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GFATF - LLl - Abdul Reza Shahlai

Abdul Reza Shahlai

Terror organization: Iran, IRGC, Quds Force;

Status: high-ranking commander based in Sanaa, Yemen;

Role: Shahla’i has a long history of targeting Americans and U.S. allies globally. Some of it: Multiple assassinations of coalition forces in Iraq, provided weapons and explosives to Shia extremist groups, planned the 20/01/2007 attack in Karbala, Iraq, that killed five U.S. soldiers and wounded three others. As a financier and senior IRGC official, in 2011, Shahla’i funded and directed the plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. He also planned follow-on attacks inside the United States and elsewhere. Had this scheme succeeded, as many as 200 innocent civilians in the United States could have been killed;

Location: Iran, Yemen;

Also Known As: Abdol Reza Shala’i; Abd-al Reza Shalai; ‘Abdorreza Shahlai; Abdolreza Shahla’i; Abdul-Reza Shahlaee; Hajj Yusef; Haji Yusif; Hajji Yasir ;Hajji Yusif; ‘Yusuf Abu-al-Karkh’;

Citizenship: Iran;

Position(s): Commander of the Quds Force in Yemen;

Abdul Reza Shahlai is an internationally sanctioned commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who leads the Quds Force in Yemen and coordinates Iran-backed Houthi rebels there. The United States also accuses Shahlai of coordinating the failed 2011 plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States and a 2007 attack on U.S. troops in Iraq. Shahlai survived a U.S. assassination attempt in Yemen in early January 2020.

The Quds Force is the expeditionary arm of the IRGC responsible for liaising with Iran’s terrorist proxies around the world. Shahlai has provided training and financing to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting against a Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen. Previously, he provided weaponry to Iran-backed militants in Iraq. The U.S. government suspects Shahlai of responsibility for a January 20, 2007, attack in Karbala, Iraq, in which unidentified militants wearing U.S.-style military uniforms and carrying forged American identification cards and American-style M-4 rifles infiltrated a secure compound and killed five U.S. soldiers.

The U.S. government also holds Shahlai responsible for a failed 2011 Quds Force operation to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, in Washington, D.C. According to the U.S. government, Shahlai conspired with his cousin, Mansour Arbabsiar, to assassinate Jubeir. Shahlai allegedly approved $5 million in payments for Arbabsiar to use to recruit others to the plot. Arbabsiar unknowingly wired money to undercover FBI agents and was arrested at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on September 29, 2011. He pleaded guilty to participation in the failed plot and admitted he had been recruited and funded by members of the Quds Force. Arbabsiar told U.S. investigators that he acted at the behest of his cousin, a “big general” in the Iranian military.

In December 2019, the U.S. government offered a $15 million reward for information on Shahlai and the disruption of IRGC plans. U.S. forces attempted to kill Shahlai in Yemen on January 2, 2020. A U.S. airstrike killed Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq early on January 3. U.S. officials told the Washington Post that the United States had intended to kill both commanders and announce their deaths at the same time. The State Department did not comment on why the operation to kill Shahlai failed.

The January 2020 U.S. strike in Yemen killed Quds Force member Mohammad Mirza’i, according to Iranian media. Shahlai reportedly went into hiding after the failed assassination attempt.

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