Foreign terror cells the backbone of Iran’s IRGC

Foreign terror cells the backbone of Iran’s IRGC

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (Getty Images)

Since 1979, Iran has set up many terrorist cells in foreign nations and trained and armed militants abroad in order to pursue its hegemonic ambitions, export its revolutionary ideals, carry out assassinations, and undermine other countries’ national interests and scuttle their foreign policy objectives.
After the Iran-Iraq War, the ruling clergy became very interested in creating terror cells in other countries because they give the regime several advantages, including being less costly in comparison to launching direct attacks against other countries. These cells also give the regime the advantage of anonymity, making it very difficult for other governments to directly connect Tehran to terrorist attacks and hold the Iranian leaders accountable.
Over the last four decades, the regime has succeeded in building a worldwide network of terror cells. Only last month, Saudi Arabia broke up an Iranian-trained cell, arresting 10 people and seizing weapons and explosives, including “electrical components used in the making of explosives such as capacitors, transformers and resistors, gunpowder, chemicals, Kalashnikov rifles, guns, sniper rifle, live ammunition, machine guns, blades, military clothes, and wireless communication devices.” The group was trained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to a statement issued by Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of State Security. The terrorist cell had received “military and field training, including on how to make explosives.”
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior revealed last month that it had foiled a terrorist attack by a group backed by the IRGC early this year. The group, called the “Qassem Soleimani Brigade,” was planning to attack several security and public structures in Bahrain.
In October last year, the Albanian General Police Director Ardi Veliu revealed that an active cell of the foreign operations unit linked to the Iranian Quds Force had been detected by Albania’s security institutions. He said: “The Albanian authorities have identified these individuals and, thanks to intelligence from informants inside the criminal organizations, have prevented the planned (attack) of March 2018 and the eventual planning of attacks by organized crime members… on behalf of Iran.”
Iran’s terror cells also aim to subvert other governments by carrying out assassinations. For example, Tehran was 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 also revealed that Iran may have ordered the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It has even been implicated in the 9/11 attacks, as US Judge George Daniels in 2018 issued an order stating that Iran was liable because its support for Al-Qaeda allowed the terrorist attacks to occur.
The Iranian regime tried to orchestrate a terrorist operation in Europe in 2018, when French officials foiled a planned bomb attack against a large “Free Iran” convention in Paris, which I attended. The opposition event was also attended by many high-level speakers, including former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
The terror cells and proxies, which have total loyalty to Iran, most likely receive direct orders and instructions from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. For example, it was found that Khamenei gave approval for last year’s attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations at Abqaiq and Khurais, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The group claimed: “After Khamenei’s initial approval of this operation, detailed planning began and the SNSC (Iran’s Supreme National Security Council) referred the plan to Khamenei for final approval. Khamenei ordered IRGC Maj. Gen. (Gholam) Rashid and Brig. Gen. (Amir-Ali) Hajizadeh to begin the operational implementation of the plan.”

It is incumbent on the international community to hold the Iranian leaders accountable for their widespread network of terrorist cells.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The Iranian regime also targets Latin American countries, where it dispatches fighters (specifically from Hezbollah), creates terror cells and trains militias. Its increasing involvement in this region provides economic gains for Tehran. Iranian terrorist “sleeper cells” are also reportedly operating in the US, according to intelligence officials and security experts.
Another objective of Iran’s terror cells and proxies is to create fear in other nations and ultimately impose a political system that mirrors that of Tehran. As Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has admitted: “Our goal, which we have no choice but to adopt due to our ideological beliefs, is the project of the Islamic State of Lebanon… Not as a separate Islamic Republic but as a part of a ‘Great Islamic Republic,’ ruled by (former Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah) Khomeini.”
It is incumbent on the international community to hold the Iranian leaders accountable for their widespread network of terrorist cells and the attacks they carry out all over the world.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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