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Iran: Leaders clash on arming foreign militants, 'trading drugs for arms'

last update: July 26, 12:23

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Tehran, 26 July (AKI) - The power struggle between Iran's leadership is a clash of goals including president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opposition to the practice of spreading Iranian power abroad by arming Iraqi militias and trading drugs for arms with Afghanistan's Taliban, according to an unnamed Iranian source working in the country's Foreign Ministry.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei aims to "reinforce political economic and military logistical" support with regional allies, while president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is challenging the role of his political rival by focusing on "nationalism," the source told Adnkronos International in an interview.

Khamenei's use of national power includes waging asymmetric warfare by swapping weapons for drugs with Afghan Taliban insurgents and giving military training to Iraqi Shia militias, a strategy Ahmadinejad is against, the source said.

Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have been on collision course for some time. The president has seen a number of his allies arrested during the months of friction between conservatives aligned with hard-lined clerics and Ahmadinejad.

The Khamenei entourage doesn't like Ahmadinejad's "exasperating" nationalism which is viewed as an attempt to change the Supreme Leader's powers, according to the source.

"Ahmadinejad is trying to reduce Iran's logistical support of Shia militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan," he said.

At Khamenei's disposal are the Iranian Revolutionary Guards - a branch of the military - and the Baij militia - a volunteer force called on to enforce security for the government - by calling on his second son Mojtaba Khamenei's close relationship with the armed organisations.

"Behind the supplying of arms to the Taliban and Shia militia's in Iraq are leading figures of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards," the source told AKI. Iran officially denies arming both groups.

"I can confirm that Mojtaba Khamenei has the ability to influence most of the political-military forces in Iran. He's very opposed to the president," he said.

In Afghanistan the Revolutionary Guard's commanders use their influence to ''exchange drugs for arms" with Taliban forces who operate in the country with the world's highest opium production, the source said.

"A large part of the narcotics trafficking between Afghanistan and Iran is overseen by Revolutionary Guard generals," he told AKI, declining to give names.

In Iraq figures close to Khamenei give military training and furnish arms to Shia militias loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, who in 2003 formed the Mahdi Army paramilitary force that battled American troops.

Khamenei fears he is losing religious influence on Iraqi Shias so "the only way to have some control over the (Iraqi) movement is to give some form of military and economic aid. The Revolutionary Guards' aim is to strengthen the Shias to transform it into an important political ally and construct a front against the Salafites," the source said, referring to rival Sunni movement in Iraq.

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