The Centre for International and Defence Policy and Queen’s International Affairs Association hosted an expert panel discussion on radicalization and foreign fighters by the Mackenzie Institute on March 26th, 2015, at Queens University, Kingston Hall, 2nd Floor – ASUS Red Room
“Other Peoples Wars: Foreign Fighters and Radicalization from a Canadian Perspective”
This event featured leading experts from a variety of backgrounds, including: Dr. Wagdy Loza (former chair of the Terrorism/Extremism Section of the Canadian Psychological Association), Col. Bernd Horn (former CANSOFCOM officer and Professor at RMC), Dr. Christian Leuprecht (Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts), and Shabnam Assadollahi (human rights advocate and Iran expert). The panel was moderated by Emily Spencer, current Director of Research and Education at the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Professional Development Centre.
The Islamic Republic of Iran¬¬—State sponsor of Terrorism:
Presented by Shabnam Assadollahi
The Government of Canada made the right decision to close down the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ottawa. Some Iranians living in Canada have criticized the Government’s move for the inconvenience it has caused them in receiving consular services, such as renewal of their Iranian passports. However, we must realize that Iran’s covert operations abroad pose a real threat, and that the Government of Canada has a responsibility to protect its citizens. That obligation supersedes such inconveniences.
Keeping this in mind, the Government of Canada must give special attention to investigating those who wish to come to Canada from Iran. Further to that, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration should initiate a program to respectfully reassess some questionable individuals who are already here and their affiliations with the Iranian regime.
I have frequently warned of the threats Islamic Republic of Iran has been posing to Canada. Iranian diplomats and their spies have been caught conspiring against Canada. Iran’s proxy terrorist group has sleeper cells here. We have seen clandestine activities by them, and we have evidence that Iran has been trying to export an anti-Western ideology by infiltrating throughout Canada’s public education sector, NGOs and institutions of higher learning—which is characteristic of Iran’s operations globally. Iranian embassy-mandated, cultural programs in a targeted country are often intertwined with non-state actors in which religious services are used to spread the principles of the Islamic revolution.
In 2012, a colleague and I translated—and made public—troubling statements by Hamid Mohammadi, the Cultural Affairs Counsellor at Iran’s former embassy in Ottawa. In those statements he urged Iranian-Canadians to “occupy high-level key positions” and“resist being melted into the dominant Canadian culture.” Hamid Mohammadi’s message was an eye-opener to Canadians with respect to how Iran is planning an infiltration of Canadian Government departments and attacks against the United States. This also drew the attention of U.S. Counter- terrorism experts. They noted that Canadians do not need visas to cross the border into the U.S. Iran is trying to establish a “fifth column” in Canada. This warning was articulated by Mr. David Harris, a former manager of the Canadian Intelligence Service and now a strategic intelligence expert. He highlighted some disturbing facts that The Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University, Student Association organized propaganda in support of the Iranian regime—including an event commemorating the life and “teachings”of the regime’s founding dictator who was responsible for ordering the execution of thousands of political opponents, suppressing human rights, and the treatment of women as second-class citizens. Even more worrisome is the revelation that such “teachings” had found their way into Grade 3 Iranian text books used in an Ottawa school—teachings that glorified child soldiers and suicide-martyrdom.
Terrorist regimes use infiltration as a means to achieve their goals; the Iranian regime is no exception. In a 500-page indictment, issued in May 2013, the late Dr. Alberto Nisman—an Argentine prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the largest Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires—contended that the Argentine government had sought the arrangement as part of a trade pact with Iran. Nisman provided evidence of the extent of Iran’s infiltration, intelligence, and terrorist network across Latin America, especially in Venezuela, which had vast deposits of uranium, as well as other states.
According to Nisman,Iran has sought to infiltrate the countries of Latin America and install secret intelligence stations with the goal of committing, fomenting, and fostering acts of international terrorism in concert with its goal to export the revolution. With the growth of Iranian embassies in Latin America—and their “cultural” activities expanded exponentially in countries like Venezuela,Nicaragua, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and El Salvador—Iranian film festivals, book fairs, youth festivals, and other “cultural” activities are often used to spread propaganda—and—to spot and assess potential recruits to join the Islamic revolution.
