Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

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The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution ( / , or Sepāh for short), often called Revolutionary Guards, is a branch of Iran's military, founded after the Iranian revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

. Whereas the regular military (artesh) defends Iran's borders and maintains internal order, according to the Iranian constitution, the Revolutionary Guard (pasdaran) is intended to protect the country's Islamic system. In fact, according to some outside observers, it is intended to prevent internal dissident and military uprisings.

The IRGC has roughly 125,000 military personnel including ground, air and naval forces. It also controls the paramilitary Basij
Basij
The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The force consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits...

 militia which has about 90,000 active personnel, and in recent years has developed into a "multibillion-dollar business empire," and is reportedly the "third-wealthiest organization in Iran" after the National Iranian Oil Company
National Iranian Oil Company
The National Iranian Oil Company , a government-owned corporation under the direction of the Ministry of Petroleum of Iran, is an oil and natural gas producer and distributor headquartered in Tehran. It was established in 1948...

 and the Imam Reza Endowment.

Since its origin as an ideologically driven militia, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution has taken an ever more assertive role in virtually every aspect of Iranian society. Its expanded social, political, military, and economic role under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration — especially during the 2009 presidential election and post-election suppression of protest
2009 Iranian election protests
Protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election against the disputed victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world starting June 13, 2009...

 — has led many analysts to argue that its political power has surpassed even that of the Shiite clerical system.
The Chief Commander of the Guardians is Mohammad Ali Jafari
Mohammad Ali Jafari
General Mohammad Ali Jafari is the commander of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He was appointed by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, on September 1, 2007, to succeed Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi....

, who was preceded by Yahya Rahim Safavi
Yahya Rahim Safavi
Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi is an Iranian military commander who served as the Chief commander of the Sepah from September 1, 1997 until September 1, 2007.-Early life:...

.

Terminology


In Iran, due to the frequent use of referencing government organizations with one word names (that generally denotes their function) as opposed to acronyms or shortened versions, the entire general populace universally refer to the organization as Sepāh (Army). Although Artesh also means army as well, Sepāh has a connotation that is more security driven as opposed to Artesh, which is more militaristic, and henceforth, is used to refer to the general Armed Forces. However the Iranian Government, media, and those who identify to the organization generally use Sepāh e Pāsdārān (Army of Guardians), although it is not uncommon to hear Pāsdārān e Enqelāb (پاسداران انقلاب) (Guardians of the Revolution), or simply Pāsdārān (پاسداران) (Guardians) as well.

Because the Basij
Basij
The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The force consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits...

 is the only part of the organization that is visible on a daily basis, and the ones that suppress internal unrest (i.e. Protests, civil disobedience, etc.), many Iranians also informally use the term to refer to the Revolutionary Guards as well.

Most foreign Governments and the English-speaking mass media usually use the term Iranian Revolutionary Guards ("IRG") or simply the Revolutionary Guards. In the US media, the force is frequently referred to as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC"), although this force is rarely described as a "corps" by non-US media.

During the 1980s, they were known as "the men in white Nissan trucks" and "the women in white Pakons".

Organization


The force's main role is in national security. It is responsible for internal and border security, law enforcement, and also Iran's missile forces. IRGC operations are geared towards asymmetric warfare
Asymmetric warfare
Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly....

 and less traditional duties. These include the control of smuggling, control of the Strait of Hormuz
Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf. On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman....

, and resistance operations. The IRGC is intended to complement the more traditional role of the regular Iranian military, with the two forces operating separately and focusing on different operational roles.

The IRGC is a combined arms force with its own ground forces, navy, air force, intelligence, and special forces
Special forces
Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military tactical teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform...

. It also controls the Basij
Basij
The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The force consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits...

 militia, which has a potential strength of eleven million. The Basij is a volunteer-based force, with 90,000 regular soldiers and 300,000 reservists. The IRGC is officially recognized as a component of the Iranian military under Article 150 of the Iranian Constitution. It is separate from, and parallel to, the other arm of the Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

's military, which is called Artesh
Islamic Republic of Iran Army
The Islamic Republic of Iran Army is the ground force of the Military of Islamic Republic of Iran. In Iran, it is also called Artesh, which is Persian for "army." As of 2007, the regular Iranian Army was estimated to have 465,000 personnel plus around 350,000 reservists for a total of 815,000...

 (another Persian word for army).

History and Structure


The IRGC was formed following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in an effort to consolidate several paramilitary forces into a single force loyal to the new regime and to function as a counter to the influence and power of the regular military, initially seen as a potential source of opposition and loyalty to the Shah. From the beginning of the new Islamic regime, the Pasdaran (Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Islami) functioned as a corps of the faithful. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic entrusted the defense of Iran's territorial integrity and political independence to the military, while it gave the Pasdaran the responsibility of preserving the Revolution itself.

