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The Role of the Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guard
Today's Washington Post brings the welcome news that the Bush administration is about to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity.

The Guard is certainly, in a broad sense, an agent of terror despite being directly and organically part of a state apparatus.

While the Guard itself is heavily involved in businesses, internal repression and security, the al Quds (Jeruselem) Force is a much small cadre of senior Guard leaders who can call on special Guard units if it needs boots on the ground activities. For a good overview, see this somewhat dated but look at Hezbollah and its state ties.

According to U.S. and European intelligence friends, the Quds Force is the group that made the decision to allow senior al Qaeda operatives into Iran, as well as Osama bin Laden's son, Sa'ad. The group also allowed many family member of al Qaeda to exit Afghanistan through Iran in 2001, including at least one of bin Laden's wives.

The al Quds Force is not always operating with the full knowledge and consent of the central government, nor do its leaders appear to be accountable to either the central command of the Revolutionary Guard or the civilian government.

The Force seems to be the interlocutor between the Iranian military apparatus and al Qaeda, a relationship that has waxed and waned over time. Despite the strong hatred that often exists between Shi'ite and Sunni groups, they can, on occasion, work together.

Jamal al-Fadl, the key al Qaeda defector who was instrumental in our understanding of al Qaeda, has described in open court the admiration that Bin Laden felt for Imad Fayez Mugniyah, a senior Hezbollah military planner and close ally of Iran.

Mugniyah was a pioneer in the use of truck bombs (in Beirut), something al Qaeda emulated in its 1998 attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

It is also the Quds Force, which controls Iran's military acquisitions and determines what military hardware goes to both the Shi'ite militias in Iraq as well as what goes to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This role as the gatekeeper makes targeting the multiple front groups operated by the Force potentially important, depending on the level of intelligence that exists on its financial structure.

Among the top Iranian al Quds Force leaders are the following:

General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Force.

Through Soleimani the al-Quds Force plays an important role in Hezbollah’s operational contingency planning for military escalation against Israel, in outlining its implementation and in determining relevant levels of response by Hezbollah. The significance of this, is that the Iranians are instrumental in planningHezbollah’s operational-terrorist pursuits, and capable of triggering regional deterioration whenever they see fit.

Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy commander. According to the statement of a senior Iranian intelligence defector in German court documents, Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr met in December 2003 with Sayf al-Adel, one of the senior al Qaeda operatives residing in Iran.

Deputy Minister of Defense for procurement Ahmed Vahidi was one of the pioneers within the Quds Force who is reported to have a long-standing relation with Ayman Zawahiri, Bin Laden's chief deputy, dating to the 1990s when al Qaeda was based in Sudan. His role in military procurement makes him a key figure both for the Force and within the government.

So, all in all, a good decision and one that should bring some benefit in slowing down the Iranian/Hezbollah terrorist apparatus.

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