While it is subtle,and often under the radar, Iran’s “cultural” outreach has been significant over the last decade, and is growing in both size and scope. One of the most visible examples of this outreach is their Spanish language, 24-hour news broadcast, Hispan-TV,which is operated by the larger, state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcaster (IRIB). Launched in 2012, the Iranian network has grown to broadcast in at least 16 countries throughout Latin America, often in conjunction with what is known as counter-hegemonic news media in the region—namely the Venezuela-based TeleSUR. This media network provides Iran with a large megaphone to advance its influence and information operations in the region.
When we look at the map of the Middle East, we don’t need to be an expert in geopolitics to realize that Iran’s influence has increased over the last few years while the United States’ role has diminished. In the current offensive on Tikrit, 20,000 Shiite militiamen are mobilized—all of them are supported in one way or another by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Only 3,000 US-trained, Iraqi soldiers and policemen are accompanying them.
At a rally last month,on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran,Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani said, “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”
Although the subject of the “… export of the Islamic Revolution” is often discussed, it is seldom properly defined and understood.In remarks made last year, IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani stated that,”… by establishing the Basij, the third child of the revolution is being born in Iraq after it was mobilized in Syria and Lebanon.” Hamedani was referring to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashd, which is Arabic for Basij. These units, which are led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis—perhaps Qassem Soleimani’s closest lieutenant in Iraq and the head of the Kataib Hezbollah militia—form the second parallel structure to the Iraqi Security Forces, next to the IRGC-banner, Hezbollah-style militias.
Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy advisor to Islamic Republic of Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, recently expressed to a Houthi delegation in Tehran his desire to see the Ansar Allah group, “… play a role similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon.” How so? By operating alongside the military.This way the army appears to side with the people.
Revealed to you is the model that the revolutionary clique sought to clone abroad since the very birth of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It is precisely how Hezbollah came to be—as an extension of revolutionary instruments that emerged in Iran between 1979-1981. Such Programs were followed by others. Numerous Iranian cultural and economic institutions were copied in Lebanon, such as Construction Jihad. Now, Construction Jihad is popping up in Syria on the back of the Basij, as the IRGC’s Hamedani recently announced, “Construction Basij has been established in Syria.”
Mansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American who pleaded guilty for his role in the assassination plot against Adel al-Jubeir, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States was denied a visa into US via Germany but later he came back through Canada and then into the US. As described by Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mr. Arbabsiar was, “…the key conduit for, and facilitator of, an international plot concocted by members of the Iranian military to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States and as many innocent bystanders as necessary to get the jobdone.”
According to court documents, Arbabsiar plotted the attack with his Iran-based co-conspirators;including members of Iran’s Quds Forces, which seeks to export the Islamic Revolution to other countries and conduct covert operations abroad including terrorist attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings. In October 2007, the US Treasury Department designated the Quds Force as a terrorist supporter for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations. In December 2012, Canada also added Quds to its list of entities under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
33 year-old Iranian-Canadian jihadis Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh, ringleader of an Ottawa terror cell was arrested in August 2010. In Sept 2014, Alizadeh pleaded guilty to terrorism offences under a deal that sentenced him to 24 years in prison. Alizadeh had undergone paramilitary training in terrorist training camps, recruited sympathizers, funded overseas terror networks and plotted to attack targets in Canada.
Each week during Friday prayers in Tehran, the regime openly and regularly utters death threats against the United States, Israel, United Kingdom, Canada and their Western allies. Given Iran’s history, it would be wise not to take these threat slightly. Closing down the Embassy of the Islamic Republic has certainly hampered Iran’s covert operations in Canada. However, with the expulsion of Iranian diplomats, we cannot simply assume that all elements of the Iranian regime have been removed.