Days after Khomeini's return to Tehran, the Bazargan interim administration established the Pasdaran under a decree issued by Khomeini on 5 May 1979. The Pasdaran was intended to protect the Revolution and to assist the ruling clerics in the day-to-day enforcement of the new government's Islamic codes and morality. There were other, perhaps more important, reasons for establishing the Pasdaran. The Revolution needed to rely on a force of its own rather than borrowing the previous regime's tainted units. As one of the first revolutionary institutions, the Pasdaran helped legitimize the Revolution and gave the new regime an armed basis of support. Moreover, the establishment of the Pasdaran served notice to both the population and the regular armed forces that the Khomeini regime was quickly developing its own enforcement body. Thus, the Pasdaran, along with its political counterpart, Crusade for Reconstruction, brought a new order to Iran. In time, the Pasdaran would rival the police and the judiciary in terms of its functions. It would even challenge the performance of the regular armed forces on the battlefield.

Although the IRGC operated independently of the regular armed forces, it was often considered to be a military force in its own right due to its important role in Iranian defense. The IRGC consists of ground, naval, and aviation troops, which parallel the structure of the regular military. Unique to the Pasdaran, however, has been control of Iran's strategic missile and rocket forces.

Also contained under the umbrella of the more conventional Pasdaran, were the Basij Forces (Mobilization Resistance Force), a network of potentially up to a million active individuals who could be called upon in times of need. The Basij could be committed to assist in the defense of the country against internal or external threats, but by 2008 had also been deployed in mobilizing voters in elections and alleged tampering during such activities. Another element was the Qods Force, a special forces element tasked with unconventional warfare roles and known to be involved providing assistance and training to various militant organizations around the world.

Yahya Rahim Safavi, head of the IRGC since 1997, was dismissed as commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards ( Pasdarans ) in August 2007. The dismissal of general Yahya Rahim Safavi disrupted the balance of power in Iran to the advantage of conservatives. Analysis in the international press considered the removal of Yahya Rahim Safavi to be a sign of change in the defense strategies of Iran, but the general policies of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are not personally determined by its commander.

Military Structure


In late July 2008 reports originating that the IRGC was in the process of dramatically changing its structure. In a shake-up, in September 2008 Iran's Revolutionary Guards (Pasdarans) established 31 divisions and an autonomous missile command. The reported new structure was largely decentralized, with the force broken into 31 provincal corps, possibly to reflect a far greater internal role, with one for each of Iran's 31. Provinces. The new structure changes the IRGC from a centralized to a decentralized force with 31 provincial corps, whose commanders wield extensive authority and power. According to the plan, each of Iran’s thirty provinces will have a provincial corps, except Tehran Province, which will have two.

Basij



The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia founded by the order of the Ayatollah Khomeini in November 1979. The Basij are (at least in theory) subordinate to, and receive their orders from, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. However they have also been described as "a loosely allied group of organizations" including "many groups controlled by local clerics." Currently, the Basij serve as an auxiliary force engaged in activities such as internal security as well as law enforcement auxiliary, the providing of social service, organizing of public religious ceremonies, and more famously morals policing and the suppression of dissident gatherings.

Quds Force



The elite Ghods (or Quds) Force, sometimes described as the successor to the Shah's Imperial Guard
Iranian Imperial Guard
The Iranian Imperial Guard was both the personal guard force of the Shahs of Iran and an elite combat branch of the Imperial Iranian Army. It was created in 1942 and disbanded in 1979.-Origins:...

s, is estimated to be 2,000-5,000 in number. It is a special operations unit, handling activities abroad. The United States describes it as a terrorist organization that backs terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Ansar-ol-Mahdi Corps


Ansar-ol-Mahdi (followers of mahdi) Corps is primarily responsible for the protection of top officials of government and parliament (excluding the Supereme Leader). as an elite, secretive force within the IRGC Ground force , its officers are entrusted with many other special assignments, including those in the area of weapons of mass of destruction and terrorist activities beyond Iran’'s borders.

the corps has four layers of protection for top officials and the agents go to each layer according to their experience and trustworthiness . the current commander of ansar-ol-mahdi is Colonel Asad zadeh

Size


The IISS Military Balance 2007 says the IRGC has 125,000+ personnel and controls the Basij on mobilisation. It estimates the IRGC Ground and Air Forces are 100,000 strong and is 'very lightly manned' in peacetime. It estimates there are up to 20 infantry divisions, some independent brigades, and one airborne brigade.

The IISS estimates the IRGC Naval Forces are 20,000 strong including 5,000 Marines in one brigade of three or four Marine Battalions., and are equipped with some coastal defence weapons (some HY-2/CSS-C-3 Seersucker SSM batteries and some artillery batteries) and 50 patrol boats (including 10 Chinese Houdang fast attack craft). The IRGC air arm, says the IISS, controls Iran's strategic missile force and has an estimated one brigade of Shahab-1/2 with 12-18 launchers, and a Shahab-3 unit. The IISS says of the Shahab-3 unit 'estimated 1 battalion with estimated 6 single launchers each with estimated 4 Shahab-3 strategic IRBM.'

Senior commanders


  • Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari
    Mohammad Ali Jafari
    General Mohammad Ali Jafari is the commander of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He was appointed by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, on September 1, 2007, to succeed Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi....

