IRANIAN REGIME’S BALKANS-CENTERED EFFORTS UNDER SCRUTINY
INU – The U.S. State Department recently released Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. It reads, “Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2016, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps‑Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. Iran has acknowledged the involvement of the IRGC-QF in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
The report, however, does not mention the Iran’s terrorist activities in Europe. which have largely remained unaddressed, while it advances its presence and resources in Europe, especially in the Balkans.
In 2016, when an Iranian cleric in Kosovo was charged with financing terrorism and money-laundering through a nominally non-governmental organization he operated, the Iranian regime’s Balkans-centered efforts came under scrutiny. Hasan Azari Bejandi,, ran five Shi’ite organizations with links toTehran, according to Kosovar authorities. He was charged on July 26, 2016.
The Al-Mustafa International University, headed by Ayatollah Alireza Aarafi, a member of Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution and a Friday Prayers leader in the holy city of Qom, appears to be affiliated with an umbrella group for the Iranian regime in Europe, including Kosovo. Al-Mustafa International University is reported to be owned and run by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Germany last week, non-government organizations and the German media warned the government about the activities of Al-Mustafa-linked organizations in the country. Katarina Barley, the Federal Family Minister in Germany, was alerted about an Al-Mustafa workshop in Germany that was wrongly funded under the guise of a workshop of the Islamic Community of the Shiite Communes of Germany (IGS) by her ministry. She called the event off.
The news media in the Balkans reported on March 9, that American security agencies saw expanding activities from Iranian intelligence services over the Balkan area.
A report compiled by The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) warning of increased activities of Iranian intelligence services in Bosnia and Herzegovina, contains around 650 names of members, mostly from of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). The report is mainly based on information gathered by the Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and covers 15 years of Iranian intelligence agents’ activities.
First on the list of Iranian intelligence agents according to the report, is Hassan Jawad, Deputy Minister of Intelligence in Tehran. Jawad was the IRGC chief for southeastern Europe, and then became head of the Department of Central Asia and the Caucasus, according to OSA, during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. He is also a member of the Iranian-Bosnian Friendship Association Board of Directors, but is allegedly active in intelligence work and recruiting.
Iran began extending its influence in Bosnia back in 1990 as communism collapsed in Yugoslavia. Iranian spies were said to have been seen visiting the jihadist colony at Gornja Maoča in northeastern Bosnia. Despite police raids, the colony has reportedly operated as training camp for jihad-minded radicals.
Albania appears to be another Balkan country that Iran has targeted. Reza Shafa, an Iran expert, has called it a “a foothold in the European continent.” As in Bosnia, Iran has allegedly attempted infiltration of Albania by setting up “charities” and “cultural organizations” that serve as front organizations for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence.
Despite its efforts, Iran draws is gaining little foothold within the general population. Albania’s government and Parliament were in unanimous agreement to allow a large number of members of Iran’s democratic opposition group, MEK, to settle in Albania last year.
The international community must be vigilant and join the U.S. sanctions against the IRGC, especially in Europe.
Iran Briefing | News Press Focus on Human Rights Violation by IRGC, Iran Human Rights