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US adds Qods Force general as ‘Narcotics Kingpin’ for heroin, weapons smuggling in Afghanistan

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By Bill RoggioMarch 7, 2012

Today the US Department of the Treasury added an Iranian Qods Force general to the list of Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers for supporting heroin and opium smuggling in Iran and Afghanistan “as part of a broader scheme to support terrorism.” The Iranian general supported the drug smugglers in order to arm the Taliban in Afghanistan.

General Gholamreza Baghbani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force’s branch in the Iranian city of Zahedan, “allowed Afghan narcotics traffickers to smuggle opiates through Iran in return for assistance,” Treasury stated in a press release that announced the designation. The “assistance” was given to the Taliban.

“For example, Afghan narcotics traffickers moved weapons to the Taliban on behalf of Baghbani,” Treasury said. “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.”

General Baghbani is not the first Qods Force general to be designated by the US for supporting terrorist activities in Afghanistan, but he is, as Treasury noted, the first to be designated under the Kingpin Act. The US has designated other Iranian Qods Force officers, including General Hossein Musavi and Colonel Hasan Mortezavi, for aiding the Taliban.

General Hossein 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 Hasan Mortezavi is described as a senior Qods Force officer who “provides financial and material support to the Taliban.”

Qods Forces’ Ansar Corps is the command that is assigned to direct operations in Afghanistan. The Ansar Corps is based in Mashad in northeastern Iran. Ansar Corps operates much like the Ramazan Corps, which supports and directs Shia terror groups in Iraq. [See LWJ report, Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq.]

Al Qaeda is also known to facilitate travel for its operatives moving into Afghanistan from Mashad. Al Qaeda additionally uses the eastern cities of Tayyebat and Zahedan to funnel its operatives into Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Return to Jihad].

Several Taliban commanders based in western Afghanistan have stated that they have received weapons, cash, and training from Iranian forces. Taliban commanders and units train inside Iran to conduct attacks against NATO and Afghan forces. In addition, al Qaeda operatives are also known to receive support from the Ansar Corps; Mashad is a transit point for al Qaeda operatives en route to Afghanistan.

US commanders have accused Iran of directly supporting the Taliban. On May 30, 2010, former ISAF commander General Stanley McChrystal said that Iran is training Taliban fighters and providing them with weapons.

“The training that we have seen occurs inside Iran with fighters moving inside Iran,” McChrystal said at a press conference. “The weapons that we have received come from Iran into Afghanistan.”

ISAF has targeted Iranian-supported Taliban commanders in at least 14 raids in western Afghanistan between June 2009 and February 2011, according to Coalition press releases compiled by The Long War Journal. (Note: ISAF inexplicably stopped reporting on raids against Iranian-supported Taliban commanders in early February 2011; LWJ‘s queries to ISAF on this subject have gone unanswered). ISAF officials have directly linked Qods Force to several of the Taliban commanders.

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How Iran hacked super-secret CIA stealth drone

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Undated picture shows member of Iran’s revolutionary guard pointing at U.S. RQ-170 unmanned spy plane as he speaks with Hajizadeh at unknown location in Iran ( REUTERS/Handout)

More damage is being dished out to the US intelligence community as sources in Iran admit to hacking the CIA’s lost drone and bringing it down with not much more than computer navigating know-how.

Engineers with the Iranian military are admitting to the Christian Science Monitor that the dramatic disappearance of a multi-million dollar stealth drone aircraft suffered by the United States two weeks ago was indeed a result of their own doing, claiming now that they managed to hijack the system inside the craft with ease and bring it to a safe landing without incident.

The United States originally denied they lost a drone over Iran before changing their story and insisting that they lost contact with the craft during a surveillance mission over neighboring Afghanistan. Iranian officials quickly corrected Americans by displaying footage of the spy-plane and revealing that it was apprehended over 100 miles from the country’s border with Afghanistan.

RT has reported throughout the ordeal that the downing of the drone could have resulted from a budding cyber war between American and Iranian intelligence. Now officials overseas are insisting that they did indeed hack the craft to quietly bring it down.

Speaking to the CSM, an engineer responsible for the interception speaking on condition of anonymity says that technicians managed to hack into the craft’s GPS navigation, which the official describes as “weak.”

“By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain,” says the source.

Less than two weeks after the RQ-170 Sentinel was lost over Iran, US officials cited a system malfunction as the culprit in another drone that crashed over the Indian Ocean on Tuesday this week.

In a report out of RT earlier this week, we rehashed an earlier incident at Nevada’s Creech Air Force base in the United States from months earlier that left a key logger-virus installed in the cockpits of the military’s drones. We added to the report on Wednesday this week, citing an investigation out of Univision that linked Iranian officials with Mexican hackers in an alleged cyber war plot to attack the American intelligence community, specifically the Central Intelligence Agency, Pentagon and Department of Defense.

The RQ-170 Sentinel recovered by Iran was flying for the CIA when it was apprehended.

The United States originally laughed at Iran’s interception of the craft, with one American official telling Defense News that the act was equivalent to “dropping a Ferrari into an ox-cart technology culture.” Now Tehran says that they were able to successfully reverse-engineer the craft by using less powerful drones that it has downed in the years prior. To the CSM, officials overseas say that the weaknesses in the GPS navigation of the craft were known by US officials, who did little to fix the patch.

Despite both losses in recent days, US Defense Department Secretary Leon Panetta said to Fox News this week that America will “absolutely” continue stealth jets missions over Iran.

Iranian authorities have hailed the recovery as a great success for the country since announcing that they had obtained the craft, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration. The US president has formally asked Tehran to return the craft to authorities, to which Iran shrugged off.

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