Has the Iranian Elite Force Lost the Plot?

An Iranian car salesman fromTexas, a cousin working for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) , the Saudi ambassador to Washington, a Mexican drug cartel, questionable transfer for a large sum of money and a bungled assassination plot. As the news is only a couple of days old and murky details are in the process of emerging, it makes you wonder, have the allegedly diabolical elite Quds Force lost the plot?

The Quds Force accused of planning the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador is the elite overseas operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is thought to be linked to militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and to insurgent attacks in South America, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

What’s interesting is that less than a day after U.S. allegations, mainstream media is filled with doubt about Irani government’s involvement in this plot, and are being critical of the lack of substantial evidence produced by the U.S. government. Would an entity that has managed to remain so secretive and is believed to be the best at what they are doing really outsource such a critical task to the Mexican drug cartel? In an interview to NPR, Afshon Ostovar, a senior analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, and writing a book about Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that, “to simply have a commander’s cousin that happens to live in Texas and ask him to put these things together just doesn’t fit.”

While experts are generally skeptical of the Quds Force’s involvement in the assassination plot, not many people seem to be questioning how much the elite force is really capable of. Writing for the New York Times, Neil MacFarquhar claims, “the force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, has traditionally stuck closely to its main concern, the Middle East, and has almost always worked through proxies, making its own fingerprints difficult to trace. Some of its more infamous proxies include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian group Hamas, the Mahdi Army in Iraq and some elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Any Iranian dealings with Al Qaeda would have been done through the Quds Force.”

If their fingerprints are difficult to trace, what is the evidence that the Quds Force is connected to these groups? For MacFarquhar the proof seems to be in making the name connection, “the Quds Force — its name is the Arabic word for Jerusalem”. A quick search on the Internet would have revealed to MacFarquhar that in Arabic it’s not just the name of Jerusalem, it means “holy”.

From the U.S. point of view, Iran already is a national security threat and this event has mobilized top government officials to push for even stronger economic sanctions on Iran to isolate the country further and deter it from pursuing its nuclear path. “One provocative theory that American officials are considering is that the assassination was intended as retaliation for the killing of several Iranian nuclear scientists during the past two years. Those deaths are widely believed to have been the work of Israel, with tacit American approval, to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon,” writes the New York Times. So, Iran, allegedly, attempts to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to United States and the U.S. asks the UN to take action, and yet there is no talk of accountability when the U.S. and Israel kill Iranian nuclear scientists.

The Iranian government and the Revolutionary Guard Corps are not unaware of the animosity the United States and Saudi Arabia have towards them, it doesn’t make much sense for Iran to conceive of such a clumsy assassination attempt. Given how the Western world and some Islamic nations feel about Iran as well as the current situation of power changes in the Middle East, why would Iran provoke the Americans and the Saudis? Moreover, President Obama has himself admitted that the Iranian economy is in a difficult state, therefore it doesn’t make much logical sense for Iran to provoke an unnecessary war, especially in light of recent history, i.e. Iraq.

Finally, the most important question remains, how much do we really know about this super secretive Quds Force? And what are they really capable of? And did the elite force said to be “highly trained in tradecraft and military tactics” really make a huge mistake from the perspective of a broader political strategy for the country?

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