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Army of the Guardians of
the Islamic Revolution
Command
Supreme Leader of Iran
Senior officers
Military Branches
Air Force
Ground Force
Navy
Quds Force
Basij
Missile Forces
Missile Forces
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Baqiyatallah University
History
Iranian Revolution

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.[1]

The Quds Force reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.[2][3] Its current commander is Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani.[4]

Contents

History

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[5] 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.[6]

According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad helped fund Quds Force while he was stationed at the Ramazan garrison near Iraq during the late 1980s.[7]

Organization

According to former U.S. Army intelligence officer David Dionisi, Quds force is organized into eight different directorates based on geographic location:[8]

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.[8] The Quds Force also has a headquarters based in the former compound of the US Embassy, which was overrun in 1979.[9] 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."[10]

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”.[11] “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.” [11]

Focus of the Force

The Quds force has four main areas of interest:[citation needed]

  1. Hezbollah operations in Lebanon
  2. Iraqi Kurdistan
  3. Kashmir, the Balouch and Afghanistan
  4. And most recentlyYemen

In the past the Quds force has also supported the establishment of Hezbollah branches in Jordan and Palestine.

Size

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.[12][13][14]

Independence and talent

While it reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, there are debates over how independently Quds Force operates.[12]

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."[15]

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.[12] 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."[15]

Recent activities

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.[8]

Afghanistan

Iran had supported the Afghan Northern Alliance forces against the Taliban before the US did in its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.[16][17] Iran almost began a war in 1999 with Afghanistan when Taliban forces killed several Iranian officials.[16][18]

Al Qaeda

Iran is believed by some to have detained the son of Osama bin Laden, Sa'ad bin Laden, at one point in time.[19]

Lebanon

After the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Quds Force has been cited as possibly providing the millions of US dollars being handed out by the group Hezbollah for reconstruction.[citation needed]

Iraq

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.” [20] In May 2008, Iraq said it had no evidence that Iran was supporting militants on Iraqi soil.[21] 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."[22]

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.[23] 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.[24]

Former CIA officer Robert Baer asserts the Quds Force uses couriers for all sensitive communications.[25]

2006 detainment in Iraq

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.[26] According to The Pentagon, the alleged Quds Force members were "involved in the transfer of IED technologies from Iran to Iraq."[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30]

US raid on Iranian liaison office

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.[31][32] The operation has drawn protests from the regional Kurdish government while the Russian government called the detainments unacceptable.[33]

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.[34] According to American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, one of the men in custody is Quds Force's director of operations.[35]

Iranian and Iraqi officials have maintained the detained men were part of a diplomatic mission in the city of Arbil, Iraq.[36] The five Iranian detainees are still being held at a U.S. prison in Iraq as of July 8, 2007[37]. 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".[38] Iran says the detainees "are kidnapped diplomats" and that "they are held as hostages".[39]

Allegations of involvement in Karbala attack

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.[40] 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.[41] It was reported that the US military is investigating whether or not the attackers were trained by Iranian officials;[42] 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."[43]

Allegations of support for Iraqi militants

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."[44] Two different studies have maintained that approximately half of all foreign insurgents entering Iraq come from Saudi Arabia.[45][46]

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. [47]

U.S. President George W. Bush blames Quds Force for deaths in Iraq

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.”[48]

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.[49] Although Ali Khamenei is the ultimate person in charge of the Quds Force, George Bush did not mention him.[50] According to Richard Clarke, "Quds force reports directly to the Supreme Ayatollah, through the commander-in-chief of the revolutionary guards."[50]

Detainment of alleged bomb smuggler

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.[51]

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.[52]

