1 HOW IRAN SPONSORS TERRORISM WORLDWIDE THROUGH THE IRG (Iranian Revolutionary Guards) DETAILED BRIEFING FOR MPS ON IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS- BY STEPHEN HOFFMAN ZF CAMPAIGNS OFFICER WHAT SHOULD BE DONE We are calling on the UK Government to proscribe the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. We are calling on the EU, through an agreement of all 27 of its members, to proscribe the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) as a terrorist group. By doing so it would be following the example of the U.S. and Canada in showing that it will stand up to international terrorism. It would also be sending a message that remarks by Iran s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for Israel's destruction and denying the Holocaust are totally unacceptable. Thus any arm of the Iranian Government such as the Guards, would not be able to carry out Ahmadinejad s aims without impunity. British MPs can help create this scenario, by putting pressure on the Foreign Secretary William Hague, EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, the EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, to list the IRG as a terrorist entity. It is crucial that all wings of the IRG should be proscribed as a terrorist group, not just certain elements. This is key because all of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are committed to the ideology of the Islamic Revolution which sees the West as its enemy and is committed to spreading the doctrine of Islamic extremism worldwide, as well as securing it in Iran. This is an ideology that directly endangers civilians across the world, none more so than EU citizens. The IRG has in the past worked with Hezbollah to target EU citizens and has also directly targeted British people. It is clearly active on European soil and if nothing is done about this the EU is not ensuring the security of its own citizens. The EU and the UK frequently talks about how it is committed to fighting terrorism internationally. It would be able to put these words into action by proscribing the IRG. Until it does, the EU s words on terror will be seen as hollow. The EU and the UK proscribes Hamas as a terror group due to its indiscriminate firing at civilians. The IRG also targets civilians directly. On these grounds the IRG should be proscribed as a terror group. This would the EU to have a coherent policy on terrorism. To understand why the IRG should be designated as a terror group across the EU, one must understand its history. HISTORY OF THE IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS The Iranian Revolutionary Guards was set up in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution. It has to swear allegiance to the Islamic Revolution and it answers directly to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. According to Emmanuelle Ottolenghi, an expert on Iran, the job of the IRG was to give the revolution an armed militia and to defend the revolution against the enemies (Ottolenghi, E, 2013).
2 In essence, its job is to protect the revolutionary values of the Islamic Republic, especially when internally or externally it appears under threat. Indeed, in Iran s constitution the responsibility of the IRG is to guard the Revolution and to assist the ruling clerics in the day-to-day enforcement of the Government s Islamic code and morality. In this it puts the protection of the Iranian regime above the interests of protecting Iranian citizens. In doing so they are defending a regime that survives through coercion and the IRG are agents of this coercion. The IRG runs Iran s prison system, which many leading human rights activists have criticised for its treatment of prisoners and its imprisonment of dissidents. One reason the IRG was given such a prominent role was that those in charge of the Islamic revolution feared forces like the Iranian Army tainted by their association with the Shah and therefore were not convinced that they could rely on their full loyalty. Whilst a large part of the IRG s work is internal, a significant amount of its work takes place abroad in ways that involve the IRG very seriously in international terrorism. Ottolenghi explains this saying another part of its job is to export the revolution abroad (Ottolenghi, E, 2013). This is why it helps train, fund and carry out operations. Furthermore it gives military and political support to the Lebanese based terrorist group Hezbollah, and support to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in its terrorist operations against innocent Israeli civilians. By 1986 the IRG consisted of 350,000 personnel organised into military units that operated either independently or as part of the Iranian army. It also developed ground and naval forces (Global Security). The IRG military arm in 2009 was reported to have 125,000 fighters with army, navy and air units. It operates as a distinct entity from the 350,000 strong regular Iranian army (Reuters, 2009). Part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards is the Basij religious volunteer militia, known for its human wave attacks in the Iran-Iraq war from It is also Iran s moral police charged with ensuring Islamic codes are kept and to quell any opposition to the regime. To this end it crushed the green revolution of 2009, which took place in the wake of Iranian Presidential elections, which re-elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but was controversial, as many believed the elections were unfair. The force is said to number millions and is a major reason for the oppressive nature of the Iranian regime. Another part of the oppression apparatus is the Ashura Brigades, which was created after the 1993 anti-government riots across Iran. It has around 17,000 people (Global Security). The Quds force is an IRG special operations unit, which handles the work of the IRG abroad. It is this group which many deem