Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Iran puts Revolutionary Guards on alert on Iraq border

Iran Focus: a pro-MEK website
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces in western and south-western Iran close to the Iraqi border have been put on a heightened state of alert since the middle of this month, a source in the Iranian military told Iran Focus.

The Supreme Command of Iran’s Armed Forces issued the directive to Najaf and Karbala garrisons of the IRGC, which are respectively based in Kermanshah and Khuzestan provinces and are the headquarters of IRGC forces in western and south-western Iran.

The directive took effect from March 14, according to the source, who requested anonymity.

Najaf and Karbala garrisons are the primary Revolutionary Guards headquarters responsible for Iraqi affairs and house much of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force whose stated objective is to spread Iran’s Islamic Revolution to Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. READ MORE

Under the rules of Iran’s armed forces, the decision to raise the military alert status along Iraq’s borders must have been approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Khamenei visited areas close to the Iraqi border in Iran’s restive province of Khuzistan last week and delivered a speech in Arabic, slamming the United States and Britain for their occupation of Iraq.

On Sunday, Khamenei told thousands of Islamist militiamen in Tehran that threats of military action against the Islamic republic “could be put into action in some cases, but a nation that retains its greatness, dignity, identity and interests will be able to withstand such attacks without any retreat”.

“The decision [to put the armed forces on alert along the Iraqi border] could be defensive or offensive in nature, but it’s significant because of its timing”, said Ehsan Pourhaydari, a former colonel in Iran’s regular armed forces who now lives in Germany. “It coincides with impending talks between Iran and the U.S. on the situation in Iraq. The ayatollahs must be calculating that the talks will make them more vulnerable, or will provide new opportunities for them in Iraq. Either way, it would make sense for them to put their forces on alert close to the Iraqi border”.

On the home front, Iran’s clerical rulers have been facing unremitting anti-government protests in Tehran and other major cities and violent confrontations in the Arab-dominated south-western province of Khuzestan, the western province of Kurdistan, and the mainly Sunni south-eastern province of Baluchistan.

Najaf and Karbala garrisons are key nerve centres for Iran’s extensive meddling in Iraq. Qods Force officers as well as operatives of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) based in the two garrisons routinely cross the Iran-Iraq border.