Foreign and Defense Policy, Terrorism

Qods Force plot foreshadowed by official rhetoric

The foiled attempt by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to stage a brazen terrorist attack against a Saudi target on U.S. soil should come as little surprise if one considers the recent rhetoric of Iran’s military leadership. As AEI Resident Fellow Ali Alfoneh notes in his piece published yesterday on CNN, IRGC-QF commander Qassem Soleimani—sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for his involvement in the assassination plot, his third such designation—has alluded to his organization’s desire to expand its operations as recently as May 22, 2011: “Today, Iran’s victory or defeat is no longer decided in Mehran or Khorramshahr. Our boundaries have expanded and we must witness victory in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.” On April 19, 2011, the official organ of the IRGC, Sobh-e Sadeq, warned Saudi Arabia that “they must certainly pay a very high price” for their deployment of troops in Bahrain. One day later, former commander of the IRGC and current military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Yahya Rahim Safavi further warned Saudi Arabia of potential retaliation for its military action in Bahrain. These bellicose remarks were each made during the period in which Manssor Arbabsiar and IRGC-QF deputy Abdul Reza Shahlai began planning their terrorist attack. While the fantastical details of an operation that FBI Director Robert Mueller said “reads like the pages of a Hollywood script” may raise questions about the feasibility of the plot’s success, the aggressive rhetoric emanating from the upper echelons of the IRGC signals the organization’s desire and intent to implement such an attack.

Will Fulton is a Critical Threats Project analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

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