Iranian Qods Force Agents Detained in Irbil Raid

US Pressure uncovers further evidence of Iran’s involvement with the Iraqi insurgency and al Qaeda

Qods Force logo. Click image to view.

Thursday’s raid on an Iranian liaison office and the subsequent arrest of five Iranians has provided further evidence of the Islamic Republic’s interference in Iraqi affairs and involvement with the insurgency. Multinational Forces – Iraq has reported the Iranians are members of Qods Force. “The five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces,” noted the Multinational Forces – Iraq press release. The Iranian office Irbil was not a consulate or diplomatic mission, as earlier reported, but a liaison office.

Qods Force [or Jerusalem Force] is a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and is responsible for planning and conducting foreign operations, intelligence gathering and terrorist activities. The unit works extensively with Hezbollah. Qods Force regularly uses its diplomatic missions to provide cover for its operatives.

In late December, US forces raided a SCIRI office in Baghdad and detained two member of Qods Force, including “the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ al-Qods Brigade,” according to the Washington Post. The New York Sun identified the senior Qods commander as Chizari. Also seized were “weapons lists, documents pertaining to shipments of weapons into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, among other sensitive intelligence information… [and] information about importing modern, specially shaped explosive charges into Iraq.”

Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Qods Force. Click image to view.

Evidence the Iranians were helping the Sunni insurgency was also uncovered in the Baghdad raid. An intelligence official told the New York Sun that the Baghdad Qods Forces agents were “working with individuals affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunnah… We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to.” Irbil is in the Kurdish North, where there are no Shia death squads. The only organization fighting the Iraqi government in this region is Ansar al-Islam, the al Qaeda founded and funded terrorist group.

The raid in Irbil followed an unusually direct warning to Iran and Syria during President Bush’s speech on the new Iraq strategy just last Wednesday. “[Security in Iraq] begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Bill Roggio says:

    Matt is not welcome here. I delete his comments whenever posted. He has ignored multiple requests to cease with insults in comments and in personal emails. I deleted the follow-up comment to avoid confusion as well.
    Matt, being Matt, ignores this and continues to post comments. If you read comments by Matt, be sure they will be deleted.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    I wonder what was the real significance of the Iranian presence in Irbil. I can guess why are they in Iraq, in general, but whay in Irbil ?
    Irbil is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Iranians are not in good terms with Kurds, in general. On the other hand, president Talabani seems to be Iran-friendly. I think that he was the one who wanted Iranian troops in northen Iraq.
    What is going on ? Can someone comment ?

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    Does it have something with Kurdish separatism ?

  • buck smith says:

    Great questions DG. I have no knwoledge about this but I can speculate (it’s fun! 😉 The Kurds, like everyone else, must be watching US potlitics carefully. One possible result of the last US elections could be the US retreat from and Iranian dominance in Iraq. The Kurds sensing this possibility may have agreed to allow Iranians run insurgency logistics through their areas.

  • Evan says:

    Hey all. I found an interesting WashPo summary of the Iranian and Kurdish relationship as of 1999.
    Very interesting indeed. Turns out the Kurds sided with the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war in hopes of getting rid of Saddam. That prompted Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against them.
    Therefore, I think it is reasonable to conclude that the Kurds are beginning to hedge their bets that the US is about to run and leave them to the tender mercies of the new majority of Iraqi Shia, who will inevitably be influenced by Iran. Therefore it is most useful to curry Iranian favor. The Kurds also harbor nationalist tendencies in Turkey, this is another front that Iran might cooperate with them on for the purpose of destablizing moderate Turkey.
    The bottom line is that as long as Iranian hegemony continues and their position as powerbroker increases there will never be a government in Iraq that peacefully represents the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurds. The Kurds and the Shia will cast their lot with Iran, Saudi Arabia and perhaps Jordan will support the Sunnis and perpetual violence will ensue. To balance this equation, Iran must be subtracted out.

  • patrick neid says:

    the worst part of this story is the unspoken truth it implies. if we discovered the entire revolutionary guard in iraq we wouldn’t/couldn’t do anything about it. our policies over the last four years, with all the idle threats, has been so ham fisted that there’s nothing we can do about it except eat ied’s and cry. it’s just too painful. sometimes i don’t know what is worse–the dead soldiers or the politicians who don’t value their sacrifice. even bush and crew are losing their way, what with all their “crying wolf”, such that weapons, iranians etc in iraq go unchecked. to think we are losing iraq to the syrians and iranians is all too much to take. what has happened to us?

