Countering the Threat Lurking in Iran

by FRED GEDRICH June 13, 2011
Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard participate in a Quds Day demonstration in 2007. One covers his chest with a portrait of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
One of the greatest dangers to Middle East peace and security is the threat of Shiite Islamic extremism emanating from Iran. The leaders of Iran’s Islamic Republic seek to create a power base of likeminded regimes stretching across the upper tier of the predominantly Sunni Muslim Arab world (Iraq, Syria and Lebanon). Their prime instruments for doing so are the notorious Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, terror proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and generations of Shiite and Palestinian youth indoctrinated on Islamic law and Islamic extremism. If that isn’t bad enough, Iran stands on the precipice of developing nuclear weapons capability in defiance of a series of United Nations resolutions and sanctions.
The immediate and principal aims of Iran’s ruling theocrats are to drive the United States out of Muslim countries and destroy Israel and fragile democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.
Controlling the region’s energy wealth with China and Russia is also a chief goal.
The youth are a particular focus for perpetuating and exporting the Iranian Revolution. Generations of Shiite and Palestinian youth in Iran, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, and elsewhere in the Middle East have been raised on sacred Islamic (Sharia) law and Islamic extremism. The indoctrination of youth begins practically at birth. Palestinian mothers sing lullabies to their infants about killing Jews. In nursery school, children are indoctrinated with plays, skits and songs about heroic “martyrdom,” which train them from an early age to yearn to blow themselves up as “shaheed,” what Islam calls “martyrdom.” The term, which derives from Quranic verses and authenticated ahadith, refers to a Muslim who has been killed waging jihad “fi sabilillah,” or “in the way of Allah.”
Classroom and mosque lessons reinforce Islamic supremacy, jihad and the Sharia law imperative. Children begin pre-military training in early grades. Glorification of death and killing assault the young from every perspective: television, radio, videos, video games, street processions and funerals, placards and posters of “shaheeds” plastered on street corners. Al-Manar and Palestinian Television, paid for with Iranian money, beam nonstop hatred of Jews and infidels.
The youth are the next generation of Islamic jihad, which is written into the Iranian Constitution, together with Quranic verse 8:60. Iran’s theocratic leaders believe youth are essential to safeguarding Iran’s Islamic Revolution, expanding it to neighboring states, and protecting the regime from domestic and foreign enemies. It’s not necessarily “radicalization” but putting into practice the Islamic doctrine of Progressive Revelation of the Quranic message, just as Sayyid Qutb wrote in “Milestones,” a jihadi field manual.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, led by Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, exports the revolution through its notorious Quds Force. Quds, which means “Jerusalem” in Arabic, references their intent to take Jerusalem. The force, led by Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, has about 20,000 highly trained personnel specializing in international terrorism, armed conflict and support of terror proxies or external groups acting on behalf of the Quds. Groups such as Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon and Sunni Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank are tethered to a nexus of terror lifeline stretching from Iran’s and Syria’s terrorist states to their prime bases of operations.
While hundreds of thousands of Iranian youth, especially from poorer provinces, towns and villages, rally to the call of jihad, there are problems. Iranian youth in increasingly larger numbers from other parts of the country are turning away from Sharia and the command to jihad. And the declining country birthrate has become an issue. That’s why Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian proxies are even more important than ever for Iranian mullahs.
The use of proxies is effective because it is relatively cheap, and history has shown that there is little support among international community members for taking direct military action against Iran and its proxies. The Quds Force supports proxies in such places as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Gaza and the West Bank, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. The Quds Force reportedly has a presence in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela. It has also established a global network of sleeper cells it plans to activate if Iran is ever attacked.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini created the IRGC in 1979 primarily to safeguard the ideal of his Shiite Islamic Revolution; protect his regime from domestic and foreign enemies; and export his brutal brand of Islamic fundamentalism, influence and terrorism to neighboring states. With the consent of the Iranian regime, some current IRGC members participated in seizing the American embassy in 1979 and holding 52 hostages for 444 days — in violation of international law and centuries of diplomatic protocols. Its Quds Force used Hezbollah proxies to target and bomb U.S. embassies and the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, bomb U.S. residences in Saudi Arabia, and kidnap and murder American captives (such as William Buckley and U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Higgins). The Quds Force now manufactures and supplies lethal Palestinian proxies are even more important than ever for Iranian mullahs.
Iranian opposition supporters protest, flashing the “V” sign for victory in Tehran in September 2009 during a rally. Tens of thousands of Iranians protested against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection three months earlier.
