hijackings of the 70s/80s).
    We’ve created a lot of responsibility now in the region, and we’re stuck with it.

  7. I think it would be fun to have “political dinners” on some regular basis, whether it’s once a week, once every two, or once a month, the goal being to get a bunch of folks together and discuss politics. I’m happy to host, or we can go out someplace. If we’re really organised, we can even pick a region of interest and all read up on it beforehand, but a lot of people are really busy so that might not work. What do you think?

  8. I think it would be fun to have “political dinners” on some regular basis, whether it’s once a week, once every two, or once a month, the goal being to get a bunch of folks together and discuss politics. I’m happy to host, or we can go out someplace. If we’re really organised, we can even pick a region of interest and all read up on it beforehand, but a lot of people are really busy so that might not work. What do you think?

  9. Considering that southwest China could be extremely volatile if Pakistan and Iran were to support an Islamic insurgency, it will be very interesting to see China’s role in the upcoming diplomatic showdown with N. Korea.

  10. Considering that southwest China could be extremely volatile if Pakistan and Iran were to support an Islamic insurgency, it will be very interesting to see China’s role in the upcoming diplomatic showdown with N. Korea.

  11. Ooh, that’s an interesting idea. Although it seems like it could be quite a challenge to learn enough about an area on short notice to have a meaningful discussion; it might work better if we had a region expert for things like that.
    Of course, we could just get people together to talk and have dinner, too. 🙂

  12. Ooh, that’s an interesting idea. Although it seems like it could be quite a challenge to learn enough about an area on short notice to have a meaningful discussion; it might work better if we had a region expert for things like that.
    Of course, we could just get people together to talk and have dinner, too. 🙂

  13. That’s very true. Rural and Western China feel like powder kegs to me, but I really don’t know enough about that region. It’s also not clear to me how the Pakistan/Iran angle will turn out; are they likely to collaborate? Would Iran consider infiltrating or subverting it? Or would it rather leave a relatively stable region there to act as a buffer between it and China and India?

  14. That’s very true. Rural and Western China feel like powder kegs to me, but I really don’t know enough about that region. It’s also not clear to me how the Pakistan/Iran angle will turn out; are they likely to collaborate? Would Iran consider infiltrating or subverting it? Or would it rather leave a relatively stable region there to act as a buffer between it and China and India?

  15. We certainly created a great opportunity for them to expand into Iraq; I don’t think they would have thought to do something this aggressive had Saddam still in power. Of course, if we were to leave now this would just help their cause further, and remove our military and listening bases which are so conveniently close to their borders…

  16. We certainly created a great opportunity for them to expand into Iraq; I don’t think they would have thought to do something this aggressive had Saddam still in power. Of course, if we were to leave now this would just help their cause further, and remove our military and listening bases which are so conveniently close to their borders…

  17. I think that if Iran seeks to move eastward it would make more sense for them to infiltrate Pakistan and then launch attacks that would terrorize moderate factions in the government who would seek to support an emergent moderate Afghanistan (sadly unlikely in any event).
    I suspect that Iran would actually be more likely to infiltrate the fragile post-soviet democracies along Afghanistan’s northern border, and then use the chaos of northern Afghanistan to support a taliban insurgency and to stir up more unrest in Kashmir. If they really want to harass India they could probably recruit for militant splinter groups in western China to act on the disputed China-India border. As it is though, until Iran is a nuclear power, I doubt very much if it will seek to directly implicate itself in conflicts with China or India.

  18. I think that if Iran seeks to move eastward it would make more sense for them to infiltrate Pakistan and then launch attacks that would terrorize moderate factions in the government who would seek to support an emergent moderate Afghanistan (sadly unlikely in any event).
    I suspect that Iran would actually be more likely to infiltrate the fragile post-soviet democracies along Afghanistan’s northern border, and then use the chaos of northern Afghanistan to support a taliban insurgency and to stir up more unrest in Kashmir. If they really want to harass India they could probably recruit for militant splinter groups in western China to act on the disputed China-India border. As it is though, until Iran is a nuclear power, I doubt very much if it will seek to directly implicate itself in conflicts with China or India.

  19. I think we should just get together. 🙂 I really should keep up better on national and international politics, and I think having people to discuss it with will help that.

  20. I think we should just get together. 🙂 I really should keep up better on national and international politics, and I think having people to discuss it with will help that.

  21. Agreed. Although I’m not certain what their Afghanistan policy would end up being; the Taliban are Sunnis, for one thing, and it’s not clear that a Taliban regime would be the best thing for them. OTOH that would push the Americans out and bring opium production under control, which could be in the Iranian interest.

  22. Agreed. Although I’m not certain what their Afghanistan policy would end up being; the Taliban are Sunnis, for one thing, and it’s not clear that a Taliban regime would be the best thing for them. OTOH that would push the Americans out and bring opium production under control, which could be in the Iranian interest.

  23. Well then. Let’s schedule something. 🙂

  24. Well then. Let’s schedule something. 🙂

  25. I do not think a Taliban regime would be the best thing for them. But I do believe that chaos serves their interests quite nicely, and so stirring the pot just enough to make a veil for their infiltration would work nicely. This sort of chaos could prove hugely profitable if there is an economic incentive to extort for protection of poppy farmers and for providing an opium trade route to Europe either through the mess of Eastern Turkey, or north through the Caspian Sea.

  26. I do not think a Taliban regime would be the best thing for them. But I do believe that chaos serves their interests quite nicely, and so stirring the pot just enough to make a veil for their infiltration would work nicely. This sort of chaos could prove hugely profitable if there is an economic incentive to extort for protection of poppy farmers and for providing an opium trade route to Europe either through the mess of Eastern Turkey, or north through the Caspian Sea.

  27. Very true. OTOH opium is a problem for them since their own addiction rate is in the double digits, especially in the rural areas. Perhaps it would make more sense to set up lots of sleeper cells, and not activate them until it seems convenient?

  28. Very true. OTOH opium is a problem for them since their own addiction rate is in the double digits, especially in the rural areas. Perhaps it would make more sense to set up lots of sleeper cells, and not activate them until it seems convenient?

  29. Count me in.

  30. Count me in.

  31. I heard an interesting story on NPR the other day that I thought you might be interested in: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5545157 It’s an interview with the translator of an Al-Quaeda text on how to effectively take over unstable states. I found a copy of the text here, but I haven’t read it. The implication from the interview is that the text advocates for both operating on the guns and hospitals model of hamas, hezbollah, etc. and increasing the media-savviness of operations in general.
    I don’t know what the implications are for Al-Q’s long term planning are beyond the fact that there are some inside making long term plans, and that those plans are fairly ambitious. I’m also not sure what it means for potential conflicts between different radical groups, in the middle east and elsewhere, as Al-Q tries to build a larger power base outside their sphere of local influence. I thought you might have some insight.

  32. I heard an interesting story on NPR the other day that I thought you might be interested in: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5545157 It’s an interview with the translator of an Al-Quaeda text on how to effectively take over unstable states. I found a copy of the text here, but I haven’t read it. The implication from the interview is that the text advocates for both operating on the guns and hospitals model of hamas, hezbollah, etc. and increasing the media-savviness of operations in general.
    I don’t know what the implications are for Al-Q’s long term planning are beyond the fact that there are some inside making long term plans, and that those plans are fairly ambitious. I’m also not sure what it means for potential conflicts between different radical groups, in the middle east and elsewhere, as Al-Q tries to build a larger power base outside their sphere of local influence. I thought you might have some insight.


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