  • Jim Rockford says:

    We will not do anything about this. Iran’s victory in the ME is assured. All that is set is the surrender.
    Bush bet the farm on removing Saddam to preclude his getting Nukes or other WMDs and turning them over to Al Qaeda and the like. Also as a useful object lesson. But he also stopped short of dealing with Iran and that half-bet failure will punish him.
    Meanwhile the Media, Dems, Libs etc have bet the farm politically on defeat in Iraq (and also let’s be fair, Afghanistan). One can hardly hold Afghanistan by being defeated in Iraq. They have actively pursued a surrender to Iran in the face of various acts of war against us dating back to 1979.
    The Dem/Media/Lib line is that the “War on Terror” is a ginned-up lie designed to allow the evil US to destroy innocent peoples abroad. That if we grovel enough Muslims will not kill us. That we don’t “deserve” to be exempt from terrorism when people in other countries are poor (subtext — we “robbed” them of their wealth somehow). That all conflict can be solved by “talking” or really “surrender.”
    It’s a fantasy ideology but one fueled by the lack of large Air Forces, Naval Forces, and Ballistic Missile forces aimed at the US by an organized state. Coupled with the lack of any large scale follow up to 9/11.
    IMHO the only way to gain support for attacking Iran will be Iranian over-reach by sponsoring terrorist mass casualty attacks in the US. Otherwise the Dem/Media megaphone will drown out any appreciation for the information presented here: which is that Iran is a genuine threat in Iraq to kill Americans, and here in the Continental US.
    Sad but true: Americans voted for surrender to Iran even if they did not know it.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    At the same time as Iraqi Kurds fought on Iran’s side, Iranian Kurds fought on Iraq’s side.
    The Kurds are on the Kurds side…

  • crosspatch says:

    Another reason for having something in Irbil might be logistics. If I were going to run an destabilization campaign in Iraq, I would probably run it out of someplace pretty stable. The place where I am stirring up trouble would be subject to attack and raids by the Americans and Iraqis. I would want my HQ for the operation in a nice quiet place where the chances of a raid are slim and nobody is focused.
    In other words, if I had a HQ in Sadr City and the Iraqis cordon off Sadr City, my HQ is disconnected from the rest of the country. If I run it from some nice peaceful place like Irbil, I can stir up trouble in lots of different place and as long as I never call attention to Irbil, my HQ is safe.
    So the places I would look for enemy leadership is places that are calm.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Four major roads cross in Irbil, the road to Mosul, the Road to Kirkuk, the road to Sulaymaniyah and the Road to Iran and the Caspian Sea.
    Various legitimate goods are going to arrive via land route through Iran. It would be strange if Iran didn’t have some sort of Trade Representative in Irbil.
    Of course, all the worlds intelligience services give their clandestine operatives some sort of legitimate cover.

  • crosspatch says:

    Another reason to raid an operation in Irbil is to provide concrete proof to the Iraqi government that the Iranians are playing both sides. To show the Shiite factions in the government that their “friends” the Iranians are also supporting the Sunnis to create mayhem in their country.
    It might not be surprising to see Qods in a SCIRI compound it might surprise the Shia leadership to see them operating in Irbil and might cause some interesting questions to come up.

  • crosspatch says:

    I wonder if this story might also play into what the Iranians were doing in Irbil.
    If they are helping the Kurds in Turkey to stir up trouble for the US.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    I have found an interesting piece of information here:

    They say (true or not):

    1996 August 31: The Kurdish leader Masud Barzani calls for assistance from the Iraqi military to drive Iran-friendly Kurds under the leadership of Jalal Talabani out of Irbil. The campaign is successful, and is continued with campaigns against the rest of Talabani’s territory in Kurdistan.

    I agree with Crosspatch, with the exception that this is, maybe, more of a proof to the common people of Iraq. I don’t think that anything can suprise Iraqi government more then politicians that participate in it.

    I am starting to think that ME can’t be stabilized. It was stable in the past, when it was conquered by Arabs, and later by Ottomans (Turks). Maybe it can be destabilized in the creative ways, at best.

