We Tracked Iran’s Covert Military Unit on Social Media, Here’s What We Found | Visual Investigations

We Tracked Iran’s Covert Military Unit on Social Media, Here’s What We Found | Visual Investigations


Before he was killed
in a U.S. drone strike, Iranian general
Qassim Suleimani was showing up everywhere — in Aleppo, Baghdad,
Beirut, with Iran’s leader,
with Iraq’s former prime minister. It wasn’t always this way. For years, Suleimani was
an under-the-radar operator in the Middle East. He ran an elite military unit
called the Quds Force. It’s an arm of Iran’s
Revolutionary Guards Corps that works to expand Iran’s
influence in the Middle East using covert military
and intelligence tactics. But in 2014, things
started to change. The elusive commander was
spotted in the public eye more often. We started seeing
him with militias, on battlefields, at funerals. He even had his own Instagram. We combed through hundreds
of images and videos, many of them propaganda
from Suleimani’s early military days
to his recent stint as a social media sensation. These appearances help
paint a more complete picture of how the
Quds Force operates, through a network
of proxy forces, or local militias,
along a key corridor that Iran calls the
“axis of resistance.” It stretches through Iraq
and Syria to Lebanon. Let’s start in Lebanon. These are rare images
that appear to have been taken very recently. They show Suleimani with
Hassan Nasrallah, who is the leader of Hezbollah, a
Lebanon-based militant group. Hezbollah is the archetype for
how the Quds Force operates. They helped found the group
and fund it to this day. This support fueled
Hezbollah’s rise as a political party,
and as a military threat to Israel, Iran’s archenemy. These are Hezbollah fighters
posing with Iranian weapons. and here’s a video
of Suleimani with a senior commander
of Hezbollah. The group gives
Iran a key foothold in the region, along this
corridor we told you about. This photo from 2013 reveals
just how strong the bond is between these two groups. It shows a prominent
Hezbollah member at a funeral for Suleimani’s
mother in Tehran. Two years later, that
Hezbollah member died, and Suleimani himself
made the trip to Beirut to pay his respects. He’s seen here
praying at his grave. Now let’s look
at how Suleimani took the Hezbollah playbook
and mimicked it in Iraq. Here, too, sightings
of Suleimani help tell the story. Here he is in 2015 with
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of an
Iraq-based militia called Kataib Hezbollah,
also known as K.H. Over the last few
years, the two were seen frequently
together, and the bond is strong here, too, judging
by this propaganda video. Similar to Hezbollah,
K.H. is active in politics and helped push Iran’s
interests in Baghdad. And it runs
military operations. Suleimani’s team
trains and arms them, and one of their main
targets over the years has been American forces. We found propaganda
footage of K.H. attacks on American bases in Iraq. And K.H. also joined the fight
against ISIS, which Iran considered a major threat. In fact, Suleimani
even shows up at victories against
ISIS in Iraq. These were brutal campaigns,
where civilians were often collateral damage. K.H. would later be seen during
the recent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. That episode led up to
Suleimani’s killing, and the other senior
commander to die in the attack was none other than K.H.’s
leader: Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The next place
we see Suleimani is Syria, the missing piece
in Iran’s strategic corridor. The militias we
just told you about, Hezbollah and K.H.,
here they are in Syria, fighting to help
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stay in power. Syria was also the
only place we actually saw Iranian operatives
besides Suleimani in action. Here, one of them describes how
they train fighters in Syria. But this video wasn’t
meant to be released. The footage was
captured and leaked by Syrian opposition forces. Remember, it’s all
part of the playbook. Iranian Quds Force
fighters rarely appeared in any of
the videos we found. They stay under the radar
and do most of their work through proxies. But we still see Suleimani. Here he is near Aleppo
in 2015. The eventual fall of Aleppo
became a key turning point for Assad, with devastating
consequences for civilians. One big winner in
all this bloodshed was Iran, which kept
its foothold in Syria. There’s another place
on the map, Yemen, where Iran is active, but
we don’t see Suleimani here. Why? Because Iran doesn’t want
to be linked directly to the conflict. We do see other clues. These are Iranian weapons
being used by a group called the Houthis. They’re fighting
against forces backed by Iran’s great
rival, Saudi Arabia. And Suleimani’s lack
of public profile here tells us one final thing
about the Quds Force: controlling whether
they come out of or remain in the shadows
is all part of their game.

