IRAN TO OFFER COVERT BACKING TO TALEBAN AND AL QA’EDA, SOURCES CLAIM

TEHRAN 3 Nov. (IPS) Iran has decided to help both the afghan ruling Taleban regime against the United States and the "Al-Qa’eda" organisation to mount new terrorist operations aimed at the US and British forces stationed in the Persian Gulf, informed sources with access to the Revolutionary Guards intelligence said Friday.

According to the source, Iran has sent to Afghanistan some 1.500 men, "fully equipped", drawn from the Revolutionary guards elite "Al-Qods" force to Afghanistan, mixed with Afghans militias belonging to Mr. Golboddin Hekmatyar, an unpopular Afghan warlord who lives in Iran.

Mr. Hekmatyar, a former CIA collaborator, is remembered as the man who fought bitterly with Ahmad Shah Mas’ood after the defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan, pounding Kabol for several weeks, paving the way for the Pakistan, Saudi and US backed Taleban’s almost bloodless take-over of the ruined capital in 1996.

Since the start of the US-led military operations in Afghanistan aimed at "Al Qa’eda" organisation and its Taleban protectors, Mr. Hekmatyar has entered talks with the Taleban, offering them the support of his men, estimated at some 5.000, to fight the Americans.

"Al-Qa’eda" is Mr. Osama Ben Laden’s main military organisation suspected by the Americans to be behind the deadly 11 September suicide operations in New York and in Washington D.C.

"The Iranians are disguised as Afghan refugees who like thousands of their fellow citizen in Pakistan, want to go back fighting the Americans, but in fact they are well-trained and equipped members of the famous "Al-Qods" (Jerusalem) units", the source further added.

Some 1,200 Pakistanis, armed with old guns, swords or knives, have entered Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taleban, and thousands more are waiting along the border to follow them, the English-language "The News" newspaper of Pakistan reported, adding that the men, most of them ols, ''were taken to the Pak-Afghan border in about 100 pickups".

"At the same time, Iran would provide a thoroughfare for "Al-Qa’eda" to reach the Persian Gulf, where the US has a large armada, via the Iranian province of Sistan and Baloochistan on the borders of both Afghanista and Pakistan", the source said, adding that "warm waters’" seems to be the code name for possible operations.

Dedicated originally to protect the oil-rich Arab sheikhdoms against menaces from Iran or Iraq, and seen by both nations as a threat to their security, the US stationed a large naval force in the region after the defeat of Iraq in the 1990 war.

None of the claims could be verified, but anti-terrorist and military experts contacted by Iran Press Service said they "look possible and sound probable".

"There are some stubborn hard-liners, including the staunchly anti-American leader himself, but also the Defence Minister and the Commander of the Islamic Revolution forces, that serves as the mollahrchy’s praetorian guard, who would like to engage the US in military term", observed one expert.

"It seems that some foreign analysts have convinced the ruling conservatives in Iran to lay a trap to American forces by enlarging the battle field to Iran and Iraq in order to deal Washington a humiliating military defeat", another analyst speculated.

It is an open secret that the Islamic Republic had regular contacts with Mr. Ben Laden and his organisation until 1996, the year the Taleban entered Kabol and created the Islamic Emarat of Afghanistan, led by their "Supreme Leader", Mollah Mohammad Omar, who self-appointed himself as the "Amir al Mo’menin", or the Commander of the Believers, a title coveted by the egocentric and megalomaniac Khameneh’i.

But other analysts doubted the veracity of the information, observing that not only Iran never recognised the Afghanistan Islamic Emirate, the official name of what is called commonly as Taleban, but stop short of declaring war on Kabol in 1988 after the capture of northern city of Mazar Sharif, the capital of the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance and the cold blood assassination of eight Iranian diplomats and one journalist of the official news agency IRNA inside the consulate by Taleban soldiers.

Both decisions of sending troops and permitting "Al-Qa'eda" Arab fighters to reach the strategic water way were taken by the recently created "Committee of Five", formed by Ayatollah Mahmood Hashemi-Shahroodi, the Iraqi-born Head of the Judiciary to draw guidelines and formulate policies concerning the conduct of affairs in neighbouring Afghanistan, the source claimed.

Members of the Committee are, besides Mr. Hashemi-Shahroodi, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the Secretary of the powerful Council of Guardians, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a member of this body, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran’s former Foreign Minister, Mr. Ardeshir Larijani, an adviser on international affairs to the leader and Mr. Ala’eddin Boroojerdi, Mr. Khameneh’is special representative and envoy for Afghan questions.

Mr. Hashemi-Shahroodi, who still keeps his title as the spokesman and secretary of the Tehran-based Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) urged judges to take "legal actions" against anyone who would dare to speak publicly of holding talks with the "Great Satan".

The expression was coined by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, th leader of the Islamic revolution, to designate the United States. But it had been largely banned from the political vocabulary in the past years.

"Our national interests lie with antagonising the Great Satan. We condemn any cowardly stance toward America and any word on compromise with the Great Satan'', Mr. Hashemi Shahroudi said, using a term favored by hard-liners to describe the United States.

"Our foreign policy, constitution, religion and people reject any compromise with oppressor America. Those who speak of relations with America are not speaking for this Muslim nation'', added, quoted by the independent Iran's student news agency ISNA.

He also instructed the International Affairs Department at the Judiciary to form a committee to probe U.S. claims as well as allegations of human rights violations, saying that the U.S. measures "not only lack judicial logic but are also against their national interests".

"No legal and human logic accepts military deployment by a nation on the pretext of arresting several terrorist'' said Hashemi-Shahroudi, calling on jurors, judges, attorneys, and world's civil and independent institutions to inform the world on the legal aspect of the danger of U.S.' anti-human actions.

"The Americans want to involve Iran in the Afghan conflict and make it a partner in the massacre of innocent people. They also want to show to the world that the Islamic Republic has backtracked on its revolutionary ideals", Mr. Khameneh’I said Wednesday during a speech pronounced in the central city of Esfahan.

"Those who speak of ties have no ill will; they are just misinformed. They don't understand that negotiations will make the Americans ever more demanding", he added, in answer to some officials, particularly reformists MMs (Members of the Majles) urging the government of President Mohammad Khatami to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards the United States.

The leader’s outright rejection of any dialogue with Washington and his hard hitting attacks on the American military operations in Afghanistan were reverbrated throughout the country by Friday preachers, all appointed by him, during their Friday sermons.

Mohammad Arasi, an Iranian expert of the Caucasus says the provocative attitude undertaken by Mr. Khameneh’I against the United States in fact serves the aims of some enemies of Iran, namely Russia, Turkey, Pakistan and Israel, "all of them afraid of any improvement in Tehran-Washington relations". ENDS IRAN HELPING TALEBAN 21101