New naval militia unit ‘augments Iran’s regionwide export of terrorism’ 

Special NCRI-US press conference held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. (Supplied)
NCRI-US press conference held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 February 2022

New naval militia unit ‘augments Iran’s regionwide export of terrorism’ 

NCRI-US press conference held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. (Supplied)
  • Iranian opposition group details Tehran’s policy of using Quds Force as a special operations tool
  • Mercenaries being recruited from a number of countries for training in attacking maritime targets in the region

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Iranian opposition group that exposed Iran’s secret nuclear-enrichment facilities in 2002 has released new information on the leadership structure of the Quds Force naval command and the facilities it uses to train and arm Iran’s terror proxies in the Middle East.

The Quds Force is the arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extra-territorial operations.

At a press briefing in a hotel in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran shed light on the importance Tehran places in the Quds Force as an overseas special-operations tool — and the extent to which it is willing to support its terror proxies in Yemen, the Gulf and Iraq.

In light of the new information on recruitment, training and weapon provisions for the Quds Force’s naval militia unit, experts say it is imperative that the talks in Vienna, Austria, over Iran’s nuclear program do not sidestep the issue of the Islamic Republic’s expanding web of proxy forces.

Iran is deeply implicated in Yemen’s seven-year war, where it backs the Shiite Houthi militia in its fight against the internationally recognized government.

In the past fortnight, missile and drone strikes have been launched by the Houthis targeting the UAE, including an attack on Monday during a visit by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, in an escalation of the conflict with the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.

“Tehran must be held accountable for its proxy war in the region and the development of ballistic missiles, regardless of the JCPOA negotiations outcome,” Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the US office of the NCRI, which is outlawed in Iran, told Arab News, referring to the Iran nuclear accord’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“This is a very serious threat that needs to be immediately dealt with by Western capitals.

“Missile parts have been provided to Houthis from Iran. There would be no Houthi missile program at all if it weren’t for the Iranian regime. Even if they rename the missiles, the components are produced by the Iran regime to serve its purposes in the region.”

Quds Force units have been ordered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to train Yemeni Houthi militants in the use of mines, speedboats, missiles and other weapons in secret Iranian bases. Recruits from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and African countries are also present in these facilities, according to the NCRI’s information.

Jafarzadeh said that the intelligence on Quds Force proxy naval operations was collected by the NCRI’s sources inside Iran. A key goal of Quds Force naval operations is to target commercial ships in the Red Sea and the strategic Bab Al-Mandab Strait that separates Yemen’s coast from the Horn of Africa, according to the disclosures.




The National Council of Resistance of Iran shed light on the importance Tehran places in the Quds Force as an overseas special-operations tool. (Supplied)

The narrow waterway, considered a vital artery of global trade connecting Europe to the Indian Ocean and East Africa, offers a tempting target for Iran’s terror strategists, according to the NCRI.

Jafarzadeh said the importance given to the Houthis by Tehran is evident from the fact that the group’s representative in Tehran was the first foreign official to be granted an audience with Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, on Aug. 4 last year.

During the press briefing, the NCRI showed what it called an organization flowchart for the Quds Force’s recruiting, deployment and training of naval terrorists. The Imam Ali garrison in Tehran was described as the central nerve center for its proxy-training activities.

The revelations come amid a sharp rise in attacks and covert operations conducted by Iran’s proxies — the Houthis in particular — against Washington’s Arab strategic partners and Israel.

The new information provided by the NCRI suggest that Iran’s ability to supply drones and ballistic missiles to the Houthis is reliant in large part on Quds Force naval operations.

Naval terrorist training takes place in three specialized institutions: Ziba Kenar, on the Caspian Sea, and Farur and Qeshm, two islands in the Gulf.




Missiles being fired as part of five-days military exercises dubbed Payambar-e-Azadm, or “Great Prophet,” held in three provinces. (AFP/Iran's Revolutionary Guard via Sepah News/File Photo)

According to the NCRI, the Ziba Kenar Academy serves as the primary location for naval commando training for the IRGC navy, but its purpose is much bigger than that: It is secretly used by the Quds Force for training proxy fighters.

In January 2020, a group of 200 Yemeni Houthi recruits were brought in for training and sent back with their newly acquired terrorist capabilities. In July 2020 a group of Iraqis received training and sent to the Faw peninsula and Basra to establish an Iraqi militia.

The inclusion of Iraqi Shiite militants alongside the Houthis is significant given that the Iraqi group Alwiyat Al-Waad Al-Haq, an alleged Quds Force front, claimed responsibility for a failed drone strike on Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Its only other claim was in January 2021, when it said it launched a drone at Saudi Arabia.

“If Alwiyat Al-Waad Al-Haq came out of hibernation and did launch drones at the UAE ... then this was likely an Iran-directed or at very least Iran-tolerated operation,” Michael Knights, of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in a Twitter post.

The Quds Force is synchronizing the activities of its regional proxies so that they can stage operations from multiple fronts — from the north and south — against the members of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, according to NCRI information.