supports terrorism abroad. This is why Reuters reports that The United States says, "the Quds force backs militants in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, has imposed sanctions on firms and individuals linked to what it brands a terrorist organisation (Reuters, 2009). A primary focus of its work is training Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups. It is alleged to have around 12,000 operatives (Global Security). After the war in Iraq the IRG became heavily involved in reconstruction and has expanded its work to cover areas including imports and exports, oil, gas, defence, transport, construction, finance and commerce. Under the hardline presidency of Ahmadinejad the power of the IRG has grown. In 2005 two thirds of Ahmadinejad s cabinet were made up of IRG members (Reuters 2009). According to Council on Foreign Relations academics Greg Bruno and Jaysrhee Bajoria Today, the Guards has evolved into a socio- military- political economic force with influence reaching deep into Iran s power structure (Bruno, G, & Bajoria, J, 2011). This shows the centrality of the organisation to the Islamic Republic, a regime that in both deeds and statements is sworn enemies of the West, which includes the EU and Britain. Bearing this in mind, the EU and the UK must deal with the IRG in a way that stands up to it, rather than appeasing it. To understand why the EU should proscribe the Revolutionary Guards, it s important to see the evidence of its involvement with international terrorism. IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARD S INVOLVEMENT IN INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM. WHERE IT HAS CARRIED OUT TERROR OPERATIONS
3 Its work abroad is part of its attempts to export the ideals of the Islamic revolution, which were founded on a perverted and extreme version of Islam across the Middle East. It is no surprise considering the role in terrorism of Islamic extremists today that it did this in ways that significantly increased the threat of terrorism across the world. The Afghan Government said that Iran supplied 10.9 tonnes of small arms and ammunition to the Taliban in 2009 and the British Army intercepted a large catchment of arms in 2011 (Thomson, J, & Akrami, S, 2012). This means that Iran has supplied material that has killed British and other European servicemen fighting in Afghanistan. This is the direct responsibility of the IRG as arms transfers to guerrilla and terrorist organisations are one of its main responsibilities. Iran has also been accused by some extremely reliable sources of trying to, or succeeding in, assassinating opponents of the regime who live abroad. This is committing state terrorism. In his memoirs, former Mossad director Ephraim Halevy said in relation to Iran The involvement of this country in the practice of state terror was well known not only in the Middle East, but also in West European capitals. Iranian agents had been active in the streets of Paris and London murdering enemies of the Mullah s regime in Tehran (Halevy, E, 2008). The Guards are crucial to this state terrorism through the Quds forces. All this shows that the Iranian Revolutionary guards are a global threat to international security through its role in global terrorism. Therefore, the EU should proscribe the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. By doing so it will be correctly dealing with a serious threat to international law and order. The IRG has made frequent references to the destruction of Israel. For example, Yahya Rahim Safavi, a founder of the IRG stated, with G-d s help the time has come for the Zionist regime s death sentence (Safavi, Y, in ADL, 2012). Iran played a major role in the second Intifada, which caused the deaths of many innocent Israelis. For instance, in January 2002 Israeli armed forces seized a vessel containing 50 tons of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank mines. According to intelligence sources the arms were from the IRG who were attempting to transfer these to terrorist groups it supports in terms of finance, training and weapons. In this case Hezbollah and Hamas. This support increased in 2003 with the Iranian Revolutionary guards providing political support, safe havens, training and financing for Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. This culminated in Iran hosting a conference for the Palestinian Intifada during the summer of 2003, where Iranian officials praised suicide bombings (Global Security). In 2010 it was reported by the Pentagon that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards was increasing its presence in South America (AFP, 2010). This increases the global terror threat of the IRG. In 2011 U.S. officials led by U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, implicated the IRG in a failed attempt to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington. The Saudi ambassador was not the only alleged target however. U.S. Officials also said they had evidence that Israeli and Saudi Embassies in Washington D.C. and Buenos Aires were also targeted. Indeed, in October 2012, an Iranian-American, Mansoor Arbabsiar, pleaded guilty to being part of a plan to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador. In his court testimony Mansoor implicated the IRG, as he named Gholam Shakuri, a member of the Quds force as his co-conspirator (CNN, 2011). It is an allegation that Iran has denied, but given Iran s record of supporting terrorism, many do not base much faith in this. An investigation by the Indian Government in 2012 that looked into the bomb attack in February 2012 aimed at an Israeli Diplomat in the Indian capital, Delhi, concluded that the main suspects were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Investigations by the Indian police also led to allegations of the Guards being behind attempted attacks in Georgia and Thailand (Chauhan, N, 2012). Just this year, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the Revolutionary Guards to intensify the level of terrorist activities across the West. These are not idle threats considering that in February 2012 it was implicating in three bombing attacks against 3 Israeli diplomats and there is also proof that it planned to attack the Eurovision song contest in Azerbaijan. Clearly it is not reducing its involvement in terror. Considering that Iran is one of the main supporters of the Assad regime in Syria, it is unsurprising that there is much evidence to suggest that the IRG has been fighting on
