- While the US military continues to prepare a strategy
for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, President Bush has given the CIA the
green light to promote dissent in Iran.
- Since his "Axis of Evil" speech in which he
named Iran as a major sponsor of terror, the US President has sought advice
from a wide range of experts on how to deal with a regime that has fostered
terrorism worldwide - especially in the Middle East.
- Since the downfall of the Shah, and the arrival of Ayatollah
Khomeini in 1979, Iran has symbolized militant Islam. Khomeini and his
successors silenced dissent within the country and encouraged militant
anti- Western values.
- Iran became the country that not only financed and trained
terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans
than any other Islamic militant organization, but a safe haven for the
world s dangerous terrorists.
- Many master terrorists wanted by Western intelligence
agencies for the killing of hundreds of innocent people have been given
refuge in Iran s capital and in its military installations.
- The CIA and the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad,
have known for years that clerics in power in Iran have also had long established
links with Syria.
- Like Iran, it has allowed Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and
many other terrorist groups to operate freely within its borders. The Iranian
and Syrian intelligence services have worked closely to provide terrorists
with money, weapons and information on targeting.
- *** This year, Iranian and Syrian intelligence officers
met with terrorist leaders from a wide range of organizations at a secret
facility outside Teheran. On their agenda was a plan to help Hamas and
like-minded terrorists to continue their suicide bombings against Israel
in the belief that Israel can be weakened by a sustained terrorist war.
- More worrying for the US was a plan put forward at the
terrorist meeting to enable Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regain a foothold
in parts of Afghanistan.
- When news of the meeting reached the White House, George
Bush called together top aides from the Pentagon, Defense Department and
- They all agreed that while Syria was a growing threat
to stability in the Middle East and had to be carefully monitored, Iran
was vulnerable to internal dissent and every effort should be made to
destabilize Iran from within.
- The Bush policy group recommended that the US harden
its rhetoric about Syria and privately warn the Syrian government that
there was a price to be paid for supporting terrorism.
- US military planners have long held the view that a major
air strike should be made against terrorist training camps in Syria and
in Lebanon s Bekka Valley where Syrian intelligence officers are believed
to have operated with their Iranian counterparts in training terrorists.
- On the question of Iran, the policy group was optimistic.
CIA monitoring of political events inside Iran had concluded that a younger
generation in the country had tired of the tyranny of the mullahs. While
those who disapproved of the mullahs were not necessarily pro-American
their collective opposition to militant Islam offered a glimmer of hope.
- The CIA told President Bush it was ready to mount a sustained
covert and overt propaganda campaign to highlight the growing disillusionment
of the Iranian population with its leadership. Their reading of the internal
political friction in Iran proved accurate.
- This month, 90-year-old Ayatollah Jalaleddin openly criticized
his fellow clerics. His comments sent a shockwave through Iran and its
- His scathing assault on the regime was wrapped in words
rarely heard in Iran. He talked of "crookedness and negligence."
- Days later, under pressure from his fellow clerics, he
was forced to release a second statement to soften the tone of the first.
- Nonetheless the CIA saw in the Ayatollah s comments evidence
of a shifting political mood that can be exploited.
- The Bush administration is aware that Iran and Syria
s sponsorship of terrorism has also been at the root of the conflict in
Israel. Recently President Bush told a group of Arab leaders at a White
House meeting that the prospect of a Palestinian state was remote while
Iran and Syria continued to supply Hamas and the PLO with weapons and
- There is an even greater reason for renewed focus by
the Bush administration on Iran and Syria. In the event the US topples
Saddam later this year, or early next year, it does not want to face a
situation in which Syria, and especially Iran, meddle in Iraqi politics.
- Iran has made no secret of the fact that with Saddam
off the scene it would like to claim a large portion of southern Iraq.
- In the coming months the US is likely to adopt a tougher
public stance on Syria s role in terrorism. At the same time, the CIA will
make every effort to highlight the growing disillusionment of Iranians
with their clerical leaders.
- Covertly the CIA will try to recruit Iranians inside
and outside the country to give their voices to criticism of the regime.
That will be achieved with psychological warfare techniques such as disinformation,
pamphlets, broadcasts and the genuine use of news of dissent from within
- Martin Dillon is a world authority on Russian and East
European intelligence and the Ireland conflict. He is also the author of
the bestsellers: The Shankill Butchers (Random House); The Dirty War (Random
House) and God and the Gun (Orion). This trilogy is also published by Routledge,
New York. His books are also available on Amazon.com
- Martin Dillon also writes for www.Globe-Intel.net