In other details provided by the NCRI:

* Quds Force naval proxy training is overseen by Brigadier General Hassan Ali Zamani Pajooh, an IRGC veteran. Second Admiral Abdolreza Dabestani has been head of the naval academy since 2019.

* Farur Academy is located on a small island near Qeshm. Five miles wide and 9 miles long, it serves as the headquarters for the IRGC navy commando brigade, Abu Abdullah. Iranian officers under the command of IRGC General Sadegh Amoui train terrorist mercenaries from Yemen and Bahrain here.

* The Quds Force Marine training centers on Qeshm includes an underground stockpile of weapons and various missiles. The Quds Force command in Yemen maintains docks in Iran that are exclusively used by its units for facilitating shipments to their terror proxies in Yemen.

The NCRI also believes that the Quds Force sends weapons shipments to the Houthis via Somalia and Horn of Africa— a route that other independent watchdog groups have accused Iran of employing to illegally move weapons to its Yemen proxies.

The smuggling route through Bab al-Mandab and into the Red Sea has been used extensively in the past by the Quds Force to smuggle weapons to terror proxies in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel. 

The urgency of dealing with the shared security challenges presented by the Quds Force’s proxy naval program has spurred increased security cooperation between Israel and some Arab Gulf countries.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister, made a surprise visit to Bahrain on Wednesday and the defense ministry announced that he would sign a security cooperation agreement with Bahrain. An offer was earlier made by Israel to strengthen the UAE’s defenses against Houthi missile and drone attacks.

Up until now, the covert nature of the Quds Force terror-training and weapons-transfer schemes has shielded Iran from direct military consequences of the attacks carried out by its proxies.

The NCRI says that weapon deliveries are also made from Iranian ships to smaller Houthi smuggling boats mid-sea in the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden. The process is more cumbersome but it allows Iran to avoid direct deliveries to Houthis in Yemen’s ports unless highly sensitive weapon transfers are involved.




 Military officials inspecting drones on display prior to a military drone drill at an undisclosed location in central Iran. (AFP/Iranian Army Office/File Photo)

One of the key ports used by Quds Force to deliver weapons to its terror proxies is Bandar e-Jask. The origin of a massive cache of weapons evidently meant for the Houthis interdicted by the US Navy recently was Bandar e-Jask, according to NCRI sources.

“The implications are clear: Iran’s regime is attempting to cover its tracks as it pursues its shadow agenda,” Jafarzadeh said. “All this should be additional evidence that sanctions against the regime should not be lifted. As US Senator Bob Menendez recently said, there has to be a major turnaround in US policy approach to the regime.”

On Tuesday, Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, laid out his concerns over the Biden administration’s latest round of negotiations over the JCPOA. “We cannot ignore Iran’s nefarious support for terrorism or accept threats to American interests and lives. … Iran cannot and must not possess a nuclear weapon,” he said in remarks to the Senate.

The rise in drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE has invited waves of punitive strikes against Houthi military positions in Yemen. However, the Quds Force facilities in Iran — the springboard of these attacks — have remained unscathed.

Israel has conducted regular air strikes against Iranian overland and sea shipments to terror proxies in Syria, while managing to avoid thus far direct conflict with Iran.




The Quds Force is synchronizing the activities of its regional proxies so that they can stage operations from multiple fronts against the members of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, according to NCRI information. (Supplied)

On Tuesday, the Biden administration said it was sending fighter jets to assist the UAE after the latest attacks, one of which was aimed at a base hosting American forces and followed the Jan. 17 strike that killed three people in Abu Dhabi.

Analysts say the newly revealed identities of key Quds Force officers and locations of their terror-training centers provide valuable additional pressure points against Iran, which so far has paid hardly any price for its malign regional influence and actions even as it drags its feet in Vienna.

“We know what the Quds Force is doing. We know that it uses commercial vessels as stationary command platforms. These platforms need to be intercepted,” Michael Pregent, a former senior analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency with extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, told Arab News.

“The Biden administration has shown a propensity for defending a regime that uses the Houthi attacks as leverage in the Vienna nuclear talks. It has the capability to respond (to the attacks) but it lacks the will.”


UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa

UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa
Updated 33 sec ago

UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa

UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa
  • The ship will sail to Ethiopia via a grain corridor through the Black Sea
  • It will be the first humanitarian food aid cargo bound for Africa since Russia’s invasion

ODESA, Ukraine: The United Nations-chartered ship MV Brave Commander will depart Ukraine for Africa in coming days after it finishes loading more than 23,0000 tons of wheat in the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, a UN official said.
The ship, which arrived in the port near Odesa, will sail to Ethiopia via a grain corridor through the Black Sea brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in late July.
It will be the first humanitarian food aid cargo bound for Africa since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. under the framework of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The cargo was funded with donations from the United Nations World Food Programme, US Agency for International Development and several private donors.
A total 16 ships have now departed from Ukraine following the deal with Russia to allow a resumption of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, after they were stalled for five months due to the war.
The agreement was reached last month amid fears that the loss of Ukrainian grain supplies would lead to severe food shortages and even outbreaks of famine in parts of the world.
Ukraine has some 20 million tons of grain left over from last year’s crop, while this year’s wheat harvest is also estimated at 20 million tons.
So far most of the cargoes under the deal have carried grain for animal feed or for fuel.
As part of the UN deal, all ships are inspected in Istanbul by the Joint Coordination Center, where Russia, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel work.


