A regional and global threat gains strength under Iran deal

The US, the West and the international community should not be blinded by the smiles of Rouhani and Zarif, or by the “success” of the nuclear deal.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
The nuclear agreement between Iran and the world’s major powers achieved on July 14, 2015, will enable Iran and its proxy Hezbollah to use subversion and terrorism in the region and beyond with greater freedom, multiplied resources and enhanced aggressiveness.
In its July 14 editorial, The Washington Post predicted that the bargain’s most immediate effect will be to provide Tehran with up to $150 billion to revive the domestic economy “but also to finance wars and terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Yemen and elsewhere.” 
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The New York Times editorial, however, had the optimistic headline, “An Iran Nuclear Deal That Reduces the Chance of War” and claimed that “many American sanctions will remain in place even after the deal is implemented, including those relating to Iran’s support for terrorism.”
Let’s quickly and non-exhaustively check this claim.
Attachment 1, Part I of the agreement’s Annex II includes a list of 800 “persons, entities and bodies” whose assets will be unfrozen and visas renewed. Among these persons and entities are the “strategic brain trust” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leadership and some of its operational tools (shipping companies, ships, etc).
A few of the names on the list: Qasem (Ghasem) Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, in control of Iran’s Middle East policy and who reports directly to Ayatollah Khamenei; IRGC Brigadier-General Ahmad Vahidi, probably commander of the Quds Force between 1990-1997, wanted by Argentinian authorities for the bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, nominated as defense minister by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009; Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian, former chief of staff of the IRGC forces and presently head of the IRGC’s Strategic Center; and Brigadier-General Seyyed Mohammad Hejazi, commander of the Basij militia for nine years, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces.
Another name on the list is Ali Akbar Tabatabaei, commander of the Africa operations of the Quds Force. He was behind the smuggling to Nigeria in 2010 of a shipment of artillery rockets, rifle rounds and other weapons, supposedly bound for Gambia but actually meant for a secessionist group in the province of Casamance, Senegal. An Iranian, Azim Aghajani, and his Nigerian accomplice Usman Abbas Jega were sentenced to five years in prison for this operation.
Aghajani also appears on the Annex II list.
Interestingly, the United Nations and the United States government have linked Aghajani to the Quds Force through Behineh Trading Co., which organized the arms shipment found in Nigeria.
Behineh Trading Co., which also appears on the list, is a front company for the IRGC and was discovered by Israel to have attempted in 2009 to ship from Iran to Hezbollah 240 tons of munitions (rockets, mortar shells, grenades) aboard the MV Francop, which was intercepted by the Israel Navy.
Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for some 30 foiled or failed attacks worldwide since their 2012 terrorist campaign against Israel and to a lesser extent the US.
A number of Quds Force members have been arrested for plotting attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets, among them the Israeli embassies in Azerbaijan and Georgia, a car assigned to the Israeli envoy to India and against Israeli targets in Thailand.
In February 2013 Nigeria’s secret service arrested a terrorist cell trained in Iran in weapons and explosives that planned to attack US and Israeli targets. In May 2013 a Kenyan court sentenced to life in prison two Iranian nationals who served in the Quds Force convicted of plotting attacks against Western targets.
While the US and the West look with awe at the unraveling caused by Islamic State’s (IS) conquests, they neglect the nefarious role of Hezbollah, the armed Iranian proxy in the Middle East and beyond, the terrorist organization responsible for the most American deaths prior to 9/11.
Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria has saved the bloody Assad regime. Hezbollah fights in Syria while suffering heavy losses because the survival of the Alawite regime is critical for its own survival as the main force in Lebanon; Damascus serves Iran as a transit point for military support to the organization, and Syria is Iran’s main ally in the Arab world and critical element of the “Axis of Resistance” (Muqawamah) against the US and Israel.
Hezbollah is also playing a major role in the expansion of the network of Iraqi, Afghani and other Shi’ite jihadist groups fighting for the defense of the Assad regime.
Since the Syrian rebel groups took control of the Quneitra district on the border with the Israeli Golan Heights, Iran and Hezbollah have attempted to build a territorial base in the Syrian Golan region as a platform for terrorist and guerrilla attacks against Israel.
The threat of Hezbollah’s huge arsenal (100,000 rockets and missiles), mainly precise, long-range missiles amassed since the Second Lebanon War (2006), looms large over Israel.
The Hezbollah “foreign fighters” are dangerous as those affiliated with IS or al-Qaida.
The Lebanese-born Swedish citizen and member of Hezbollah Hossam Yaakoub was sentenced to four years in prison for tracking the movement of Israeli tourists in Limassol, Cyprus, in July 2012. He also acted as a Hezbollah courier in France, Netherlands and Turkey.
On July 18, 2012, a bomb attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at the Bulgarian Burgas airport killed six people. Two Hezbollah operatives were involved: Australian citizen Malid Farah and Canadian citizen Hassan al-Haj.
In January 2012 Thai authorities arrested Hussein Atris, a Swedish citizen of Lebanese descent linked to Hezbollah planning an attack against an Israeli target. He deposited four tons of explosive precursors in a commercial building rented since January 2010. In April 2014, Thai authorities arrested two Lebanese nationals with French and Filipino passports on suspicion of planning a Passover attack on Israeli tourists.
In October 2014 the Lebanese Muhammad Amadar was arrested in Lima, Peru for targeting the Israeli embassy, Israeli tourists and Jewish centers. Police found detonators and explosives in his apartment, possibly transferred from the Thailand storage facility.
Following last summer’s war in Gaza, Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei understood that it would now be more difficult to rearm the isolated Hamas and decided to cast his lot with the Palestinians in the West Bank, hoping that smuggling in non-sophisticated, short-range rockets would threaten the Israeli heartland and help the emergence of a third intifada.
The IRGC’s second-in-command, Brigadier- General Hossein Salami, declared in November 2014 that “the sons of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will join hands” and transform the West Bank into a “hell” for the Zionist regime.
It is of note that last April, an Iraqi carrying a Norwegian passport was arrested in Amman, Jordan with 45 kilograms of explosives. He admitted he is working for the Quds Force and that his operation was supposed to be the beginning of several attacks which were to be carefully attributed to Jabhat al-Nusra and IS in order to influence Jordan’s approach to the war in Syria.
The thwarted attack would have been the most serious terrorist act in Jordan in the past decade.
Three days before the signing of the nuclear agreement Khamenei told a public gathering of students: “Struggling against the arrogance [United States], struggling against the dominating systems cannot be suspended” after the end of the nuclear negotiations because “[t]his is part of our work, a part of our fundamental work, part of our revolutionary principles.”
After the signing of the agreement, while speaking with a gun balanced under his left hand and holding his speech notes, Khamenei declared: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not give up support of its friends in the region – the oppressed people of Palestine, of Yemen, the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the oppressed people of Bahrain and sincere resistance fighters in Lebanon and Palestine.”
Against the backdrop of what I would call a scandalous negligence, the United States, the West and the international community at large should not be blinded by the smiles of Iraninan President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, or by the “success” of the nuclear deal, but should rather prepare in the short term to respond with force to new subversion and terrorist plots by Iran and Hezbollah in the Middle East and beyond.
The author is a Senior Research Scholar at The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and The Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya.