HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

IRGC Threat: New 'Punch' Same As The Old 'Punch'

General Safavi's 'New' Iranian Threat In Historical Context

By Steve Schippert | August 20, 2007

The headline that splashed pages, both Web and print, reads"Iran’s Guards threaten to ‘punch’ U.S." So angry is Safavi, apparently, that the United States is considering naming his Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group. But that's not really what Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' top commander says. Headlines are by definition limited and constraining. Please read the full(er) quote:

"America will receive a heavier punch from the guards in the future," [General Safavi] was quoted as saying in the conservative daily Kayhan.

"Heavier." That is a key word. It explicitly refers to previous "punches" that were not as "heavy" as the one that the commander now vows.

Heavier than what, perhaps?

The arming, funding and training of Iraqi militias and terrorist groups currently killing Americans in Iraq? EFP's accounted for 18% of US combat deaths in the last quarter of 2006. (Not just IEDs, mind you, but specifically the Iranian EFPs.)

Or, perhaps the IRGC "punch" will be "heavier" than the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? In that "punch," over 220 Africans were killed and two US Embassy buildings destroyed. But that was an al-Qaeda attack, right? Ah, how the lines of disparate sectarian terrorists and enabling states blur when a common enemy is targeted. On this, consider from December 2001 Congressional Testimony by Matthew Levitt:

'According to U.S. intelligence reports, Osama bin Laden's operatives approached Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security agents in 1995 and again in 1996 offering to join forces against America.''

Matthew Levitt added more:

''In fact, phone records obtained by U.S. officials investigating the 1998 Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania revealed that 10 percent of the calls from the compact and satellite phones used by bin Laden and his key lieutenants were to Iran.''

Or, perhaps the IRGC "punch" will be "heavier" than the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia? 19 American servicemen were killed in that "punch." Former FBI Director, Louis Freeh has a keen understanding of who delivered it.

The FBI's investigation of the Khobar attack was extraordinarily persistent, indeed relentless. Our fallen heroes and their families deserve nothing less. Working in close cooperation with the White House, State Department, CIA and Department of Defense, I made a series of trips to Saudi Arabia beginning in 1996. FBI agents opened an office in Riyadh and aligned themselves closely with the Mabaheth, the kingdom's antiterrorist police. Over the course of our investigation the evidence became clear that while the attack was staged by Saudi Hezbollah members, the entire operation was planned, funded and coordinated by Iran's security services, the IRGC and MOIS, acting on orders from the highest levels of the regime in Tehran.

Or perhaps the IRGC "punch" will be even "heavier" than if we travel back to the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and the Marine Barracks in Beirut? In this instance, a nascent IRGC in development "punched" the life out of 241 US Marines at the barracks alone with a Hizballah truck bomb. The Iranian Ambassador to Syria organized and ordered the 1983 "punch."

"Newsweek" also reports that the U.S. National Security Agency recorded a 1983 telephone call from Tehran's Ambassador in Damascus to his foreign minister, Ali-Akbar Velayati. In this call, the ambassador described ordering Abu Haidar of the Husseini Suicide Forces Movement to get weapons from Yassir Arafat's Fatah group to use in an operation against the U.S. Marines in Beirut. The October 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks killed 241 people.

Then-Ambassador Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur is now viewed as a "reformist" by some observers. [Ed. Note: And in 1999, the Iranian Ambassador to Syria was Hussein Sheikholeslam, Mohtashemi-Pur's Foreign Ministry contact for the Marine Barracks bombing.]

And today we have "The Irbil Five." Five Iranian 'diplomats' whose American detention in Iraq have so riled the IRGC as to be believed the impetus for the Quds Force-organized and executed “Karbala Raid” in which 5 American soldiers were killed, 4 of them summarily executed on a roadside. It is also believed teh impetus behind the IRGC capture of the British Sailors earlier in the year.

The elite IRGC is a strict adherent to the "Leave No Man Behind" creed. Note: They do not care much for 'diplomats.' They do, however, care for Quds Force / IRGC operators, some of which can be stationed in 'diplomatic' posts, such as Ambassador Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur's position at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria in 1983.

Consider a simple snapshot (via Matthew Levitt's Congressional Testimony) of Iranian State Sponsorship of Terror. Iran's vehicle for "exporting the revolution" is the IRGC. Exclusively so. And, in Iran, who is tasked not only with "exporting the revolution" (IRGC), but with direct sponsorship (training, arming, facilitating) of foreign terrorist groups? The IRGC's Quds Force.

This provides the Iranian regime with more than the vehicle for ideological exportation. It also, through the supported proxy terrorist groups, provides (and has provided them) with just enough degree of separation as to insulate it from direct response at the hands of the enemies they attack.

This is not a delegated task or responsibility.

To that end, Iran's terror-sponsoring hand extends well across popularly perceived (an over-emphasized) sectarian divides. They continue to host al-Qaeda's top deputies on their soil without trial or conviction, including Sayf-al-Adel (Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi) and Saad bin Laden, Usama's own son.

So do not misinterpret IRGC commander General Safavi's stern words as some sort of regrettable "backfire" that comes as simply a response to our own paper designations. In that sense, the Iranians have hardly heard a peep from us, even after hundreds dead at their hands.

The touted "punch" from Iran's IRGC and Quds Force operators (and their necessary proxies) will perhaps be a "heavier punch," as Safavi himself called it, but it will not be any "new" punch with any new impetus for the same old "Great Satan." We've always been quite popular.

They've been killing us for years. Perhaps you simply haven't noticed.


That’s three articles, in succession, on the IRGC-----must be important! This time no satire!

Even though OBL is of Sunni background, he and his organization pose no threat to Iran, an Islamic theocracy of Shia background and so why wouldn’t they work together to resist the Great Satan. Like you mentioned, the IRGC is well financed and it’s tentacles reach into Iraq and through to Syria to assist Hizbollah and Hamas. Declaring the IRGC a terrorist organization looks good on paper, but how effective it will be in impeding their operations remains to be seen. Should the IRGC become more brazen, the only tool left in the US military is air power and we all know the limitations of that----you need troops on the ground to finish the job. However, I don’t believe the IRGC is, anytime soon, going to up the ante, but of course the rhetoric will increase. They’ll wait to see how the US political scene evolves.

Hewitt Interviews
Major General James E. Simmons ,
And Dr. Kimberly Kagan, who authored
a just-published comprehensive assessment of Iran's actions in Iraq:

Audio of Above, plus Hitchens
Both of those folks say that Iran has matched our surge with a similar surge in EFP's to record numbers, stepped up Quds and Hezbollah activity, and etc.

Also agree that there is a high degree of co-ordination between all the groups.