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Iraq troop withdrawal will broaden insurgency into Ahwaz

The South Iraq Liberation Front has said it will extend its political struggle inside Iran to secure the "liberation" of the traditionally Arab lands around Ahwaz from Iranian "occupation".

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat the group's secretary general, Awad al-Abadan, insisted that resistance against Iran would be "through civilized dialogue with the rest of the world" which he said was "more powerful than the language of arms". According to al-Abadan, the confusion between legitimate resistance and terrorism meant that armed conflict would not be heeded by the international community. He said: "The front has not decided to use arms because we are not convinced of its usefulness."

On his movement's future programme, al-Abadan said it was focused on "self-defence", but would involve activities in Iranian cities, "since we coordinate with the Iranian opposition movement in the Arab provinces of the Ahwaz region."

He added: "We consider the Ahwaz region as part of the occupied Arab lands. It has nationalist movements that are struggling for independence. Operating within these movements is not intervention in Persian land."

Regarding Iran's influence in Iraq, al-Abadan said: "The most evident manifestations of the cultural occupation of the south are the libraries in the southern provinces that are full of books, leaflets, photographs, banners, and other paraphernalia that are used during the Feast of Ashura and other religious occasions of Iranian origin. These things are cheap to buy and subsidized by the Iranian government. This is in addition to scores of radio stations and satellite channels in Arabic beamed to the people of the south."

Al-Abadan has called for a boycott of Iranian goods in Iraq, complaining that they are flooding the market and creating a state of dependency on Iran. Instead, Iraq should open its market to goods from other Arab states to ensure that Iraqis are not vulnerable to manipulation from Tehran.

On his choice of the city of Basra as the base of the front and its limited activities in the south, Al-Abadan said: "The front began its operations in Basra because Basra was affected most by the Iranian occupation. The Iranian Consulate in Basra meddled in the daily life of Basra directly and on a daily basis without any deterrence. Then the calls for secessionist sectarianism spread to the provinces of Al-Amarah and Al-Nasiriyah. The Iranian occupation is more dangerous than the American and British occupations because the last two will inevitably leave".

Al-Abadan said he expected Iran would attempt to assassinate him, but had no fear of being in Basra. He stated that the front will continue with its activities "until the Iranian occupation and its agents are expelled from the southern provinces."

The South Iraq Liberation Front is associated with the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Iraq's second-largest Sunni Arab group which is led by the secularist politician Saleh al-Mutlaq. The group opposes the presence of all foreign forces on Iraqi territory, including Iranian-backed operatives.