Irans Elite Qods force operating In Iraq

Qods (Jerusalem) Force, also called Al-Quds Force or simply Quds Force, is an elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that carries out operations outside of Iran. Its main activity is conducting para-military training for Islamic revolutionary groups both in Iran and in the Sudan, as well providing organizational, financial, and military support, and pre-attack planning. The group maintains and builds contacts with underground Islamic militant organizations throughout the Arab World. It also collects strategic and military intelligence around the world, possibly having operatives in the United States. Qods Force was founded in 1990 and reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Its current commander is Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani.

History

Because its operations are secret, little is known about the history of the Qods Force. According to an Iranian resistance group, Qods Force was originally called the Lebanon Corps, and was responsible for the 1983 US Marine Barracks attack in Beirut. This became Qods Force in 1990, when a variety of Iranian intelligence and foreign agencies were merged to form a new extraterritorial force. The first commander was also the former head of the Intelligence Directorate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad helped found Qods Force while he was stationed at the Ramazan garrison near Iraq during the late 1980s.

Organization

According to former US army intelligence officer David Dionisi, Qods force is organized into eight different directorates based on geographic location:

* Western countries
* Iraq
* Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India
* Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan
* Turkey
* North Africa (HQ in Sudan)
* Arabian peninsula
* Republics of the former USSR

In addition, Dionisi says that the Iranian headquarters of Qods Force was moved in 2004 from central Iran to the Iran-Iraq border in order to better supervise their Iraqi activities. However other reports say that Qods Force actually based in the former compound of the US Embassy, which was overrun in 1979.

Activities

According to the American neoconservative magazine The Weekly Standard, Qods Force has maintained some kind of relationship with the leadership of al-Qaeda since at least the mid-1990s. After the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001, al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is reported to have contacted Iranian authorities and secured the safe passage and harbor for numerous al-Qaeda members, perhaps including the late head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi. Although Iran is hostile to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, some Washington observers speculated that it was IRC forces who were pursuing the idea of joint action. Iran has since acknowledged that a number of al-Qaeda leaders and members are in their custody, possibly including the son of Osama bin Laden, Saad bin Laden. Iran had supported the Afghan Northern Alliance forces against the Taliban before the US invasion of Afghanistan, and almost began a war in 1999 when Taliban forces killed several Iranian officials.

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

Iraq

Other reports have said that Qods Force has taken an active role in Iraq since September 2002, when they allegedly began building pro-Iranian militant groups in anticipation of the US led invasion of Iraq in early 2003. Since then they have been accused of providing training and financial support to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and open borders to several members of the group Ansar al-Islam. The Italian intelligence service SIMSI said that Sadr and other militant groups were receiving US$70 million per month. The militant Iranian dissident group the People's Mujahedin of Iran has reportedly provided the US Army with information as to the names of Qods Force commanders operating in Iraq and the networks they are facilitating to distribute arms from Iran. In November 2006, with sectarian violence in Iraq increasing, US Gen. John Abizaid accused Qods Force of supporting "Shia death squads" even while the government of Iran pledges support in stabilization.

On January 5, 2007, Alireza Jafarzadeh, who gained recognition for revealing the existence secret Iranian nuclear activities, spoke for the Iran Policy Committee in Washington, where he revealed details of Qods for commanders and operations in Iraq. According to him, Qods force in Iraq is run by a Brigadier General Abtahi, a veteran of Iranian activities in Lebanon. It is headquartered at Fajir Base, in the Iranian city Ahwaz. In Iraq itself, Qods Force is based in the city of Najaf near the offices of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. It operates under the name Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf Al-Saqafieh Establishment, a purported cultural institution.

2006 Arrests in Iraq

On December 24, 2006, 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 Qods Force, which would be some of the first physical proof of Qods Force activity in Iraq. The president of an Iranian opposition group confirmed this from her own intelligence sources. According to the Pentagon, the Qods 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 revealed that the two Qods 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 Qods Force, making him the highest-ranked Iranian to ever be held by the US.

Several days after their release reports emerged as to the information contained in the documents seized with the two men. The New York Sun reported that the documents described Qods Force as not only cooperating with Shiite death squads, but also with fighters related to al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sunna. They also said that Qods 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 moderate Sunni states.

2007 Arrests in Iraq

On January 11, 2007, US forces raided and arrested several people in the Iranian liaison office in Irbil, Iraq. The US military says the five detainees are connected to the Qods Force. Their arrests are causing concern in Iranian intelligence, because the five officials are knowledgeable of a wide range of Qods Force and Iranian activities in Iraq. According to American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, one of the men in custody is Qods Force's director of operations.

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