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.
There is quite a list of grievances about Baghbani. According to Treasury Department officials, he allowed Afghan drug traffickers to bring opiates and the material to manufacture heroin into Iran from Afghanistan. Those traffickers then brought weapons from Iran back into Afghanistan for use by the Taliban and received other “assistance” from Baghbani.
The Quds Force, to which Baghbani belongs, is a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. It reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and operated against US soldiers in Iraq. Members of the Qods Force have been involved in Hezbollah operations in Lebanon and may also be active in South America, thanks to Iran’s rather cozy relationship with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. Last October, the FBI captured an man named Manssor Arbabsiar, who allegedly plotted with an informant he believed to be a member of the Mexican Los Zetas drug gang. The object of the plot was to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. During his conversation with the FBI informant, Arbabsiar allegedly said that his Iranian handlers could provide Los Zetas with several tons of opium. The FBI downplayed the drug angle and focused on the assassination, but a source said
[t]hat U.S. officials have received intelligence reports for some time indicating that Qods Forces officers have been working with Venezuelans — including some officials in that country’s government — who have been involved in shipping cocaine to West Africa. But so far, the official said, there has not been enough evidence to bring any criminal charges against Iranians who have been implicated.
So now the U.S. government has used its Kingpin Law on a highly-placed member of Iran’s most elite military unit, a unit that is elbow-deep in terrorism and subversion, and that may have ties to a Mexican narco-terrorist gang. We’ll have to wait to see what the next step, if there is one, will be.