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Defense and Foreign Affairs Daily

Sep 07, 2004

Iran’s Moves on Terrorism Escalation Show Caution But Resolve

Analysis. By GIS Staff

Iran’s clerical leadership, clearly in close cooperation with other Islamist groups, including al-Qaida, appears to be moving resolutely forward in its moves to provoke a confrontation with the West — particularly the US, Israel and Russia — but has stopped short, so far, from using formal Iranian military or Revolutionary Guard units to attack US military units in Iran. However, for the first time, Iran has apparently deliberately left clear fingerprints of involvement in terrorist operations against Russian and Israeli targets in the first week of September 2004.

This move appeared to be designed to provoke a US response against Iran, presumably to galvanize support inside Iran for the clerical leadeship.

See Defense & Foreign Affairs Dailies:

August 20, 2004: Iran’s Clerics Attempt to Regain Control of Strategic Confrontation With US by Forcing the US Into a Direct War.

August 23, 2004: Further Indications of Iranian Leadership Preparations for War With US.

August 24, 2004: How Iran Planned the an-Najaf Escalation in Iraq as Build-Up to Major Conflict.

There appears to be clear recognition in the Iranian and al-Qaida leaderships that it was necessary to force a confrontation with the US before the November 2, 2004, US elections, in order to defeat incumbent US Pres. George W. Bush. However, the fact that the Islamist forces decided not to proceed with attacks against the Athens Olympics and the New York Republican National Convention, despite the fact that substantial terrorist forces and weapons were known to be in place for both events, highlighted the fact that it was probably perceived that such attacks could have, in fact, been counterproductive for the Islamists. The attacks could have galvanized support for Pres. Bush.

The fact that the Bush election campaign has moved so strongly into the lead, and that opposition Sen. John Kerry’s chances of overturning the Bush Administration were now less of a prospect, will also contribute to the decisionmaking framework for the Iranian and al-Qaida leadership. In other words, it may be that one or more terrorist “spectaculars” may not remove Pres. Bush from office.

However, if the Iranian-al-Qaida team failed to undertake any significant shows of strength before the elections in the US, then Pres. Bush in the US, Prime Minister John Howard in Australia (election October 9, 2004), and Prime Minister Tony Blair in the UK (election before mid-2004), could all claim that they were winning “the war on terrorism”. As a result, the Islamist leadership is obliged to make moves which would attempt to show that the so-called “war on terror” has not succeeded, or that the Western leaders have made their populations more safe.

The current escalations of Islamist terrorism, involving HAMAS operations in Israel, al-Qaida/Iranian operations against Russia (the two downed Russian airliners and the attack and hostage taking against a Russian school in Beslan, North Osettia), and escalated attacks inside Iraq with Iranian links to the weapons, showed that Iran was taking a “safe route” in the escalation against the US.

Meanwhile, the Iranian's World Islamic Organization for Remembering the Shahids (martyrs) was reported in an Iranian daily on September 2, 2004, as unveiling “today, in Tehran's main cemetery, a monument commemorating those who conducted the most recent martyrdom operation in Israel”. The group's spokesman said that the “commemoration ceremony for the martyrs will take place ... next to the monument commemorating Khaled al-Islambuli”. It is assumed that the “most recent” operation refers to HAMAS operations in Beersheva, Israel.

The Beersheva attacks, in particular, conformed exactly to what Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily forecast in the late July 2004 piece about Palestinian Authority Pres. Yasir Arafat trying to end the “stalemate”, aided and directed by Tehran and Damascus. That piece also cited a telephone conversation between Khaled Mashaal (HAMAS/Damascus) and Arafat posted on the HAMAS website. The Beersheva attack, after many failed attempts, was the beginning of the attempted “strategic breakout”.

See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, July 27, 2004:

 PA Pres. Arafat Urges Major Anti-Israel Strike.