Notes

  1. ^ Qods (Jerusalem) Force, Federation of American Scientists Intelligence Resource Program. Retrieved October 1, 2006.
  2. ^ Dionisi, 7
  3. ^ "Iran demands nationals' release". BBC. 14 January 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6260301.stm.  Retrieved on Feb. 14, 2007
  4. ^ Richter, Paul (2007-10-24). "U.S.: Top Iranians direct Iraq missions". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-usiran24oct24,1,6425179.story?coll=la-news-a_section. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  5. ^ Iran's Revolutionary Guards: Quds Force, Telegraph, May 10, 2007. Retrieved July 6, 2008
  6. ^ Hirsh, Michael; Dehghanpisheh, Babak; Hosenball, Mark. "The New Enemy?", Newsweek, February 15, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2007.
  7. ^ Nawar, Ibrahim. "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Justice versus freedom", Al-Ahram, June 30, 2005. Retrieved January 7, 2006.
  8. ^ a b c Dionisis, 8
  9. ^ http://www.iranfocus.com/en/iran-world-press/u.s.-and-iran.html
  10. ^ http://www.alternet.org/story/62937/
  11. ^ a b Hersh, Seymour (2008-07-07). "Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran". The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh?currentPage=all.
  12. ^ a b c Daragahi, Borzou and Spiegel, Peter. "Iran's elite and mysterious fighters", Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  13. ^ "Experts: Iran's Quds Force Deeply Enmeshed in Iraq", Fox News, February 15, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  14. ^ Shane, Scott. "Iranian Force, Focus of U.S., Still a Mystery", The New York Times, February 17, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2007.
  15. ^ a b [1]"Iran: Expert Discusses Iran's Quds Force And U.S. Charges Concerning Iraq", RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari interview with Mahan Abedin, Web site of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 16, 2007, accessed October 17, 2007
  16. ^ a b Karon, Tony. "TIME.com Primer: The Taliban and Afghanistan", Time Magazine, September 18, 2001. Retrieved October 16, 2006.
  17. ^ "Operations Anaconda entering second week". CNN. March 8, 2002. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/03/08/ret.war.facts/index.html. 
  18. ^ "The Elusive Quds Force: The Iranian Special Ops unit accused of meddling in Iraq has a fierce history and powerful friends", Newsweek, February 26, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2007.
  19. ^ Saad bin Laden: The Key to Iranian-al-Qaeda Detente?
  20. ^ U.S. Starts First Major Pullout From Iraq, Beginning With Brigade Members
  21. ^ AFP: 'No evidence' Iran backs militias - Baghdad
  22. ^ [Iraq: Al-Sadr Refuses to Meet Baghdad Delegation In Iran] - [Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2008]
  23. ^ "Gen. Abizaid On Stabilizing Iraq", 60 Minutes, November 26, 2006. Retrieved November 27, 2006.
  24. ^ "[2]"
  25. ^ Baer, Robert. "Where's the Smoking Gun on Iran?", Time Magazine, February 13, 2007. Retrieved February 13, 2007.
  26. ^ Glanz, James and Tavernise, Sabrina. "U.S. Is Holding Iranians Seized in Raids in Iraq", The New York Times, December 24, 2006. Retrieved December 25, 2006.
  27. ^ Group: Iranians Were Part of Elite Force
  28. ^ Tavernise, Sabrina and Glanz, James. "U.S. and Iraq Dispute Role of Iranians but Free Them", The New York Times, December 29, 2006. Retrieved December 30, 2006.
  29. ^ Wright, Robin and Trejos, Nancy. "Iranians captured inside Iraq", The Washington Post, January 12, 2007. Retrieved January 13, 2007.
  30. ^ Lake, Eli. "Iran's Secret Plan For Mayhem", The New York Sun, January 3, 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
  31. ^ Arrested Iranians tied to group arming Iraqis: U.S. Reuters 14 January 2007
  32. ^ Iran complains to U.N. over diplomats' arrest -TV Reuters, 20 January 2007
  33. ^ Iraqi FM: Liaison Office Raided in Thursday's Operation in Irbil
  34. ^ Zadeh, Ali Nouri. "US-Held Iranians Source of Major Concern for Tehran", Asharq Alawsat, January 23, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
  35. ^ Hurst, Steven. "U.S. Envoy: Guard Quds Director Detained", The Guardian, January 24, 2007. Retrieved January 25, 2007.
  36. ^ "Kurdish leader: US sought to capture Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials in Irbil raid". International Herald Tribune. 2007-04-06. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/04/07/africa/ME-GEN-Iraq-US-Iran-Prisoners.php. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  37. ^ albawaba.com middle east news information::Iran complains about detention conditions of diplomats in US custody
  38. ^ Richard Beeston (2007-03-27). "Kidnapping could be traced back to arrests by US forces". The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article1572776.ece. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
  39. ^ گزارش کامل از نخستین جلسه هفتگی سخنگوی وزارت خارجه در سال
  40. ^ Schippert, Steve. "Qods Force, Karbala and the Language of War", Threats Watch, January 29, 2007. Retrieved January 30, 2007.
  41. ^ Baer, Bob. "Are the Iranians Out for Revenge?", Time Magazine, January 30, 2007. Retrieved January 30, 2007.
  42. ^ James Glanz and Mark Mazzetti. "Iran May Have Trained Attackers That Killed 5 American Soldiers, U.S. and Iraqis Say", The New York Times, January 30, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2007.
  43. ^ "[US links Iran to attack in Iraq http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6260690.stm]", BBC News, July 2, 2007. Retrieved July 2, 2007.
  44. ^ Pessin, Al. "US Could Begin Withdrawal if Iraqis Can Take Over from Surge, says Commander", VOA, June 22, 2007. Retrieved June 22, 2007.
  45. ^ The battle for Saudi hearts and minds
  46. ^ Saudis' role in Iraq insurgency outlined
  47. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/30/iran-britons-baghdad-kidnapping
  48. ^ "Press Conference by the President". Office of the Press Secretary. February 14, 2007. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070214-2.html.  Retrieved on Feb. 14, 2007
  49. ^ Iranian dissident warns of US actions against Iran
  50. ^ a b Who's Behind Iran's Death Squad? ABC News, 14 February 2007
  51. ^ Military Cites Mixed Results in Baghdad
  52. ^ Iraqi president urges release of Iranian detainee

References

  • Dionisi, David J. American Hiroshima: The Reasons Why and a Call to Strengthen America's Democracy. Trafford Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-4120-4421-9 Sanzini Publishing for the 2006/2007 Korean version. [3]

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