By NIR BOMS and REZA BULORCHI
July 7, 2004
It’s tempting to dismiss Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s latest threat that Iran will harm America “around the world” if it attacks its interests as empty bluster from Iran’s mullahs. But there are signs that Iran is taking concrete steps to match its belligerent words with deeds.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are usually associated with humanitarian relief and peaceful advocacy work. So it is not every day that an “NGO” is in charge of recruiting “suicide volunteers” to dispatch overseas to strike at “world arrogance.”
Yet that reportedly was the case last month at a three-day conference sponsored by the Iranian government and its “Committee for Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement,” which the ruling mullahs, in a bit of transparent fakery, choose to bill as an “NGO.”
According to the Tehran-based daily Sharq, the conference provided a forum for volunteers to register their names for suicide attacks. The BBC Monitoring service, quoting a number of Iranian sources, said the group’s sponsors claim that over 10,000 candidates from around the world have signed up to die for the cause.
The calls to join the “Army of Martyrs” began at mosques across Iran following Friday prayers, after which registration forms were distributed by the tens of thousands at local Islamic universities to prospective male and female suicide attackers.
The London based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the “Army of Martyrs” is operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps [also known as the Pasdaran], and IRGC sub-agencies tasked with intelligence gathering and the planning of terrorist attacks.
At the conference, Brigadier General Sardar Salami, director of operations for the Revolutionary Guards, delivered a keynote speech titled “Suicide Operations: A Security and Military Strategy Perspective.”
“As you see, the explosion of the two World Trade Center towers divided history to before and after [Sept. 11]. And with this minor incident, policy of the United States and other world and regional powers changed,” Gen. Salami said according to Sharq.
In an indirect reference to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Gen. Salami reportedly added that, “the Americans now know that the Muslims with tendencies for suicide missions have acquired new technology and have technological capabilities which have caused more fear for them.”
According to the quotations in Sharq, another high-ranking Revolutionary Guards commander explained the choice of terminology: “Since the Committee for Commemoration of Martyrs is an NGO, it does not need to ask for permission of the country’s military institutions if it decides to carry out an operation. Their operations would be similar to those by Palestinians and have nothing to do with the regime in Iran.” So the regime would be able to deny that it is sponsoring terrorism — although not very plausibly.
In a closing speech entitled, “Suicide Operations: The Last Resort,” a top Revolutionary Guards official, Hassan Abbassi, tried to rationalize Iran’s support of terrorism. “If Muslims create fear in the heathen world, this fear is sacred; it is not terrorism or violence,” he said according to the Sharq account.
Last month at the Technical College of Teheran, Mr. Abbassi said: “We have identified some 29 weak points for attacks in the U.S. and in the West. We intend to explode some 6,000 American atomic warheads. We have shared our intelligence with other guerrilla groups and we shall utilize them as well.”
If this sounds like a fanatical rant, keep in mind the close association between the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian government. The Iranian regime provides the organization, logistics, funding and recruitment for the “NGO.” This sort of thing has a long history in Iran. In 1979, “students” calling themselves the “Followers of the Imam [Khomeini] Line,” were instrumental in overthrowing the U.S.-allied shah. The “suicide bombers conference” reflects a growing pattern of incendiary behavior by Iran’s current regime.
A recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program chronicles deceit and denial of access to some key sites. New satellite photos reveal that Iran is hastily demolishing some facilities north of Tehran suspected of being a nuclear site before the IAEA has a chance to inspect them. The mullahs, who are encountering resistance to their plans in Iraq and in the area of nuclear weapons, are now resorting to blatant threats and the use of state-sanctioned terrorism to intimidate their enemies and try to force them into appeasement.
A strong message of support must be delivered by the U.S. and Europe to the courageous Iranians who are bent on unseating the regime and who serve as our best hope for an Iran free of torture, terror, and weapons of mass destruction. Only then will we be certain that Iran’s “10,000 candidates of terror,” if they in fact exist, will not have a chance to complete their training program.
Mr. Nir Boms is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and at the Council for Democracy and Tolerance. Mr. Reza Bulorchi is the executive director of the U.S. Alliance for Democratic Iran.