4 behalf of President Assad in Syria, during its bitter civil war. Iran s involvement through the IRG is evident, because in August Iranian fighters were captured by the Syrian Opposition (Coughlin, C, 2012). The IRG have also not been shy about working with terrorist groups across the world, one being Hezbollah. WORKING WITH HEZBOLLAH Matthew Levitt, an expert on terrorism, has written in depth about how the Quds force has linked with the Lebanese based Iranian backed terrorist organisation Hezbollah. He has written that the threat of the Quds force combined with Hezbollah has at certain times eclipsed that of Al Qaeda (Weinthal, B, 2013). Highlighting the role of terror Levitt stated Quds Force operations are targeting Israeli, American, British or Gulf States interests. The latter will be carried out by a new special external operations unit known as Unit 400 (Weinthal, B, 2013). This illustrates how the IRG are endangering the lives of British people. The job of the British Government is to ensure the security of its citizens. It therefore should proscribe the IRG as a terrorist group making it harder for them to target British citizens and British economic, political and military interests. Moreover, as a member of the EU, Britain should take the lead on the issue of the IRG and show the way for other nations to follow. More than 20 terror attacks by Hezbollah or Quds Force operatives were thwarted around the world between May 2011 and July 2012, with nine coming in the first nine months of 2012 (Baldor, L, 2013). It is clear from this that The Guards through its external arm, the Quds Force, is an active terror group that is continuing to operate and trying to launch attacks worldwide. Therefore, the current policy of the EU and UK, which seems to be burying its head in the sand, is simply not working. The Quds Force is committed to carrying out attacks indiscriminately targeting civilians across Europe, including the UK. Thus, it must pursue a policy that makes it harder for it to carry out attacks in Europe. The way to do this, as it will harm it financially therefore making it harder for it to carry out such attacks, as well as sending a message that the EU and UK is prepared to stand up to terror, is through listing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. In order to target individuals and freeze their assets, all IRG members including their most high profile members should be designated as terrorists across the EU, including the UK. In his report on Iran and Hezbollah, Levitt highlights how close the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are to Hezbollah and how crucial they are to Hezbollah s worldwide terrorism operations (Levitt, M, 2013). Consequently, to deal with Hezbollah one has to deal with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In March and September 2010, authorities disrupted undisclosed Quds Force plots in Azerbaijan and Turkey respectively. In May 2011 Quds operatives in conjunction with Hezbollah attempted to kill an Israeli diplomat in Turkey. It highlighted how in their war to destroy Israel, they would target Israelis in whatever country they were in. In February 2012 a plot by the Quds force to assassinate the American Ambassador to Azerbaijan in Baku was foiled (Levitt, M, 2013). This showed how it was acting as an arm of the IRG committed to killing its enemies. To this day it continues to be committed to this goal and thus is crucial to Iranian state terrorism. In February 2012 the Quds Force alongside Hezbollah aimed to carry out operations in India, Thailand and Georgia. Fortunately the attacks were foiled (Levitt, M, 2013). It showed the IRG s links to global terrorism. In June 2012, Quds operatives were arrested In Kenya, accused of trying to carry out terror attacks (Levitt, M, 2013). The IRG have attacked Britain and consequently the British Government should proscribe it and take action for the EU to follow. ATTACKS AGAINST BRITAIN The IRG have masterminded attacks against British civilians. According to a detailed investigation by The Guardian, the operation that led to the kidnapping of five British men in Iraq was initiated by the IRG. It is alleged that within days of being kidnapped in a Government ministry in Baghdad, they were taken to Iran and incarcerated in a prison run
5 by the Quds force. This was confirmed by an IRG member who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, as well as by an Iraqi Minister with close ties to Iran (Mahmood, M, & O Kane, M & Grandjean, G, 2009). The IRG sees Britain as its enemy due to it being an ally of America, who Iran calls the big Satan. The IRG has had significant involvement with the leading terror group in the world, Al Qaeda. THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS AND AL QAEDA There is proof that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have praised the work of Al Qaeda. According to western intelligence agencies a letter that came to light in 2008, signed by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda s deputy leader, pay s tribute to Iran s support in both monetary and infrastructure terms, which made it possible for Al Qaeda to carry out terror attacks and helped them set up a base in Yemen, which was required after they were forced to abandon most of their bases in Saudi Arabia after 