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Qods Force / Sepah-e Qods / Qods Corps / Jerusalem Corps

The foreign operations by the Guardians, which also encompass the activities of Hizballah and Islamic Jihad - are usually carried out through the Committee on Foreign Intelligence Abroad and the Committee on Implementation of Actions Abroad. As with agents of Ministry of Intelligence, Pasdaran personnel operate through front companies and non-governmental organizations, employees or officials of trading companies, banks, cultural centers or as representatives of the Foundation of the Oppressed and Dispossessed (Bonyade-e- Mostafazan), or the Martyrs Foundation.

The Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is responsible for extra-territorial operations, including terrorist operations. The Qods Force‘s national headquarters are in the southwestern city of Ahvaz. In January 2008, Iran‘s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) decided to increase the personnel strength of the Quds to 15,000. Current force strength data for the Quds [part of the IRGC] are not available. The IRGC-QF is the Government of Iran’s primary foreign action arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist organizations and extremist groups around the world. The IRGC-QF provides training, logistical assistance and material and financial support to militants and terrorist operatives, including the Taliban, Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

The Office of Liberation Movements established a Gulf Section tasked with forming a Gulf Battalion as part of the Jerusalem Forces. In April 1995 a number of international organizations linked to international terrorism -- including the Japanese Red Army, the Armenian Secret Army, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party -- were reported to have met in Beirut with representatives of the Iraqi Da'wah Party, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, Hizballah, Iran's "Office of Liberation Movements," and Iran's Guardians of the Revolution. Tehran's objective was to destabilize Arab Gulf states by supporting fundamentalists with military, financial, and logistical support. Members of these and other organizations receive military training at a Guardians of the Revolution facility some 100 kilometers south of Tehran. A variety of of training courses are conducted at the facility for fundamentalists from the Gulf states, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon, including naval operations, mines, and diving operations in a special camp near the Orontes River.

The State Department asserts that Iran supports the Lebanese Hizballah, as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, groups labeled as foreign terrorist organizations that are active in Israel. Hizballah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qasim appeared to confirm the importance of Iran to his organization during a late-July 2004 ceremony in the town of Tulin, when he said "We must stand side by side against the Israeli enemy, because Lebanon's strength is part of Syria's strength, and Iran's support and [Hizballah's] support for Palestine are an honor for us."

In January of 2002 - Israeli forces seized a Tonga-registered vessel, and found onboard 83 canisters - which were hidden in crates and among other cargo - and filled with 50 tons of weapons - including surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank mines. Intelligence reports indicate the likely involvement of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in facilitating this large arms transfer to other terrorist groups.

Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2003: Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Ministry of Intelligence and Security personnel were involved in planning and support for terrorist acts. Although Iran detained al-Qaida operatives in 2003, it refused to identify senior members in custody. Tehran continued to encourage anti-Israel activities, both operationally and rhetorically, providing logistic support and training to Lebanese Hizballah and a variety of Palestinian rejectionist groups.

During 2003, Iran maintained a high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli activity, both rhetorically and operationally. Supreme Leader Khamenei praised Palestinian resistance operations, and President Khatami reiterated Iran's support for the "wronged people of Palestine" and their struggles. Matching this rhetoric with action, Iran provided Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian rejectionist groups -- notably HAMAS, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command -- with funding, safehaven, training, and weapons. Iran hosted a conference in August 2003 on the Palestinian intifadah, at which an Iranian official suggested that the continued success of the Palestinian resistance depended on suicide operations.

Iran pursued a variety of policies in Iraq aimed at securing Tehran's perceived interests there, some of which ran counter to those of the Coalition. Iran has indicated support for the Iraqi Governing Council and promised to help Iraqi reconstruction.

Shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, individuals with ties to the Revolutionary Guard may have attempted to infiltrate southern Iraq, and elements of the Iranian Government have helped members of Ansar al-Islam transit and find safehaven in Iran. In a Friday Prayers sermon in Tehran in May 2003, Guardian Council member Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati publicly encouraged Iraqis to follow the Palestinian model and participate in suicide operations against Coalition forces.

Anonymous sources in the Israeli defense establishment said that Iranian involvement in terrorism in the occupied territories increased after 2001. These activities mostly were run through Hizballah in Lebanon and, between 2002 and 2004 Hizballah had tripled or even quadrupled the scope of its operations in the territories. The threat to Israel from rockets provided to Hizballah by Iran and Syria has grown, both in range and quantity. Iran is supplying an array of rockets by air and sea and overland from Syria, while both countries are providing logistical support and training as well. Israeli Defense Forces intelligence chief Major-General Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash said on 2 September 2004, "we are dealing with a threat on the northern front. That also means Hizballah and Iran, as well as Syria."

IRGC-QF officers and their associates have supported attacks against U.S. and allied troops and diplomatic missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The IRGC-QF continues to train, equip and fund Iraqi Shia militant groups – such as Kata'ib and Hizballah – and elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan to prevent an increase in Western influence in the region. In the Levant, the IRGC-QF supports terrorist groups such as Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas, which it views as integral to its efforts to challenge U.S. influence in the Middle East.

