By Mike Rogers and Arthur Herman*
‘We welcome war with the U.S., as we believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power.” So said Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the lieutenant commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, via state-run Iranian television last month.
What makes Salami so confident about going up against the world’s most extensive military? Maybe it’s the increasing clout of IRGC’s elite terrorist division, the Quds Force, in the Middle East, including its very public involvement in the fighting against ISIS in Iraq — as America’s influence lessens in that conflict.
Eight years ago, the Quds Force was killing Americans in Iraq. Now the administration is on the brink of a deal with Iran that will give that brutal and shadowy group the green light to expand its export of the Iranian revolution under the protection of a nuclear umbrella.
There is a growing consensus among Democratic as well as Republican lawmakers — not to mention the rest of the world — that the Obama administration is set to make a very bad deal on Iran’s ongoing nuclear-weapons program. It is a deal that creates an oversight regime full of loopholes and fails to fetter weaponization or missile development or impose free inspections of nuclear facilities, while allowing Iran to dodge questions about whether it tried to build a bomb in the past. It will not even require Iran to halt enriching uranium — one of the original goals of the talks — and it comes with a ten-year expiration date.
Yet the implications of allowing Iran to continue its nuclear program go beyond triggering runaway nuclear proliferation among Arab states in the region. It will also empower the operatives of Quds Force to continue to expand their bloody activities, as we sit on the sidelines.
The Quds Force is the secretive spearhead of Iran’s push for hegemony in the Middle East. Named after the Arabic word for Jerusalem, it is part intelligence service and part special operations. It has been training and equipping Islamic revolutionary groups around the Middle East for decades, and it is responsible for some of the most notorious terrorist acts in the world. It has been a key trainer and sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah in their ongoing fight to destroy Israel and murder Jews. In 1994, for example, the Quds Force helped to plan and finance an attack by Hezbollah on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
Then, following U.S. operations in Iraq in 2003, the Quds Force quickly moved in to finance, train, and equip counterinsurgency groups, both Shiite and Sunni, to kill Americans. In fact, the Quds Force played a key role in the expansion of the use of IEDs against Americans in Iraq in 2004–5. Many of those weapons had parts manufactured in Iran. Hundreds of American deaths in the Iraq War can be traced directly to Iran, the IRGC, and the Quds Force.
On January 20, 2007, gunmen opened fire on personnel at a base in Karbala, killing several U.S. servicemen. Evidence suggests that they were Quds Force operatives. General David Petraeus testified to Congress that recovered laptop computers from those operatives contained plans for the Karbala attack. The money and training came from Quds Force personnel.
It is not as if the administration is ignorant of the Quds Force’s record. The president’s former secretary of defense, Robert Gates, warned constantly about Iran’s role in funding and supplying the insurgency not just in Iraq, but Afghanistan as well. When a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., was exposed in 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that the Quds Force was involved. It is known that the Quds Force reports to the supreme leader and not the Iranian president.
President Obama himself had accused the Quds Force of helping Bashar Assad crush the demonstrations that broke out against his regime during the Arab Spring — not to mention the terrorist group’s murderous role in the ongoing Syrian civil war as described by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
This is what the Quds Force is capable of without the protection of a nuclear weapon. Imagine what they would do with the security guarantee that comes with that ultimate deterrent, without fear of reprisal from the West or other Arab states.
Yet the administration seems to be blind to the threat, or to be examining the nuclear program separately from the rest of Iran’s foreign policy. Just a month ago the administration ordered our military to conduct air-support operations for the forces fighting in Iraq’s Tikrit — Shiite militias led by the Quds Force’s top commander. Now it may have to send in American planes in support of those same militias in the campaign to retake Ramadi.
Asking U.S. pilots to risk their lives to help the Quds Force, in any capacity, is a sad change given Iran’s role in the deaths of so many of our fighting men and women. Giving this terrorist group a nuclear umbrella, and by extension an inviolate base from which to plan, train for, and finance attacks, poses a direct danger to the region and the world. It is one more reason why the current nuclear deal the administration seems so desperate to get needs to be scrapped.