    I think that more patience is needed. Ahmadinajad is losing ground. He lost local elections, and his mentor will probably not replace Khamnei. There are voices of protest all the time. Whoever replace Ahmadinajad and his faction, will accomplish that on base of improving economy, employment and living standard, and not on bringing back Persian empire.

    Pressure should be kept on Iran, but keep in mind that a little bit of war is probably the only thing that could boost popularity of Ahmadinejad. His friend, Chavez, is promissing US invasion to the voters, for years. People are walking the beaches and looking for American warships on the horizon. And, indeed, he got reelected.

    I agree that Irbil location is important, too.


  • buck smith says:

    Better info and analysis in the Fourth Rail comments than anything you will get on MSM! Seems to me that if Iran want to supply both sides in the sectarian war in Iraq, they would need two rat lines. The Shia militia supplies across Shia Iraq. To get to the Sunnis Iran would have to go across Kurdish Iraq.

  • GK says:

    Has any country, EVER, done more to provoke the US, without suffering any consequences for doing so, than Iran?

  • Iranian Qods Force Agents Detained in Irbil Raid

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    US Pressure uncovers further evidence of Iran’s involvement with the Iraqi insurgency and al-Qaeda
    Thursday’s raid on an Iranian liaison office and the subsequent arrest of five Iranians has provided further …

  • Tom W. says:

    Lost in all the chatter about Iraq is the fact that even if we had continued ahead without a new strategy, we would’ve won.
    The Iraqi economy is booming. The terrorists don’t completely hold a single village, town, or city in Iraq. Sunni tribal chieftains in al Anbar have openly allied themselves with the Coalition. The terrorists have been unable to prevent Iraq from adopting permanent democratic institutions and a free press. The terrorists have been unable to goad the Iraqi government into taking draconian measures that would alienate the population. In short, the terorrists have accomplished exactly nothing. Compared to other protracted insurgencies, this one is a disaster for the insurgents.
    The truth is that we are winning, but at a price. That price makes people think we’re losing, which shows how superficial most people are.
    We have the media and our lovely politicians to thank for making the addle-brained public think that a historic, hard-fought victory is a defeat.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    I think that Tom W. is right. Sometimes you have to endure the hardships to win in the end.

  • Captain America says:

    Keep in mind it was Talabani that was recently in Tehran doing the diplo thingy. All that gliters is not gold up north.
    All other aspects aside, taking down the Iranian regime would cure many ills. The epicenter is not Baghdad, but Tehran.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    A few thoughts:
    1. This whole fight now revolves around how strong Sadr really is. If he really has anywhere near the 60,000 claimed things are looking bad. If he has a dedicated core of 15,000 to 20,000 things are also looking bad. My guess is it’s a bit smaller than this, which is not so good either. It’s gotten late in the game and we have no political will for another all out fight against Sadr.
    2. It does look like the security measures are already having an effect. I really like the fact that US forces are staying in the area with Iraqi units this time. I always thought that the overly defensive posture with US forces staying in bases to much of the time was part of the problem. You can’t defeat an insurgency from fixed bases. More contact with the enemy usually causes more casualties but the purpose of war is to win. If the casualties aren’t worth it than you have no business being there. If casualties are never worth it than you have adopted untenable political moral stance.
    3. This is speculation, but I think that we will get another winter lull in the fighting while the Sunni insurgency retreats to Diyala. I hope we have the extra troops needed to cover Diyala province and much of the Tigris river as well. We will need them. If not the Sunni insurgents can set themselves for another March offensive based in Diyala. If we can cover Baghdad and remain aggressive in Diyala the effectiveness of the Sunni insurgency may be cut a great deal.
    4. Sadr’s forces are standing down for now. We can’t effectively knock him down and fight the Sunni insurgency at the same time. The best we can do for the next couple months is aggressively squeeze him. Make him get his hit squads off the streets. It is important that things in Baghdad calm down for a while.
    5. Later this spring they will have to deal with Sadr. I think they need to force his enclave out of Diwaniyah. Sadr is in too much of a position to intimidate other Shiite groups with his forces in Diwaniyah. As long as he is able to effectively threaten other Shiites they will bow to his interests.
    6. I actually feel is a significant chance that things on the ground will look a little better in a few months. I would put the odds somewhat against it though. The Iranians are getting more aggressive in their support for Iraqi factions and we will do little against them for it. They can be creative in causing trouble too.
    7. The Sunni insurgencies supply lines are coming out of Iran more than in the past. Is Syria starting to winding down it’s support of the Sunni insurgency. Syria is more vulnerable to repercussions if this thing gets out of hand. I think this war is Iran’s baby now. If the stream of Sunni refugees out of Baghdad does increase from continued fighting, I expect Syria to (really) close it’s boarders and send the refugees streaming down the road to Jordan, extremists with them.

