November 20, 2017

Inside Iran’s secretive Qods Force

Claude Salhani

Since 2003 Iran has spent billions of dollars in Iraq, mobilized vast government resources and unleashed the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, all in an effort to spread its hegemony and the Islamic revolution, according to sources in the Iranian resistance. In a speech U.S. President George W. Bush delivered on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the president called Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.” Bush said the Islamic republic “sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world, while its own people face repression and economic hardship at home.” He said Iran was seeking “to intimidate its neighbors with ballistic missiles and bellicose rhetoric.”

Speaking at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Bush spoke to an audience made up of carefully selected government officials, students and academics about broader democracy in the Middle East, calling for reforms and proclaiming a “new era “founded on the equality of all people before God.”

One of the U.S. president’s objectives on this trip was to garner support against Iran, whose Revolutionary Guards nearly clashed with U.S. Navy units in the Strait of Hormuz last week.

The Qods Force, a part of the IRGC, is commanded by Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who reports directly to the regime’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This is an indication of the importance the Islamic republic gives the force. Brig. Gen. Ahmed Foruzandeh is the No. 2 commander in the Qods Force and the commanding officer of the Ramazan garrison in western Iran, tasked with Iraqi affairs.

The Ramazan garrison has four tactical bases:
— Fajr garrison in the southwestern city of Ahwaz
— Zafar garrison in the western city of Kermanshah
— Raad and Nasser garrisons in the northwestern cities of Marivan and Naqadeh.

These bases provide logistic support for Qods Force operations in Iraq.

In January 2007 Foruzandeh and Jafari Sahraroudi traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan to coordinate and brief Qods Force’s surrogate terrorist groups in Iraq. They reportedly were among the list of those Qods Force officers and operatives targeted for arrest by U.S. forces during a raid last January in Arbil. The two, however, were reportedly tipped off by informants within the Iraqi security apparatus and managed to evade arrest.

Formed in 1990, the Qods (Jerusalem) Force is the most secretive, elite, and skilled unit of the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Driven by Islamist fundamentalist ideology, the unit is considered to be the most sophisticated, well-funded state-sponsored terrorist outfit in the world, say sources in the Iranian resistance.

“It is Tehran’s primary vehicle for conducting terrorism,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, author of author of “The Iran Threat,” and who is close to the anti-mullah resistance, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq.

The force is headquartered in the former site of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the shah, 52 U.S. diplomats were detained for 444 days.

“The Qods Force was originally called the Lebanon Corps, which engineered the suicide truck bomb attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in October 1983,” said Jafarzadeh. The attack, considered to be the largest ever non-nuclear explosion at the time, killed 241 U.S. service personnel.

The Qods Force is made up of 12 directorates. Additionally, it has several international affairs units tasked with affairs in other countries. Non-Iranian operatives are trained in dozens of garrisons across Iran. Those include:

— Imam Ali training base located north of Tehran
— Khomeini training base near Pakdasht Township
— Bahonar base near Karaj dam.

The Qods Force has six major garrisons along Iran’s borders. The Ramazan garrison in Kermanshah (west) is tasked with operations in Iraq.

Qods Force in Iraq

In recent months the Qods Force has mainly focused on Iraq, which Jafarzadeh says it is viewed by the regime in Tehran “as the gateway to reach the rest of the Islamic world.” The most senior IRGC generals, as well as thousands of personnel, are based in Ramadan garrison. Intelligence and reconnaissance for the Qods Force is set up in Fajr garrison in the southwestern city of Ahwaz. A number of special squads have been established to collect intelligence on coalition forces. Fajr garrison commanders repeatedly travel to al-Amarah, Nassiriya, and Basra to make contact with their surrogate groups, according to information provided to the Middle East Times by Iranian opposition forces. The Fajr Garrison is sub-ordinate to Ramazan garrison.

Qods Force and Tehran’s Embassy in Iraq

The Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, according to resistance sources, has played a major role in Tehran’s overall plan in Iraq’s turmoil since 2003.

“Hassan Kazemi Qomi is a top ranking Qods Force commander with a long record of service both in Afghanistan and Lebanon,” said Jafarzadeh, who added that the Qods Force has a separate section in the embassy in Baghdad, and Qomi has his own team. Bush has recently designated the Qods Force “a terrorist organization,” under Executive Order 13224, for providing material support to terrorists.

Says Jafarzadeh: “It is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists and Islamic militants to advance Iranian national interests. The Qods Force provides training, weapons, and financial support to surrogate groups and terrorist organizations including: Lebanese Hezbollah; Palestinian terrorists; Iraqi Shiite militant groups; the Taliban and Islamic militants in Afghanistan, the Balkans and elsewhere. The Qods Force plays a central — yet often hidden — role in security interests, including Iraq and Afghanistan.” Jafarzadeh said, “Qods Force officers often use various cover mechanisms — including diplomatic, non-governmental organization, humanitarian, and media.

Last week, the al-Sharqiya satellite television station quoted a senior Iraqi security official as saying that “IRGC command has formed special units and has deployed new commanders in order to carry out extensive operations inside Iraq.” The Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added: “The new units named ‘special battalions’ are in direct contact with Brigadier General Ghassem Suleimani, Iran’s IRGC commander for the Qods Force and his senior deputies.

“The information obtained by the Iraqi security forces and Multi-National Force in Iraq shows that these units have been trained to attack the Awakening Councils in Iraq as their main targets,” the report said.

Last Monday terrorists were reported to have kidnapped eight Awakening Council members and killed 14 other people in Baghdad attacks. The kidnappings are the latest of several recent attacks on Awakening Councils many of whom are recruited by the U.S. military’s “Concerned Local Citizens Program” to work against al-Qaida in Iraq and other militias.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Ali Hosseini dismissed Bush