Quds Force & IRGC’s Intelligence Organization – the originators of terrorism
Quds Force & IRGC’s Intelligence Organization – the originators of terrorism:
Quds Force was formally founded in 1988 after the IRGC’s reorganization, post the Iran – Iraq war (it operated some years before and during the war in different formats – department 900 and Special External Operations). It is a special-operations branch within the IRGC. It is responsible for carrying out Iranian regional policies. In fact, it specializes in unconventional warfare and military intelligence operations which are fundamental to conducting terrorist attacks.
Quds Force is a completely independent structure within the IRGC, most of its units are clandestine, and the Quds Force commander reports directly to Khamenei, bypassing the formal chain of command.
Quds Force operates against western targets, and against opposition activists living outside Iran.
Quds Force units operate across the globe, focusing on the Middle East region. Quds forces are divided into the main HQ with the special units and several regional HQ scattered throughout the continents. It cooperates with proxy and client terror organizations and entities such as: Hezbollah, Houthis, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Shiite networks (Pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Shiite cells in Africa).
Quds Force provide the proxies with financing, training, weapons, technological equipment, intelligence, and command, tailored for each proxy.
Quds Force is also responsible for the operational connections with Iran-friendly countries that support terrorism such as: Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea.
Quds Force manages close relations with various Mafia syndicates, especially in Turkey, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and the Balkan.
Hitherto only three consecutive commanders headed Quds Force:
• Ahmad Vahidi (88’-98’, the current Minister of Interior)
• Qassem Soleimani (98’-2020, killed January,2020 by a US airstrike)
• Esmail Qaani (2020-present)
IRGC’S Intelligence Organization:
IRGC’s Intelligence Organization is an Iranian intelligence agency which is part of Iran’s intelligence community. It operates independently from the MOIS and has a permanent seat in the Council for Intelligence Coordination. The Intelligence Organization of IRGC (in its current form) was established on Khamenei’s initiative in 2009, and it answers directly and only to him. It was formed that way to prevent disagreements and bureaucracy between the elite of the political level and MOIS to Khamenei (which harmed MOIS’s status). Furthermore, to strengthen the lines even more, in May 2019 the Intelligence Organization was merged with the Strategic Intelligence branch of the IRGC.
IRGC’s Intelligence Organization deals with special operations, thwarting political subversion, actively participating in repression of protests and riots and fighting “Western cultural penetration”. In recent years, the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization assigned missions which were previously classified as operational MIOS tasks, e.g.: capturing regime opponents abroad, arresting tourists and dual-nationality Iranians for the purpose of prisoner swap deals with Western countries, or for advancing various economic interests. This amounts to terrorism.
Today, the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization is “competing” with Quds Force for different missions abroad. Both have the operational capability of gathering intelligence and to carry out special operations. On the other hand, a few testimonies show that cooperation between the two does exists in operations outside Iran, although the way it is divided and managed is not clear yet.
Hitherto only two consecutive commanders headed IRGC’s Intelligence Organization (in its current structure):
• Hussein Taeb (2009-2022, today’s special advisor to IRGC’s commander Hossein Salami).
• Muhammad Kazemi (2022-present)
These units function as the main executors of the Iranian regime’s terrorist policy around the world.
Quds Force’s Special Units:
Unit 400, also known as the “Special Operations Unit”, is the most elite unit of Quds Force. It operates outside of Iran’s boundaries. Its mission is to carry out terror operations against western targets. This unit is meant to do special missions that Quds Force wants to do itself without “taking a risk” on local cells that are less professional. It is staffed with highly trained personnel for various operational situations.
The unit is responsible for assassinations, kidnaping and sabotage.
The unit works closely with Hezbollah’s elite unit 910, which serves the same purposes.
Unit 840 is one of Quds Force’s elite and classified units.
This unit branched in the recent years from unit 400 (highly trained assassination unit) and it’s in charge of establishing terror cells in foreign countries and using them mainly to carry out terror operations (kidnap or assassination) against western targets and Iranian opposition activists. Those local cells are usually part of/connected to the local organized crime scene in the country of the operation.
The unit’s main departments are: Headquarters, Intelligence, Middle East and Africa, Caucasus and Asia, Europe and the US, and an operational department specializing in activity against opposition activists.
Unit 840 carried out terrorist operations in various countries around the world with the goal to assassinate figures associated with the Iranian regime’s opposition. Among them are assassinations of opposition activists in the Netherlands and Turkey, and failed assassination attempts in the US and Azerbaijan.