25 Replies to “We Tracked Iran’s Covert Military Unit on Social Media, Here’s What We Found | Visual Investigations

  1. Hi — I’m Haley, one of the producers on this video! Here to give some insight into how we put this piece together. It’s a visual explainer that uses visuals of a top Iranian general to analyze a complicated topic — how Iran’s covert Quds Force operates.

    After Qassim Suleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike, we combed through hundreds of images and videos of him. We wanted to know more about his unit, the Quds Force. Sightings of Quds Force members are extremely rare, but Suleimani had quite the public persona. So we compiled a spreadsheet of videos and images of Suleimani, going back to the 1980s when he served in the Iran-Iraq War.

    We noticed that the “shadow commander” really started popping up around 2014, right after ISIS took Mosul. Experts told us that this was on purpose — part of how the Quds Force carefully shaped its narrative around Suleimani.

    We treated the visuals as evidence, packed with information — we geolocated them to find out where Suleimani was and identified who he was with (whether it be a senior Hezbollah commander or a fighter from the Iraqi militia Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba). Weapons and insignia in the visuals act as further clues of Iranian influence. And all of these sightings put together are a unique lens into how the Quds Force operates — through a network of partner and proxy forces along a corridor that stretches from Iran all the way to Lebanon.

  2. What a irony this is that USA is openly supporting terrorists n questions other's why you eliminate those terrorists …USA UK Ale Saud family created Isis in order to topple the Syrian govt, Iraqis govt but Iran didn't allow this to happen that is why west media is propagating again Iran Hezbollah.. USA is the mother of terrorism n USA NATO has killed millions of innocent people's all over the world..still USA claims that he is champion of human rights..

  3. General Suleimani is the savior of whole ME from American,Israel,Nato and Saudi ally special force known as ISIS,Al Qaeda,Al Nusra and more…

  4. What groups are training by USA just for compered, al qaeda, isis, al nusra and who knows how many others who are 💐 compared with their rivals. If isn't sad it will be a joke

  5. America, which is owned and controlled by Zionists, and New York Times which is a Zionist owned dog, cannot debate or have any response to the fact that Zionist-America had supported Saddam during Iran-Iraq War. Zionist-America created the menace which was Osama Bin Laden who was trained by the CIA. So when NYT or any other Zionist owned dog, barks about anyone, majority of the world know that it is a LIE. New York Times are a bunch of propagandist liars, who twist the truth. Just like CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Sky News and other bullshitting channels that claim to be journalists.

  6. I don't understand how US is blaming other for what they have done so many years …………. suplying weapons to rebels in diferent parts of the world.

  7. Correction: Al-Muhandis was the leader of "Popular Mobilization Forces" PMF or "الحشد الشعبي".
    Although "Kataib Hezbollah" of Iraq is joined at the hips with PMF.

  8. You talk about it like it’s some sinister secret and even add creepy background music to it when in reality Iran has never hidden the fact that they’re actively supporting their trusted allies in the region. Meanwhile the only countries involved in malevolent covert activities in this region are the US and its allies (Israel and the Gulf dictatorships). They arm terrorists that they call “rebels”, they overthrow governments which want to remain independent, they perpetrate extrajudicial assasinations (which are illegal under international law!) against foreign officials like they did with Soleimani… but of course we can’t expect imperialist mainstream media garbage to report on that with honesty. Also it’s not the “fall” of Aleppo, it’s the liberation of Aleppo (from US backed terrorists) which was celebrated by the entire population of the city, muslims and christians hand in hand.

  9. It's time to shift the power to Asia china Russia India Iran central Asia. 200 hundred years is enough for the West or it will be balance. One power is not good for man kind it has to be balance.

  10. So, the only evidence shown of the alleged "terror attacks" of KH against US forces was a blurry sequence of dust in the air and a lone rocket launcher firing a single rocket from the middle of a road at a mountain? Seriously?

  11. America is nothing but only an empty tin Bloody America drinking the blood of innocent people for oil robbery and Greater y

  12. Amrica the mother of terrorism don't fear the enmity of America but fear with friendship with them

  13. Amrican's foreign policies is more dangerous than Corona Virus for World peace.
    America Mother of terrorism
    Is great threads for world peace Bloody America drinking the blood of innocent people for oil robbery and Greater Israel

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