Like the beating heart of a wild animal, the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guard Corps stands at the center of almost every piece of chaos, violence and extremism happening in the Middle East today it seems.
The IRGC pumps the engine that powers all the arms of the Iranian war machine that results in terrible human rights abuses and proxy wars raging throughout the region. Its tentacles stretch into almost every part of Iranian society and have been well documented over the past three decades.
Its control of all aspects of Iran’s military and its leadership position in instigating almost every violent act militarily is impressive and deeply disturbing. Needless to say, its conducts warrants nary a word of protest from the Iran lobby. Not even the allegedly peace-loving Ploughshares Fund utters any protests over the IRGC’s worst military excesses.
Just recently, the Pentagon blasted the “unprofessional” behavior of the Iranian navy after two separate incidents in the Strait of Hormuz last week.
According to the Pentagon, an Iranian frigate on Thursday came within 150 yards of the civilian-crewed USNS Invincible.
Then on Saturday, a number of small assault craft came within 350 yards of the Invincible and other ships.
“This was assessed to be a combination of unsafe or unprofessional behavior,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.
In both cases, the US ship had to change course to avoid any collision, he added.
According to Fox News, Iran test-fired a pair of ballistic missiles into the Gulf of Oman over the weekend as well. It was the first time Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missiles have been tested in two years. One of the missiles successfully destroyed a target barge at a range of 155 miles.
One of the missiles launched from the IRGC base in Bandar-e-Jask successfully destroyed a target barge at a range of 155 miles. The other missed its target. U.S. officials told Fox News the latest version of the Fateh-110 missile has an “active seeker” system that helps it target ships at sea.
The new Iranian short-range ballistic missile launches come a week after Iran successfully test-fired Russian surface-to-air missiles, part of the S-300 air defense system Russia sent to Iran recently.
According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran has conducted as many as 14 ballistic missile launches since the landmark nuclear agreement in July 2015.
A senior U.S. military official told Fox News that Iran had made great advances in its ballistic missile program over the past decade.
Domestically, the IRGC also leads in the brutal crackdowns that have targeted political dissidents, journalists, artists, women and religious minorities.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported that two Iranian Catholic converts were arrested in their home by the IRGC in West Azerbaijan Province.
“At 7 a.m. on February 20 (2017), two plainclothes intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) entered the home of Christian converts Anoohe Rezabakhsh and her son Sohail (Augustin) Zargarzadeh in Oroumiyeh (city) without prior notice and searched the premises and took away personal items such as religious and holy books,” Mansour Borji, the spokesperson for the Alliance of Iranian Churches known as Hamgam, told CHRI on March 3, 2017.
Despite President Hassan Rouhani’s pledges during his election campaign in 2013 that “all ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice,” the targeting of Christian converts has continued unabated under his administration according to the CHRI.
The central role the IRGC plays in all of these actions means that its leaders are key players in the destabilization going on throughout the Middle East. As Dr. Majid Rafizadeh points out in an editorial in Arab News, the Quds Forces Qassem Soleimani could be called Iran’s “Osama Bin Laden” for his key role in directing much of this chaos.
“He is well-known as the Middle East’s deadliest and Iran’s most dangerous man. He prioritizes offensive tactics and operations over defensive ones, and rejoices in taking overconfident selfies with his troops and proxies in battlefields in many countries, including Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon,” Rafizadeh said. “When it comes to authority, he is Iran’s second man after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Being a staunchly loyal confidante to Khamenei, Qassem Soleimani has great influence over foreign policy.”
“Soleimani commands at least 150,000 militants, many designated as terrorists and belonging to designated terrorist groups. This is why Iran has been repeatedly ranked as the top state sponsor of terrorism by the US State Department,” he added. “Based on my research, there are more than 250 terrorist groups worldwide, with different religious and sociopolitical backgrounds. Roughly 25 percent of them are funded, trained or supported by only one entity, the Quds Force.”
All of this is important as the Trump administration debates whether or not to designate the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization as a whole rather than simply designating individuals such as Soleimani.
No doubt the Iran lobby will raise its collective voices into another shrill call opposing any designation and warning of dire consequences, but this time the push back is coming strongly from many quarters.