Quds (Jerusalem) Force
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC – Pasdaran-e Inqilab)
While the Constitution of Iran entrusts the military with guarding Iran’s territorial integrity and political independence, it gives the Revolutionary Guard [Pasdaran] the responsibility of guarding the Revolution itself. Established under a decree issued by Khomeini on May 5, 1979, the Pasdaran was intended to guard the Revolution and to assist the ruling clerics in the day-to-day enforcement of the government’s Islamic codes and morality. The Revolution also needed to rely on a force of its own rather than borrowing the previous regime’s tainted units.
By 1986, the Pasdaran consisted of 350,000 personnel organized in battalion-size units that operated either independently or with units of the regular armed forces. In 1986 the Pasdaran acquired small naval and air elements. By 1996 the ground and naval forces were reported to number 100,000 and 20,000, respectively.
The Pasdaran has maintained an intelligence branch to monitor the regime’s domestic adversaries and to participate in their arrests and trials. Khomeini implied Pasdaran involvement in intelligence when he congratulated the Pasdaran on the arrest of Iranian communist Tudeh leaders.
The Baseej (volunteers) come under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. In 1988, up to 900,000 baseej were mobilized. The Baseej allegedly also monitor the activities of citizens, and harass or arrest women whose clothing does not cover the hair and all of the body except hands and face, or those who wear makeup. During the year ending in June 1995, they reportedly “notified 907,246 people verbally and issued 370,079 written notices against ‘social corruption’ and arrested 86,190 people, and also broke up 542 ‘corrupt gangs’, arresting their 2,618 members, and seized 86,597 indecent videocassettes and photographs.
The Ashura Brigades force was reportedly created in 1993 after anti-government riots erupted in various Iranian cities and it consists of 17,000 Islamic militia men and women. The Ashura Brigades are reportedly composed of elements of the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) and the Baseej volunteer militia.
In August 1994, some Pasdaran units, rushed to quell riots in the city of Ghazvin, 150 km. west of Tehran, reportedly refused orders from the Interior Minister to intervene in the clashes, which left more than 30 people dead, 400 wounded and over 1,000 arrested.
Subsequently, senior officers in the army, air force and the usually loyal Islamic Revolutionary Guard reportedly stated that they would no longer order their troops into battle to quell civil disorder. A Pasdaran commander was among four senior army officers who are said to have sent a letter to the country’s political leadership, warning the clerical rulers against “using the armed forces to crush civilian unrest and internal conflicts.” In a communiqué sent to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, stated that “the role of the country’s armed forces is to defend its borders and to repel foreign enemies from its soil, not to control the internal situation or to strengthen one political faction above another.” They are said to have then recommended the use of Baseej volunteers for this purpose. In a move believed to indicate a shift in the trust of the ruling clerics from the Pasdaran to the Baseej volunteer force, on 17 April 1995 Ayatollah Ali Khameini reportedly promoted a civilian, veterinary surgeon Hassan Firuzabadi, to the rank of full general, placing him above both Brigadier-General Mohsen Rezai, commander-in-chief of the Pasdaran and Brigadier General Ali Shahbazi of the regular armed forces.
The foreign operations by the Guardians, which also encompass the activities of Hizballah and Islamic Jihad – are usually carried out through the Committee on Foreign Intelligence Abroad and the Committee on Implementation of Actions Abroad. As with agents of Ministry of Intelligence, Pasdaran personnel operate through front companies and non-governmental organizations, employees or officials of trading companies, banks, cultural centers or as representatives of the Foundation of the Oppressed and Dispossessed (Bonyade-e- Mostafazan), or the Martyrs Foundation.
The Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is responsible for extraterritorial operations, including terrorist operations. A primary focus for the Qods Force is training Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups. Currently, the Qods Force conducts training activities in Iran and in Sudan. The Qods Force is also responsible for gathering information required for targeting and attack planning. The Pasdaran has contacts with underground movements in the Gulf region, and Pasdaran members are assigned to Iranian diplomatic missions, where, in the course of routine intelligence activities they monitor dissidents. Pasdaran influence has been particularly important in Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.
