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Manish Rai explains the destruction campaign that Iran’s Quds Force has been carrying out over the years in the Middle East.
Iranian military equipment on display Photo Credit: EPA
The Iranian Quds Force recently came into the limelight once again because of the escalation of its conflict with Israel, when it fired around 20 rockets from the Syrian Golan Heights at Israeli military outposts. However, these rockets either fell with Syrian territory or were intercepted. Israel responded with overwhelming force; it attacked dozens of Iranian targets across Syria in what the military said was the most extensive strike in the neighboring country in decades.
Let’s have a look at this notorious Iranian force, which is on a rampage across the whole Middle East. The Quds Force was established during the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988) to undertake secret operations inside Iraq. But now, after almost three decades since its establishment, QF is considered one of the most powerful security agencies in the Middle East. The Quds Force is one of the five branches of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and often referred to as IRGC-QF. QF can be best described as a hybrid organization that performs the tasks of both an intelligence agency and a special force. The IRGC-QF is the Iranian mullah regime’s primary foreign action arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist organizations and extremist groups across the region.
Aside from protecting Iran’s interests, the Quds Force aims to push the Iranian regime’s agenda in the region. QF is always in search of an opportunity where it can destabilize a fragile state to make it an Iranian satellite, like it did in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The Quds Force is the secretive spearhead of Iran’s push for hegemony in the Middle East. It has been training and equipping terrorist groups around the Middle East for decades, and it is responsible for some of the most notorious terrorist acts in the world.
QF, apart from creating its proxies, also focuses on activating terrorist networks and training agents in sabotage, providing military and financial support to Islamist opposition organizations in Muslim countries, and operations against the Iranian opposition in exile. Quds Force operatives also actively indulge in gathering of intelligence, the financing of terror groups and their operations on foreign soil, and the infiltration of foreign political parties, social groups, and religious organizations. Its agents also engage in the surveillance of foreign government officials, religious officials and speakers to spot sympathizers that can be used either directly or as deep assets.
While dealing with its rival Sunni states in the region, the Quds Force, without any hesitation, uses terrorist acts either directly through its agents or through its proxies, like the 1996 Khobar bombing in Saudi Arabia. In recent years, the Quds Force exploited the democratic process most notably in Lebanon and Iraq, using it to enhance the status of the terrorist organizations, the militias, and radical Islamic groups supported by Iran. The Quds Force successfully made its proxies a prominent political force in their home countries and by doing this, Iran can anytime put immense pressure on the political leadership of these countries to accept Iran hegemony.
The Quds Force is not a rogue intelligence service of a country that doesn’t even take its political leadership into confidence. Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Suleimani reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. QF has offices in many Iranian embassies around the world, which operate as closed sections. The Quds Force showcases a classic example of state-sponsored terrorism.
The Quds Force is clearly an obstacle for the process of peacemaking and stabilization in the Middle East. The United States Treasury Department in 2007 designated the Quds Force a material supporter of terrorism, but that is not enough–the US administration should go much further.
The Quds Force, along with its parent organization that is the IRGC, should be is on the US State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations. The efforts to counter QF support infrastructure for its proxy networks should also be a priority. Moreover, the United States along with its regional strategic partners, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the other Sunni Arab states that share a common interest in countering Iran’s threatening ambitions, should carve out an effective strategy to contain this Iranian agency. There should be a joint and coordinated effort to put pressure on the Quds Force to abandon its destructive role in the region.