What Is the Al-Quds Force? Iran Spies Targeted Jewish Kindergartens, Reports Warn

Policemen secure the entrance to Iran's consulate in Hamburg, northern Germany, as demonstrators protest against the policy of Iran on January 3, 2018. Getty Images

Iranian spies targeted Jewish kindergartens and the Israeli embassy in Germany, according to a journalist monitoring the German police's raid of apartments occupied by the suspects.

German journalist Josef Hufelschulte told Israeli media on Wednesday that 10 people suspected of being spies for the Al-Quds Force, a unit of Iran's revolutionary guard, had been collecting information about members of the Jewish community in Germany.

The account comes just one day after German authorities conducted searches of apartments across the country in relation to the suspected spies. Search warrants named the spies as members of the Al-Quds Force, but investigators have yet to arrest anyone.

Some experts have cast doubt on whether the individuals are actually spies, saying that the Al-Quds Force has become a boogeyman for western analysts and security forces. But it's likely the case will damage the relationship between Germany and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, who has been a strong advocate for Iran's nuclear deal with the West.

"It's very bad public relations for the Rouhani administration, which has been trying to strengthen its relationship with EU countries," Omid Memarian, an Iran analyst based in the U.S., told Newsweek.

"Germany has been a solid supporter of the nuclear deal [with Iran]...and such news could cast a shadow on it at a very critical juncture for Iran," Memarian added.

Policemen secure the entrance to Iran's consulate in Hamburg, northern Germany, as demonstrators protest against the policy of Iran on January 3, 2018 Getty Images

Rouhani controls Iranian foreign policy generally, but he has almost no control over the Revolutionary Guard, Memarian points out.

Others, however, argue that the presence of Iranian spies in Germany could be an attempt to pressure Berlin to stay in the nuclear deal, also known by its official name the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA).

"It is a way to pressure Germany to continue its hardline stance against [President Donald] Trump's threats to tear up the JCPOA," Benjamin Radd, a Middle East expert at University of California, Los Angeles, told Newsweek.

"Iran has relatively good relations with Germany, especially with trade, making the presence and activity of Iranians and Iranian-backed agents easier to manage for the Islamic Republic," Radd added.

Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France. Getty Images

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been known to target schools and other civilian institutions in the past, including Jewish communities in Europe and the West.

"The most devastating attack was a bombing at a Jewish Community Center in Argentina in 1994, but more recently they also attacked a bus carrying Israeli citizens in Bulgaria in 2012," Chris Meserole, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek. "The threat against Germany should be taken extremely seriously."

The United States considers Al-Quds a terrorist organization, and Western intelligence officials have long accused them of carrying out assassinations abroad.

Earlier this month, a Pakistani student was convicted of spying on a German politician for Iran.