Quds Force deputy commander Mohammad-Hadi Haji-Rahimi

IRGC-Affiliated Media Acknowledges Quds Force Ops Inside Iran

Friday, 05/17/2024

Iran trains proxies directly inside its borders through the Imam Ali Unit, as detailed by Iranian state media, exposing a once clandestine wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The IRGC-linked Tasnim News Agency has published a series of interview articles about the life of Quds Force deputy commander Mohammad-Hadi Haji-Rahimi, who was killed in an apparent Israeli attack on Iran's consulate in Damascus on April 1. The destruction of the building triggered unprecedented aerial attacks on Israel by Tehran.

Tasnim has dubbed Haji-Rahimi the "Commander Without Borders," providing details about his life and crediting him with pioneering certain military tactics.

Haji-Rahimi is introduced as the commander of the Imam Ali Unit, about which little public information is available. Tasnim, however, claims it is the largest unit within the Quds Force.

It is mentioned that Haji-Rahimi played an active role in training militias for Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.

“He also went to Afghanistan to set up a training center, which was very successful. When he returned, he looked very muddled due to poor living conditions. However, it did not bother him, as he took all the hardships to fulfill his mission,” an ex-commander reportedly told Tasnim.

“The core of Lebanese Hezbollah forces were trained in Imam Hossein Garrison in Iran,” an ex-Imam Ali Unit commander told Tasnim.

Lebanese Hezbollah, sanctioned by Western governments including the US and regional states like Saudi Arabia, is part of the "Axis of Resistance." This group consists of Tehran-sponsored militias in the region, including Hamas, which attacked Israel on October 7, the Houthis in Yemen, and various Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq.

According to another interview, “Even during the first round of training Iraqi militias in Iran, thousands attended.”

“Martyr Haji-Rahimi had forces everywhere in Syria. The unit under his command was present from Damascus to the front line of the battle in Hama and Aleppo and carried out missions. They were present with the army commanders and gave them military advice,” another commander told Tasnim.

Quds Force Modeled After US Army’s Green Berets

Farzin Nadimi from the Washington Institute notes that the IRGC Quds Force was largely modeled after the US Army’s Green Berets.

“The Green Berets' motto is the Latin 'De Oppresso Liber,' which means to free the oppressed around the world. They were also called soldier-diplomats,” the security and defense analyst told Iran International.

Providing a more complete picture, Nadimi elaborated that, like today's Quds Force, the Cold War-era Green Berets aimed to train, organize, and advise guerrilla wars against communist enemies worldwide, including foreign internal defense, security force assistance, and unconventional warfare.

“Haji-Rahimi was an influential figure in Quds Force; some would argue that he was Qasem Soleimani’s right-hand man. He had a significant role in training and organizing proxy forces,” the analyst specializing in Iran's security and defense affairs explained.

Former IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani (middle) and Quds Force deputy commander Mohammad-Hadi Haji-Rahimi

Former IRGC Quds Force commander Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad International Airport in January 2020, under the order of then-President Donald Trump. Washington stated at the time that Soleimani was planning attacks on US diplomats and service members in the region.

Nadimi explained that the Quds Force functions more like an umbrella organization rather than a typical military structure.

"It possesses the skeleton of an organization with units and commanders, but you can't confidently say that it has X number of forces. It could sometimes recruit forces from Basij and the army for specific missions," he said.

Qasem Soleimani described the force in 2018 saying that while “it has a structure, statutes, rules, and regulations” it is “an intellectual system” in reality.

Tasnim’s Portrayal of Haji-Rahimi as a ‘Pioneer’

According to Tasnim's chronicles about Haji-Rahimi, he was a pioneer in airdropping in Iran and Syria.

But, Nadimi debunks that fact.

“Airdropping in Iran started during the Mohammad Reza Shah era when Lockheed C-130 Hercules was introduced to Iranian service in 1962. In the region, including in Syria, the US was the first to initiate dropping aid,” Nadimi said.

As part of the 1991 mission to aid Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq, the US and the international community conducted humanitarian airdrops. In 2014, the US and UK airdropped aid to Yazidis fleeing IS forces on Sinjar Mountain in Iraq. A few months later, supplies were airdropped to Iraqi military forces near the town of Bayji in northern Iraq. Additionally, between 2014 and 2015, the US airdropped tons of weapons and ammunition to Kurdish and other anti-regime troops in northern Syria, according to the Washington Institute.

In response to Tasnim's portrayal of Haji-Rahimi as a pioneer in using drones for artillery spotting, Nadimi expressed skepticism.

Quds Force deputy commander Mohammad-Hadi Haji-Rahimi

“Using drones for artillery spotting is nothing new, but specifically in the Syria region, was it common? It’s hard to say,” Nadimi said.

Even so, this does not qualify as pioneering the tactic, as British forces used drones for reconnaissance and artillery spotting during the Gulf War in 1991.

Timing of Haji-Rahimi’s Profile in Iranian State Media

According to Tasnim, “Haji-Rahimi's name and face were never revealed before,” but they are being publicized now to “analyze the various aspects of the personality and management of this ‘great’ commander.”

Experts say the decision to reveal details about a previously clandestine wing of the IRGC aligns with a recent shift in the commanders' approach, marked by more public warnings and boastful statements.

Initially, the strategy to keep details about IRGC officials secret was designed to protect officers and help them evade responsibility. However, this recent shift appears to be part of a broader communication tactic.

In a sign of this change, IRGC commanders have recently intensified their direct threats to Western nations and leveraged the US position to their advantage.

Esmail Qaani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, issued a threat on Wednesday against France, Germany, and the UK for supporting Israel to intercept Iranian missiles and drones.

“The American president, who is devoted to defending the Zionist regime, officially announced to the Israelis, ‘I will not enter the conflict,’” Qaani said. He urged regional leaders "who rely on America" to be "more sensible." "Will America defend them more than the Zionist regime?"

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