Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime has escalated its overseas terrorist operations, establishing a network of over a dozen internal training camps for foreign fighters, the regime’s largest resistance group said at a press conference on Tuesday in Washington.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued its intelligence report specifying the camps’ locations and the countries represented.
The council’s largest member is the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK). It boasts an extensive spy network inside the mullah-run government, including the all-powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its special forces wing, the Quds force, and has a track record of exposing clandestine parts of the Iranian national security apparatus.
The Quds force played a significant role in the Iraq War by training Iraqi Shiites on how to make bombs that killed scores of American troops. The Quds force is now directing thousands of Iraqi Shiite militia members in Iraq, some of whom have gone to Syria to fight for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The U.S. calls Iran the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. However, neither the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps nor the Quds force is on the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations. The Treasury Department in 2007 designated the Quds force as a material supporter of terrorism, but National Council of Resistance of Iran officials say the U.S. government should go much further.
“The Iranian resistance has emphasized on countless occasions that the source and the epicenter of terrorism, fundamentalism and regional meddling is the fundamentalist regime ruling Iran,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the council’s Washington office.
The council said Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has approved a directorate inside the Quds force “in order to expand its training of foreign mercenaries as part of the regime’s strategy to step up its meddling abroad, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan and elsewhere.”
“The camps have been divided based on the nationality of the trainees and the type of training,” the council said. “Both terrorist training and also military training for militias are provided, enabling them to better infiltrate and advance the regime’s regional objectives.”
“Every month, hundreds of forces from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon — countries where the regime is involved in front-line combat — receive military training and are subsequently dispatched to wage terrorism and war,” the statement said.
In Lebanon, Iran supports, arms and finances Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that is also fighting for Mr. Assad in Syria.
Beyond the Middle East
Some Quds graduates have shown up outside the region and on the U.S. doorstep in Latin America.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified before Congress, when he commanded U.S. Southern Command as a Marine Corps general, that Hezbollah operatives had arrived in South America and that Iran had opened scores of Islamic centers there.
Critics of the Obama administration’s negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, which freed up billions of dollars in frozen assets, say the concessions have failed to temper Tehran’s bellicosity or its desire to exert hegemony over the Persian Gulf region.
The council’s report says the Quds force oversees 14 training bases from operation headquarters at the sprawling Imam Ali air base. The commander reports directly to the Quds commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who has been directing operations in Iraq and in Syria.
The largest number of enlistees at Imam Ali are from Syria. They learn how to fire heavy weapons and missiles and to operate drones.
The council listed what it said were the locations and secret code numbers for other camps that conduct training in urban warfare, such as riding motorcycles in terrorist attacks. The council’s report, using satellite imagery, locates each camp on a map of Iran.
The Shahriar Garrison in southwest Tehran, for example, specializes in training Afghan mercenaries, who are then sent to Syria.
At the press briefing, Mr. Jafarzadeh, the council official, called on the Trump administration to add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds force to the State Department’s terrorist list.
“The IRGC is the backbone of the apparatus established to preserve the dictatorship, which itself rests on three pillars,” he said. “The first is suppression within Iran. The second is export of terrorism and fundamentalism beyond Iran’s borders. And the third is the program to manufacture a nuclear bomb and nuclear-capable missiles to threaten other countries.”
MEK was once on the State Department’s terrorist list, for attacks it was accused of carrying out in the 1970s and 1980s, first against the government of the shah of Iran and later against the clerics who overthrew him and now dominate the regime in Tehran. The group fought a long, battle to get the designation lifted, and the Obama administration delisted MEK in 2012 after attesting that it had not been involved in terrorism for over a decade.