  • And Joe Biden is throwing a fit because Bush ordered U.S. forces to limit the very cells attacking U.S. and coalition forces, the Iranian cells in Iraq?
    “Ms. Rice’s comments came just a day after the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, issued a sharp warning to the administration about the recent raids against Iranians in Iraq, including one in Erbil early Thursday.
    He said the vote to authorize the president to order the use of force to topple Saddam Hussein was not a vehicle for mounting attacks in Iran, even to pursue cells or networks assisting insurgents or sectarian militias. “I just want the record to show – and I would like to have a legal response from the State Department if they think they have authority to pursue networks or anything else across the border into Iran and Iraq – that will generate a constitutional confrontation here in the Senate, I predict to you,”

  • Tom says:

    We cannot be successful in Iraq without engaging Iran. Diplomacy will not work because Iran has no interest in seeing the USA plant itself in their AOR. Therefore we need to be ready to engage militarily. I only hope we have a strong plan if we attack them!!!
    Secondly, we can only hope Sadr masses his militia. We could have wiped all them out in Najaf in August 2004 ( including Mookie) but chose to let the Iraqi police lead the attack. and botch it. If he masses again it will be the end of them. Sadr’s best strategy is to lay low, disperse, maintain contact but wait until things calm down

  • Michael says:

    Ahmadinejad is now flying around South America getting cozy with Communist leaders, like the newly elected Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.
    Why are communist and radical Islamist so cozy?
    Ahmadinejad has pledged economic support to Nicaragua and already has made agreements with Chavez. He’s traveling on to Ecuador.
    Iran has now been found complicit and guilty in Argentina for the death of 85 innocent civilians. Argentina issued international warrants for Iranian diplomats among others.
    Hezbollah and Iranian terrorist support is in South America. And what are we doing on our borders?
    Ahmadinejad is raising the stakes in the game. Not only is he causing havoc in Iraq, he’s stirring anti-American sentiment in South America with plans of billions of investment.
    We have to fight this war on all fronts. We need to turn up the heat in his own nation.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    Why are communist and radical Islamist so cozy?

    Because they are not so different. Iran is not true religious dictatorship. They are dictatorship that takes advantage of religion. I’ve read that they are not so strict in practicing Islam in their own country.

    Islam is the pillar of their foreign policy. Iranians are not Arabs. They are about 51% Indoeuropeans and about 25% Azeris. Azeris are Turks, more or less.

    So, the major influence to the Arab world is through religion, not through ethnical ties.

    I don’t say that common Iranians are not believers. Contrary to AQ, religion is not the goal, but the mean of their politics. That’s why they are so comfortable dealing with “infidels”.


  • Neo-andertal says:

    “Why are communist and radical Islamist so cozy?”
    My enemies enemy is my friend.
    Also, Iran has a soviet style economy. There single party political system isn’t that much different ether. Exchange “The Party”

  • Web Reconnaissance for 01/16/2007

    A short recon of what痴 out there that might draw your attention.

  • Mark says:

    Regarding the upcoming surge in Iraq, liberal MSNBC preemptively calls it a failure. Big surprise.
    Also, Saudi troops may be involved.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Saudis do not have a large enough army or proper logistics for out of country deployment…
    What they mean is they would pay the Jordanians and Egyptians to go in…

  • sangell says:

    This had better not be true.
    If it is Dick Cheney is in a lot of trouble.
    I don’t think we have a way out of our problems
    in the Persian Gulf without a rapproachment with
    Iran. Seems we may have been able to have had one.
    Know we’ve got Ahmedinejad as president. God I
    hope this is not true.

  • New Covenant says:

    Qods, Surges, and impending elections…

    Do you know what the Qods Force is? From Iranian Qods Force Agents Detained in Irbil Raid, at The Fourth Rail, Qods Force [or Jerusalem Force] is a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and is responsible for planning


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram