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IRAQ BEGINS FIGHT-BACK AGAINST IRAN'S MILITIAS

The Iraqi government has closed the border between Basra and Iran's Khuzestan province, indicating that it sees Tehran's hand in militia-led terrorism in Iraq.

Iraqi troops have begun a campaign against the Mehdi Army of Shia extremist Moqtada al-Sadr. Mehdi Army leaders have been arrested, prompting al-Sadr to call for nation-wide civil disobedience. Weapons and improvised explosive devices have been seized in raids. Iran is suspected of being the source of weapons and explosives used by militias in Iraq.

Khuzestan, known as Al-Ahwaz by its indigenous Ahwazi Arab inhabitants, is a major supply route for arms entering Iraq from Iran. Iran has militarised the border region and ethnically cleansed Arab residents to secure its hold on Iraqi militias and direct terrorist attacks inside Iraq. Iraqi militias, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas group have been mobilised to quash all dissent among Ahwazi Arabs both inside Iran and throughout the Gulf region. This has included the assassination of Ahwazi Arab leaders. The regime has also sought to intimidate Iraqi and British forces. In 2006, it kidnapped Iraqi coast guards in the Shatt al-Arab, which forms the border between Basra and Khuzestan. The kidnapping of British naval personnel in 2007 was inextricably linked to the regime's long-term ambition to impose its territorial control over the strategic waterway and hold Baghdad hostage to its interests.

After receiving documents leaked from the Fajr Garrison in Ahwaz, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) warned three years ago that the militarisation of Khuzestan was establishing the region as a base for terrorist operations inside Iraq. The information was revealed by former Iranian agents who defected due to pay cuts and showed that Tehran was employing up to 40,000 agents in Iraq. Fajr Garrison, near the 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 the vast underground network 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. Subsequent intelligence reports confirmed BAFS's information as correct. The Iranian regime has responded to BAFS's reports by declaring the organisation "illegal" and "dedicated to stirring up trouble between Iran and its neighbours."

Mansour Silawi al-Ahwazi, the Ahwazi Arab leader and BAFS executive member who died suddenly in London two weeks ago, warned last year that Iran was seeking to aggressively extend its influence over Iraq and the Gulf region. Speaking on Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah Television in September 2007, he said: "It goes without saying that Iran will not seek the security and stability of Iraq as long as it has not achieved any understanding with the United States on all outstanding issues. Iran has a huge intelligence and military clout in Iraq."

He added that Iran exploited several factors to "go to extremes in its plans with a view to implementing its ambitious project of expanding at the expense of Iraqis in particular and the Arabs of the region in general."

In another interview with Lebanon's ABN network, Mansour said: "Now that Iraq is no longer competing with Iran, and now that Iran has gained a monopoly over the strategic situation in the region, they have stepped up the expropriation of lands in Al-Ahwaz. The Iranian regime - despite all its claims to support the Arab causes and so on... Whenever it identifies some weakness in the [Arab] nation, it escalates its ethnic cleansing policies in Al-Ahwaz.

"The Al-Ahwaz issue highlights the contradictions of the Iranian government. The Iranian government professes to call for unity, to avoid sectarianism, and to defend the Shiites. It tries to use the Shiite bargaining chip in some Arab countries in order to promote its plans and in order to extract some concessions from the US or from some of the other Western powers. If Iran really defends the Shiites, why does it oppress the [Arab] Shiites of Al-Ahwaz? The majority [of the Arabs] there are Shiite. If it really defends the [Arab] peoples in Lebanon and Palestine, why does it oppress its own Arab people? This is the greatest contradiction in the policy of the Iranian government."

An Iraqi speaking to BAFS from Basra today said that the various Iranian-backed Shia militias were effectively ruling the province through terror. Abu Musa said: "There are kidnappings and killings. Women no longer feel free to walk outside without hejab. The peace-loving Mandean religious minority has fled because they are the victims of acid attacks by these extremists. There is gunfire and chaos and crime. Iran wants to ruin Iraq. It does not want to see a successful Arab democracy. Iraqis, whether Shia or Sunni, stand with the Ahwazi Arabs against this menace and the gangsters in Tehran. If Iran interferes in our country, we will stand with the struggle of their oppressed."