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Leaked Cables on Iran: Iranian Government Uses Red Crescent to Smuggle Weapons

(October 23, 2008)

Classified U.S. diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contained accounts of the Iranian government using the county's Red Crescent - the Islamic version of the Red Cross - as a cover for its agents in Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. The Iranian informant, with detailed knowledge of the Iranian Red Crescent, also alleged the government was using it to smuggle weapons, in breach of the Red Crescent's strict neutrality.

Thursday, 23 October 2008, 09:20
EO 12958 DECL: 10/23/2018
DUBAI 00000049 001.2 OF 003
CLASSIFIED BY: Ramin Asgard, Director, Iran Regional Presence Office, DOS. REASON: 1.4 (a), (b), (c), (d)

1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 18.

2. (S) Summary and Background: IRPO officer met with [SOURCE REMOVED] on October 15 and 20, 2008 to discuss [DETAILS REMOVED] his knowledge [DETAILS REMOVED] Iran's Ministy of Information and Security (MOIS) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). [NAME REMOVED] stated that, in addition to its standard relief role, the IRC has [DETAILS REMOVED]President Ahmadi-Nejad's election in 2005 ultimately infused the IRC with a more hardline leadership. [DETAILS REMOVED]


4. (C) During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, [NAME REMOVED] stated Iran's military used ICR cover to enter Iraq and inspect Iranian prisoners of war held in Iraq. Subsequently, in the Balkan war, the IRC provided cover to intelligence agents, [DETAILS REMOVED]


5. (S) [DETAILS REMOVED] With the war underway, [NAME REMOVED] says the number of Qods officers seeking IRC cover increased and was between ten and 30. [DETAILS REMOVED] The only actual IRC officers in Iraq were the [DETAILS REMOVED].

6. (S) [DETAILS REMOVED] knew none of the purported IRC members, and concluded that they were not legitimate IRC relief workers and alleged that someone else must have been signing their professional certificates. [NAME REMOVED] recalled being told that IRC identification cards had become more important after US forces had detained Iranian officers carrying IRGC identification cards.


Ahmadi-Nejad's Election and the IRC


8. (S) Per the IRC's regulations, following his election in 2005, President Ahmadi-Nejad was able to appoint four members (out of 16) of the IRC management group. These four [NAMES REMOVED] were opposed to the IRC's leadership and eventually requested its president, Dr. Ahmad Ali Noorbala, to resign. [DETAILS REMOVED] He did so in January 2006 [DETAILS REMOVED] Most of the incoming managers were members of the IRGC or the MOIS. [NAME REMOVED] said that pre-existing members now considered the IRC an agent of the IRGC.

9. (S) [NAME REMOVED] further elaborated on the presence of MOIS officials in the IRC and other government agencies. All government agencies include an MOIS representative [DETAILS REMOVED] [NAME REMOVED] Prior to Ahmadi-Nejad, the IRC official in this position was the sole MOIS representative; afterwards, [NAME REMOVED] said 40 officers at headquarters and 100 officers at the provincial officers came from the MOIS.

10. (S) [DETAILS REMOVED] in line with Ahmadinejad's government-wide directive, that all employees pass a counterintelligence course. [NAME REMOVED] indicated that such a course violated the principles of the IRC because Red Cross/Red Crescent organizations are supposed to be independent from the state.

11. (S) In addition to the personnel moves, [DETAILS REMOVED] The IRC under Dr. Noorbala had resisted the IRGC's request to take responsibility for relief and rescue operations. [DETAILS REMOVED] the IRGC's Basij forces to assume responsibility for relief and rescue. [DETAILS REMOVED]

12.(S) In 2007, the IRC's budget was granted an additional $200 million to acquire helicopters. The IRC, [DETAILS REMOVED] ordered 20 Russian MI-17 helicopters. Five of these were delivered to the IRC, the remaining 15 went to the IRGC. A similar helicopter order was planned for 2008. (Note: [NAME REMOVED] indicated that [NAME REMOVED] is the only Iranian entity allowed to import helicopters and that it is owned by the IRGC and MOIS.)

13.(S) [NAME REMOVED] has invested in three Iranian companies backed by the IRGC and Defense Ministry. The first, owned by the Defense Ministry, produces chemical weapons protective equipment; it had been defunct prior to the infusion of IRC funds. The second, owned by the IRGC, produces pre-fabricated military commands and mobile hospitals. The third, owned by the Defense Ministry, produces armored personnel carriers.

14.(C) Finally, the IRC [DETAILS REMOVED] began building health clinics in Karbala, Najaf, Hilla, Kazemayn, and Basra and awarded the construction contracts to IRGC companies, despite the IRC's own staff of qualified engineers. [NAME REMOVED] said the clinics would be used for treatment but also as warehouses for military equipment or military bases if needed. He noted that the Iraqi Red Crescent and Iraqi Ministry of Health were not happy with this activity.
Facilitating IRGC Support to Hezbollah


15. (S) The IRC again facilitated the entry of Qods force officers to Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war in summer 2006. Although [NAME REMOVED] did not travel to Lebanon during the conflict, he reiterated that the only true IRC officers dispatched to Lebanon were [DETAILS REMOVED] all others were IRGC and MOIS officials. [NAME REMOVED] further said that the IRC shipments of medical supplies served also to facilitate weapons shipments. He said that IRC [DETAILS REMOVED] had seen missiles in the planes destined for Lebanon when delivering medical supplies to the plane. The plane was allegedly "half full" prior to the arrival of any medical supplies.

16. (S) [NAME REMOVED] also allowed the transfer of an IRC hospital in southern Lebanon to Hezbollah. [NAME REMOVED] said that Hassan Nasrallah had asked Supreme Leader Khamenei to allow Hezbollah to run the hospital during Dr. Noorbala's tenure as IRC president. Although Khamenei acquiesced, Dr. Noorbala prevented the transfer until his own departure. The hospitaL [DETAILS REMOVED] is under Hezbollah control. [NAME REMOVED] is allegedly close to Nasrallah and is also trying to create a network of medical clinics in Lebanon.

17. (S) Comment: [NAMES REMOVED] are examples of figures nominally within the Iranian government establishment who have taken courageous stands against IRGC and MOIS incursions into Iranian governance. Such figures are key to our ability to understanding and countering the malign activities of these organizations regionally.

Sources: Wikileaks