9/11 (Coughlin, C, 2008). Highlighting the importance of Iran s role in Yemen a Western security official said Iran s Revolutionary Guards have provided important support to helping Al Qaeda to turn Yemen into a major centre of operations (person 1 in Coughlin, C, 2008). This closeness with Al Qaeda is yet another reason why the IRG needs to be designated as a terrorist organisation. It also illustrates how the IRG is a major player when it comes to aiding and abetting terrorism. There are nations who have dealt effectively with the Guards. Canada is a good example. FOLLOWING CANADA S LEAD When dealing with the Revolutionary Guards there are examples that the UK and the EU needs to follow. In September 2012, the Canadian Government, led by Stephen Harper, designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. In December 2012 the Canadian Government designated Iran s Quds force as a terrorist group (FDD 2012). In doing so it punished the Iranian regime for its terrorist activities and at the same time standing by the U.S. as a key ally. It also showed that Canada realised the danger the IRG posed to international peace and security. Of course there is room for Canada to do more. To target the IRG further, it should designate all of the guards as a terror group and not just one wing. Nonetheless, it has gone further than both the EU and UK so far and this should be commended. CALLS FOR THE EU AND UK TO ADD THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS TO THE TERRORIST LIST Alongside calls to add Hezbollah to the terror list that currently includes Hamas, there have been calls of growing intensity to list the IRG as a terrorist organisation. In March 2013 a group of politicians and intellectuals from across Europe, including Holland, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain Italy and Britain, said that the EU should list the IRG as terrorists. The statement from The European Stop the Bomb Coalition says As Iran s most important trading partner, the EU is in a unique position to effect change. Therefore, the EU has the responsibility to impose severe sanctions to thwart Tehran s drive towards nuclear weapons, and to firmly act towards the protection of human rights in Iran (European Stop The Bomb Coalition, 2013). Importantly, support for the EU and EU member state s governments to proscribe the IRG come from across the political spectrum. Signatories include Gisela Stuart from the UK Labour party, Gianni Vernetti, an MP from the Italian Liberal Alliance and a former Italian Foreign Secretary, Mats G. Nilsson, a Swedish MP from the Moderate Party, Julian Garcia Vargas a Socialist party member and Calude Goasguen, a French MP from the Centre Right Union for a Popular Movement. With this depth of political support, the EU and UK should realise that it can no longer ignore the threat from the IRG and deal with that threat by proscribing the IRG as a terrorist entity. If the EU and UK did this it would be acting as a responsible international actor.
6 THE EFFECT THAT PROSCRIBING THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS AS A TERROR GROUP COULD HAVE If the EU and UK proscribed the IRG as a terrorist organisation it would be extremely beneficial. This is due to the fact that it would severely weaken its activities against Israel, Jewish and non-jewish people and European citizens as the funding and accounts of IRG members and businesses, and the IRG as a group, would be frozen. Targeting the financing of terror groups through proscribing them can make a significant positive difference in fighting terror. Therefore, the UK should use this tool. By proscribing the IRG across the EU it would aid co-operation when it came to dealing with the IRG. This would mean the EU would be able to speak with a stronger and more united voice when it comes to terrorism. In addition, through standing up to Iran s regime, Iran will find it much harder to ignore efforts by the EU, UK and the US to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons. As a nuclear Iran is a threat to the world, this is a significant benefit. SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR MPs TO ASK THE FOREIGN SECRETARY 1. (i) To ask Her Majesty s Government what steps they will take to deal with the threat of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards? (ii) To ask the Foreign Secretary if Her Majesty s Government will consider listing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation given its continued support of global terrorism? 2. (i)can I ask The Foreign Secretary what actions has the Foreign Office take to deal with Iran s continued support for state sponsored terrorism? (ii)will the Foreign Office consider proscribing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation and urge the EU to do the same given the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have attempted to export terror into Europe? 3. (i) To ask Her Majesty s Government what is the current strategy in dealing with international terrorism (ii) Just like Hamas, the IRG indiscriminately targets civilians. As Hamas is on the UK terror list, is it not time that the IRG was on it also? 4. (i) To Ask Her Majesty s Government whether the support the Iranian Revolutionary Guards gives to Hamas and Hezbollah constitutes terrorism? (ii) The UK has said it is committed to fighting international terrorism and all its purveyors. To show the UK is committed to this, does the Foreign Secretary agree with me that the UK should seriously consider proscribing the IRG as a terrorist group? 5. (i)could Her Majesty s Government give me an update about the support Iran through the Revolutionary Guards has given to the Taliban in Afghanistan (ii) Does the Foreign Secretary agree with me that given the continued terrorism of the IRG that has included attacks on British soldiers, it is necessary for the EU and UK to stand up to terror and proscribe the IRG?