By Stephen Hughes 10 March 2015
On March 2012, the US Department of Treasury (USDOT) declared Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani, the commanding officer of the al-Quds Forces (IRGC-QF) to be a kingpin of heroin exports to the West. Seven months later, on Nov. 16, 2012, the US added Mullah Naim Barich, the Taliban’s leader for the southern Afghan province of Helmand, to the list of Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers. While the designation did not directly link Barich to Baghbani, the Taliban commander was involved in smuggling heroin to Iran. Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani supports heroin and opium smuggling in Iran and Afghanistan “as part of a broader scheme to support terrorism.” The Iranian general supports the drug smugglers in order to arm the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Geographically, the Islamic Republic of Iran is located between the poppy fields of Afghanistan and the West, which makes it the starting point of the world’s major heroin trade routes, supplying the drug to Russia, Western Europe, and the United States.
The Al Quds Force is a branch of the IRGC assigned to national, regional and international special operations and unconventional warfare, it is given priority in terms of funding, training, and equipment. It plays a major role in giving Iran the ability to conduct unconventional warfare overseas using various foreign movements as proxies such as Hamas & Hezbollah. The IRGC-QF is thought to be composed of 10,000 -15,000 men.
“Established in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Revolutionary Guards have grown beyond their basic security function to become a political, social, and economic corporation with a foothold in every aspect of Iranian political and social life. 15. Frederic Wehrey, Jerrold D. Green et al., ““The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp,” RAND, 2009, p. xi.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF) General Gholamreza Baghbani as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). This is the first use of the Kingpin Act against an Iranian official.
“Today’s action exposes IRGC-QF involvement in trafficking narcotics, made doubly reprehensible here because it is done as part of a broader scheme to support terrorism. Treasury will continue exposing narcotics traffickers and terrorist supporters wherever they operate,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.
General Gholamreza Baghbani is an IRGC-QF officer and the current chief of the IRGC-QF office in Zahedan, Iran in southeastern Iran, near the Afghan border. General Baghbani allowed Afghan narcotics traffickers to smuggle opiates through Iran in return for assistance. For example, Afghan narcotics traffickers moved weapons to the Taliban on behalf of Baghbani. In return, General Baghbani has helped facilitate the smuggling of heroin precursor chemicals through the Iranian border. He also helped facilitate shipments of opium into Iran.
As a result of today's action, U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with General Baghbani, and any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.
“Treasury Designates Iranian Quds Force General Overseeing Afghan Heroin Trafficking Through Iran,” March 7, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1444. Aspx ;
“Afghanistan is the world’s primary source of opium poppy cultivation and opium and heroin production, as well as a major global source of cannabis (marijuana) and cannabis resin (hashish). Drug trafficking, a long-standing feature of Afghanistan’s post-Taliban political economy, is linked to corruption and insecurity, and provides a source of illicit finance for non-state armed groups.”
Afghanistan: Drug Trafficking and the 2014 Transition Liana Rosen Specialist in International Crime and Narcotics Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs May 9, 2014 Congressional Research Service
In 2014 the Afghan opium cultivation has once again hit a record high, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2014 Afghan Opium Survey. Heroin is a multibillion dollar business supported by powerful interests, which requires a steady and secure commodity flow. The Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer, supplying 60 per cent of U.S. demand. According to EU agencies, Afghanistan has been Europe’s main heroin supplier for more than 10 years.
Commander Brigadier General Gholamreza Baghbani of the Ansar Corps, based in Sistan and Baluchistan province on the Iran-Afghanistan border, The IRGC-QF Department’s Ansar Corps is approximately 4,000-strong Ansar, is responsible for Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has bases along Iran’s Eastern border with Afghanistan and supports covert action among Afghan Shia in Iran and various Afghan groups, including the Taliban, in Afghanistan. The Ansar Corps is one of the largest Qods Force units, largely due to the war in Afghanistan since 2001. Millions of Afghan Shi’a fled to Iran during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The IRGC used Ansar Base to train the Afghan Shi’a, and to direct intelligence & covert military operations on Afghan soil against US and NATO Forces. In August 2010, the Ansar Corps was identified by Treasury as supporting Iranian operations in Afghanistan .
In 2014 USDOT added to its list of global terrorists today four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force officers and one “associate” who are involved in the “use of terrorism and intelligence operations as tools of influence against the Government of the Afghanistan.
“this underscores Tehran’s use of terrorism and intelligence operations as tools of influence against the Government the of Afghanistan,” Treasury stated in its press release.
The IRGC-QF officers were identified as Sayyed Kamal Musavi, Alireza Hemmati, Akbar Seyed Alhosseini, and Mahmud Afkhami Rashidi. The four men are members of the Qods Force’s Ansar Corps, the command that is assigned to direct operations in Afghanistan. Musavi is described as an “Afghan associate” who served as a “facilitator and operational planner” to help Qods Force “plan and execute attacks in Afghanistan.” He is currently held in custody, presumably by the International Security Assistance Force. The date and location of his arrest was not disclosed.
