On December 27, 2014, BG Hamid Taghavi (aka Taqavi) of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force (QF) Ramazan Corps was allegedly shot by an ISIS sniper in Samarra, Iraq. His funeral was held in Tehran on December 29, 2014.
This was the most senior Iranian officer killed in Iraq since the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s, yet Western press outlets only minimally covered the story. Granted, there was greater public concern over a major search-and-rescue operation for the AirAsia jet that had disappeared by the time the news of Taghavi’s death hit the press. It is likely there was also some major Hollywood break-up that was more pressing to cover. However, since this was a very high-ranking Iranian war hero, and one with whom U.S. forces had essentially gone toe-to-toe with during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), it was surprising to see the extent of Western media coverage was basically just a retransmission of a couple Associate Press articles.
To put this into perspective, Taghavi was the equivalent of a senior, general-level staff officer assigned to a Theater Special Operations Command, who was deployed to Iraq and killed by a bunch of guerrilla fighters. The nature and location of his death raises quite a few questions.
Who was BG Hamid Taghavi?
Little is publicly known about Hamid Taghavi. Given his rank and placement in Qods Force, he used good operational security (OPSEC) in keeping details about himself out of the public domain during his tenure, especially since he was never identified by the U.S. or the European Union in connection with their other Qods Force designations. Much of what can be pieced together about him personally is from press releases from his death.
He was 55 years old when he was killed. His hometown was Ahvaz, Iran, which is an Iranian Arab town east of Basrah, Iraq. He was an Iran – Iraq War vet and has been identified as one of the commanders of the Ramazan Base during the war.
He has been reported as either a commander or the commander at Ramazan Corps. As a senior member of Ramazan Corps, he was likely involved in the training and support of various Iraqi Shia proxy groups during OIF. According to various reports, he was killed while training Iraqi troops and Shia militia.
What is IRGC, Qods Force, and Ramazan Corps?
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or Sepah-E Pasdaran-E Enqelab-E Eslami, is often referred to as Pasdaran or Sepah. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was established during the Iranian revolution of 1979. According to the Iranian constitution, the IRGC is intended to protect the Islamic system of Iran and guard the revolution and its achievements. There are five branches of the IRGC: ground forces, air force, navy, Basij militia, and Qods Force special operations.
In 1990, Qods Force (IRGC-QF) became the foreign or international arm of IRGC. Qods (aka Ghods aka Quds) Force fully translates into “Jerusalem Force,” which reflects their primary mission: “the liberation of Jerusalem.” In 1998, General Qasem Soleimani replaced the original Qods Force commader, Ahmed Vahidi. The Qods Force operates directly under the supreme leader’s supervision.
While there are stark differences to U.S. SOF, Qods Force is considered to be the special operations organization for the IRGC. The Qods Force is known for providing lethal material support, funding, and training to various terrorist organizations and Shia proxy groups.
In addition to numerous functional branches, the Qods Force has at least four regional commands:
- First Corps, aka Ramazan Command Center focused on Iraq,
- Second Corps, aka Nabi al-Akram Command Center focused on Pakistan,
- Third Corps, aka Al-Hamzah Command Center focused on Turkey and the Kurds
- Fourth Corps, aka Al-Ansar Command Center focused on Afghanistan and Central Asia.
In the mid-1990s, Ramazan Corps operated three bases along the Iraqi border in Ahvaz (Taghavi’s hometown), Kermanshah, and al-Nasar. During OIF, when U.S. forces had to deal with Iranian proxy groups such as Badr Corps, Khattab Hizballah, and Asaib al Haqq, it was Ramazan Corps who trained, equipped, and funded them.
In October 2007, the State Department designated IRGC under Executive Order 13382 for their engagement in weapons of mass destruction proliferation activities. At the same time, the U.S. Treasury designed Qods Force under EO 13224 for their material support to numerous terrorist organizations. Since that time, the Treasury continues to add IRGC and Qods Force entities to the designation lists. In 2011, Qods Force was highlighted for their involvement in the attempted assassination attack against a Saudi ambassador in the U.S.
Why was Taghavi in Samarra?
According to news articles originating from Iran, Taghavi was shot close to the shrine of the Imam Hassan Askari, which is considered one of the most important Shia holy sites. This site in particular is said to contain the tombs of Ali al-Hadi, the tenth Shia Imam; Hasan al-Askari, the eleventh Shia Imam; and Narjis, the mother of the twelfth Shia Imam who, according to legend, disappeared from view in the cellar within this mosque.
Given that ISIS has been destroying any holy sites that are not Sunni, this is clearly one that the Iranian government would want their best Shia forces protecting. The loss of the Askari shrine would be a major defeat for the Iranians and other Shias. The other key Shia holy sites in Iraq include Najaf, Karbala, and Kufa. Damascus is another location of a major Shia holy site, which explains why Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and the Iranians supporting him are defending it so fiercely.
What’s the Point?
There are very high-level Iranian Qods Force officers overtly and actively supporting proxy groups and Iraq against ISIS. Even General Qasem Soliemani, head of Qods Force, has been spotted in Samarra and other locations within Iraq. There are other reports that he has been spending quite a bit of time in Baghdad leading the Iranian “supervisory” effort in Iraq. This does present some nice collection and targeting opportunities for the U.S. while the Qods Force operators are outside Iran; however, as U.S. forces are also being sent back to Iraq, this presents collection and targeting opportunities for Iran and their proxies against our troops.
As the U.S. supports Iraq in the war against ISIS, we’ve essentially aligned ourselves, albeit temporarily, with Qods Force, a designated terrorist organization. How will this affect ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran? Of course, highlighting Iran’s active role in Iraq by the Western press would not improve public support for the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the current Iranian government which might have had some effect on mainstream media reporting. Even once the conflict is over, the U.S. will continue to be the Iranian government’s enemy; hopefully the U.S. government is not foolish enough to think we will become friends with the Iranian government should things go well in the ISIS conflict.
(Featured Image Courtesy: ABC News)