Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps
Posted: October 28, 2009
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has provided intelligence and supplied weapons and funds to terrorist organizations since shortly after its founding in 1979. United States government reports indicate that the IRGC's activity over more than 30 years has enabled Iran to become "the most active state sponsor of terrorism."
Senior IRGC and Quds Force officials have been indicted by the Argentine government for their alleged roles in the 1994 bombing of an Argentina Jewish Center, which killed 85 people and injured approximately 300 others. Ahmad Vahidi, one of the IRGC members charged in the attack, was named by President Ahmadinejad in August 2009 as Iran's defense minister.
The IRGC and some of its members have been slapped with multiple rounds of sanctions by the United States and Europe over their involvement in terrorism, and more recently for participating Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.
Terror Against Israel
The growth of the Lebanese-based terrorist group Hezbollah, for example, is directly linked to the guidance, training and material support it receives from the IRGC. Hezbollah emerged during Israel's first war with Lebanon in 1982 with the help of members of the Quds Force, the IRGC's special operations branch, who traveled to Lebanon's Bekka Valley to fight against Israel. The IRGC has since supported Hezbollah's military, paramilitary and terrorist activities by providing the Lebanese terrorist organization with weapons, intelligence and logistical support.
The Quds Force has allegedly trained Hezbollah fighters in both Lebanon and in Iran and reportedly provides Hezbollah with $100-$200 million in funding every year. In June 2009, an airplane reportedly carrying explosives and electrical instruments from Iran to be delivered to Hezbollah crashed north of Tehran. This transfer of arms was purportedly a special operation of the IRGC, and some of its members were among the 168 people killed in the crash.
In addition to Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are also supported by the IRGC. In 2009, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal praised Iran for helping Hamas achieve "victory" over Israel during Operation Cast Lead. According to the State Department, Iran's provision of training, weapons and funds to Hamas since the 2006 Palestinian elections has bolstered the terrorist organization's ability to attack Israel. The State Department reported in 2010 that Hamas "receives the majority of its funding, weapons, and training from Iran." Israel has intercepted shipments of weapons from Iran it says are designated for Hamas, including advanced cruise missiles.
The IRGC has also been linked to series of planned attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets since the beginning of 2012. In January, Azerbaijani authorities announced that they arrested at least two local men for plotting to attack the Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan and a local rabbi. Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry indicated that the men are linked to Iranian intelligence agencies. An earlier bomb plot in Thailand was linked to IRGC-supported Hezbollah by Thai authorities.
A February 2012 bombing of an Israeli embassy vehicle injured the wife of the Israeli Defense Attaché to India and three others as she drove to pick up her children at school. The same day, another bomb targeting an embassy car in Tbilisi, Georgia, was found and defused before it could explode after a Georgian employee of the embassy notified police of a suspicious object attached to the car. Israeli officials have blamed Iran for orchestrating the attacks and Indian authorities have linked the New Delhi bombing to Iranian intelligence. A week later, Azerbaijani authorities announced the arrest of another cell with links to the IRGC and Hezbollah in a plot to attack the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center. Another explosion in Bangkok at the end of February led to the arrest of three Iranians, with Thai authorities seeking another two who are suspected of fleeing to Iran.
Additionally, on March 14, 2012, Azerbaijani authorities announced the breakup of a third cell in their country. Twenty-two Azerbaijani citizens were arrested in a plot to target the American and Israeli embassies and diplomatic personnel at the direction of the IRGC, according to an official statement.
Targeting the U.S.
The U.S. government has alleged that elements of the Iranian government inspired, supported and directed Hezbollah to carry out a 1996 truck bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American servicemen. In December 2006, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the truck bomb had been assembled at a base operated by the IRGC and ordered the government of Iran to pay more than $253 million to the families of those killed.
Similarly, the U.S. government has indicted members of Hezbollah for the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Marines. In 2007, a U.S. federal judge ruled that Iran, which provided Hezbollah with financial and logistical support to carry out the attack, was legally responsible for the bombing.
That same year, the State Department designated the IRGC pursuant to Executive Order 13382, freezing their assets as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and financially isolating them. In order to "counter Iran's bid for nuclear capabilities and support for terrorism," the U.S. Treasury Department also designated the Quds Force as a terrorism supporting entity under Executive Order 13224, which also freezes the assets of terrorists and their supporters, and cut off more than a dozen IRGC affiliates from the U.S. financial and commercial systems. These designations mark the first time the U.S. has issued sanctions against the armed forces of a sovereign government.
In response to the designation, IRGC leader Mohammad Ali Jafari warned that Western nations will face "tsunamis" of resistance if they continue to conspire against Iran. In addition, President Ahmadinejad responded to the designation by declaring that "millions of Iranians would be ready to sacrifice themselves fighting the country's enemies."
The U.S. State Department has also alleged that the IRGC provides training and funding, as well as weapons—including rockets, rifles, automatic weapons and mortars—to Shiite militias in Iraq who target American forces. In July 2009, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on an advisor to the Quds Force who allegedly provided "lethal support" to Iraqi Shiite militia groups that target and kill U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.
The IRGC also provides the Taliban in Afghanistan with weapons and arms training, according to the U.S. State Department. Since 2006, the Quds Force has coordinated shipments of small arms and ammunition, rocket propelled grenades and plastic explosives to Taliban members in Afghanistan. According to a statement released by the U.S. Treasury, "through Quds Force material support to the Taliban, we believe Iran is seeking to inflict casualties on U.S. and NATO forces."
Several American court cases have linked Iran to Al Qaeda. A November 2011 ruling found that Iran and the IRGC could be held liable for Al Qaeda's 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. A default judgment in a civil suit related to the 9/11 attacks was entered against Iran, senior Iranian leadership, and the IRGC later that year. Furthermore, several Al Qaeda leaders who fled to Iran after the downfall of the Taliban have reportedly been allowed increased freedom of movement and action by the regime and Al Qaeda-linked money transfers have gone through Iran, according to the Department of the Treasury.
More recently, authorities linked the IRGC to an October 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Federal prosecutors allege that Mansour Arbabsiar, a naturalized American citizen from Iran, was tasked by his cousin, a member of the Quds Force who is under U.S. sanctions, with orchestrating the assassination. Following the announcement of the arrest and charges, the administration announced new sanctions against members of the Quds Force for its pursuit of "international terrorism." The IRGC has rejected the accusations as "unfounded and false" and called for an investigation of the American government's actions in Iran and abroad.