Iran: Qods Force and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS)

(From Top World  Intelligence Agencies)

MOIS in the News

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Two Spy Services

The Ministry of Intelligence and Security is one of two organizations responsible for conducting covert activities outside of Iran. The other is the Qods Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), which conduct special intelligence operations outside of Iran. The IRGC has also worked with MOIS on offensive cyber-intelligence measures.

Mahmoud Alavi has been the Minister of Intelligence and Agency Executive of MOIS since 2013. Maj. General Hossein Salami has been the chief of the IRGC since 2008.


In April 2019, the Trump administration designated the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” and imposed sanctions on seven individuals and entitities, including the Qods Force.

The Qods Force is the cutting edge of Iran’s international power projection. In the words of a Congressional Research Service report from 2017.

Iran’s operations in support of its allies—which generally include arms shipments, provision of advisers, training, and funding—are carried out by the Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the IRGC (IRGC-QF). The IRGC-QF is headed by IRGC Major General Qasem Soleimani, who apparently reports directly to [Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamene’i.  IRGC leaders have on numerous occasions publicly acknowledged these activities; on August 20, 2016, an IRGC-QF commander in Syria stated to an Iranian newspaper that Iran had formed a “Liberation Army” consisting of local, mostly Shiite, fighters that support Iran’s interests in various Arab countries. Much of the weaponry Iran supplies to its allies include specialized antitank systems, artillery rockets, mortars, and short-range missiles.

In April 2019, the Trump administration designated the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” and imposed sanctions on seven individuals and entitities, including the Qods Force.

On January 3, 2020, Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike ordered by President Trump. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Esmayeel Qaani as the new Commander of the Qods Force


The Ministry of Intelligence and Security was first established as SAVAK in 1957 with the help of the United States and Israel. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, continued to use SAVAK personnel for counterintelligence purposes but divided other intelligence functions among among a variety of groups including the IRGC, the Kumitehs (small neighborhood security committees), the Prime Minister’s Intelligence Office, the army, and the police.

In 2012 the Obama administration sanctioned MOIS for “for its support to terrorist groups as well as its central role in perpetrating human rights abuses.”

The agency has had a reputation of human rights violations. “Security and intelligence forces summoned, harassed, and arrested dozens of journalists, prominent trade unionists, and social media activists,” Human Rights Watch reported in 2018.

In August 2017, the Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi announced the ministry has disbanded more than 100 terrorist groups across Iran.

Iran ramped up their cyber intelligence capabilities after the StuxNet virus, reportedly planted by U.S. and Israeli agents, targeted their uranium-enrichment infrastructure. Their cyberwar efforts have been aimed mainly at the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.



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