River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains

River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains
Updated 1 min 4 sec ago

River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains

River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains

BEIJING: Seven people were killed by a torrent of water that came rushing down a river in a popular recreational spot following mountain rains in southwestern China, authorities said Sunday.
Workers and volunteers mobilized to urge people to leave the area after receiving an imminent heavy rain warning about 2:40 p.m. on Saturday, the emergency management bureau in Pengzhou city said.
People could be seen scrambling to flee in videos posted on social media, but some were caught when the torrent hit about 50 minutes later at 3:30 p.m.
One man at the scene said several people were washed away, including some children, when the water flow in the lower reaches of the river suddenly increased in just 10 to 20 seconds, the state-owned China National Radio reported.
The Chengdu city government said Sunday that seven people had died and three others were hospitalized with minor injuries. Pengzhou is a tourist spot about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
A video showed a helicopter rescuing a person stranded on a small outcropping by descending to just above the water and opening a door so the person could climb in.
Elsewhere in China, heavy rain flooded streets in the northwestern city of Xining on Saturday night. Heavy to torrential rain was forecast for the northeast from Sunday to Monday afternoon, with 10 to 18 centimeters (4 to 7 inches) of rainfall expected in parts of Liaoning and Jilin provinces.
A heat wave was hovering over a wide swath of southern China, with forecast highs on Sunday of 35 to 39 degrees Celsius (95 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit) and possibly surpassing 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) in some places including Shanghai.
Jiangsu province warned that road surface temperatures could rise to 72 degrees (162 Fahrenheit), raising the risk of flat tires, state broadcaster CCTV reported.


Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport

Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport
Updated 50 min 3 sec ago

Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport

Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport
  • No reported injuries in the attack

SYDNEY: Australian capital Canberra’s airport was evacuated and a man arrested after gunshots were heard in the main terminal building, police said on Sunday.
One person has been taken into custody and a firearm was recovered, the police said in a statement. There have been no reported injuries, it added.
Police said CCTV footage has been reviewed and at this time the person in custody is believed to be the only person responsible for the incident.
“The Canberra Airport terminal was evacuated as a precaution and the situation at the airport is contained,” the statement said.
The police said members of the public were not allowed to got to the airport at this time. No further details were available.
Videos posted on social media earlier in the day showed police detaining a man inside the airport as travelers look on. Media and onlookers also gathered outside the airport following the evacuation.
The incident has led to delays and cancelations of flights, media reports said.


Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak
Updated 14 August 2022

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak
  • Iran’s reaction to the attack strengthens the case for proscribing the IRGC, the former finance minister told the Sunday Telegraph

LONDON: Rishi Sunak, one of two candidates seeking to become Britain’s next prime minister, said Friday’s attack on author Salman Rushdie should serve as a wake-up call to the West over Iran, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Indian-born author Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him over his novel “The Satanic Verses,” was stabbed in the neck and torso on stage at a lecture in New York state. After hours of surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak as of Friday evening.
There has been no official government reaction in Iran to the attack on Rushdie, but several hard-line Iranian newspapers praised his assailant.


ALSO READ: Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US


“The brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie should be a wake-up call for the West, and Iran’s reaction to the attack strengthens the case for proscribing the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps),” Sunak, the former finance minister, said, according to the paper.
The IRGC controls Iran’s elite armed and intelligence forces.
Sunak, referring to stuttering talks between Iran and the West to revive a nuclear deal, said, “We urgently need a new, strengthened deal and much tougher sanctions, and if we can’t get results then we have to start asking whether the JCPOA is at a dead end.”
The JCPOA, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the 2015 agreement under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.
“The situation in Iran is extremely serious and in standing up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin we can’t take our eye off the ball elsewhere,” Sunak said.


N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
Updated 14 August 2022

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
  • It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration, says Kim

SEOUL: North Korea’s foreign ministry on Sunday criticized the United Nations Secretary-General’s recent comment on his supports for the North’s complete denuclearization, calling the remarks lack impartiality and fairness.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA released a statement from the foreign ministry after UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday said he fully supports efforts to completely denuclearise North Korea when he met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
“I cannot but express deep regret over the said remarks of the UN secretary-general that grossly lack impartiality and fairness and go against the obligations of his duty, specified in the UN Charter, as regards the issue of the Korean peninsula,” Kim Son Gyong, vice minister for international organizations of North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kim added that the UN secretary-general should not request or accept orders from the government of a specific country but refrain from doing any act that may impair his or her position as an international official who is liable only to the UN.
Kim said the North’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) was “an infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration,” said Kim, adding that Guterres should be careful when uttering “dangerous words” amid the extremely acute situation on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has test fired a record number of missiles this year, and officials in Seoul and Washington say that it appears to be preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017, amid stalled denuclearization talks.