Iran’s Forward Operating Base against the U.S.
By Thomas Quiggin
Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.
Iran and its Islamist regime is currently making a major effort to expand its footprint in Canada. Their aim is to use American’s northern neighbour as a “forward operating base” for influence operations against the American government. In a recent video, Hassan Abbasi, a leadership figure in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was boasting about a “guerilla movement of Iranian agents living and working in the United States.” Iran, he says, is leading a clandestine army of potential martyrs within the US.
This does not seem to be an isolated event. Iranian diplomat Hamid Mohammadi said in 2012 there were many Iranian-Canadians “working in influential government positions” and called on others to “occupy high-level and key positions.”
Given Iran’s history of exporting violence and terrorism, that Iranians on both sides of the border are discussing how they are infiltrating North America should be of concern.
Iran has been forced to recalibrate its efforts during the past decade due to the shifting views of Canadian and American governments. The Obama Administration (2009-2017) gave virtual free rein to Iranian agents of influence. They were supported by a variety of Administration insiders such as Valerie Jarrett. When the Iranian Navy seized ten US Navy sailors and photographed them in humiliating positions, Vice President Joseph Biden described this as “just standard nautical practice”. Predictably, Iran forced a US Navy female sailor to wear a hijab , possibly as a way of showing male dominance over an American female.
The government of Canada had earlier allowed Iranian agents such as Faisal Larijani to build infrastructure and support. This included the Center for Iranian Studies, located in Toronto at 290 Sheppard Ave. W., which was incorporated in January 2008.
When Prime Minister Harper (2006-2015) was elected, governmental support for Iran quickly dropped, culminating in the shuttering of the Iranian Embassy in 2012, using, as the leverage to remove them, the newly enacted “Justice for the Victims of Terrorism Act”.
The current situation has now reversed itself. The newly elected Trump Administration appears to be taking a much harder stand against Iran while Canadian Prime Minster Trudeau is committed to outreach to Iran and a possible re-opening of the Canadian and Iranian Embassies.
Iran remains listed as one of three global state sponsors of terrorism, along with Syria and Sudan, according to the US State Department. Canada also lists the Qods Force as a terrorism entity and states that it “is the clandestine branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for extraterritorial operations, and for exporting the Iranian Revolution through activities such as facilitating terrorist operations.”
In addition, Iran also has one of the most dismal human rights records of any country. Human Rights Watch and others say that the human rights situation in Iran is “dire.” Under the rule of the Ayatollahs, Iranian women confront serious discrimination on issues such as marriage, divorce, and child custody. Women have been sent to jail for publicly speaking out in favor of equal rights for women.
Canada and the Trudeau Government — Unclear Intentions
According to Canada’s former Foreign Minister Stephan Dion (2015-2016), official talks with Iran on re-establishing diplomatic ties have already begun. This is not a surprise; Prime Minister Trudeau campaigned on the issue of doing just that. Some Canadian sanctions against Iran have already been lifted, as of February 2016. Canada also downgraded its warning against all travel to Iran — despite ongoing arrests and the torture of a variety of Canadians and others.
Trudeau’s interest in re-establishing ties with Iran is not new. In 2014, while a Member of Parliament, Justin Trudeau gave an interview to the Montreal-based newspaper Sada al-Mashrek. This paper is openly known to be Khomeinist in nature and supports Iran (as well as Hezbollah). That Trudeau would speak to such a paper in the year before an election suggests he was already reaching out to Iranian regime support in Canada. During this interview, Trudeau also told the paper that he would have a special immigration program that was more open to “Muslims and Arabs.”
Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, was appointed in 2017. Her views seem slightly more nuanced, but there has been no indication that she will not pursue the re-opening of the Canadian embassy in Iran or that of Iran in Canada. A spokesperson for Freeland put it this way in March of 2017:
“We maintain our firm commitment to the human rights of Iranians. We continue to oppose Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, its threats toward Israel, and its ballistic missile program.”
By contrast, she also stated:
“With these amendments to Canadian sanctions against Iran, Canadian companies will now be able to position themselves for new trade opportunities, but we will also maintain rigorous controls on any exports that raise serious proliferation concerns.”
Liberal Member of Parliament Majid Jowhari hosted a delegation of three members of Iran’s parliament in his home. The delegation included MPs Alim Yarmohammadi, Yonathan Betkolia and Mehrdad Lahooti and Ali Bahraini, who is listed as secretary of a development committee. While Joseph Pickerill, a spokesperson for then Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, said that the delegation was not an official visit, such a highly unusual meeting raised eyebrows.
Most recently, the Iran Canada Business Council and Export Quebec hosted a meeting on business opportunities in Iran after the lifting of sanctions. Among those invited to participate in this March 28, 2017 Montreal meeting (by Skype) was Medhi Karbasian, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Industry, Mining and Trade. He is also the Chairman of MIDRO (Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization), all of which appear to have commercial ties to the IRGC. Karbasian, has “a longstanding direct involvement in government companies.”
“His resume reads like a sanctions list — at one point he was board member of UN-sanctioned IRISL; a board member of US- and EU-sanctioned NITC; chairs the US-sanctioned Parsian Bank; and, most importantly perhaps, vice-chairman on Kharazmi’s board as representative of Sepehr Energy Co., a recently formed private energy company controlled by Bank Saderat.”
