My Cardboard Box

Herding Persian Cats…

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Excerpts from an article by Robert J. Bunker and Hakim Hazim in the excellent Small Wars Journal:

The recent U.S. consideration to designate the 125,000 person strong Revolutionary Guard of Iran as a “specially designated global terrorist” (per Executive Order 13224) has quite a few international security implications. (1) On the most basic level, it highlights growing U.S. and Iranian tensions over Iran’s nuclear weapons program and Iranian involvement—via its Quds Force belonging to the Revolutionary Guard—in both fermenting and supporting terrorist and insurgent activities in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

What may be far more significant, however, is the U.S. designating the military branch of a sovereign state as a terrorist organization. In the past, such designations have applied only to non-state entities. (2) While the intent of such a designation would be to target the Revolutionary Guard’s multi-billion dollar business network with ties to over 100 companies, (3) broader implications concerning state sovereignty, political legitimacy, and, ultimately, non-state-on-state conflict readily emerge.

The Quds Force, as ‘soldiers of the Last Days,’ represent holy warriors who do the bidding of Iran’s Shia clerics. These clerics, in their spiritual role as the representatives of the Mahdi (the hidden one), openly advocate the overthrow of perceived apostates and non-believers and the future establishment of a imamate (Shia version of a caliphate). (5) The Quds, viewed from this perspective and coupled with the fact of their direct involvement in terrorist activities, are more of a non-state entity than a component of a national military force such as the IRG.

Given this realization, the term ‘criminal-soldier’ can be readily applied to the Quds Force because they are representative of pre-nation-state soldiers. Its members, furthermore, should be recognized as ‘holy warriors’ that exist somewhere within the blurring of crime and war that is taking place globally. Such holy warriors are incompatible with our perceptions of political legitimacy and, for that reason, a “specially designated global terrorist designation” would be well warranted.

The critical question stemming from this observation is should the U.S. currently designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and, as a result, give a de facto challenge to the political legitimacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Or do we bide our time, considering the already extended nature of our resources, before preparing to engage in direct global conflict with another non-state entity and its terrorist and insurgent allies. Since the U.S. is already in a global war with radical Sunni entities (e.g. the Al Qaeda network)—do we really want to ‘go hot’ and openly enter into a new global shooting war with radical Shia entities (e.g. the Ayatollahs, Hizballah, et. al.)? Prudence would suggest otherwise.In a war over humanity’s future social and political organization, the U.S along with other Western Democracies and their allies cannot allow either an imamate or a caliphate to be established in the Islamic world. Consequently, it is recognized that the issue is not ‘if’ we should openly move against the criminal-state known as the Islamic Republic of Iran but ‘when’. Nevertheless, the importance of success in this endeavor is such that we cannot approach it without the means to fully follow through. A possible compromise at present would be to only designate the Quds Force as terrorists per Executive Order 13224 at present while continuing to covertly exert pressure on Iran and the IRG behind the scenes.

Both authors have vast experience and have a large body of excellent works. The point of this article is ‘words and laws mean something to the rest of the world- especially Iran; the U.S. shouldn’t use them against Iran and its institutions if the intent and assets to back them up isn’t there’. So the “designating only the Quds Force as terrorists” is a logical extension in this context. But I have a few questions of the authors:

1. How do you tell the Quds force from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards?

Does the Quds Force wear distinctive uniforms? Is the designation based on location, say ‘any IRCG member found outside Iran’s borders’? How about identification? If an Iranian captured in, say, a missile-factory in Gaza produces paperwork showing he’s a mid-ranking IRGC  officer, does he get a ‘get out of jail card’? (I haven’t even touched on the use of diplomatic cover)

2. What about funds?

Obviously, funds in a known Quds Force member’s name might be designated as terrorist. But what if they’re in a bank account in the name of an Iranian construction or trading company (whose ownership can be traced back to the IRGC) and issued as paychecks to its workers? After all, the line could be ‘what our employees do on their time is their own business’. How about in a group aligned with the Iranian government and the IRGC, but not known to associate with Quds Force?

3. What’s to stop the mullahs from forming a new group, reassigning the Quds Force duties and personnel to another existing group ( like the Baseej), or completely subcontracting to groups like Hesb’Allah (with 1-2 ‘independently-contracted’ supervisors)? What if the Quds Force is declared to have a new mission and becomes part of the Iranian diplomatic community?

‘Persian’ catAs I said, I understand what the authors are saying in this article. It is a rather blunt (I suspect some would say ‘American’) tool. I question whether they’ve thought through the various legal, tactical and strategic implications that any conniving human could come up with.

Most importantly- even if their quite limited alternative was put into place, how they (or anyone else) would herd these ‘Persian cats’, when prior efforts have been ineffectual or limited.

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Written by PappyBro

September 9, 2007 at 09:23

Posted in Politix, WoT

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