|Army of the Guardians of
the Islamic Revolution
|Supreme Leader of Iran|
The Quds Force (Persian: نیروی قدس, translit. Niru-ye Qods), (or Qods Force) is a special unit of Iran's Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. The Federation of American Scientists, in a document from 1998, says the primary mission of the Quds Force is to organize, train, equip, and finance foreign Islamic revolutionary movements. It further states that the Quds Force maintains and builds contacts with underground Islamic militant organizations throughout the Islamic world.
The Quds Force was created during the Iran-Iraq war as a special unit from the broader IRGC forces. After the war, Quds Force continued to support the Kurds fighting Saddam Hussein, during the war it had helped the Kurds fight the Iraqi military. The Quds also expanded their operations into other areas, most notably aiding Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance against the Soviets during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and then helping Massoud after the war against Taliban forces. There were also reports of the Quds forces lending support to Muslim Bosnians fighting the Serbs during the Yugoslav wars.
In addition, Dionisi asserts in his book American Hiroshima that the Iranian Quds Force headquarters for operations in Iraq was moved in 2004 to the Iran-Iraq border in order to better supervise activities in Iraq. The Quds Force also has a headquarters based in the former compound of the US Embassy, which was overrun in 1979. In September 2007, a few years after the "American Hiroshima" book was published, General David Petraeus reported to Congress that the Quds Force had left Iraq. Petraeus said, "The Quds Force itself, we believe, by and large those individuals have been pulled out of the country, as have the Lebanese Hezbollah trainers that were being used to augment that activity."
On July 7, 2008, Pulitzer Prize winning author Seymour Hersh wrote an article in the New Yorker revealing that President Bush had signed a Presidential Finding authorizing the CIA's Special Activities Division to conduct cross border paramilitary operations from Iraq and Afghanistan into Iran. These operations would be against al-Quds (AKA Qods Force) and “high-value targets”. “The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups.” 
The Quds force has four main areas of interest:
The size of Quds Force is unknown, with some experts believing that Quds Force numbers no more than 2,000 people, with 800 core operatives, and others saying that it could number anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000.
Mahan Abedin, director of research at the London-based Center for the Study of Terrorism (and editor of Islamism Digest journal), believes the unit is not independent at all: "Quds Force, although it's a highly specialized department, it is subject to strict, iron-clad military discipline. It's completely controlled by the military hierarchy of the IRGC, and the IRGC is very tightly controlled by the highest levels of the administration in Iran."
Quds Force is considered by some analysts as "one of the best special forces units in the world," according to a Los Angeles Times report. In Abedin's view, "[I]t's a very capable force — their people are extremely talented, [and] they tend to be the best people in the IRGC."
The Quds Force trains and equips foreign Islamic revolutionary groups around the Middle East. The para-military instruction provided by the Quds Force typically occurs in Iran or Sudan. Foreign recruits are transported from their home countries to Iran to receive training. The Quds Force sometimes plays a more direct role in the military operations of the forces it trains, including pre-attack planning and other operation-specific military advice.
Iran had supported the Afghan Northern Alliance forces against the Taliban before the US did in its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Iran almost began a war in 1999 with Afghanistan when Taliban forces killed several Iranian officials.
On November 24, 2007 military officials accused an Iranian special group of placing a bomb in a bird box that blew up at a popular animal market in central Baghdad. “The group’s purpose was to make it appear Al Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for the attack,” Admiral Smith said. He further emphasized there was “no evidence Iran ordered the attack.”  In May 2008, Iraq said it had no evidence that Iran was supporting militants on Iraqi soil. Al-Sadr spokesman Al-Ubaydi said the presence of Iranian weapons in Iraq is "quite normal," since "they are bought and sold and any party can buy them."
In November 2006 , with sectarian violence in Iraq increasing, US Gen. John Abizaid accused Quds Force of supporting "Shi'a death squads" even while the government of Iran pledges support in stabilization. Similarly, in July 2007, Major General Kevin Bergner of the U.S. Army alleged that members of the Quds Force aided in the planning of a raid on U.S. forces in the Iraqi city of Karbala in January 2007.
On December 24, 2006, American newspaper The New York Times reported that at least four Iranians were captured by American troops in Iraq in the previous few days. According to the article, the US government suspected that two of them were members of Quds Force, which would be some of the first physical proof of Quds Force activity in Iraq. According to The Pentagon, the alleged Quds Force members were "involved in the transfer of IED technologies from Iran to Iraq." The two men had entered Iraq legally, although they were not accredited diplomats. Iraqi officials believed that the evidence against the men was only circumstantial, but on December 29, and under US pressure, the Iraqi government ordered the men to leave Iraq. They were driven back to Iran that day. In mid-January 2007 it was said that the two alleged Quds force officers seized by American forces were Brig. Gen. Mohsen Chirazi and Col. Abu Amad Davari. According to The Washington Post. Chirazi is the third highest officer of Quds Force, making him the highest-ranked Iranian to ever allegedly be held by the US.
American newspaper The New York Sun reported that the documents described Quds Force as not only cooperating with Shi'a death squads, but also with fighters related to al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sunna. It said that Quds Force had studied the Iraq situation in a similar manner to the US Iraq Study Group, and had concluded that they must increase efforts with Sunni and Shiite groups in order to counter the influence of Sunni states.