All offices of Bank Saderat worldwide are considered to be IRGC-designated affiliates.
Iran and its Current Khomeinist Representatives in Canada
Imam Rizvi, of the Jaffari Mosque in Thornhill, Ontario, is one of the leading proponents of the Iranian/Khomeinist ideology in Canada. He speaks to support the government of Iran and believes that the Khomeinist interpretation of Shia Islam is to take precedence over all matters. At a 2012 Carleton University conference, he stated:
“Khomeini had proved that Islam is not just a religion of prayers and personal laws that only deals with matters of divorce and inheritance, rather it is a complete code of life that can govern all aspects of society — spiritual, material, as well as personal, social, economic and political aspects.”
The conference had been run to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and was titled “The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini’s Thoughts.”
Consistent with his Khomeinist masters, Imam Rizvi also believes and advocates that sex with 9-year-old girls is acceptable, as long as it occurs within munqati’ (temporary) or da’im (permanent) marriage. His book on Marriage and Morals in Islam also says that girls/women can be entered into temporary marriages, apparently from the age of nine and upwards. In the eyes of many, ‘temporary marriage’ or muta is another word for prostitution. These muta marriages may be occurring now at the Jaffari Mosque.
One of three schools run by the mysteriously well-funded Jaffari Mosque was also shut down during a 2012 hate crimes investigation. The teaching materials used by the mosque were from Iran (the Al Balagh Foundation) and from the Mostazafan Foundation of New York, which is identified as an arm of the Iranian government. Among its teachings, the mosque’s school suggested that boys should play sports so they can be “physically be ready for jihad whenever the time comes for it.” Girls, on the other hand, were told that they should “stick to hobbies that prepare them to become wives and mothers.”
Iran and Canada: An Awkward Embrace?
Canada and Iran have an unhappy history with respect to the treatment of each other’s citizens. Iran beat, raped and tortured to death in 2003 Canadian citizen and freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi. Her “crime” was being a woman and having taken picture of a demonstration in 2003 in Tehran. Currently, Iran is holding Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, an Iranian-Canadian. He is a member of the Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants and a former adviser to Iran’s Central Bank. He was, by all accounts directly involved in the $1.7 billion cash-for-hostages deal. He was indicted on spying charges in early March 2017.
Canada, on the other hand, still has Mahmoud Reza Khavari Ban. He is believed to be responsible for a $2.6 billion fraud case which he helped orchestrated through several Iranian banks. One of the banks involved, Bank Melli, is believed to be an IRGC/Quds Force front and was involved in funding terrorism activities.
Khavari had been a citizen of Canada since 2005 but returned to Iran shortly after getting his citizenship. The fraud in Iran apparently began in 2007, shortly after his return to his native country. This raises the question of whether Khavari sought Canadian citizenship earlier as a means of having a refuge after defrauding Iran. Either way, Khavari fled back to Canada in 2011 after details of the fraud began to emerge. Khavari’s return and his kid-glove treatment by the government of Canada suggest to some that he must have struck some sort of deal with the government, perhaps in exchange for insider information on the government of Iran or its embassy in Canada.
The Iranian embassy in Canada closed in 2012, not that long after his arrival. No concrete links have been drawn between the two events. Iran, however, still has an Interpol “Red Notice” on Khavari and still wants his extradition as of October 2016.
How Prime Minister Trudeau would handle this case in the event of the reopening of Iran’s Embassy in Ottawa is not clear. It would appear to be a major stumbling block to re-establishing normal relations. For Canada to allow extradition, Iran would have to waive the death penalty that is currently hanging over the head of Mr. Khavari. Iran has executed several other senior executives who were involved in the fraud, so this seems unlikely.
Iran shows every sign of doing a “full court press” on Canada to increase its footprint in Canada and provide it a forward operating base on the border of the USA. The Trudeau government, for its part, has shown both a past and present affinity for dictatorial governments. Trudeau himself says he admires the Government of the Peoples Republic of China and their “basic dictatorship.” He publicly mourned the passing of Cuban President Fidel Castro in an official government statement describing him as “larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century.” He also stated that the Cuban people had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”. The statement made no note of the 60-plus years of dictatorship, Cuba’s brutal suppression of human rights nor its systemic persecution of gays.
Trudeau’s brother and political advisor is Alexandre “Sacha” Trudeau. Sacha Trudeau and the Iranian state-owned PressTV co-produced a fawning documentary entitled, “The New Great Game,” which stated that Iran’s nuclear program is for “defensive” purposes only, serving as an effective “deterrent” against Israeli “aggression” and belligerence. In an earlier documentary (“The Fence”), Sacha Trudeau profiled Zakaria Zubeidi, then leader of the terrorist group Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades portraying him as a Robin Hood-like “leader of the resistance.”
Given the history of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and based on his time in office to date, it appears likely that Iran will increase its influence activities in Canada, a dangerous development for the USA as it moves to confront Iran.
Tom Quiggin, a court qualified expert on terrorism and practical intelligence, is based in Canada.