Will the U.S. Support Terrorists to Destabilize Iran?

New America Media, News Analysis, William O. Beeman Posted: Jul 07, 2008

Editor’s note: All attempts to justify a military attack on Iran have failed and the US is now looking at supporting fringe and terrorist groups to destabilize the country. It won’t work, says NAM contributing writer, William O. Beeman, but it will destabilize the region for years to come. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is President of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. The second edition of his book, The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.

Correction note: Due to an editing error a previous post of this story mentioned Mr. Michael Rubin was part of a conference entitled "The Unknown Iran: Another Case for Federalism?" in 2005 and he was not. We sincerely apologize for the error.

Elements of the Bush administration have begun to resemble semi-insane Captain Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny" with regard to Iran. Reckless and obsessive to destroy Iran’s regime, they fondle their ball bearings, and pursue any scheme that they believe will get rid of the mullahs before the inauguration of the new American president in January 2009.

In desperation, they have turned to supporting fringe-level ethnic separatists—all of whom are terrorists and enemies of the United States who are also hostile to Iran. This strategy is truly the last gasp of a failed Middle East policy. It is ill-conceived, and if continued, will foment continued violence in the region for years without affecting the Iranian regime in any significant way.

Iran’s continuing nuclear program remains the Bush administration’s prime bulwark against the country, but it is a very weak bulwark. Yet there is still no evidence whatever for an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Last December’s National Intelligence Estimate stated clearly that no current nuclear military program exists. Moreover, Iran is on the verge of agreeing to discuss proposals with European powers for limiting their nuclear energy program. To this end, they are halting enrichment at current levels as a sign of goodwill. The Iranian press reports that Iranian leaders are urging acceptance of the European proposals, since they feel that the United States is trying to sabotage them in order to create a pretext for action against the country.

Other accusations against Iran are equally feeble. Claims of its support for attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq have failed for lack of any evidence. Iran’s supposed “proxy” attacks on Israel through Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas strain credulity, since these two groups are acknowledged by all credible experts to formulate their political agendas independently from Iran.

Continually frustrated in their attempts to launch any legitimate attack against Iran, Vice President Cheney and a group of die-hard neoconservatives hovering in and around his office, particularly his former Middle East adviser David Wurmser, have long been rumored to be engineering active support for dissident opposition groups who share their goal to overthrow the current Iranian regime. Many of these groups are aligned with non-Persian ethnic factions in Iran, notably Arabs, Kurds, Azerbaijanis and Baluchis. Serious analysts in the region have tended to dismiss these efforts as silly and ineffective. Nevertheless, neoconservative organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Near East Policy and the Hudson Institute have quietly championed the idea that Iran could be successfully dismembered along ethnic lines.

The American Enterprise Institute has long been a hotbed for debate over these plans. In October 2005, it hosted a conference entitled “The Unknown Iran: Another Case for Federalism?” in which the specter of an ethnic dismemberment of Iran was raised. The AEI has subsequently been host to several conclaves where this idea of fomenting ethnic violence has been discussed, in which representatives from dissident groups are regularly invited to hold forth.

The military continues to entertain the dismemberment of Iran and retired military officer and novelist Ralph Peters proposed the idea in the June 2006 issue of the Armed Forces Journal. His article, ”Blood Borders” champions national independence for every ethnic group in the Middle East, redrawing the borders of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey.

The problem would not be so acute, except for the fact that these groups, now somewhat ineffective, would be truly bad news if provided with significant U.S. aid and weapons. They would never be effective at eliminating the Iranian government, but they could become a source of instability and violence throughout the region for years to come. Because they are basically all anti-American in their orientation, the United States will also be harmed if they are strengthened.

IranIran specialists have been aware of these groups for years, and largely discounted them. However, assertions of active United States support for them, awakened by journalist Seymour Hersh in the July 7 issue of the New Yorker, have become real cause for concern. The groups include:

*The M.E.K—Mujaheddin-e Khalq—officially a terrorist group in the United States for having killed Americans before the Revolution. They are Marxist in orientation, and are despised in Iran, since they were protected by Saddam Hussein all during the Iran-Iraq war, and are directly supported by the United States today.

*The PJAK—the “Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan,” a trans-national Kurdish militant organization dedicated to an independent Kurdistan. They are supported by the United States when they launch attacks against Iranian forces, but faulted when they launch attacks against Turkish forces in Turkey.

*The Jundallah—based in Sunni Muslim Balochistan. They are supported by extreme conservative Salafi groups in Saudi Arabia. The Salafi movement also forms the religious philosophy of the Taliban of Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda. Claims of U.S. support for Jundallah are now several years old. In April 2007 Brian Ross and Christopher Isham of ABC News reported that the United States had been aiding Jundallah to attack Iranian targets. Jundallah’s leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, appeared on the Iranian service of the Voice of America, where he was identified as "the leader of popular Iranian resistance movement." More disturbing are Jundallah’s wider connections. As Seymour Hersh points out: “Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.”

