Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Iran and the Threat of the Revolutionary Guard

Paul E. Vallely and Fred Gedrich

Team Obama, clearly exasperated that Iran’s terrorist state hasn’t reciprocated to its public and private engagement overtures, took a new tact during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent Mideast tour. The secretary declared that the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is supplanting the country’s clerical and political leadership and moving the nation toward a “military dictatorship.” And the administration is now seeking yet another U.N. Security Council resolution as a remedy.Newsflash to Team Obama: Iran’s theocratic rulers, president, and their IRGC protectors share the same nuclear weapons and terrorism goals and are the driving force behind the regime’s 31-year one-sided “Death to America” war. They have collectively and successfully thwarted all previous economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations.

There are plenty of reasons why the Iranian regime (dating back to the time of the Reagan administration) and the IRGC (during the George W. Bush administration) have been labeled as terrorists by the United States. With the consent of the Iranian regime, IRGC members participated in seizing the American embassy in 1979 and holding 52 hostages for 444 days – in violation of international law and millennia of diplomatic protocols. Its Quds Force used Hezbollah proxies to target and bomb the U.S. embassy and the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, bomb U.S. residences in Saudi Arabia, and kidnap and murder American captives (such as William Buckley and USMC Lt. Col. William Higgins). The Quds Force now manufactures and supplies lethal roadside bombs (IEDs) to Shi’ite militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan that kill and maim American troops.

If that isn’t bad enough, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog (IAEA) recently said the regime, with the IRGC leading the way, may be on the verge of producing a nuclear warhead to go along with their long-range missiles, which many believe will further threaten regional and global peace and security. Others believe Iran already possesses a nuclear capability and is in the process of achieving the capability of matching warheads to missiles. Surprisingly, many Americans know little about the IRGC, which wields considerable security, political and economic clout in Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini created the IRGC in 1979 primarily to safeguard the ideal of his Shi’ite Islamic Revolution, protect his regime from domestic and foreign enemies, and export his brutal brand of Islamic fundamentalism to neighboring states.

The IRGC operates independently from Iran’s regular military, reporting directly to Iran’s 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 Iranian provinces. At the behest of the Supreme Leader during the past year, the IRGC cracked down on innocent Iranians protesting the questionable reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic’s 31st anniversary celebration. The IRGC exports the revolution through their notorious Quds (Jerusalem) Force. This force has about 20,000 highly trained personnel specializing in international terrorism, armed conflict and support of proxies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.

Former and current IRGC members occupy 14 of 21 cabinet positions, about 90 of 290 parliament seats, and a host of local mayorships and council seats. Past and present IRGC members include President Ahmadinejad, ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi and parliament speaker Ali Larijani. The IRGC is also a business conglomerate controlling some 500 companies active in a wide range of industries including nuclear power, banking, insurance, and recreation.

The IRGC and Quds Force headquarters are located in Tehran, the latter in the former U.S. embassy. 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.

The IRGC and Quds Force are currently led by Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari. He was appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei in 2007. His portfolio includes command of Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, relations with countries like Venezuela and terror proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, and liaison with intelligence organ Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

One cannot fault Secretary Clinton for putting the well-deserved spotlight on the IRGC. However, her declaration about it becoming an emerging “military dictatorship” misses the mark. In reality, it doesn’t matter whether Iran is ruled by clerics or a card-carrying IRGC member as president. The IRGC will still continue developing nuclear weapons, engaging in terrorism, oppressing millions of freedom-seeking Iranians, ignoring Team Obama’s rapprochement overtures and economic sanction threats, and dismissing another worthless U.N. Security Council resolution watered down by Iran’s security council veto-wielding friends in Russia and China.

The time has come for Team Obama to shelve its idealistic, naïve and dangerous “open-hand” diplomacy in favor of “bold and aggressive” action against Iran. The administration must support the Iranian Opposition organizations. The best way to get the Iranian regime’s attention would be to inform them that President Obama will:

(1) Ask Congress to pass a resolution making Iranian “regime change” a strong U.S. policy (similar to what Congress and President Clinton did for Iraq in 1998);

(2) Direct, under executive authority or with congressional permission, precise military strikes on Iranian nuclear development sites as well as regime targets like terrorist training facilities, IRGC and Quds Force headquarters. This will be done if Iran doesn’t cease its nuclear weapons program and supporting radical Islamic/global caliphate activities;


(3) Overtly and covertly encourage and support all Iranian opposition and freedom seeking groups to foster regime change.

Let’s “hope” President Obama makes these policy “changes” before it’s too late. Global peace and security depend on it.

Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, retired, is chairman of Stand Up America, a member of the Iran Policy Committee and co-author of Endgame. Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst who served in the Departments of State and Defense.

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