January 26, 2007

Iranian Qods Force in Iraq: Treat them like al-Qaida

This article appeared on the MSNBC Hardball Hardblogger site.

Recent media reports indicate that the Bush administration has given new instructions to American forces across the Middle East on how to deal with Iranian operatives. No more catch and release – now the orders are to capture or kill them. It’s about time.

Documents found on Iranians recently detained in Iraq show their involvement with groups responsible for attacks on American troops. These Iranians are members of the special operations wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – the Qods Force. The Qods (“Jerusalem”) Force has its roots in the 1982 deployment of the IRGC to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where they assisted their Lebanese Shia brethren in the creation of Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s reputation as the most effective irregular military force in the world is a testament to the training capabilities of the Qods Force.

In Lebanon, the IRGC was directly involved in the planning and execution of numerous attacks on American interests in the region, including the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks at Beirut airport. They were also complicit in the kidnappings and murders of several American citizens, including CIA Beirut station chief William Buckley in 1984 and U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rich Higgins (serving with the United Nations) in 1989. The Qods Force remains in Lebanon today, intimately involved in the funding, training and equipping of Hezbollah. Virtually all weapons used by Hezbollah in the 2006 war with Israel were supplied by the IRGC via Syria.

Members of the Qods Force were dispatched into southern Iraq in 1991 immediately following the withdrawal of American forces after they had evicted Iraqi forces from Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. These IRGC personnel made contact with their fellow Shia Muslims and fomented the failed uprising against Saddam Hussein.

The Qods Force has also been involved in other Iranian special operations in Europe, Asia and Africa. For example, they provided weapons to fundamentalist Islamic groups in Algeria in the early 1990’s. In 1995, the Qods Force supplied weapons and personnel to Bosnia’s mostly Muslim army – in this case with tacit approval of the United States and its allies. In the late 1990’s and until the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Qods Force supported the Afghan Northern Alliance in its operations against the Taliban.

The IRGC Qods Force is a capable, committed organization with demonstrated operational capabilities on three continents. They have had American blood on their hands for over 20 years. The Qods Force is to the Shia militias as al-Qaida in Iraq is to the Sunni insurgent groups. They should be dealt with the same way.