The designations of the Iranian Qods Force officers were among a series of 2014 sanctions by Treasury that targeted “a diverse set of entities and individuals located around the world for evading US sanctions against Tehran, aiding Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation, and supporting terrorism.” In addition to the four Qods Force officers and facilitators, the US also added an Islamic Jihad Union facilitator based in Iran who supports “Qaeda’s Iran-based network” and its leader, Yasin al Suri. [See LWJ report, Treasury Department identifies another Iran-based facilitator for al Qaeda.]
USDOT has previously designated other IRGC-QF officers, including General Hossein Musavi, Colonel Hasan Mortezavi, and General Gholamreza Baghbani, for aiding the Taliban. General Musavi is the commander of Qods Force’s Ansar Corps, “whose responsibilities include IRGC-QF activities in Afghanistan,” Treasury stated in the Aug. 3, 2010 designation. “As Ansar Corps Commander, Musavi has provided financial and material support to the Taliban.” Colonel Mortezavi, who was designated the same day as General Musavi, was described as a senior Qods Force officer who “provides financial and material support to the Taliban.”
Currently, in the city of Zahedan on the Iranian-Afghani border, reports indicate narcotics trafficking by Brig. Gen. Abdullah Araqi, is the deputy commander of the IRGC ground forces and the former commander of Tehran Province. Various Intel reports maintain he has contacts with Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian crime organizations involved in transporting Afghani heroin to the West. Afghan narcotics traffickers moved weapons to the Taliban on behalf of Baghbani. In return, General Baghbani has helped facilitate the smuggling of heroin precursor chemicals through the Iranian border. He also helped facilitate shipments of opium to Iran.
The Revolutionary Guards’ entanglement in the country’s smuggling industry has become an important factor in the country’s economy and trade. Thus allows IRGC to make tremendous profits by controlling border crossings and “taxing” illegal smuggling activity. In this context, the Revolutionary Guards’ involvement in the international drug trade and the sponsorship of criminal organizations are involved in it are a source of income of almost unlimited potential. The US 2013 annual Worldwide Threat Assessment Report produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) rated terrorism and transnational organized crime as the second most severe threat to the United States security.
The IRGC’s labyrinth snakes through in the international drug trade, both directly and through proxies such as Hamas & Hezbollah. This involvement provides the organization with access to sources of financing that bypass international sanctions, as well as to sophisticated operational platforms that support its subversive efforts aimed at the West. The link between a global narco- terrorism drug trades is a complex, murky nexus. The Revolutionary Guards and the world of organized crime is a phenomenon in the absence of appropriate attention and response, has deadly significant strategic ramifications.
“their own autonomous apparatus for the production and distribution of heroin. Members of the organization bring tremendous quantities of raw opium from Afghanistan to Iran, which are processed into heroin and other opiates in local labs. These drugs are then transported westwards through the extensive smuggling network established by the Revolutionary Guards, which consists of large fleets of ships and planes, straw companies, and secret bank accounts.”
Tomlinson, “Iran’s Elite Guard Runs Global Crime Network Pushing Heroin to West.”
US intelligence indicates that Mexico is home to some 200,000 Syrian and Lebanese immigrants most of them illegal. They can cross the border via an extensive web of contacts with drug cartels, both in Mexico and in other countries in South America.
These cartel contacts smuggle illegal immigrants, including individuals affiliated with Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups into Mexico, placing them a virtual stone’s throw away from the United States.
US intelligence agencies have been able to gather ample the drug cartels in Mexico that are the de facto rulers of the northern districts bordering the US are in cahoots with Hezbollah to IRGC. These Islamic terror organizations, which are eager to execute attacks against American, Israeli, Jewish and Western targets; but most of all, the Islamic terror groups are anxious to make money, so they can fund their nefarious aspirations.
In December 2011, the US authorities released an indictment filed against Lebanese drug lord Ayman Juma, which exposed Hezbollah’s involvement with the Los Zetas drug cartel. According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Los Zetas is the most technologically advanced and most dangerous cartel operating in Mexico.
The IRGC convert drug industry is other means to destroy the fabric of America and the Western world. This Narco – terrorism drug trade provides billions of dollars covertly to fund the Revolutionary military programs, (According to assessments made by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the international drug market is worth some $320 billion annually.) from its nuclear programs to ballistic missiles. But this and other volatile issues are not allowed with President Obama’s Iranian nuclear talks, no more than the Islamic Republic‘s Military Nuclear Dimensions, so what good are these talks if they are to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran?
“the Revolutionary Guards’ involvement in the drug market also provides the organization with cash. Due to the severe international sanctions imposed on Iran, the Revolutionary Guards’ involvement in the country’s smuggling industry has become a major factor in the country’s economy and trade, as it allows the organization to make tremendous profits by controlling border crossings and “taxing” illegal smuggling activity.. “
Jonathan Spyer, “Inside Iran: War by Other Means,” The Global Research in International Affairs Center (GLORIA), July 13, 2012.