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Does the Qods Force Operate in America?

The Washington Times is reporting U.S. concern that the Qods Force, the elite wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), could strike at targets in the United States:

“We have seen an uptick in operational activity by the Qods Force over the last year or so,” National Counter-Terrorism Center Director Matthew G. Olsen told a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Mr. Olsen said the Qods Force, the elite division of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for operations abroad, “poses a threat beyond the immediate [Middle East] region,” including to the U.S. homeland.

This conclusion should be nothing new. Indeed, Iranian authorities have long sought, if not to carry out terrorist attacks inside the United States, then to maintain the option to do so. In 1980, of course, the Iranian government hired a hitman to assassinate a former pre-revolutionary Iranian diplomat living in Bethesda, Maryland. And, as Olsen sited in his testimony, the Qods Force allegedly planned an attack in Washington, DC, last year.

There is a deeper pattern, though.

In 2003, an Iranian immigrant to the United States allegedly lied his way into the United States and then, subsequently, into the Arkansas National Guard. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit found him guilty of lying on his visa application. In 2008, Joe Volpe, then an anti-terrorism advisory council coordinator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office (and now a judge), suggested that the case was actually deeper, and that the defendant—who had joined the Arkansas National Guard—was quite possibly an IRGC plant (see page 3):

Now here is the most interesting case in Arkansas to me that is hard to believe. An actual U.S. court case involving a probable Iranian Revolutionary Guard plant in our U.S. Army Reserve Forces here in this state. It was fund that this guy was an actual Iranian Army Officer and chemical engineer. A local bar tender flagged him as being strange from asking several questions involving troop movements and the strengths of all things. He was charged with visa fraud and is currently awaiting removal and deportation out of the United States.

If this is true, then the episode raises questions not only about how the convicted Iranian was recruited into the U.S. military, but also about whether U.S. authorities luckily got the only Iranian agent in the United States or, more likely, whether there are many.

No country has gotten as many passes from the United States as Iran. It has never paid the consequence for its Carter-era terrorism, its role in the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing, or the Khobar Towers attack. In all likelihood, what we know is only the tip of the iceberg.



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