U.S. Government officials regularly rail against something they call “the Qods Force (QF),” which they contend is a special operations unit of “the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).” Both of these terms are U.S. inventions. There is no entity called “the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps,” nor is there a sub-unit of the IRGC called “the Qods Force.” This is all part of a psychological warfare effort by U.S. diplomats and Pentagon officials targeting the American public.
The Iranian Constitution established an organization, which in Farsi is pronounced “Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Islami.” The correct English translation is “The Army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.” It is commonly referred to within Iran either as “Sepah” or “Pasdaran.”
Within the Pasdaran is a smaller externally functioning organization similar to U.S. Special Forces Command. Its name in Farsi is “Niru-e Qods,” which translates into “The Jerusalem Force.”
U.S. officials apparently looked at both organizations and determined that they could not use their correct names because Army of Guardians and Jerusalem Force tend to invoke sympathetic reactions. The U.S. Government wanted to instill fear and flame anti-Iranian sentiment. In order to do that it had to demonize its opponents. It decided to simply rename the Army of Guardians as “Iranian revolutionary guards” which invokes memories in Americans of the notorious Chinese “red guards” and the violent “peoples’ revolutionary strike force” from the popular Dirty Harry movies. Regarding Niru-e Qods, it decided to create a hybrid term consisting of one Farsi and one English word and created “the Qods Force.” The unfamiliar term “Qods” sounds sinister in English.
This is the same tactic that these officials used successfully regarding the organization established by Usama bin Laden. Its correct name is “al-Qaedat al-Jihan” or “the base of struggle.” That also is a sympathetic name, so U.S. officials renamed it simply “al-Qaeda,” (the base). That term invokes suspicion and fear. It begs the question: “The base for what?” A search of the entire on-line data-files for the U.S. State Department reveals no mention of the full name of this organization. Even in criminal court proceedings, the U.S. Justice Department is fearful of and never uses the correct legal name (al-Qaedat al-Jihan), even when charging people with being members of this group. U.S. courts have permitted the Justice Department to use propaganda and fear rather than facts in order to help obtain convictions.
Demonizing ones enemy is a tactic that has been used for thousands of years by governments as a device to coax a reluctant population into supporting a war effort. It is regrettable that the Obama Administration would embrace such a tactic.
One of the many problems with inventing terms is that ignorant U.S. officials have the potential to misuse foreign terms that they do not understand. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an October 11, 2011, interview with the Associated Press, vaguely used the terms “Qods Force and Departments of the Qods Force.” It is important for U.S. officials to carefully distinguish those who they are labeling as terrorists from all other things Qods. There is Qods University, the al-Qods Hospital in Gaza and even the Qods Department Store in Tehran. Hopefully there are more knowledgeable officials in the CIA who are targeting the correct Qods (i.e., Niru-e Qods assassins and not Qods check-out clerks). This is the same problem with the U.S. Government’s announced war in eastern Afghanistan against what it sloppily calls “the Haqqanis.” Haqqani is a common regional name. Even Pakistan’s ambassador to the United State has the last name Haqqani. Labeling all Haqqanis as terrorists is unprofessional and dangerous.
It is not simply the invention of words that betrays the unsophistication of the American effort, but some U.S. officials do not know how to pronounce the terms they have invented, which reflects poorly on the United States. Last week General Jack Keane testified as an Iranian expert before the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. In his prepared anti-Iranian remarks he pronounced Qods as “Cuds” (as in a cow that chews its cud). In Farsi, Qods is pronounced as a sharp “Kh” as in the English word “could.”
During the past three years the U.S. Government has turned to its anti-terrorism laws as a propaganda tool against Iran. The U.S. Treasury Department has labeled individual officials in what it calls the “IRGC/QF” as terrorists. Part of the justification is alleged human rights abuses by these individuals and their organization. However, at the same time there are no such designations for officials of the National Security Service (NSS), the brutal secret police force that keeps Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov in power. Karimov and his family are friends of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, therefore the terror the NSS inflicts on the Uzbek people is ignored. It weakens the case against Niru-e Qods leaders if it appears that they are being arbitrarily labeled as terrorists solely because they are not U.S. allies.
In their fervor to demonize the Iranians, U.S. officials have failed to study their adversary with sufficient care. On March 21, 2010, Miles Amoore of The Sunday Times reported that Niru-e Qods had established a training facility in eastern Iran to train selected Taliban insurgents. The training program was described as lasting 15 weeks, which is longer than the basic training provided by NATO to Afghan forces. The Iranian training is performed in smaller groups and the ratio of trainers to students is virtually one to one. That contrasts with the mass production techniques employed by NATO in which one trainer may be training 100 or more recruits. The extensive amount of personal attention provided by the Iranians reflects its preference of quality over quantity. Also unlike NATO, the Iranians provide no weapons systems and equipment to their allies that they cannot maintain and sustain. The Iranians know that insurgency and counter-insurgency programs require time and patience. Pentagon and NATO officials would be well-served to consider copying the Iranian methods as the Iranian methods do produce results.
On January 29, 2010, Secretary Clinton, at the end of the London Conference on Afghanistan, told French news agency AFP:
“We expect a lot of the foot soldiers on the battlefield will be leaving the Taliban because many of them have wanted to leave, many of them are tired of fighting.”
Secretary Clinton was correct about large numbers soldiers being tired of fighting, but she was speaking about the wrong army. Since January 2010, it is her side that has been leaving the battlefield. The desertion rate within the Afghan National Army is about 25% per year. Since Secretary Clinton’s remarks, approximately seven divisions (70,000 Afghan troops) have deserted. Essentially the entire Afghan army deserts every four years. These statistics should have impressed on U.S. officials an appreciation for the Iranian program and a realization that NATO mass production training techniques merely lead to mass desertions; but that message has so far failed to resonate.
The current official U.S. ignorance about Iran is not a new phenomenon. The State Department ignorantly supported the coup that returned Shah Reza Pahlavi to power and blindly supported his brutal secret police, the SAVAK, which kept him in power. It negotiated a much-criticized immunity agreement with the Shah which allowed almost 100,000 American contractors to operate in Iran with complete immunity from Iranian laws. That agreement led to many abuses which fed support for Iranian opposition groups; a consequence that the State Department refused to recognize in time and correct. Likewise, as detailed below, the State Department previously supported a decadent and highly unpopular Qajar Shah (Mohammad Ali Shah) at the turn of the last century. U.S. Government policy and the desires of the American people have not always been the same regarding Iran.
Historically the Persian and American peoples have always had close ties. During its time of need, individual Americans did come to Iran’s assistance. During its famous Constitutional revolution, which lasted from 1905-1911, Americans such as Howard Conklin Baskerville traveled to Iran (then still called Persia). Baskerville initially taught at a missionary school in Tabriz but in 1908, he decided to fight under the command of Persian rebel leader Sattar Khan who was battling Russian and Qajar forces during the siege of Tabriz. Interestingly, the U.S. Consular General in Tabriz (Edward Doty) reportedly attempted to persuade Baskerville not to get involved, but he ignored the State Department and proceeded to form a militia of over 100 volunteers. On April 19, 1909, Howard Baskerville was shot in the heart by a sniper as he was attempting to bring food into the besieged city of Tabriz. He had just celebrated his 24th birthday. Howard Conklin Baskerville is remembered and well regarded in Iran to this day. These are many such stories of each country’s citizens helping the other. Perhaps too much effort is being spent by both governments to push both sides apart.