Canada needs to identify any individuals left behind by the regime whose activities pose a risk to the nation and take appropriate action. Moreover, the Government should also question the real motives of the regime’s apologists who defend the Islamic Republic against criticism while seeking to reverse Canada’s policies on Iran. Finally, the Government of Canada cannot allow the Iranian regime to use Canadian territory as a base for organizing covert operations against the United States. It is important to ensure that Canada and the United State share a common approach to addressing infiltration and terrorist activities sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Beyond the Border initiative, which was announced in 2011 by Prime Minister Harper and Us President Obama, provides the right framework for such discussion. An Action Plan under Harper’s initiative proposes improvements to cooperative law enforcement capacity and intelligence sharing. It also proposes cooperative best practices to prevent and counter homegrown violent extremism. These are important steps but the Canadian Government must do a great deal more and take proactive measures to identify the Islamic Republic of Iran’s covert activities,including its efforts to gain support in Canada.
We must also not forget that the Iranian regime is a dictatorial regime and, as such, its embassy did not represent the will of the Iranian people—but rather the radical and hidden agenda of its leaders. On Monday March 16th, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Investigator on Iran said in his view, “… the overall situation has worsened, as indicated by the surge in executions.” Ahmed Shaheed was addressing reporters in Geneva, stating that, “… the human rights situation in Iran has worsened since Rouhani became president. The overall situation has worsened; as indicated by the surge in executions.” Citing a risen executions from 580 in 2012, to 753 in 2014, Shaheed also expressed concern over the fact that Iran executes more people per capita than all other countries. He also noted that Iran has increased legal restraints and persecutions of dissidents, human rights activists and journalists.
The West must not be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm. For 36 years, the Islamic regime of Iran has relentlessly pursued a global Islamic mission which was engineered by jihadis Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s founding dictator. Khomeini said in his own words, “We will export our revolution tothe entire world.” And, as I just explained, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,and Quds Forces have been resolutely dedicated to that end. Iran’s IRGC commander, Mohammad Ali Ja’afari, clearly stated this goal. He said, “Our Imam did not limit the Islamic Revolution to this country … Our duty is to prepare the way for an Islamic world government.”
A few years ago,Iran’s foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in his book, “We have a fundamental problem with the West, and especially with America. This is because we are heirs to a global mission, which is tied to our raison d’être … a global mission which is tied to our very reason of being …” Zarif then asks, “Why does Malaysia not have similar problems?” And he answers, “Because Malaysia is not trying to change the international order.”
Islamic Republic of Iran has created 48 Shiite sleeper cell groups in Iraq under the Quds Forces to take over the country’s army and to spread throughout the Middle East. Now the Islamic revolutionary model is being reproduced in Iraq, Syria and Yemen as well, by setting up those same structures. The “Army,People (Basij), Resistance” formula was never just a mere slogan, it’s an Iranian regime blueprint dating back to the birth of the Islamic Revolution. Islamic Republic of Iran’s global terror campaign, and its subversion of countries throughout and beyond the Middle East, is their ultimate goal to export their Islamic Revolution.
We live in a world steeped in tyranny and terror, where hundreds of thousands are butchered in Syria, Libya and Iraq, hundreds of young girls are abducted in Nigeria and gays are hanged from cranes in Iran. Militant Islam has been rapidly spreading in every part of the world with an ambition to dominate the world, and it is on the march to hurt ethnic and religious minority groups—including the moderate Muslims—everywhere it can.
As PM Netanyahu indicated in his recent speech at the US Congress, “Do not be fooled by Iran’s offensive charm. It’s designed for one purpose and for one purpose only, to lift the sanctions and remove the obstacles from Islamic Republic of Iran’s path to the bomb. This would effectively cement Iran’s place as a threshold, military nuclear power. In the future—at a time of its own choosing—Iran,the world’s most dangerous state in the world’s most dangerous region, would obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
Reinvigorating a greater North America is vital to any anti-access strategy against Iran and Hezbollah’s advancement in the Western Hemisphere and to protect the peace and security of the world, the cancer— of the Islamic Republic of Iran—must be removed, before it’s too late!