Editor's Note: “Shadow War”: State Sponsored Terrorism & Threats to Local Communities is a five-part series that discusses ongoing local dangers from the “Cold War” between the U.S. and selected allies versus an alliance of Iran, Hezbollah and increasingly Russia. This creates “Hot War” conflicts as well as added threats from terrorist plots and attacks playing out in our communities. During the series, examples of this activity and solutions for law enforcement officers will be showcased and highlighted.
IRGC Qud Force Training
In February (2017), the National Council of Resistance of Iran – U.S. Representative office (based in Washington DC) held a news conference to provide “eye-opening” details on an extensive network of IRGC training camps in Iran that enables its global effort to wage terrorism via “Shadow War”. This information was “gathered and documented by the social network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMO/MEK) inside Iran."
The report outlines how the IRGC created a large directorate in the Quds Force to expand training of foreigners as a regime strategy to increase meddling in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This directorate, code name 12,000, is reported to have dozens of training camps across Iran. These camps are divided by nationality of trainees and type of training. Both terrorist training as well as military training for militias are conducted to advance Iran’s strategic objectives.
Along with training that is conducted within Iran for foreign forces subsequently sent back to their home countries, the report also states “Smaller groups are also trained in other countries in order to conduct terrorist acts and operations. Since 2012, the extent of training of foreign mercenaries in IRGC-controlled camps of the Quds Force has increased”. The year referenced for the increase in this activity, matches with the escalating global “Shadow War” earlier discussed during the same time period. This appears to indicate Iran has totally embraced the “Shadow War” template and continues refining its targeting attack capability.
Quds Force units used for global terrorism are trained separately, from those receiving more conventional military training, and are kept secret. The Individuals training for terrorist operations are isolated for operational security. These terrorist units are dispatched to various countries in the Gulf region, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The report further states in recent years, “the IRGC has brought back a number of its agents from Latin America, including Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia for training, leaving them in the hands of the Quds Force”.
If this report is an accurate breakdown of IRGC’s Qud Force terrorism training, this is extremely telling as it further projects the global intentions of Iran to build capacity to target adversaries as a global strategy. While this report doesn’t outline any direct threat to the US and Europe, training to target these areas would be highly sensitive and compartmentalized. We have to expect there are extremely secretive plans for developing attacks within US and European communities as needed for Iranian interests.
Future “False Flag” dangers in US: Blame it on ISIS
I have a theory on one way Iranian sponsored activity may play out in US communities in the near future. It’s based on Iran’s overall legacy of sponsorship that is not always focused on a Shia constituency. Iran has a history of supporting, training and providing weapons to Hamas, a Sunni Palestinian organization. The main reason is because Hamas remains a fierce opponent of Israel, which is also a bitter enemy of Iran (The enemy of my enemy concept). While it doesn’t appear Iran influences Hamas as directly as it does Shi’a groups such as Hezbollah, this relationship accomplishes a mission of stoking violence against Israel. I believe Iran will focus on developing a capability, using its trained terrorist operatives, to pursue a relationship with those US and European homegrown jihadists absorbing deadly propaganda online.
I mentioned in Part 3 the possibility of Iranian operatives adopting the “ISIS playbook” and I believe this future threat will include “false flag” operations. These teams of highly trained IRGC Quds Force terrorist, deployed in any global location, connect with US and European persons online by generically promoting “Jihad” against the West. Many of these homegrown individuals in the West are ISIS supporters. Qud Force operatives could mask their true affiliation in order to virtually support and advise these individuals on creating homegrown attacks. While the Iranians and ISIS are bitter enemies, this doesn’t stop the Quds Force from manipulating the ISIS mass movement for its own strategic benefit.
If a person plotting or committing a homegrown attack in the US or Europe is arrested prior or killed during the incident, all evidence would point towards an ISIS-inspired and maybe enabled event. It would be very hard to draw a definitive link to Iran, in the court of public opinion, which justifies global punitive actions against that country. Unfortunately, the current dynamics of the ISIS brand and its modus operandi provides many different groups the ability to target adversaries with terrorist actions anonymously. This type of false flag activity is already happening in different parts of the world.
Threats from the Southern Hemisphere
Most security experts express concerns about extensive IRGC Quds Force activity in South America. There is a danger of operatives being smuggled into the US from the Southern Hemisphere to conduct attacks. But more likely IRGC and particularly Hezbollah (heavily invested in Latin America) depend more on using South America as a “support zone” to fund operations globally. The same can be stated for much of the Hezbollah activity in the US as there have been many different “threat finance” cases over the years. Hezbollah and IRGC have benefited more from illegally making money in the US and the wider Western Hemisphere than creating attacks in the Americas. But as combative rhetoric and actions intensify between US and its allies, versus Iran and its supporters, the calculus may very well shift to covert “false flag” action against US communities.
- IRGC Quds Force Training increases the danger from an escalating “Shadow War” in 2018 and beyond.
- Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice professionals must be aware and understand the potential and current dangers from Iranian sponsored “False Flag” operations and “Threat finance” in jurisdictions.
In this five-part series, the background and actions of Iranian sponsored “Shadow War” terrorist activity is discussed. A spate of attacks and plots in 2012 provides important lessons on tactics / methods of sponsored activity. Regional Shi’a foreign fighter recruitment for the Syrian Civil War is explored as an enduring danger as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds force and its covert mission to cultivate operatives and spread terrorism in support of Iran’s objectives worldwide. Previous Iranian based terrorist activity in the US is showcased to assists with analyzing and preparing for the threats unfolding in our communities. There are US cities, spaces and activities more at risk from this variant of terrorism.
Part 5: Threats to US Communities