May 16, 2004 | New York Daily News

Iran’s A Growing Danger In Iraq

Leave it to those wonderful folks in Iran to stir the international terrorist pot.Tehran's mad mullahs have thrown their support behind select Islamic extremists for many years. But a top-secret report prepared by senior Mideast intelligence sources says Iran has recently stepped up its efforts to train and arm a widening range of terrorists, many of whom pose direct threats to Western targets, including in Iraq.

Iran's protégés, new and old, are both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and they hail from all across the Middle East: Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Lebanon. Many are already ensconced in Iranian training camps.

Most of these Iranian-fostered groups are violently anti-American. Some, like Lebanon's Usbat al-Ansar and Iraq's Ansar al-Islam, have direct ties to Al Qaeda.

One terrorist cell from the Palestinian Hamas gang had originally gone to Afghanistan for training, then retreated to Iran after America's Afghan offensive sent its Taliban hosts running.

According to the intelligence sources, Hamas leaders working out of a base in Saudi Arabia instructed the cell to remain in Iran, join forces with militants from Iraq and Lebanon and transfer money and false passports to them. In exchange, the Hamas cell underwent training in Iran in the making and remote activation of explosives.

The Hamas cell members subsequently began running errands for their Al Qaeda comrades. In January, say my sources, they traveled to Sudan to procure more than 600 pounds of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer chemical Al Qaeda likes to use in its explosives. Another Hamas activist rounded up dozens of cell phones to be used for the remote detonation of bombs. The explosive devices were then smuggled from Iran to the Balkans and Greece.

Most frightening of all, my sources say there are indications Hamas is helping Ansar al-Islam develop short-range rockets with which to attack coalition troops in Iraq. These are the same type of Qassem rockets that Hamas has been producing in Gaza and firing at Israeli settlements and towns.

“The coalition's abundance of defensive armor in Iraq,” says one source, “has made it increasingly difficult for Ansar al-Islam to attack stationary targets.”

Qassem-style rockets would help our enemies overcome that difficulty.

A Hamas-financed Qassem workshop, I'm told, has been set up in Iran under the supervision of a Hamas cell leader named Abu Husam, who is a qualified engineer.

Needless to say, Iran is eager not to leave any traces of its involvement in attacks against the U.S.

But Iranian intelligence has quietly helped its terrorist protégés cross over into the United Arab Emirates and return with materials for the rocket project through the Iranian military port of Bandar Abbas.

“According to the Hamas-Al Qaeda plan,” says an intelligence source, “the first rockets are to become operative in Iraq in early June, just before rule is transferred to the Iraqi interim government.”

What was that we were being told recently about the Iranian government's “moderating” its positions?