The Government of Iran also uses the IRGC and IRGC-QF to implement its foreign policy goals, including, but not limited to, seemingly legitimate activities that provide cover for intelligence operations and support to terrorist and insurgent groups. These activities include economic investment, reconstruction, and other types of aid to Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, implemented by companies and institutions that act for or on behalf of, or are owned or controlled by, the IRGC and the Iranian government.

A primary focus for the Qods Force is training Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups. The Qods Force has conducted training activities in Iran and in Sudan. The Qods Force is also responsible for gathering information required for targeting and attack planning. The Pasdaran has contacts with underground movements in the Gulf region, and Pasdaran members are assigned to Iranian diplomatic missions, where, in the course of routine intelligence activities they monitor dissidents. Pasdaran influence has been particularly important in Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

Many U.S. experts believe that the Quds forces have provided significant transfers of weapons to Shi‘ite (and perhaps some Sunni) elements in Iraq. These may include the shaped charge components used in some IEDs [improvised explosive devices] in Iraq and the more advanced components used in explosively formed projectiles, including the weapon assembly, copper slugs, radio links used to activate such devices, and the infrared triggering mechanisms. These devices were very similar to those used in Lebanon, and some seem to operate on the same radio frequencies. Shaped charge weapons first began to appear in Iraq in August 2003, but became a serious threat in 2005. In January 2008, Iran‘s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) decided to place all Iranian operations in Iraq under the command of the Quds forces. Qods provided support to three extremist Shi`a groups: Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Kataib Hizb Allah (KH), and the Promised Day Brigades (PDB).

By 2007 the Qods Force was the Iranian regime’s primary instrument for providing lethal support to the Taliban. The Qods Force provided weapons and financial support to the Taliban to support anti-U.S. and anti-Coalition activity in Afghanistan. Since at least 2006, Iran has arranged frequent shipments of small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, plastic explosives, and probably man-portable defense systems to the Taliban. This support contravenes Chapter VII UN Security Council obligations. UN Security Council resolution 1267 established sanctions against the Taliban and UN Security Council resolutions 1333 and 1735 imposed arms embargoes against the Taliban. Through Qods Force material support to the Taliban, Iran sought to inflict casualties on U.S. and NATO forces.

In October 2007 the US government announced sanctions on the Qods Force, accusing the organisation of providing material support to the Taliban, Lebanese Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC). In a statement, the US Department of the Treasury said that the Qods Force was the Iranian regime‘s primary instrument for providing lethal support to the Taliban.

The largest branch of Pasdaran foreign operations consists of as many as 12,000 Arabic speaking Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis, Lebanese shi'ites and North Africans who trained in Iran or received training in Afghanistan during the Afghan war years. These foreign operatives have received training in Iran, Sudan and Lebanon, and include the Hizballah ["Party of Allah"] intelligence, logistics and operational units in Lebanon [Hizballah is primarily a social and political rather than military organization]. The second largest Pasdaran foreign operations related to the Kurds (particularly Iraqi Kurds), while the third largest related to the Kashmiri's, the Balouchi's and the Afghans.

The Pasdaran has also supported the establishment of Hizballah branches in Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and Palestine, and the Islamic Jihad in many other Moslem countries including Egypt, Turkey, Chechnya and in Caucasia. Hizballah has been implicated in the counterfeiting of U.S. dollars and European currencies, both to finance its operations and to disrupt Western economies by impairing international trade and tourism.

Qasem Soleimani (a.k.a. Qassem Soleimani, aka Qasim Soleimany, aka Kazem Soleimani), the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), was born 11 March 1957. He has been nicknamed by Western media sources as the Shadow Commander because of his clandestine military operations, his behind-the-scenes political achievements in Iraq, and his inconspicuous demeanor.

Since at least 2003, Brigadier General Qasem Soleimani was the point man directing the formulation and implementation of the IRIG's Iraq policy, with authority second only to Supreme Leader Khamenei. Through his IRGC-QF officers and Iraqi proxies in Iraq, notably Iranian Ambassador and IRGC-QF associate Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, Soleimani employed the full range of diplomatic, security, intelligence, and economic tools to influence Iraqi allies and detractors in order to shape a more pro-Iran regime in Baghdad and the provinces.

Soleimani enjoyed long-standing close ties with several prominent GOI officials, including President Talabani, Vice-President Adel Abdal-Mahdi (ISCI), Prime Minister Maliki (Da'wa), former PM Jaafari, and Speaker Samarra'i. Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad, Speaker Larijani, and former president Rafsanjani consulted regularly with visiting GOI officials as part of the IRIG's broader "strategic" council of advisers seeking to influence the GOI. Following the GOI's crackdown on Iranian-supported Sadrist militias in Basrah during the "Charge of the Knights" operation in March 2008, Iran recalibrated its operations in Iraq to encompass more "soft power" (economic, religious, educational) support and investment as part of a broader "hearts and minds" campaign.

As IRGC-QF Commander, Qasem Soleimani oversees the IRGC-QF officers who were involved in the 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir, while he was in the United States and to carry out follow-on attacks against other countries’ interests inside the United States and in another country.

