Birds of a Feather

Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal has obtained photographs of Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani with commanders of Shi’a militia near Aleppo, Syria.  One of these is a designated foreign terrorist, Akram al Kaabi.  Kaabi was designated a foreign terrorist by the US government in 2008 by executive order.  At that time, Kaabi was a senior commander in Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army, charged with conducting repeated rocket attacks on the Green Zone, deploying roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and directing attacks against Americans even during the so-called “Mahdi cease fire” period.  The same executive order that designated Kaabi as a foreign terrorist also named one of his co-conspirators, an Iranian general officer who was, like Suleimani, from Quds Force.

At the time, this move was described as the US targeting the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), of which Quds Force is a subset.

Shahlai is the second Qods Force general to be designated under Executive Order 13438 this year. On Jan. 9, Major General Ahmad Foruzandeh, who is also known as Jafari, was designated along with two senior Shia terrorists.

At the time, Foruzandeh was the leader of Iran’s Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Foruzandeh has since promoted to commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and has the close ear of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Today, the alliance between Quds Force and these designated foreign terrorists continues.  However, it is the US State Department’s position that the IRGC itself is not to be formally named as a terrorist organization.  They are contesting a bill by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would require the US government to designate the IRGC itself as a terrorist organization, and not just individuals who happen to be its leaders, or the organizations that those leaders happen to direct in combat. “Branches of the [Revolutionary Guard Corps] have murdered hundreds of Americans,” Cruz argued.  “They have provided material support for other designated terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet for years the United States has sanctioned [Revolutionary Guard Corps] entities while leaving the organization itself untouched.”

In fact the IRGC is guilty of far more than providing material support for terrorists.  Kaabi himself was recently interviewed explaining that he takes orders from Iran.  Though commanding an Iraqi Shi’a militia, he noted that he and his men stood ready to overthrow his own government if the orders came down to do so.

“[We] cannot stage a coup unless a religious authority makes a decision to change the rule in Iraq,” he responded. “If a religious authority decides, we rely on Allah and go ahead. It would be normal for us to implement.”

When asked if the Popular Mobilization Forces are capable of overthrowing the Iraqi government, he said while laughing, “Of course we can. If a religious authority decides, we apply.”…

Kaabi also heaped praise on Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force, Iran’s special operations branch that supports the Iraqi militias.

“Qassem Soleimani has a basic and important role in the relations among the resistance factions and in supporting the Popular Mobilization Forces,” he said. “Qassem Soleimani represents Islam and Muslims” and not just Iran.

“He [Soleimani] represents the ruler of Muslims, one of the senior Shiite authorities, and one of the great authorities of Muslims,” he continued, referring to Khamenei.


These Shi’a militias have been developed by Quds Force for years in order to ensure their ideological loyalty to the regime in Tehran.  At the same time, the formal security forces of Iraq have been weakened by corruption in the central government, so that now the Iraqi government is reliant upon these Shi’a militias to conduct operations against the Islamic State (ISIS).  US policy has left Iraq dependent on these Iranian-led forces.  Even when Iraq deploys its finest remaining formal military assets with American air support, American military officers confess that the “Popular Mobilization Forces” — which they sometimes refer to as “Shi’a security forces” — are core parts of their efforts.

Roggio notes the irony of this fact by spelling out the number of designated terrorists for whom we are now providing air support:

The Iranian-backed Shiite militias that played a prominent role in the assault on Baiji include: Asa’ib al Haq (League of the Righteous), whose leader Qais al Khazali is thought to be involved in the murder of five US soldiers in Karbala in 2007; Hezbollah Brigades, which is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US government; Harakat al Nujaba, which recently called for the expulsion of US troops from Iraq; Harakat al Nujaba, which is led by Akram Abbas al Kaabi, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist; Kata’ib Imam Ali, led by Shebl al Zaydi, who is close to Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani; Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, which is commanded by Mustafa al Sheibani, who is also a Specially Designated Global Terrorist; and Badr Corps, another large militia supported by Iran. For more information the role these militias played in the retaking of Baiji, including photographs and video of Iraqi forces operating alongside these militias, see LWJ report, Iraqi Army, Shiite militias report success in Baiji.

If the IRGC is not a terrorist organization, why does it command so many designated terrorist organizations?  Why do they receive not just material support, but orders and direction from the Quds Force commander?