By Pejman Amiri
August 5, 2017
The U.S. Congress’ recent bill of sanctions on Iran mainly cites the Iranian regime’s terrorist activities throughout the Middle East.
The recently released Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 by the U.S. State Department says:
“Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2016, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps‑Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. Iran has acknowledged the involvement of the IRGC-QF in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
The report is strong, however it does not mention anything on the Iranian regime’s terrorist activities in Europe.
Iran’s promotion of its brand of Shi’ite Islam, linked with its terrorist-related activities across the Middle East has been obvious for decades, but such activities in Europe have largely managed to fly under the radar. The Iranian regime is advancing its presence and resources considerably in Europe, especially, in the Balkans.
In 2016, the Iranian regime’s Balkans-centered efforts came under scrutiny when an Iranian cleric in Kosovo was charged with financing terrorism and money-laundering through a nominally non-governmental organization he operated. Kosovar authorities claimed Hasan Azari Bejandi, charged on July 26, 2016, ran five Shi’ite organizations with links to Tehran.
The umbrella group for the Iranian regime in Europe, including Kosovo, appears to be affiliated with the Al-Mustafa International University, headed by Ayatollah Alireza Aarafi, a member of Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution and a Friday Prayers leader in the holy city of Qom. The university claims that Bejandi is its representative in Kosovo. Al-Mustafa International University is owned and run by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Last week non-government organizations and the German media warned the government about the activities of Al-Mustafa-linked organizations in the country. The federal family minister in Germany, Katarina Barley, was alerted about an Al-Mustafa workshop in Germany funded, wrongly, by her ministry, under the guise of a workshop of the Islamic Community of the Shiite Communes of Germany (IGS). The minister called the event off.
It demonstrates that Iran’s effort to exert influence over the Balkan peninsula and its governments poses a grave security threat.
On March 9, the news media in the Balkans reported that American security agencies saw expanding activities from Iranian intelligence services over the Balkan area.
The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has compiled a report on increased activities of Iranian intelligence services in Bosnia and Herzegovina, containing around 650 names of members, mostly from of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
The report actually covers 15 years of Iranian intelligence agents’ activities, and is mainly based on information gathered by the Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA) of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
First on the list of Iranian intelligence agents is Hassan Jawad, Deputy Minister of Intelligence in Tehran, according to the report.
During the Bosnian war of the 1990s, Jawad was the IRGC chief for southeastern Europe and then became head of the Department of Central Asia and the Caucasus, according to OSA.
Jawad is also a member of the Iranian-Bosnian Friendship Association Board of Directors, but in reality focused on intelligence work and was a key player in recruiting.
Iran began extending its malign influence in Bosnia back in 1990 as communism collapsed in Yugoslavia. The mullahs dispatched spies with cash to Sarajevo to grease politicians’ palms, advocate radicalism, and recruit and train terrorists.
During the past three decades, Iran has launched consulates in the Balkans for espionage and other covert activities. The presence of Iranian intelligence agents in Bosnia in Herzegovina has sharply increased since the beginning of 2012, along with the activities of Iranian officials and diplomats, In particular, Iranian spies were seen visiting the jihadist colony at Gornja Maoča in northeastern Bosnia which, despite occasional police raids, has operated for years as a more-or-less open training camp for jihad-minded radicals.
Albania has been another Balkan country Iran has targeted in its attempt to create what Reza Shafa, an Iran expert, has called “a foothold in the European continent.” As in Bosnia, the attempted Iranian infiltration of Albania followed the pattern of setting up “charities” and “cultural organizations” that serve as front organizations for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence. Despite such efforts, however, Iran draws little sympathy in either elite circles or amongst the general population. Last year, Albania’s government and Parliament were in unanimous agreement to allow a large number of members of Iran’s democratic opposition group, MEK, to settle in Albania.
Iran’s techniques in training, equipping and recruiting terrorists across the Balkans through IRGC is well known. After the U.S. sanctions against IRGC, in order to have a safer world, the next step for the civilized world is join the U.S. sanctions to make them work to evict all the elements of IRGC from its targeted countries in the Middle East and Europe.