Recently, the unit used operatives from Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iranians that live in European countries to carry out their terror operations.
Unit 190 is Quds Force’s special unit for logistics operations. It is responsible for transferring and smuggling Iranian weapons and operatives around the world.
The unit was responsible for the transfer of tens of thousands of tons of weapons in recent years to proxy terror organizations, ethnic groups and countries, in accordance with Iran’s interests, mainly: Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria, Houthis, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas Shiite militias in Iraq and more.
The modus operandi of the unit includes the use of cargo airplanes and cargo ship, civilian transportation for concealment (airplanes, ship, trucks), transfer of weapons through third countries, send it with false paperwork guised as humanitarian aid, and hide it inside containers with legitimate products.
A significant part of the unit’s personnel are pilots who work under the cover of one of the Iranian airlines, with the aim of deceiving the west and to conceal them. The plane is packed with tons of weapons or operatives who want to reach the same destination without any documentation.
The technological R&D unit of Quds Force. Most of the unit’s employees are mechanical engineering experts who are assisted by a series of engine and missile production facilities in the Tehran and Samnan area for production, research, training, and system testing.
In addition to the development of rockets, the unit provides training and technical support to terrorist organizations backed by it, mainly Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Iraqi militias and the Houthis in Yemen. The technical support is intended to allow those organizations the ability to self-produce rockets. The briefings and training in Iran are carried out at the “Shahid Shabani” training center and at the shooting test ranges of the Space Research Center at the Samnan site.
Among the developments that came out of the technical unit’s planning table were heavy rockets which were seen in the arena of Iraq, Syria and recently also in the Gaza arena. These rockets carry an especially large warhead for a larger radius of destruction and heavy damage in urban areas.
IRGC’s Intelligence Organization Special Units:
IRGC’s Intelligence Organization’s units carry out terror attacks around the world, very much like Units 400 and 840, or at least tries to do so (recently many of its more qualified personal were dismissed/moved to Quds Force leaving the unit with untrained operatives failing their missions).
The organization comprises various divisions, and uses multiple means for pursuing terror attacks, including a network of military attachés around the world.
Division 4000: Special Operations Division
This division is responsible for special activity against western targets with a special focus on Israelis, and Iranian opposition activists.
Responsible for the last months operational failures trying to kidnap and assassinate western targets, and in particular Israelis, mainly in Turkey.
More recent failures were in Cyprus, UAE, and Uganda.
Division 1500: Counterespionage Division
Division 800: Foreign Intelligence Division
Division 2000: Cyber Division
Examples of Terror operations carried out, supervised, and directed by Quds Force or IRGC’s Intelligence Organization as part of the Iranian regime’s modus operandi:
Completed terror operations:
• Bethesda, Maryland (July,1980) – The assassination of the former Iranian diplomat Ali Akbar Tabatabai. Iranian agents recruited David Belfield (aka Dawud Salahuddin), an American convert to Shiia Islam to be the one who pulled the trigger.
• Beirut, Lebanon (October,1983) – A terror attack “Barracks bombing” in two compounds of the US army and French army in Beirut in a matter of minutes. The suicide bomber, who drove the first truck into the US army compound, was an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari. He detonated with his 9,525 kilograms of TNT. 305 people were killed in the two explosions. The terror attack was carried out mainly by Hezbollah and was supervised and directed by the top command of the Iranian regime.
• Paris, France (August,1991) – The assassination of Chapour Bakhtiar, a former Iranian prime minister (the last one before the revolution in 1979). He and his personal secretary were stabbed to death with kitchen knives in Bakhtiar’s apartment.
• Buenos Aires, Argentina (March,1992) – A terror attack on the Israeli embassy. A pick-up truck driven by a suicide bomber and loaded with explosives smashed into the front entrance of the Israeli Embassy and detonated. The embassy, a Catholic church, and a nearby school building were destroyed. The blast killed 29 people, including children, and wounded 242. The operation was carried out by Hezbollah’s special unit 910 but was supervised and directed by Iran’s top command that gave the mission a diplomatic cover for all the operational needs of the squad.
• Berlin, Germany (September,1992) – The assassination of Sadegh Sharafkandi in Mykonos restaurant. He was a Kurdish political activist and the Secretary General of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI) He was shot dead with three more people accompanying him.
