Despite dissent among top Iranian leaders, Tehran appears to be now throwing its weight behind Gaddafi’s regime rather than the rebels. Iran hopes the West gets bogged down in Libya and can’t pursue Syria or Iran's own nuclear program.
Has the armed intervention in Libya led to a secret alliance between Iran and the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? Some Western intelligence services believe it has. With Tehran worried about the consequences of a successful American and European military action in North Africa, some believe Iranian leaders are trying to help Gaddafi's army better resist the NATO mission.
In May, Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei ordered the Quds force of the Guardians of the Islamic revolution, the country's ideological army, to provide military aid to Gaddafi's regime and his war against what Tehran considers the axis of evil: the U.S., France and Britain.
The plan includes weapons transfers, including surface-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles, as well as grenade launchers used against Libyan rebels. There are members of the Quds force based in Algeria and Sudan, who have been put in charge of these transfers. According to Western sources, hundreds of them have entered Libya, traveling all the way to the Egyptian border.
Hosain Taeb, head of the intelligence service in Tripoli, says he is in charge of a small team of high-ranking army commanders from the Guardians of the Islamic revolution. Their mission is to advise the Libyan regime about the surveillance of communication networks and intelligence services.
Moreover, the Iranian regime allegedly advised Gaddafi on how to hide military equipment on civilian sites. The supreme leader's directive states that NATO's air strikes in these places would enable Tripoli to answer back by "propaganda attacks that would weaken the attackers."
The sources add that Khamenei's strategy consists in "keeping" the Western players in Libya as long as it weakens their capacity to react to the crackdown in Syria, a major ally for Iran in the Middle East. According to these sources, Iran is trying to take advantage of uprisings in the Arabic world, weakening the West's position in the Middle East and hoping it can divert attention of the international community from its nuclear program.
Since April, the US has accused the Syrian regime of seeking help from Iran in order to crush demonstrations, saying it provided police with equipment and know-how about implementing Internet censorship. Following the accusations, the European Union implemented sanctions against three high ranking Iranian army officials on June24th.
The EU points the finger at Mohammad Jaafari, a Quds officer, Qassem Soleimani and Hosain Taeb for "providing help to the Syrian regime during the repression of the demonstrations."
Balance of power with Saudi Arabia
In the wake of the Arab Spring, Tehran's regional maneuvers increased tensions between Iran, a Shiite country and predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia. Worried about Iran's ambitions, Gulf Stated intervened in Bahrain in March to help contain a mainly Shiite uprising.
Iran's aid to the Libyan leader, as it is described by the western sources, could be considered paradoxical. On several occasions, political and religious leaders have shown their support to the Libyan opposition, while at the same time describing NATO's military intervention as neocolonialism. Historically speaking, relations between Gaddafi and the Mullah regime have always been rankled. Iran blames Gaddafi for the kidnapping and disappearance of Lebanese Shiite religious leader Moussa Al-Sadr in Libya in the 1970's.
For this reason, Western sources say the decision to help the Libyan leader triggered disagreement within the ranks of the Iranian regime, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supporting the uprising.
By helping the Libyan regime, Iran could remind Western nations of just how influential it can, as it demonstrated during the war in Afghanistan when it was accused of providing weapons and bombs to the Taliban.
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