Soleimani was previously designated by the Treasury Department under E.O. 13382 based on his relationship to the IRGC. He was also designated in May 2011 pursuant to E.O. 13572, which targets human rights abuses in Syria, for his role as the Commander of the IRGC-QF, the primary conduit for Iran's support to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate (GID).

Since the beginning of the uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Iran remained a steady backer of Damascus through funding, manpower and weaponry. If Syria were to fall, so would Hizb Allah in Lebanon. A clear sign of Iran's commitment was the dispatch to Syria of Qods Force head Qassem Soleimani, to help Damascus in its efforts to subdue the uprising against it.

The European Union expanded its financial and travel sanctions against Syria in June 2011, and moved to condemn its brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters. Among others, the new sanctions targeted three commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard the EU accused of supporting Mr. Assad's three-month effort to quell dissent in the Arab nation. The Iranians were identified as Major General Qasem Soleimani and Brigadier Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari of the Revolutionary Guard, as well as the guard's deputy commander for intelligence, Hossein Taeb.

In January 2012 senior US officials said Iran was supplying weapons to aid Syria's crackdown in an initiative spearheaded by the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds force. The officials cited Quds chief Ghassem Soleimani's recent visit to Damascus as a concrete example of direct, high-level cooperation between Iran and Syria.

In early June 2014, Sunni militants led by fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant steamrolled through parts of northern Iraq, seizing Mosul, Tikrit and other cities. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, frustrated with leaders of the demoralized Iraqi military, reportedly turned to a top Iranian commander for some advice. Maliki met 15 June 2014 in Baghdad with the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Gen. Ghasem Soleimani. Kurdish sources said the general was drafting a coordination strategy for the Iraqi military. The next day, the prime minister dismissed four of Iraq’s military leaders for failing to perform their “national duty”.

Soleimani masterminded the strategy that contained the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq. Soleimani personally led the battle to lift the siege of Amerli – and his forces’ way was paved by US airstrikes. "General Soleimani allowed himself to be photographed last September on the battlefields of Amerli, clearly sending a message to the West that Tehran was very present," Newsweek later wrote.

Iran, which borders the Iraqi Kurdistan region, was quick to exploit any Iraqi Kurdish disappointment with Ankara. Political columnist Asli Aydintasbas of Turkish newspaper Milliyet noted in September 2014 that "Iran was there, out there offering help. 'Whatever you guys need,' they were at the battlefield. And not just that. That Qasem Soleimani, head of Quds force, was out in the field fighting with the Kurds and being quite visible on the scene means something. This episode marks a comeback for Iran."

Iran had saved the Iraqi government from the threat of collapse by the ISIL Takfiri group, a top commander of Iraq’s volunteer forces said 06January 2015. "If it were not for the cooperation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and [Major] General [Qasem] Soleimani [a commander of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)], we would not today have a government headed by [Iraqi Prime Minister] Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad," Secretary General of Badr Organization Hadi al-Ameri said in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Commander of the IRGC Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani met with Hezbollah leaders in Beirut on 30 January 2015 following an Israeli attack on Hezbollah fighters in Syria’s Quneitra region. General Soleimani held talks in Beirut with Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah and other officials from the Lebanese resistance movement 48 hours after the attack. Senior IRGC commander Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was among those killed in the strike.

The Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps took part in the offensive led by Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani. In an unprecedented move, the Iraqi government and parliament officially requested General Soleimani to oversee the operation by supervising and advising Iraqi forces. Effectively, this means the Iranian general will be commanding the joint Iraqi-Iranian offensive on Tikrit. The Iranian commander, who enjoys a great deal of influence among Shia militias in Iraq, arrived in the vicinity of Tikrit on 28 February 2015 and was received by a large crowd of Iraqi army leaders, soldiers, and Iraqi civilians hailing his presence.

CIA Director John Brennan said 22 March 2015 that Soleimani – and Tehran, at large – could destabilize Iraq even further once the Islamic State is defeated. Brennan called General Soleimani “very aggressive and active,” and expressed fears that he and the Iranian government could forge a close ties with Iraq, only to turn against Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis. "We’re not letting them play that role," Brennan said. "I think they’re working with the Iraqis to play that role. We’re working with the Iraqis, as well." Going further, Brennan said he "wouldn’t consider Iran an ally right now inside Iraq."

Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq in the George W. Bush administration, told VAO in February 2016 that "Anyone who thought that the Iran nuclear deal was going to herald a new era of a gentler, kinder Iran in the region is nuts," he said. "What you’re seeing now in Iraq is the old Iranian playbook that they began to write in the early ’80s."

Crocker indicated that there's a need to foil an expanded Iranian role in Iraq. "Qassem Suleimani, the Iranian Quds Force commander, is seeking to achieve what Iran could not in the 1980s: to gain a definitive victory over Iraq by fragmenting it,” he said. Crocker warned against repeating an American policy mistake from the past: "As the United States withdrew from Iraq, it ceded the battlefield to Iran and its proxies in the center and south, and to ISIS in the west.”

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