In July, Seymour Hersh repeated in an interview with NPR that the U.S. was supporting anti-regime terrorist groups including the MEK, Jundallah, and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). “The strategic thinking behind this covert operation is to provoke enough trouble and chaos so that the Iranian government makes the mistake of taking aggressive action which will give the impression of a country in acute turmoil”, Hersh said, in order to give the White House a casus belli.
In a July 29 article, Scott Ritter wrote that “American taxpayer dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund activities that result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian property destroyed…. The CIA today provides material support to the actions of the MEK inside Iran. The recent spate of explosions in Iran … appears to be linked to an MEK operation….”
Hersh wrote another article in the New Yorker in November noting that the Pentagon was increasingly conducting covert operations that had traditionally been the CIA’s domain and giving further details about its activities in Iran. “In the past six months, Israel and the United States have been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan”, which has conducted raids into Iran. He repeated that the “Pentagon has established covert relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Balochi tribesman, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime’s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.”
On Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh joined Scott Ritter in a conversation about the topic of Ritter’s book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change, which claimed the U.S. was conducting operations in Iran using the MEK. Ritter said the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was building a station in Azerbaijan to work with Iran’s Azeri population and was also working closely with the MEK.
On February 27, 2007, the London Telegraph reported, “America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear program.
“In a move that reflects Washington’s growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran’s border regions.
“The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.
“In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.
“Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Balochis in the south-east.”
A former high-ranking CIA official told the Telegraph that the CIA’s funding for opposition and separatist groups was “no great secret”.
Fred Burton, a former US State Department counter-terrorism agent and author of Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent (published in 2008), also told the Telegraph that “The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran’s ethnic minorities to destabilize the Iranian regime.”
And John Pike of the Global Security think tank in Washington said, “The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up [sic] over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity.” Pike also said that “A faction in the Defense Department wants to unleash” the MEK. “They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they might cause a lot of damage.”
Journalist and later author of The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis (published in October 2007) Reese Erlich told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! in March 2007 that the U.S. was using Kurdish groups against Iran. “In the case of one group,” he disclosed, “the P.K.K. or the Kurdistan Workers Party and they are, along with Israel, sponsoring them to carry out guerilla raids inside Iran, and it’s part of a much wider plan by the United States to foment discontent and actual terrorist activities by ethnic Iranians in various parts of Iran. And when I was in northern Iraq, I was able to determine that that kind of activity is going on from Iraqi soil under the Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq, into Iran.”
Erlich also explained how the PJAK was formed as a breakaway group from the PKK and added that “they’re playing a very similar game with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, another Iranian Group, and with groups in Balochistan, which is near the Pakistan Iranian border where some revolutionary guard bus was blown up.” He added that Israel was also “backing various Kurdish groups.”
Further corroboration was given in April, according to the ABC News blog “The Blotter”, which reported that according to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources, the Balochi group Jundullah, operating out of the Balochistan province in Pakistan, was carrying out deadly operations inside Iran under the guidance and encouragement of the U.S. Funding for Jundullah was not provided directly, but instead, “Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abdel Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.”
Referencing the attack on the bus Erlich spoke of in his interview with Amy Goodman, ABC News noted that Jundullah had taken credit for a number of terrorist attacks and kidnappings, including “an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan.”
Again in May, ABC News reported that “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert ‘black’ operation to destabilize the Iranian government,” according to current and former intelligence officials. The presidential finding “reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.”
Retired CIA senior official Bruce Riedel said he couldn’t “confirm or deny whether such a program exists”, but added that “it would be consistent with an overall American approach trying to find ways to put pressure on the regime”.
Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Mideast studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News, “I think everybody in the region knows that there is a proxy war already afoot with the United States supporting anti-Iranian elements in the region as well as opposition groups within Iran”.
The same day as the ABC News report, the Telegraph also reported that “President George W Bush has given the CIA approval to launch covert ‘black’ operations to achieve regime change in Iran, intelligence sources have revealed.” The official document endorsed “CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.” The plan would also include sabotaging Iran’s economy “by manipulating the country’s currency and international financial transactions.”