The IRGC operates independently from Iran’s regular military — reporting directly to Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It currently has about 200,000 members assigned to special army, air force, navy and intelligence units in all 30 of Iran’s provinces. At the behest of the Supreme Leader in 2009, the IRGC operatives (Basij militia) cracked down on innocent Iranians protesting the questionable re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (former IRGC member) and the Islamic Republic’s 31st anniversary celebration.
The IRGC has become a vast military-based conglomerate, with control of Iran’s missile batteries, oversight of its nuclear program and a multibilliondollar business empire reaching into nearly every sector of the economy. Further complicating matters, the IRGC oversees at least seven nuclear facilities including those at Isfahan, Natanz and Qom. And the IRGC Quds Force operates at least 20 terrorist training centers including the Imam Ali Training Garrison, Tehran; Bahonar Garrison near Karaj Dam; and the Abouzar Garrison, Ahwaz, Khuzestan province. Lethal roadside bombs are produced by Sattari Industries in Tehran’s Lavizan District. IRGC and Quds Force headquarters are located in Tehran, the latter in the former U.S. embassy.
In its continuing war against Israel and others, IRGC Quds Force and terror proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas routinely violate Geneva Conventions and protocols with impunity. These terror groups have shrewdly and callously exploited civilized rules of warfare to their advantage without rebuke.
In Lebanon where about 10,000 of its members are deployed, the IRGC Quds Force has an important command control center at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in charge of coordinating tactical activity with Hezbollah in Dahyia, a Southern Beirut suburb. Intelligence reports also say most of Hezbollah artillery and missile bases in Southern Lebanon are under the direct supervision of Quds Force officers dispersed in secret hideaways south and north of the Litani River. The Quds Force also manages radar systems mounted on the peaks of Mount Lebanon and military training camps in the Bekaa Valley. After six-months of basic training, the best candidates are sent to Iran for further specialization.
In South America, the IRGC Quds Force is reportedly sponsoring Hezbollah training camps in Venezuela’s Guajira Peninsula and elsewhere in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The Quds force is also establishing a presence in Africa, where many expatriate Lebanese businessmen reside.
To date, policies employed by the United Nations, the United States and others to counter the belligerent activities of the Iranian regime, including the IRGC Quds Force and Hezbollah, have proved ineffective. For example, the U.N. Security Council attempted to curb Iran’s nuclear development program by passing a resolution for Hezbollah to dismantle and disarm.
President Ahmadinejad’s triumphant visits to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the U.N. during the past few years; Iran’s continued work on its nuclear development program; Iran’s continued terrorist supporting activities; Hezbollah’s continued defiance of the international community’s resolution for it to disarm and dismantle its organization; and the continued willingness of countries such as Germany, Japan, China and Russia to do business with Iran render current sanctions ineffective. Since formation of Iran’s Islamic Republic in 1979, they have not changed the behavior of the theocratic regime and its terror entities and proxies.
Recently, Hezbollah forced the collapse of the Lebanese government. That action could lead to more sectarian violence in Lebanon, increase influence of U.S.-designated terror states Syria and Iran, in Lebanese affairs, and set the stage for another Israeli/Hezbollah War that could escalate into a wider Middle East conflict.
The time has come for the U.S. and its international community allies to intelligently recalibrate their overall strategy to counter the current Iranian threat. Otherwise, a nuclear-armed Iran will emerge and further menace the region and the world.
At a minimum, they should, first, encourage Iranian opposition and resistance groups and dissidents, including “Green Revolution” participants, to combine efforts to peacefully change Iran’s government. If the Iranian regime tries to crush the uprising as it did in 2009, they should be willing to immediately provide overt and covert aid. It is much preferable for the Iranian regime to collapse from within rather than by any other means. The collapse of the Islamic Republic would also make it more likely that Iran’s nuclear program would be peaceful and inevitably destroy the IRGC and the Quds Force and starve terror groups such as Hezbollah of the vital support they are currently receiving from Iran.
Second, better educate the general public, especially young people, in Iran’s sphere of influence in public communication venues not controlled by governments and clerics (Internet, cell phones, etc.) on the ideas and opportunities present in the modern world as opposed to Islamic dogmatism.
Third, inform Iran’s leaders that it must stop developing its nuclear program immediately and verifiably and stop providing funding, weapons, and training to militias throughout the Middle East. If Iran fails to cease these activities, the consequences could be selective air strikes on nuclear facilities, improvised explosive device factories, terror training centers, and the special navy, air force, and ground units of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, including Quds Force components. History shows that diplomacy and economic sanctions will not succeed with a terrorist aggressor such as Iran without a viable military option on the table.
Family Security Matters Contributor Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst and served in the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. This article first appeared in the Asia Pacific Defense Forum Magazine (pdf), a professional military journal.

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