By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The Iranian regime is prepared to once again employ political opportunism and use Iraq as a proxy battleground to advance the ruling clerics’ revolutionary, strategic and geopolitical objectives. One military institution in particular is heightening the tension in Iraq and is ready to drag the country into bloody civil war. This is the Quds Force, the elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is mandated to advance Iran’s ideological and political interests in foreign countries. The head of the Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is also well-known as the Middle East’s deadliest and Iran’s most dangerous man.
The Islamic Republic exerts significant direct or indirect influence in Iraq through a conglomerate of more than 40 militia groups, which operate under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). According to leaked reports, Soleimani recently traveled to Iraq and met with the leaders of the Iraqi militia groups that the Iranian regime controls. He instructed the Shiite militias to “prepare for proxy war.”
The Quds Force is in charge of extraterritorial operations, which include organizing, supporting, training, arming and financing Iran’s predominantly Shiite militia groups; launching wars directly or indirectly via these proxies; fomenting unrest in other nations to advance Iran’s ideological and hegemonic interests; attacking and invading cities and countries; and assassinating foreign political figures and powerful Iranian dissidents worldwide.
The Quds Force has infiltrated top security, political, intelligence and military infrastructures in Iraq, makes decisions that should be taken by Iraqi leaders and politicians, and it has operatives and agents across the country. The Quds Force has also given birth to many designated terrorist groups, including Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and Kata’ib Al-Imam Ali, which use horrific tactics similar to Daesh. The latter is known for showing videos of beheadings and burning bodies, while the former reportedly receives some $2 million a month from Iran. Many people believe that the blood of many innocents — including Iraqi women and children — are on the Quds Force’s hands.
Many people believe that the blood of many innocents — including Iraqi women and children — are on the Quds Force’s hands.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The Quds Force is attempting to further destabilize Iraq, which is the Iranian regime’s core modus operandi to expand its influence. Soleimani has previously declared that the unrest and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa during the so-called Arab Spring “provide our revolution with the greatest opportunities… we must witness victory in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. This is the fruit of the Islamic revolution.”
The proxy militias in Iraq will most likely begin their operations by escalating the conflict in the country. This is due to the fact that Soleimani’s instructions are generally taken as direct orders from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, since the general is a staunchly loyal confidante of Khamenei. The head of the Quds Force has great influence over foreign policy and is considered Iran’s second man after Khamenei. Soleimani boasted in a message to the US Gen. David Petraeus that: “You should know that I… control policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan. The ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.”
This is not the first time the Quds Force has prepared militias and proxies to carry out attacks against foreign entities. It prioritizes offensive tactics and operations over defensive ones, and its leaders are known for taking overconfident selfies with their troops and proxies on battlefields in several countries, including Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.
The Quds Force has also been accused of failed plans to bomb Saudi and Israeli embassies and to assassinate then-Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel Al-Jubeir in 2011. An investigation revealed that the group may also have been behind the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It was also implicated in the 9/11 attacks, as US Judge George Daniels issued an order stating that Iran was liable because its support for Al-Qaeda allowed the terrorist attacks to occur.
In Iraq, the Quds Force has also been fomenting unrest by providing deadly, sophisticated bombs, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), that killed many civilians and Iraqi and American troops.
The Quds Force rules over roughly 20,000 members and it can also use forces from the IRGC and the Basij in case of emergencies, or hire fighters from other countries, such as Afghanistan, to fight as proxies.
The Quds Force’s plan to escalate attacks in Iraq should set alarm bells ringing for the international community. But, unfortunately, because this military institution operates under the “legitimacy” of a state, it is yet to be held accountable for its terror activities. The international community must hold the Quds Force accountable, disrupt its terror activities in Iraq and prevent it from dragging its neighbor into yet another civil war.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman, and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
This article was first published by arabnews