Sunni Arab separatists in the Southeast Iranian province of Khuzistan, especially in its capital, Ahwaz, have been active since the time of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. There is no identifiable organization as with the other groups above, but Iranian security forces claim that the current round of violence, which includes the assassination of an Iranian Shi’ite cleric, Hojjat ol-Eslam Hesham Seymari on June 26, 2007, were “trained under the umbrella of the Americans in Iraq." The militants have also been linked with the London-based Ahvaz Arab People's Democratic-Popular Front.

The Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement, SANAM or GAMOH, led by Mahmudali Chehregani was founded in 1995, and is perhaps the weakest of the ethnic separatist movements today. Nevertheless, Chehregani was hosted in Washington by the U.S. Department of Defense in June 2003, according to the Washington Times, and addressed a number of neoconservative venues. One difficulty with this movement is Chehregani’s antipathy to Kurds, whom he calls “guests” in the Azerbaijan region of Iran.

These separatist movements continue to have support in some legislative circles. Two of the most avid supporters are Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, both Republicans. Both favor removing the MEK from the list of terrorist organizations, and Brownback served as host to Mahmud Ali Chehregani in Washington.

No serious analyst of Iranian affairs believes that a strategy of ethnic division would bring down the central government of the Islamic Republic. Iran expert Vali Nasr, who teaches at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University was quoted by Hersh as saying, “Iran is an old country—like France and Germany—and its citizens are just as nationalistic. . . . working with the minorities will backfire, and alienate the majority of the population.” Not to mention serious consequences for the United States.

Articles by Bill Beeman

Articles on Iran

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User Comments

SNAKE on Jul 20, 2008 at 20:05:26 said:

To reach a conclusion you need to know Iran political History since post 1500,when British came to Iran to support Iran-Safavid to throw-out Portiguise from Persian Gulf city of Gameron(Bandar Abbas).British settled,remained in Iran since then up to NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sure post WWII politics complicated the game,where in 1953 Coup which installed General Zahedi who fight shoulder to shoulder with Nazi German Hitler.

Both Shah and specially Reza pahavi who was creazy of Hitler and German fully troubled the water of ME politics.

To be out of troubled, we should rely on people of Iran,who HATE MULLAH,BRITISH,GERMA,"Club of Paris" .....
but they really LOVE USA-USA


said from Canada on Jul 09, 2008 at 20:09:36 said:

The best source to over throw Iranian rejim is mko. They are the best and democratic organisation that can bring democracy in iran. If your story is true about this USA must return back their arms to the Mojahedin, and we see how the rejim will be in defence mood. The Iranian rejim wouldnt scare of Usa at this time but will bescared till their death if mko be armed and with people of iran already sick of this rejim they will bring change to this rejim.
as they leader said on one of his speech, it is not nesceserly Mojahedin to run the country. It is up to the Iranian people to choose their government but National Council of Resistance of Iran will be in power for only 6 months to make all party of iran organize and be ready for run for government.
i hope with short writing understand my story.

Ali K on Jul 09, 2008 at 03:08:20 said:

\"Sunni Arab separatists in the Southeast Iranian province of Khuzistan, especially in its capital, Ahwaz\"

Khuzistan is surely south-western Iran?

Art Le on Jul 07, 2008 at 15:19:19 said:

it wouldn't be the first time. We supported the Khmer Rouge during the cold war when Vietnam occupied Cambodia, knowing full well the KR killed 2 million of their own people. we bombed them during the vn war and gave them arms after we lost so they can continue to kill.

So much for war on terrorism. it'll never end if we fight them on one hand and arm them on the other.

Makan Darabinian on Jul 07, 2008 at 05:34:48 said:

Dear Bill You're definitely right about American neocons funding terrorists to distabilize Iran.I should addreee these terrorist groups America's favorite terrorists. Applying terrorist groups like MEK which has a long story of crimes against innocent iranians and also iraqis shows America's double standards towards the issue of terrorism.Fighting terrorism by funding terrorism. MEK is a cult of personality ,as the US labels it, which is designated by both the US and The European Union as terrorist. A cult whithin which members are brain washed, forced to self immolations, manipulated and are the captives doing only what they are ordered while being deprived of very basic human rights of free thinking. Can you imagine how memebers are forced to forget about their families , children and even to part with their sectuality.The only thing matters and enables you make progress is the degree of your sacrifice to the wicked ambitions of the leadership. Today MEK members are confined in a camp called Ashraf northeast of Baqdad while suffering from severe mental as well as physical pains and the number of dissidents is rapidly increasing but they don't dare to show it off because they know harsh penalties await them ,moreover they don't have anywhere else to go whle all their documents have been taken from them and many of them fear the external world as a result of being kept away from any media, internet ,tv, radio or any other thing which could tell them of what's going on in the outside .The world.The members are the main victims of this cult while the gang leaders are payng through the nose in enjoying themselves in the european countries .who cares about the poor exhausted members in a remote wilderness separated apart from the world with no ties with the rest of the world.

Twana on Jul 07, 2008 at 05:18:10 said:

If you classify these movements as terrorists, then USA will be a legitimate child of a terrorist movement called the War of Independence! Or you do double standards in history too?




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