Commentary Magazine


Topic: Qods Force

President Should Sign “Counter Iran in the Western Hemisphere” Act

Word came yesterday evening that the House of Representatives has agreed with a Senate amendment and so Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-South Carolina) “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” will head to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

If the bill becomes a law—and presumably it will because the White House did not oppose it—then the secretary of state will have to report to Congress on a broad range of Iranian activity in the Western hemisphere. According to the Congressional Research Service’s summary, the report will include:

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Word came yesterday evening that the House of Representatives has agreed with a Senate amendment and so Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-South Carolina) “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” will head to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

If the bill becomes a law—and presumably it will because the White House did not oppose it—then the secretary of state will have to report to Congress on a broad range of Iranian activity in the Western hemisphere. According to the Congressional Research Service’s summary, the report will include:

(1) Descriptions of the presence, activities, and operations of Iran, the IRGC, the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah;

(2) descriptions of the terrain, population, ports, foreign firms, airports, borders, media outlets, financial centers, foreign embassies, charities, religious and cultural centers, and income-generating activities utilized by Iran, the IRGC, the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah;

(3) descriptions of the relationship of Iran, the IRGC, the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah with transnational criminal organizations;

(4) descriptions of the relationship of Iran, the IRGC, the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah that may be present with governments in the Western Hemisphere;

(5) descriptions of federal law enforcement capabilities, military forces, state and local government institutions, and other critical elements, such as nongovernmental organizations that may organize to counter the Iranian threat in the Western Hemisphere; [and]

(6) descriptions of activity by Iran, the IRGC, the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah that may be present at the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada and at other international borders within the Western Hemisphere

Under Secretary of State Clinton and her two Bush administration predecessors, the State Department’s attitude toward Iran in the Western hemisphere has been “hear no evil, see no evil, report no evil.” Yet, the Iranian government has pursued an active strategy in the region. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Roger Noreiga has written a great deal on the Iran-Venezuela nexus, including here at COMMENTARY. His analysis has been remarkably prescient; most critics counter not Roger’s evidence, but simply the fact that the State Department has yet to second his findings. The reason for that is, more often than not, because diplomats refuse to look. Let us hope that Obama signs the bill: Information should not an enemy for policymakers.

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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.

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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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Where in the World is Qasim Suleimani?

It is no secret, not even within the Iranian press, that Qasim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Qods Force, has been in Syria. Suleimani is a terror-master with the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands; it was Suleimani who coordinated the infiltration of Special Groups into Iraq to target American forces. In 2007, the U.S. government designated the Qods Force a terrorist entity.

Rumors are now swirling that Suleimani was at the Syrian security compound in which a bomb killed the Syrian defense minister and other members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle. The Iranian and Iranian-backed press is denying the rumors:

According to the IRGC public relations office, Head of the IRGC Public Relations General Ramezan Sharif dismissed the report on Suleimani’s death as a mere “propaganda campaign.” “Due to the recent events in Syria and Iran’s support for resistance in Palestine, some Arab media in coordination with their western counterparts have waged immoral and hostile propaganda campaign against Iran,” Sharif said. “These media have published many rumors about Iran, among them the claim about General Suleimani’s presence in Syria and at the site of the recent explosion in Syria’s national security building,” he noted, adding that the propaganda campaign is aimed at diverting the public opinion and undermining the morale of resistance front against Israel.

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It is no secret, not even within the Iranian press, that Qasim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Qods Force, has been in Syria. Suleimani is a terror-master with the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands; it was Suleimani who coordinated the infiltration of Special Groups into Iraq to target American forces. In 2007, the U.S. government designated the Qods Force a terrorist entity.

Rumors are now swirling that Suleimani was at the Syrian security compound in which a bomb killed the Syrian defense minister and other members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle. The Iranian and Iranian-backed press is denying the rumors:

According to the IRGC public relations office, Head of the IRGC Public Relations General Ramezan Sharif dismissed the report on Suleimani’s death as a mere “propaganda campaign.” “Due to the recent events in Syria and Iran’s support for resistance in Palestine, some Arab media in coordination with their western counterparts have waged immoral and hostile propaganda campaign against Iran,” Sharif said. “These media have published many rumors about Iran, among them the claim about General Suleimani’s presence in Syria and at the site of the recent explosion in Syria’s national security building,” he noted, adding that the propaganda campaign is aimed at diverting the public opinion and undermining the morale of resistance front against Israel.

Perhaps the IRGC doth protest too much. Suleimani, who during the past three years or so has built up quite a personality cult in the press despite being the head of a shadowy organization, has yet to be seen in public since the explosion, either in Syria or Iran. Should Suleimani, the mastermind of so many suicide bombs and terrorist attacks, perished in one himself, it is hard not to see an element of divine justice at play. And should he remain in Syria, the Obama administration can add to its impressive record targeting terror masters with either a drone strike or, better yet, a snatch-and-grab.

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No Conceivable Justification for This One

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

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