• Buenos Aires, Argentina (July,1994) – A terror attack on the Jewish community center – AMIA. The car bomb, a van loaded with about 275 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, drove into the AMIA building and detonated. The blast killed 85 people and wounded over 300. Same as in the terror attack in 1992, the operation was carried out by Hezbollah’s Special unit 910 but supervised and directed by the top command of the Iranian regime and with his diplomatic cover for all the operational needs of the operational unit. It is still considered one of the significant terror attacks in history.
• Khobar, Saudi Arabia (June,1996) – A terror attack next to Aramco’s HQ in an 8-floor building, containing the US air-force command post. A truck full of explosives detonated and killed 19 US air force personnel and wounded 498 from different nationalities. Iran directed the attack and carried it out by various proxies incl. Hezbollah. Later, Iran tried to blame Al Qaeda for this action.
• New Delhi, India (February,2012) – Quds Force’s operative riding a motorcycle attached a sticky bomb on the car of Israel’s defense ministry official. His wife was driving it that day and was injured by the explosion.
• Burgas, Bulgaria (July,2012) – A terror attack carried out by a suicide bomber inside a tourist bus with mainly Israelis, inside the area of Burgas airport. 6 people were killed and over 30 were injured. The attack was supervised and directed by the top command of the Iranian regime and was carried out by Hezbollah’s squad.
• The Hague, Netherlands (November,2017) – The assassination of Ahmad Mola Nissi, an Iranian Arab activist who founded an Arab nationalist group aspired to establish an independent state inside Iran. He was shot in the street.
Foiled terror operations:
• Washington DC, USA (October,2011) – U.S. authorities revealed they had foiled a plot allegedly orchestrated by the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. The two Iranian were caught, Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized US citizen who holds an Iranian passport, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of Quds force.
• Baku, Azerbaijan (January,2012) – Three Azeri assets of Quds Force were detained while carrying explosives and firearms with the intention to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in the country, the Jewish community’s rabbi and the Jewish school principal.
• Tbilisi, Georgia (February,2012) – Quds Force operative attached a sticky bomb underneath the car of an Israeli official in the country. It was discovered by his driver.
• Bangkok, Thailand (February,2012) – Quds Force operatives planned to attach a sticky bomb to a car of an Israeli official in the country. One operative had a self-inflicted accident with the explosives in his safe house, he was badly injured. The other operative had a fight with a taxi driver after he refused to give him a ride. The Iranian threw a grenade at the taxi and one more towards policemen who approached the place to arrest him. The second grenade hit a tree and bounced back to the Iranian’s legs and ripped them off.
• Montevideo, Uruguay (January,2015) – The Israeli embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay appeared to be the target of an attempted bombing. A small explosion occurred near a trade center building housing the Israeli embassy. Police found a partially detonated device allegedly connected to someone at the Iranian embassy. A senior Iranian diplomat was expelled in April 2015 for alleged involvement in the plot.
• Tirana, Albania (March,2018) – MEK members in Albania were targeted by Quds Force unit 840 and their local assets, as targets for assassination. The local police detained few members of the local team.
• Pretoria, South Africa (September,2020) – The US and the South African Intelligence services exposed Quds Force’s plot to assassinate Mrs. Lana Marks, the US ambassador to the country. She was targeted due to her friendship with Donald Trump to revenge Qassem Soleimani’s death.
• Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, (February,2021) – Ethiopian authorities arrested 15 people who were involved in plotting a terror attack against the local UAE’s embassy. They were captured with weapons and explosives. It was a local cell directed by Quds force unit.
• Istanbul, Turkey (June,2022) – Several Iranian squads were arrested after a row of attempts to kidnap or kill Israelis in the Turkish capital. Most of them were planned by the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization.
• Stockholm, Sweden (August,2022) – A bag with explosives was found in a park in city center before a concert held there by the Iranian singer Ibrahim Hamadi aka “Abi” – who opposes the regime in Tehran and lives in exile.
Quds Force’s weapon smuggling routes:
In the last decade or so, the number of arms shipments to Quds Force proxies and allies in the Middle East has increased significantly. Since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, Syria has become a favorite destination for the supply of Iranian weapons, which are mostly intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Houthis in Yemen are also a major destination for these arms shipments.
The weapons are smuggled in different routes by sea, air, and land. Here are some examples:
The terrorists of Quds Force and IRGC’s Intelligence Organization:
IRGC’s Intelligence Organization:
Additional, two recent appointments for important positions at IRGC’s modus operandi: