What is the Quds Force?
Two men are accused of conspiring to murder Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, pictured here.
October 11th, 2011
05:14 PM ET

What is the Quds Force?

Iran's secretive Quds Force is the elite special operations unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The most militant wing of the Guard, Quds has reportedly carried out covert operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq.

The United States has accused it of aiding insurgent groups behind attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jane's global security site reports.

On Tuesday, the FBI and the DEA announced that they had disrupted a plot to commit terrorism inside the U.S., specifically that elements of the Iranian government were involved in a plan to kill Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Adel Al-Jubeir.

CNN's Barbara Starr explained the connection between Saudi Arabia and Iran, noting that there has been bad blood between the countries for some time.

Al-Jubeir is close with Saudi King Abdullah and works at the behest of the royal family. He is a visible, highly respected diplomat.

Saudi Arabia has publicly criticized the violence in Syria, Starr explained.

"The Quds Force is essentially looking at Syria as one of its satellite states for the last many years," she said, using the country "as a place from which to launch attacks, to support terrorism ... to run weapons all over the world."

The Quds Force has been a huge concern of the U.S. military, Starr said.

In April 2010, a U.S. Department of Defense report accused the Iranian regime of using the Quds Force to "clandestinely exert military, political, and economic power to advance Iranian national interests abroad," according to Jane's.

The report said that the Quds Force global activities include "gathering tactical intelligence; conducting covert diplomacy; providing training, arms, and financial support to surrogate groups and terrorist (organizations); and facilitating some of Iran's provisions of humanitarian and economic support to Islamic causes."

In August, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said that there had been "a significant increase in support" from Quds to Iranian-backed militia groups that threatened Iraq's security.

Buchanan, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said the militia groups now outpace al Qaeda in Iraq, which once controlled much of the insurgency that terrorized the country. He said the U.S. suspects that these groups were behind a number of deaths of American troops in June in which weapons brought in from Iran were used.

The Quds Force's national headquarters are in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, according to Jane's.

The Quds has "offices or 'sections' in many Iranian embassies, which operate as closed sections," Jane's says. "There are indications that most operations are co-ordinated between the IRGC and offices within the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Intelligence and Security."

The Pentagon issued a report in 2007 that claimed that the Force provided many of the explosives and ammunition for Shiite militia groups in Iraq that attacked coalition and Iraqi government forces, according to Jane's.

Tehran has always denied these claims.

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Filed under: Security Brief
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  63. PFH

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    October 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Reply
  64. Jacob

    I believe this story. A lot of people are shouting out conspiracy theories and saying that the Quds/Iran wouldn't go to the drug cartels for this, but in fact it's an intelligent way to pull this off. With all the security on our borders – airports and ships, there's no way to ship in supplies. Also, trying to use agents already located in America is an instant fail. The FBI/law enforcement entities have their ways of monitoring foreign and U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. that are looking to pull off things like this.

    The Quds using the Mexican Drug Cartels affords the Quds several advantages... To name a few: First, they get plausible deniability. There is already a lot going on in America that is centered around the Cartels. So had Iran pulled this off a lot of people would believe it to be some drug related event (or at the very least never suspected Iran). Secondly, the Quds would have a hard time getting the necessary resources into the U.S. It may be possible for them to infiltrate the U.S. to gather intelligence, but shipping supplies is a different story. So how do they obtain the resources? They have a presence and a position of influence in central and south america which they can take advantage of; however, in trying to traffic supplies from these locations they have to go through Mexico... Seeing as the Drug Cartels have been shipping illegal substances into the U.S. for years makes them an ideal resource to tap into (hence, another reason for us to keep our relations with Mexico positive, and keep a strong presence there).

    Assuming you follow what I said above, and agree that it is a reasonable course of action, you're left with the question of why? For all I know Iran may have had an anti-political agenda and wanted the guy to get caught to intice more anti-war/conspiracy people and add to the protests at hand (the occupy wallstreet protests). Maybe they were hoping to gain sympathy by having people believe it's the U.S. trying to 'start' another war. Maybe they were hoping to lower the credibility of our intelligence/law enforcement community. Maybe they just don't like the guy. Who knows.

    I'll say this though, this is not some kind of U.S. stunt. Given our current economical state we don't have the resources to waste. No intelligence agency I can think of would engage in an activity they know is going to be public news and open to not only domestic, but also international investigation. Let's say the CIA wanted to do this, just because they think it's a grand idea doesn't mean the law enforcement agencies involved – DEA and FBI – are going to go along with it. The DOJ is filled with people wanting to uphold the constitution and judicial system. The amount of TRUST among the various individuals and agencies that would be needed to pull this off is astronomical. There would be a paper trail longer than the Great Wall of China, and if you're one of those people thinking documentation wouldn't be needed than you're not an idiot, but you are definitely unfamiliar with how the government works. Plus, these various agencies most likely have independent databases so sending files and communicating back and forth would put them more at risk of getting caught. The more you think about it the dumber it sounds... Just my opinion though, think what you want.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  65. Senior in HS

    Sounds alot like what the CIA or other intelegiance againcies do. So we can do it but they cant.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • Dirk Waldon

      We can do it because we're the United States of the Americas. do you have a problem with that Helen Sweet Pants?

      October 12, 2011 at 10:55 am | Reply
      • aermika

        so many people in the world hate americans, you may as well invade a country, start a war, but trust me you individual freaking tourists, you are not safe when you travel and im around not at all

        October 12, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Meat Puppet

      if you are the future ...........then this country has some severe problems
      good luck with getting your GED and that job at WalMart

      October 12, 2011 at 11:07 am | Reply
    • nonamedave

      I suppose you think if the US has nukes Iran should be allowed to have them too?

      October 12, 2011 at 11:17 am | Reply
  66. Dominator

    We sold Iran weapons in the shadows because North wanted to fund "freedom fighters" in Central America. Congress wouldn't give him the money – so he sold guns to our ememy to fund it. That was not a US policy – in fact Reagan almost got impeached for it and it "may" have happened without his knowledge.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:21 am | Reply
  67. gerald paul

    I doubt the Iranians involved could even find their rectum with 2 hands and a flashlight let alone carry out a sophisticated hit.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:17 am | Reply
    • Old Bear 60

      Never underestimate your enemy. Every country in the world that fields an army has a unit they consider special and who receive extensive training. Quds probably received training from Russian Sped's or Chinese Black House., but you can bet they have it.

      October 12, 2011 at 10:45 am | Reply
    • nonamedave

      That or they've been responsible for every major terrorist attack since 1979.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:18 am | Reply
  68. American

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    October 12, 2011 at 12:50 am | Reply
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  70. Ted Ward

    It never ceases to amaze me why the Iranians "hate" america. After all it was Jimmy Carter the easy going naive dolt who let the shiite extremists pull the rug out from under the Iranian people and run away with the anti-shah revolution. I guess the Iranian hot-heads just can't admit that so they play the "death to America" schtick to cover that fact. Then those terrible Americans under W get rid of Iran's arch enemy, Saddam, and now they've really got to pretend to hate America, because America keeps doing favors for the Iranians that the Iranian government can't do for itself. What useless ingrates!

    October 11, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Reply
    • crsmejia

      What never ceases to amaze me is how Iran's Quds Force activities our so similar to the C.I.A. in distablizing regimes, gather tactical information, and advancing U.S. agenda and policy. I guess it's a case of I'm right and you're wrong... syndrome also known as hypocrasy. Kind of reminds me of the popular girls eyeing the new girl and calling her a loser because she tries and successful at being like them.

      October 12, 2011 at 12:36 am | Reply
      • Dominator

        We should have invaded Iran in 1979 when they took our people in our embassy hostage. If not for the 1979 Islamic Revolution Iran would be a top US partner and there would be much more peace in the middle east. Think about it – who is always stiring things up? Iran. There would have been a Isreal -Palistinian peace deal a long time ago.

        October 12, 2011 at 10:01 am |
      • Tha Juggla

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        September 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  71. Jason S

    Why does it say security clearance at the top of the page? Are you serious CNN? You make it like we are reading some kind of top secret stuff we are not supposed to know.

    October 11, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Reply
    • ketsui

      I guess you knew about this stuff before they posted it then.

      October 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Reply
    • shawn

      hmm... you are right. i wondered the same thing. i called cnn and they told me the call it sec clearance so to stop unintelligent people from reading it. cool eh?

      October 12, 2011 at 12:14 am | Reply
  72. Boruch N. Hoffinger

    Iraq, Afghanistan, next is Iran.

    October 11, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  73. aveerog1

    i do believe that they did hire some cartel to do their dirty work, if you think about it, if they get someone else to do their dirty work nothing will lead them. and beside, all of the comments that i read about this post, of not believeing of what our own country says about the iranians. then if i was a iranian qud forces that gives me the green ight to do anything and everything after all once its reported that the qud forces did it. i have idiot americans to say i didnt do it.

    October 11, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  74. Babak from LA

    The Iranian secret service was trained by the American CIa and Israeli Moas. They are good and ruthless, I don't think they would go the Mexican cartel for their expertise in explosives ... Doesn't add up, but that is just my opinion.

    October 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • Ron

      That's total bulls. Even if the Iranians got CIA and Mossad training before the 1979 revolution (after which U.S and Israel became "big satan" and "little satan" respectively) those operatives are retired by now and the information they have is obsolete.

      October 12, 2011 at 12:20 am | Reply
    • RollinGhost

      Yes they were and this is BS all the way around. We may not see eye to eye but I think we both know this whole thing is nothing more than a sham. If it isn't ( my opinion ) someone somewhere better start looking for ships cause we comin!!

      October 12, 2011 at 12:31 am | Reply
  75. Just a guy

    "In August, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said that there had been "a significant increase in support" from Quds to Iranian-backed militia groups that threatened Iraq's security."

    At least one US Iraq war experienced general and other officials have said that Iranian influence in the war have been very small.

    More propaganda from the war machinery.

    The US still has 90 000+ soldiers in Afghanistan and 46 000 in Iraq. Over 6000 Americans have been killed in these two countries. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. And all that for what, oil? And people really bought into that thing about "change" lol. What has changed? Nothing.

    October 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Reply
    • Iran

      as an Iranian I don't believe these conspiracy theories which are published by the US as they try to distort the way of "Occupy revolution" in their country and prepare the play ground for next election in the US as well. Federal government follow some other goals too like: 1- put more pressure on Iran for its peacfull nuclear program 2-condemn Iran as a terrorist supporter for make Iran's face dirty for being a benchmark for other regions revolutions 3- get Russia and China's votes for next resolution in SC in the UN 4- make a new cold war in the region between Iran and Saudi 5- save Israel from being more isolated in the world 6- these confessions under brutal tortures are not legitimate, you can arrest millions people and made them to confess that they wanted to blow Americans up but you are in wrong way.

      October 11, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Reply
      • Sharky

        The next world war will be in the Mid East centered around Iran. With all that oil and a kook president and nukes, something's bound to break. You should get your family out while you can and move them to the US. We need more Persian restaurants. Yum!

        October 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
      • RollinGhost

        OK so don't feel bad because 400 million of us want to slaughter every one of em. Even..

        October 12, 2011 at 12:34 am |
      • Dominator

        The US still owes Iran a war for what happened to our people there in 1979. We haven't forgotten... and we won't. If you love your country then you need to get a new goverment because the one you have has you on a path to destruction. Maybe not over this issue – but at some point it will happen and it doesn't matter if you have nukes or not – the US can shoot down your missles before they even leave the middle east. If it wasn't for Iran there would be peace in Isreal and the Palistiniams would have had a state a lonmg time ago.

        October 12, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  76. london

    i agree with both above me, this shit is getting to old and please stop lying to us , damn tired of this crap. If Iranian Regime wants someone dead, believe it , they be dead, they do not need a thug cartel for hire, maybe they should have asked the Sopranos, Fuccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk off with all this shit stories

    October 11, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Reply
    • RollinGhost

      No Shit thank you

      October 12, 2011 at 12:35 am | Reply
  77. PersianX

    and people really belive the story that the Quds force needed MExican drug cartel assassins to kill a unimportant Lizard eating Saudi Arab diplomat in the US ?

    hahahaha.... who belives this shit ?

    Americans get your hijacked country back !!! (Zion has enslaved your people)

    October 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • RollinGhost

      No one believes this $%^#, Thats the problem If we were seriously going – Iran would be a memory.

      October 12, 2011 at 12:21 am | Reply
      • RollinGhost

        Quds? Really? Oh like the northern Republican guard or the pussy's that hide the borders and won't face us? When it jumps off watch your ass get owned and not only in Iran. Five of these punks got ended talking #$%^ in a bar in Huntington last weekend funniest thing I have seen in a while. Five vs the entire street. lol

        October 12, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Dominator

      America should have invaded Iran in 1979. Now is the time – before you get nukes and use them on Mecca or something stupid. Iran is the reason there is not peace in the middle east.

      Actually – it isn't Iran – it is thier goverment. Before 1979 Iran was one of the best parts of the middle east. The people are smart and sophisticated – much more than Arabs but they got hijacked by the Islamic Revolution. I think Iran missed a great opportunity to become a great democracy in 1979 – and yes i also thought the Shah needed to step down but not for what Iran has now but for a real democracy. If the US removed the current goverment could Iran build a real democracy?????? I think so and i think now is the time to do it.

      October 12, 2011 at 10:17 am | Reply
  78. Just a guy

    If true, the Iranians didn't do this plot as a reaction against Saudi Arabia because they spoke against the violence in Syria (as SA is all good hearted all of a sudden) but because of the Saudis sending troops to shoot at Shia protesters in Bahrain (on orders from USA as to stop a revolution because of the Fifth Fleet is there?).

    But I don't buy this story. As Holder said himself, this sounds like a Hollywood story. The US has circled its foreign policy around Iran for decades, supporting Iraq by selling them weapons when they invaded Iran. If the US would have any common sense, they would try to pull out the troops from the Middleeast and leave the area before it gets any worse.

    October 11, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Reply
    • Sharky

      "If the US would have any common sense" I'm going to have to stop you right there..

      October 11, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Reply
    • David

      "supporting Iraq by selling them weapons when they invaded Iran"

      We armed he Iranians a well.

      October 11, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Reply
    • Truefax

      The problem is ME sits on a crapload of oil. And until I see hydrogen fuel cell cars as the norm we're boned.

      October 12, 2011 at 9:45 am | Reply
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