FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Did British Bomb Attacks in Iran Provoke Hostage Crisis?

TThe abduction of the British computer expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards was carried out partly in revenge for deadly bomb attacks in south-west Iran which Iranian officials blamed on Britain, according to a well-placed source in Baghdad.

The five men were abducted by an Iranian-backed group in 2007 and it is now believed four of them have been killed. The fate of Mr Moore remains unclear. The Iranians orchestrated the abduction through an Iraqi proxy, the Asaib al-Haq, which they largely controlled, the source said.

Their main motive was to obtain prisoners to be used as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib al-Haq, and other imprisoned militants who had split from the movement led by the Shia anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

But the Iranians had a second motive for targeting the British, says the source who, as a member of Mr Sadr’s movement, is well-informed about Asaib al-Haq and its supporters. He says Iran was convinced Britain was backing Arab separatist groups in the Iranian oil province of Khuzestan which had made a series of bomb attacks on civilian targets, killing 28 people and wounding 225 in the two years before the kidnapping of the five Britons in Baghdad. Khuzestan has an Arab minority of two million.

These bombings attracted little attention outside Iran, but were taken very seriously by the Iranians who furiously denounced the US and Britain for supporting small gangs of anti-government militants planting the explosives. The attacks included four blasts in a single day in Ahvaz, the Iranian city across the Shatt al-Arab waterway from Basra, on June 2005, which killed 11 people and wounded 87.

The bombs were planted near government offices and a television station. Targets were evidently chosen without regard for civilian casualties. Iran blamed Britain, and British forces in Basra in particular, for the bombings in Ahvaz. These incidents have never really stopped, the latest being the discovery in May this year of an explosive device in the toilet of an Iranian plane flying out of Ahvaz with 131 people on board which was defused before it blew up. After two bombs exploded in Ahvaz in October 2005, killing six people and wounding at least 100, Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister, Mohammed Hossein Mousapour, said: “Most probably those involved in the explosion were British agents who were involved in the previous incidents in Ahvaz and Khuzestan.” The Foreign Office publicly denied any British involvement for which Iran produced no evidence.

But at the time Mr Moore and his four security guards were kidnapped, America was escalating its own covert war against Iran. Andrew Cockburn revealed in CounterPunch last year in a major exclusive that President George W Bush had asked Congress for $300m (£180m) to destabilise Iran by funding dissident groups.

“The covert activities involved support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organisations,” added the journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker magazine following  up on Andrew Cockburn’s report. He said US special operations forces had been conducting cross-border operations into southern Iran during 2007, seizing members of the al-Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and bringing them back to Iraq for interrogation.

The fate of Mr Moore and the four British men working for the Canadian security company GardaWorld may have been affected by this tit-for-tat secret war between the Americans and the Iranians. “The Iranians did not want to provoke the Americans into an all-out war, so Britain was a useful target as America’s main ally,” said one former Iraqi official. He quoted the old Iraqi saying: “If you don’t dare fight your neighbor, you beat his dog.”

The Foreign Office has been blamed for its conduct of negotiations with the kidnappers, but its officials were faced with a uniquely complicated situation. They had to deal not only with Asaib al-Haq, but with its shadowy Iranian backers and with the Americans, who actually had Qais al-Khazali and other militant leaders in prison.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the Ihe author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail