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 supported 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.
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."
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. Shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, individuals with ties to the Revolutionary Guard attempted to infiltrate southern Iraq, and elements of the Iranian Government 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.
A Shi’ite assassination campaign against former Ba’athists did take place starting in mid-2003. Many of these assassinations were carried forward in a highly professional manner, rather than as frenzy or sloppy revenge attacks. It is correspondingly probable that Iranian intelligence units coordinated with friendly Shi’ite groups to ensure that Ba’athist enemies of Tehran were never in a position for them to cause trouble for Iran again. According to the London-based newsmagazine, The Middle East, Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei put the commander of the al-Quds Force in charge of setting up a network of covert operatives in Iraq as early as September 2002, with the mission of expanding Iranian influence in that country in the aftermath of the invasion.
The ability of Iranian intelligence and paramilitary organizations to function in Iraq was aided by the portion of CPA Order 2 dissolving Iraqi intelligence organizations. This order and the de-Ba’athification order made it difficult, if not impossible, to return key personnel to intelligence duties focused on anti-Iranian counterintelligence and the containment of Iranian power.
RGC-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 was 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.
The US State and Defense Departments cautioned President Donald Trump against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. The White House has been weighing designating the IRGC – the elite arm of Iran’s security forces -- and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as "Foreign Terrorist Organizations". But Trump did not sign executive orders on the issue after US national security agencies warned the president about the consequences of such a move.
Trump was told that designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization would create serious problems for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is receiving assistance from both the US military and the IRGC in his fight against the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group. In addition, US national security agencies are also concerned that American military and embassy personnel in Iraq could be targeted after such an action from the United States.