Reprinted from NewsMax.com
WASHINGTON -- Iranians aregoing for the gold - at least until someone else cuts them off.
To forestall an effort by the West to seize Iranian assets inEurope, the Iranian leadership decided last fall to begin a massive,secret repatriation of its international currency reserves, accordingto Central Bank of Iran documents.
The documents were obtained by an Iranian opposition group andshared with Newsmax.
The documents detail eight shipments in chartered jumbo jetsfrom Zurich's Kloten airport. The shipments, from October throughlate November, brought 250 tons of gold bullion from the vaults ofSwiss banks to Tehran.
The gold was purchased by Bank Markazi (the Central Bank ofIran) from Credit Suisse in Zurich, the documents showed.
Three of the eight flights attracted the attention of amateuraircraft spotters, because the planes were painted in the distinctivelivery of Iran Air, which rarely flies into Zurich.
The spotters noted a 747-200 at the airport on Oct. 24, 2005,and an Airbus A-300 that made two rotations, on Nov. 14 and Nov. 23.They provided that information to Jetstream, a glossy,German-language monthly published in Zurich.
Other chartered aircraft handled five additional rotations,before word of the shipments leaked out. Each plane transportedbetween 28-35 tons of gold, although the 747-200, initially designedas a freighter, could have taken as much as 100 tons of cargo,according to Boeing.
Iran's leadership wanted to purchase 700 tons of gold,according to the Organization of the People's Fedaii Guerillas ofIran (OPFGI), a communist opposition group that obtained the CentralBank documents.
However, their secret effort to convert Iran's foreign currencyholdings into gold appears to have stopped when word leaked outearlier this year.
The gold is now being held in the vaults of the Bank Markazi inTehran, the group said.
A Credit Suisse spokesman, Andres Luther, told Newsmax by phonefrom Zurich that it was bank policy not to comment on its clients.However, if the bank had shipped gold to Iran last autumn, "I canassure you that we fulfilled all the reporting requirements the statedemands of us."
Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second largest bank, announced onJan. 23 that it would no longer accept new business in Iran or Syria.Mr. Luther said the bank's decision was not in response to U.S.pressure, as previously reported.
"We made this decision on our own after looking at developmentsin the region and assessing the increased economic risks for our bankand for our clients of doing business in Iran," he said.
The asset repatriation plan was set into motion just weeksafter former Revolutionary Guards officer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tookover as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran last August.
The decision was made during a strategic planning session oftop regime leaders in Tehran, who were examining Iran's options inthe nuclear face-off with the West.
The meeting was chaired by Supreme Leader ayatollah AliKhamenei, and included top intelligence officials, strategists andformer president Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the so-called"moderate" that Ahmadinejad beat in the presidential run-off electionin the summer.
According to minutes of the meeting, obtained by the OPFGI, theregime leaders concluded that the Bush administration had beenweakened by the war in Iraq, and needed Iran's help if it wanted towithdraw from Iraq.
They also concluded that the decision of Prime Minister ArielSharon to leave the Likud party and create a new center-leftcoalition had weakened Israel.
Iran's leaders surveyed their own allies around the world –in particular, terrorist groups – and felt confident in theirability to inflict severe pain on the United States and Israel, ifnecessary.
"The minutes mentioned, by name, Lebanon's Hezbollah, Hamas,Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as Ansar al Islam, Jeish Mohammad,Jeish al Mehdi, and the Sepah al-Badr as Islamic Republic allies," anOPFGI spokesman told Newsmax.
U.S. news accounts refer to "Jeish al Mehdi" as the "MehdiArmy," the milita controlled by renegade Shiite cleric Muqtadaal-Sadr. The Badr Army (or Badr Brigade) is controlled by the SupremeCouncil of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
Both militias receive extensive support from Iran.
The minutes also mentioned as Iranian allies Saudi Shiiteorganizations, and Muslim radicals in Afghanistan and Thailand, theOPFGI said.
After making this world tour, the Iranian leadership determinedthat it had little to gain from continuing a dialog with the EuropeanUnion over its disputed nuclear programs.
"They felt that Europe was less important than before, and thatthe Europeans would be unable to impose any real pain" on Iran shouldthe regime break off dialog, an OPFGI spokesman told Newsmax by phonefrom Europe.
Shortly afterwards, in early September, the InternationalAtomic Energy Agency found new evidence that Iran had receiveduranium enrichment equipment from the black market of Pakistaniscientist A.Q. Khan, and the confrontation between Iran and theinternational community over its nuclear program began inearnest.
As a backstop, the leaders decided they should begin todisperse and repatriate the liquid assets they held overseas, in theunlikely event the international community decided to impose economicsanctions on Iran for its nuclear intransigence.
In addition to giving the orders to convert foreign currencyholdings to gold and to repatriate them from Switzerland, the leadersalso gave orders to Iran's central bankers to move cash accounts fromEurope into Arab and Russian banks, which they felt would be lessimmune to Western pressure, according to the minutes.
The asset relocation plan became public on Jan. 20, just oneday after French President Jacques Chirac threatened to use Frenchnuclear weapons against Iran should Tehran launch a major terroristattack.
Central Bank governor Ebrahim Sheibani announced on Jan. 21that his government had started to shift Iran's overseas holdingsfrom Europe to countries in southeast Asia.
Commenting on Sheibani's announcement, a State Departmentspokesman said the Iranian move was "a sign of Tehran's growingisolation" over its nuclear program, and was an attempt to protectits assets should the United Nations impose sanctions on Iran.
Jeffrey Christian, managing director of CPM Group, which tracksthe flow and pricing of gold, told Newsmax that the reports of 250tons of gold repatriated to Iran late last year "makes sense."
"There has been a tremendous amount of gold going into Iranover the past eight months," he said. "Some of it belongs to theCentral Bank, but part is to satisfy private investment demand."
Since the first quarter of 2003, he added, "we've seen a broadrange of Middle Easterners buying gold for storage outside the MiddleEast, the United States, Europe, or Japan. More people have boughtgold over the past five years than in the entire history ofmankind."
The main repositories of these new gold findings, Christiansaid, were Australian, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.
The Fedaii organization also alleged that in a separate scheme,pro-Iranian Shiites in Iraq looted the Iraqi Central Bank and one ofSaddam Hussein's palaces in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 war,and made off with 200 tons of Swiss-stamped gold bullion.
The Iraqi gold was re-melted in Iran, cast into automobilebumpers, and covered with chrome. Iranian agents drove the cars withthe gold bumpers into Pakistan and Azerbaijan, where they sold thegold to brokers at a 15 percent discount, the group said.
"Sales of this gold are ongoing," sources at the OPFGIsaid.