The largest branch of Pasdaran foreign operations consists of approximately 12,000 Arabic speaking Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis, Lebanese shi’ites and North Africans who trained in Iran or received training in Afghanistan during the Afghan war years. Presently these foreign operatives receive training in Iran, Sudan and Lebanon, and include the Hizballah ["Party of Allah"] intelligence, logistics and operational units in Lebanon [Hizballah is primarily a social and political rather than military organization]. The second largest Pasdaran foreign operations relates to the Kurds (particularly Iraqi Kurds), while the third largest relates to the Kashmiri’s, the Balouchi’s and the Afghans. The Pasdaran has also supported the establishment of Hizballah branches in Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and Palestine, and the Islamic Jihad in many other Moslem countries including Egypt, Turkey, Chechnya and in Caucasia. Hizballah has been implicated in the counterfeiting of U.S. dollars and European currencies, both to finance its operations and to disrupt Western economies by impairing international trade and tourism.
The Office of Liberation Movements has established a Gulf Section tasked with forming a Gulf Battalion as part of the Jerusalem Forces. In April 1995 a number of international organizations linked to international terrorism — including the Japanese Red Army, the Armenian Secret Army, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — were reported to have met in Beirut with representatives of the Iraqi Da’wah Party, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, Hizballah, Iran’s “Office of Liberation Movements,” and Iran’s Guardians of the Revolution. Tehran’s objective was to destabilize Arab Gulf states by supporting fundamentalists with military, financial, and logistical support. Members of these and other organizations receive military training at a Guardians of the Revolution facility some 100 kilometers south of Tehran. A variety of of training courses are conducted at the facility for fundamentalists from the Gulf states, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon, including naval operations, mines, and diving operations in a special camp near the Orontes River.
The State Department asserts that Iran supports the Lebanese Hizballah, as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, groups labeled as foreign terrorist organizations that are active in Israel.
Hizballah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qasim appeared to confirm the importance of Iran to his organization during a late-July ceremony in the town of Tulin, when he said “We must stand side by side against the Israeli enemy, because Lebanon’s strength is part of Syria’s strength, and Iran’s support and [Hizballah's] support for Palestine are an honor for us.”
In January of 2002 – Israeli forces seized a Tonga-registered vessel, and found onboard 83 canisters – which were hidden in crates and among other cargo – and filled with 50 tons of weapons – including surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank mines. Intelligence reports indicate the likely involvement of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in facilitating this large arms transfer to other terrorist groups.
Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2003: Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Ministry of Intelligence and Security personnel were involved in planning and support for terrorist acts. Although Iran detained al-Qaida operatives in 2003, it refused to identify senior members in custody. Tehran continued to encourage anti-Israel activities, both operationally and rhetorically, providing logistic support and training to Lebanese Hizballah and a variety of Palestinian rejectionist groups.
During 2003, Iran maintained a high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli activity, both rhetorically and operationally. Supreme Leader Khamenei praised Palestinian resistance operations, and President Khatami reiterated Iran’s support for the “wronged people of Palestine” and their struggles. Matching this rhetoric with action, Iran provided Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian rejectionist groups — notably HAMAS, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command — with funding, safehaven, training, and weapons. Iran hosted a conference in August 2003 on the Palestinian intifadah, at which an Iranian official suggested that the continued success of the Palestinian resistance depended on suicide operations.
Iran pursued a variety of policies in Iraq aimed at securing Tehran’s perceived interests there, some of which ran counter to those of the Coalition. Iran has indicated support for the Iraqi Governing Council and promised to help Iraqi reconstruction.
Shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, individuals with ties to the Revolutionary Guard may have attempted to infiltrate southern Iraq, and elements of the Iranian Government have helped members of Ansar al-Islam transit and find safehaven in Iran. In a Friday Prayers sermon in Tehran in May 2003, Guardian Council member Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati publicly encouraged Iraqis to follow the Palestinian model and participate in suicide operations against Coalition forces.
Iran is a party to five of the 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.
Anonymous sources in the Israeli defense establishment said that Iranian involvement in terrorism in the occupied territories has increased. These activities mostly are run through Hizballah in Lebanon and, between 2002 and 2004 Hizballah had tripled or even quadrupled the scope of its operations in the territories. The threat to Israel from rockets provided to Hizballah by Iran and Syria has grown, both in range and quantity. Iran is supplying an array of rockets by air and sea and overland from Syria, while both countries are providing logistical support and training as well. Israeli Defense Forces intelligence chief Major-General Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash said on 2 September 2004, “we are dealing with a threat on the northern front. That also means Hizballah and Iran, as well as Syria.”