last month, two senior officers of Irans Quds Force have defected, or been
abducted, and at least one more was
captured inside Iraq. At first, Iran tried to ignore this development. But
apparently the word got out in Iran (mainly via opposition web sites based
outside Iran). That caused the government to start a campaign to discredit the
missing officers, and any damage they could do to Quds (an intelligence and
commando operation that supports Islamic terrorism overseas). The three officers
have each served Quds for over a decade, and know a lot of secrets. But the
most important thing they know is who else in Quds is interested in getting out
of Iran, or overthrowing the current government. Actually, most Quds members
don't want to remove the Islamic dictatorship that runs the country, but do
object to the extreme conservatives that are becoming more powerful. The recent
disappearances appear to have caused a panic at Quds headquarters, and Quds
people, and family members, are being arrested, or just brought in for
questioning. Some Iranian officials are openly talking of kidnapping Americans
and Europeans in retaliation. This particular intelligence windfall appears to
be having interesting side effects.
Quds always attracted very
bright and able people, but also got personnel with a wide range of views on
just what constituted an "Islamic Republic" or the proper role for the Quds
Force itself. One of the few things Quds officers could agree on was the need
to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Many Quds officers actually warmed to the
United States for doing the deed for them. Quds operatives were sent to Iraq in
2003 to see if they could establish another Islamic republic there. But they
quickly found that Iraqi Shias were very divided on that subject. This got many
Quds officers disagreeing with their commanders back home. The feeling was that
the officials back in Iran were living in a dream world. This was reinforced by
the debate over al Qaeda. Even though this Sunni terrorist organization was
violently anti-Shia, and had killed many Shia in places like Afghanistan and
Pakistan, some Quds officials backed supporting al Qaeda, because of a common
enemy, the United States in particular, and the West in general. The sort of
thing can happen because the Iranian leadership is more a federation than a
dictatorship. So Quds can keep being nice to al Qaeda as long as not too many
other Iranian factions get mad at Quds.
The Iranian leadership,
despite their radical sounding pronouncements, have actually been quite
cautious. This is in line with ancient Iranian custom. Thus most of the
Hizbollah violence in Lebanon was at the behest of Lebanese Hizbollah leaders.
The same pattern has occurred elsewhere. The Quds guys usually counsel restraint,
although in Iraq there has been more enthusiasm for violence. Iraq is a special
case, as several hundred thousand Iranians died fighting Saddam in the 1980s,
and Iranians have not forgotten.
The secretive al Quds
Force consists of men trained to spread the Islamic revolution outside Iran.
The Quds force has a major problem in that they are spreading a Shia Islamic
revolution, while only 15 percent of Moslems are Shia. Most of the rest are
Sunni, and many of those consider Shia heretics. Worse, Sunni Arabs tend to
accuse all Shai of being part of an Iranian conspiracy to take over the Moslem
world. In several countries, there is constant violence between Shia and Sunni
conservatives. This has been going on long before the clerics took control of
Iran in 1979 (al Qaeda showed up in the 1990s).
The core operatives of the
Quds force comprises only a few thousand people. But many of them are highly
educated, most speak foreign languages, and all are Islamic radicals. They are
on a mission from God to convert the world to Shia Islam, and the rule of Shia
clergy. The Quds Force has been around since the 1980s, and their biggest
success has been in Lebanon, where they helped local Shia (who comprise about a
third of the population) form the Hizbollah organization.
The Quds Force has eight
departments, each assigned to a different part of the world. While the one that
works in the Palestine/Lebanon/Jordan area have been the most successful, the
other departments have been hard at it for two decades.
The Western Directorate
has established a recruiting and fund raising network in Western nations. Many
recruits are brought back to Iran for training, while Shia migrants are
encouraged to donate money, and services, to Quds Force operations. Because
many of these operations are considered terrorist operations, Quds Force is
banned in many Western nations.
The Iraq Department long
maintained an army of anti-Saddam fighters in exile (in Iran) as well as
running an intelligence operation inside Iraq. After the coalition toppled
Saddam in 2003, Quds Force moved people, money and weapons into Iraq, to form
pro-Iranian political forces and militias.
The South Asia Department
(Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) was active in aiding Afghan Shia who were
being persecuted by the Taliban (a Sunni operation) and al Qaeda (a very Sunni
operation). Quds has also been caught operating in Pakistan, where Sunni
terrorists have been attacking Shia for decades.
The Turkey Department has
been active encouraging Shia Kurds to commit terrorist acts.
The North Africa
Department has an operation in Sudan, that functions in the open, despite the
Sunni conservatives who run the country. This department was recently caught
providing weapons to the Sunni Islamic Courts militia in Somalia.
The Arabian Department
supports terrorist groups that exist in all the Persian Gulf Arab countries.
The Arab Sunni governments in these nations does not appreciate Irans support
for this sort of thing.
The Central Asian
Department supports Shia and Sunni terrorists in countries that used to be part
of the Soviet Union. So does al Qaeda, but the Quds operation has been more