On January 11, 2007, US forces raided and detained five employees of the Iranian liaison office in Irbil, Iraq. The US military says the five detainees are connected to the Quds Force. The operation has drawn protests from the regional Kurdish government while the Russian government called the detainments unacceptable.
Alireza Nourizadeh, a political analyst of Voice of America, states that their arrests are causing concern in Iranian intelligence because the five alleged officials are knowledgeable of a wide range of Quds Force and Iranian activities in Iraq. According to American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, one of the men in custody is Quds Force's director of operations.
Iranian and Iraqi officials have maintained the detained men were part of a diplomatic mission in the city of Arbil, Iraq. The five Iranian detainees are still being held at a U.S. prison in Iraq as of July 8, 2007. The U.S. says they are "still being interrogated" and that it has "no plans to free them while they are seen as a security risk in Iraq". Iran says the detainees "are kidnapped diplomats" and that "they are held as hostages".
On January 20, 2007, a group of gunmen attacked the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, captured four American soldiers, and subsequently killed them. The attackers passed through an Iraqi checkpoint at around 5:00pm, a total of five black GMC Suburbans, similar to those driven by US security and diplomatic officials. They were also wearing American military uniforms and spoke fluent English. Because of the sophistication of the attack, some analysts have suggested that only a group like Quds Force would be able to plan and carry out such an action. Former CIA officer Robert Baer also suggested that the five Americans were killed by Quds Force in revenge for the Americans holding five Iranians since the January 11 raid in Irbil. It was reported that the US military is investigating whether or not the attackers were trained by Iranian officials; however, no evidence besides the sophistication of the attack has yet been presented.
On July 2, 2007, the US military said that information from captured Hezbollah fighter Ali Moussa Dakdouk established a link between Quds Force and the Karbala raid. The US military claims Dakdouk worked as a liaison between Quds force operatives and the Shia group that carried out the raid. According to the US, Dakdouk said that the Shia group "could not have conducted this complex operation without the support and direction of the Quds force."
In June 2007 US General Ray Odierno asserted that Iranian support for these Shia militia increased as the US itself implemented the 2007 "troop surge." Two different studies have maintained that approximately half of all foreign insurgents entering Iraq come from Saudi Arabia.
In December 2009 evidence uncovered during an investigation by the Guardian newspaper newspaper and Guardian Films linked the Quds force to the kidnappings of 5 Britons from a government ministry building in Baghdad in 2007. Three of the hostages, Jason Creswell, Jason Swindlehurst and Alec Maclachlan, were killed. Alan Mcmenemy's body was never found but Peter Moore was released on 30th December 2009. The investigation uncovered evidence that Moore, 37, a computer expert from Lincoln was targeted because he was installing a system for the Iraqi Government that would show how a vast amount of international aid was diverted to Iran's militia groups in Iraq. One of the alleged groups funded by the Quds force directly is the Righteous League, which emerged in 2006 and has stayed largely in the shadows as a proxy of the al-Quds force. Shia cleric and leading figure of the Righteous League, Qais al-Khazali, was handed over by the US military for release by the Iraqi government on December 29th 2009 as part of the deal that led to the release of Moore. 
In a February 14, 2007 news conference US President George W. Bush reiterated his claim that the Quds Force was causing unrest in Iraq, stating
“I can say with certainty that the Quds force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops. And I'd like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds force was ordered from the top echelons of government. But my point is what's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops. …to say it [this claim] is provoking Iran is just a wrong way to characterize the Commander-in-Chief's decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm's way. And I will continue to do so. …Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't think we know. But we do know that they're there, and I intend to do something about it. And I've asked our commanders to do something about it. And we're going to protect our troops.…I don't think we know who picked up the phone and said to the Quds force, go do this, but we know it's a vital part of the Iranian government. …What matters is, is that we're responding. The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing IEDs is preposterous...My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we're going to do something about it, pure and simple. …does this mean you're trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I'm trying to protect our troops.”
Mohsen Sazegara, who was a high-ranking Tehran official before turning against the government, has argued that Ahmadinejad does not control the Guards outside of Iran. "Not only the foreign ministry of Iran; even the president does not know what the Revolutionary Guards does outside of Iran. They directly report to the leader," he said, referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Although Ali Khamenei is the ultimate person in charge of the Quds Force, George Bush did not mention him. According to Richard Clarke, "Quds force reports directly to the Supreme Ayatollah, through the commander-in-chief of the revolutionary guards."
On September 20, 2007 the US military arrested an Iranian during a raid on a hotel in Sulaimaniyah, a city in the Kurdish-controlled north. The military accused the Iranian of being a member of the elite Quds Force and smuggling powerful roadside bombs, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPS), into Iraq. The military said intelligence reports asserted the suspect was involved in the infiltration and training of foreign fighters into Iraq as well.
On September 22, 2007 Iraqi President Jalal Talabani criticized the United States for arresting the Iranian and called for his immediate release. Talabani argued he is a civil servant who was on an official trade mission in the Kurdish Region and stated Iraqi and Kurdish regional government representatives were aware of the man's presence in the country. "I express to you our outrage for these American forces arresting this Iranian civil official visitor without informing or cooperating with the government of the Kurdistan region, which means insult and disregard for its rights," Talabani wrote in a "letter of resentment" to Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Gen. David Petraeus.