Small World

Jewish World Review / Nov. 24, 1998 /5 Kislev, 5759
Will Mandela's dream soon
become a fundamentalist

Iran's Meddling Is a New Danger for South Africa

By Richard Z. Chesnoff

EXTREMISTS SOMETIMES FORGE strange alliances. But one of the weirder ones I've heard of is currently out of Africa.

According to senior intelligence sources, there's been a recent surge in contacts between operatives of Iran's Islamic fundamentalist regime and members of the shadowy South African right-wing white underground that some security circles call the Third Force.

The sources say that four white activists recently returned to South Africa from a secret week-long visit to Iran. The Iranian authorities refrained from stamping their passports so as not to raise suspicions of South African airport police when the quartet arrived home by way of Europe.

The visit, which took the white extremists to Tehran, reportedly was organized by Iranian intelligence following two initial meetings in Mozambique in May between representatives of the South African group and Iran's intelligence bureau.

Potentially the most dangerous of all the revisionist white groups in South Africa, the Third Force draws heavily on remnants of South Africa's old apartheid regime: former army men, retired bureaucrats, security personnel and extremist farmers --- all racists who just won't give up.

Their first goal is to force the majority black administration, led by Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, not only to include whites in all political decisions that the new South Africa makes, but to grant the white minority wide autonomy. The most radical members actually envisage a separate white state.

That's where Iran comes in. Trouble-making Tehran's long-term strategy for Africa includes expanding its fundamentalist influence through the continent's growing Islamic population --- particularly in resource-rich South Africa.

According to intelligence sources, Iranian government strategists believe that if South Africa's extremist white minority continues pressing demands for white autonomy, it could open the door to radical Muslim demands for some form of Islamic autonomy in South Africa --- a development that would give Iran, which already pours substantial money into the community, an even stronger foothold.

The white underground, which has a well-developed operational infrastructure and keeps both the identity and location of its members secret, is thought to have a large store of various types of weapons and forged documents. The sources say the South African government now fears a supply of new arms from Iran to the white extremists and an increase in Iranian financed or sponsored terror.

Adding to the potential for mayhem is growing evidence that the Third Force has already managed to infiltrate an alarming number of South Africa's security bodies, including the National Intelligence Agency.

Of prime concern to Mandela's circle of ANC leaders is the growing fear that extremists will carry out armed violence before South Africa's parliamentary elections scheduled between May and July of next year.

Nonetheless, South African authorities have carefully refrained from publishing data on the full scope of the Third Force's activities for fear it may encourage other extremists --- not to mention exposing the Pretoria government's ineptitude in quashing it. No one has breathed a word publicly of the new Iranian connection.

If I were them, I wouldn't keep quiet. I'd shout protests and warnings from the rooftops!

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News.


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