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Sunday, January 25, 2004

THIS SOUNDS LIKE FUN . . . In a week's time there's going to be a big fun gathering in Teheran, as Amir Taheri reports:

Militants from some 40 countries across the globe are trekking to Teheran for a 10-day "revolutionary jamboree" in which "a new strategy to confront the American Great Satan" will be hammered out.

. . .

Today, Teheran is a magnet for militant groups from many different national and ideological backgrounds. The Islamic Republic's hospitality cuts across even religious divides. Thus militant Sunni organizations, including two linked to al-Qaida - Ansar al-Islam (Companions of Islam) and Hizb Islami (The Islamic Party) - enjoy Iranian hospitality. They are joined by Latin American guerrilla outfits, clandestine Irish organizations, Basque and Corsican separatists, and a variety of leftist groups from Trotskyites to Guevarists. Teheran today is also the only capital where all the Palestinian militant movements have offices and, in some cases, training and financial facilities.

Not exactly my guest list of foreign dignitaries to invite to my next do, but then tastes vary. I bring this up specifically because debates often fail to take into account how relevant Iran is for British security. A threat to America or Israel? Perhaps, but surely not Britain? One of my main points about the war on terror is that terrorists do tend to gravitate towards cooperation even if they are ideologically far removed from each other. Teheran is the main hub in which this cooperation takes place and is organised. While of course the risk emanating from the IRA or other such groupings can be assumed to be relatively low at the moment, this kind of international network makes it possible for them to survive and hone their skills outside British territory, ready to strike whenever the political situation shifts accordingly. As Jonathan Stevenson has argued this may still be a possibility, especially if the peace process produces results not conducive to the terrorists' goals and particularly the more the shock-effect of 9/11 wears of and terrorism becomes less of the all-encompassing evil that it became then. To fuel the whole danger Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The bottom line is that action taken against any of the aforementioned groups, their state sponsors or failed state territories where these groups could set up base indirectly helps fighting the Northern Ireland terror problem. While this is an indirect issue, Iran's role amongst Shiia Iraqis is of far more urgent concern. Recently David Pryce-Jones wrote:

Today the Shia are educated, organised and armed very differently from 1920. Loose among them are also hundreds of Iranian agents, for the moment daubing anti-Western graffiti on walls but otherwise biding their time - the British appear to be taking no protective measures against these potentially subversive elements.

The complacency in regards to Iranian meddling in southern Iraq, the British zone, is inexcusable if it is in fact that widespread. While many in the anti-war camp will say this is what it all leads to, it is clear that to counter the risk of an Iranian influenced Shiia insurgency only a regime change (probably from within) in Iran will secure the reconstruction of Iraq and not put British troops there at unnecessary risk. In the meantime the Government should seriously start to come up with a pr strategy with which to explain to the public why we need to send more troops to Iraq without causing a panic; also finding a way to prevent the terror-nutter-paranoiaics ruling Iran from thinking they're about to be invaded and thus leading to "uncautious" behaviour.

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