The failure to address militarisation and state terrorism in Khuzestan, the homeland of the oppressed Ahwazi Arab people, is contributing to Iranian-backed insurgency in the neighbouring Iraqi province of Basra, warns the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS).
The infiltration of the Iraqi security forces in Basra by Iranian-backed militias is part of Tehran's policy of aggressive assertion its power over the Gulf region, a policy that has also led to an intensification of state violence against Ahwazis.
BAFS revealed in March that the Iranian regime was using Khuzestan as a base for launching insurgency operations in Iraq. Fajr Garrison, near the Arab-populated city of Ahwaz, is the main headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in southern Iran. It hosts the IRGC's Qods Force, which runs a vast underground network of agents and insurgents in Iraq. Agents are paid by middle-men, who carry out regular visits to Ahwaz City to obtain payments and be debriefed by Qods commanders.
Documents from the Iranian regime's Fajr Garrison in Al-Ahwaz show that Tehran is employing up to 40,000 agents in Iraq. The information was revealed by former Iranian agents who defected due to pay cuts. Secret reports by British military intelligence, recently leaked to the press, have revealed that insurgents attacking British troops are using armour-piercing bombs developed in Iran and also used against Israeli forces by the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The group led by Abu Mustafa Al-Sheibani, which is active in Basra and has murdered 11 British soldiers, is in the pay of Tehran and is trained and directed from Ahwaz. There are suggestions from some quarters that the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to Shia extremist Moqtada al-Sadr, is now receiving support from Iran. This follows evidence of a growing rift between Tehran and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is a member of the ruling Iraqi coalition and had been financed and armed by Iran during Saddam Hussein's rule.
The importance of Khuzestan as a spring-board for asserting Iranian control over provinces such as Basra has led to an increase in state terrorism against Ahwazis, whose demand for self-determination and federalism represents a challenge to Iran's desire for hegemony. Tehran has used armed groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Badr Brigades, a group of Iraqi Shia extremists tolerated by the Iraqi authorities and linked to SCIRI, as mercenaries against Ahwazis living in Khuzestan and some 30,000 Ahwazi refugees in Iraq's Basra province.
BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "The Ahwazis have been a persecuted minority since Iran claimed sovereignty over Al-Ahwaz 80 years ago. However, the level of violent oppression has increased dramatically since the 2003 Iraq War as Tehran has sought to maintain and extend its influence over the Khuzestan-Basra region. The regime is intent on clearing out 'troublesome' ethnic groups from the border regions in order to push its influence beyond its territorial frontiers. Khuzestan is being transformed from being a province with a unique culture and heritage into a terrorist training camp, while the province's vast oil fields serve to fund the military and religious elites.
"The failure to address Tehran's militarisation policy in the Khuzestan-Basra region has resulted in the killing of British soldiers and an upsurge in insurgency and terrorism. The situation is spiralling out of Baghdad's control.
"We have always said that what happens in Khuzestan has profound implications for regional and global security and the war against terrorism. We have been warning for months that the imposition of martial law in Khuzestan would have deleterious consequences for Iraq. Instead, the British government turned a blind eye to the massacre of more than 160 Ahwazi civilians by Iranian security forces and mercenaries in April. It was not even mentioned in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 2005 human rights report on Iran. Now British troops have been stung by the viper that has crawled into Basra from Khuzestan.
"It is time for a change of attitude towards Iran. The world has shown too little interest in the political realities of the Iranian state and its terrorist behaviour against its own people and neighbouring countries. Arab states have also failed to respond adequately to the problem, despite the threat Iran poses to countries such as Bahrain and Kuwait. We call on the international community to put the issue of Iran's militarisation and insurgency at the top of the agenda."