     (Commander-in-chief)
  • Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi
    Mohammad Hejazi
    General Seyed Mohammad Hejazi is the current commander of Basij, the Iranian paramilitary force that is a major branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.-References:...

     (Chief of the Joint Staff)
  • Brigadier General Mohammad Pakvar (Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution|Revolutionary Guards' Ground Forces)
  • Brigadier General Hossein Salami (Revolutionary Guards' Air Force)
  • Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi (Revolutionary Guards' Navy)
  • Brigadier General Mohammadreza Naqdi (Commander-in-chief
    Commander-in-Chief
    A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

     of the Mobilized Basij
    Basij
    The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The force consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits...

     forces)
  • Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani
    Qassem Suleimani
    Major General haj Qassem Suleimani is the commander of the Quds Force, a division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps , which conducts special operations outside Iran. He is listed by the United States as a terrorist, which forbids U.S. citizens from doing business with him...

     (Quds Force) General Soleimani was responsible for negotiating several accords between Iraqi political figures.
  • Brigadier General Abdol-Ali Najafi (Ansar-ol-Mahdi Corps)

Lebanon Civil War


During the Lebanese Civil War
Lebanese Civil War
The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon. The war lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 150,000 to 230,000 civilian fatalities. Another one million people were wounded, and today approximately 350,000 people remain displaced. There was also a mass exodus of...

, the IRGC allegedly sent troops to train fighters in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon
1982 Lebanon War
The 1982 Lebanon War , , called Operation Peace for Galilee by Israel, and later known in Israel as the Lebanon War and First Lebanon War, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon...

.
In Lebanon, political parties had staunch opinions regarding the IRGC's presence. Some, mainly the Christian militias such as the Lebanese Forces
Lebanese Forces
The Lebanese Forces is a Lebanese political party. Founded as a militia by Bachir Gemayel during the Lebanese Civil War, the movement fought as the main militia within the Christian-dominated Lebanese Front...

, Phalanges
Kataeb Party
The Lebanese Phalanges , better known in English as the Phalange , is a traditional right-wing Lebanese political party. Although it is officially secular, it is mainly supported by Maronite Christians. The party played a major role in the Lebanese War...

, and most of the Christian groups declared war on the IRGC, claiming they violated Lebanese sovereignty, while others, including Muslim militias, were neutral to their presence. Groups such as the PSP
Progressive Socialist Party
The Progressive Socialist Party or PSP , also known as Parti Socialiste Progressiste in French, is a political party in Lebanon. Its current leader is Walid Jumblatt...

 and Mourabiton did not approve of their presence, but to serve political alliances they decided to remain silent on the matter.

Allegations of terrorism


Former CIA officer, Robert Baer, claims significant Pasdaran involvement in various terrorist activities ranging from the 1983 United States Embassy bombing
1983 United States Embassy bombing
The 1983 U.S. embassy bombing was a suicide bombing against the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon on April 18, 1983 that killed over 60 people, mostly embassy staff members and United States Marines and sailors. It was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that time, and is...

 in Beirut to the 1988 hijacking of Kuwait Airlines flight 422. Kidnapped U.S. citizens were allegedly held at Pasdaran's Shaykh Barracks in the Balabakk.

The 1992 Israeli Embassy attack in Buenos Aires
Israeli Embassy attack in Buenos Aires
The attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was a bomb attack on building of the Israeli embassy of Argentina located in Buenos Aires which was carried out on March 17, 1992. 29 civilians were killed in the attack and 242 additional civilians were injured.- The attack :On March 17, 1992...

 and the 1994 AMIA Bombing
AMIA Bombing
The AMIA bombing was an attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina building in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, that killed 85 people and injured hundreds. It was Argentina's deadliest bombing...

 also in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for which the Argentinian government issued an arrest warrant for Imad Mugniyah
Imad Mugniyah
Imad Fayez Mughniyah , also transliterated Mughniyya, Mughniyeh, Mogniyah, , alias Hajj Radwan , was a senior member of Lebanon's Hezbollah organisation. He was alternatively described as the head of its security section, a senior intelligence official and as a founder of the organisation...

 of Hezbollah, have been linked to Iran. According to Robert Baer, Mugniyah was an IRGC operative, and close ties between IRGC and Hezbollah are described elsewhere in this article. According to Jeffery Goldberg, writing in the New Yorker, "It is believed that Mugniyah takes orders from the office of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, but that he reports to a man named Ghassem Soleimani, the chief of a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps called Al Quds, or the Jerusalem Force—the arm of the Iranian government responsible for sponsoring terror attacks on Israeli targets."

2006 Lebanon War


During the 2006 Lebanon War, the IRGC played a key role. Revolutionary Guards directed the firing of a missile on the Israeli Naval vessel INS Hanit
INS Hanit
The INS Hanit is a Sa'ar 5-class corvette of the Israeli Navy that was built by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in 1994...

, which killed four sailors. This vessel was responsible for bombing targets in Beirut. Revolutionary Guards also assisted Hezbollah in the firing of rockets into Israel. During the war, several Iranian Revolutionary Guards were reportedly killed by Israeli forces in Baalbek, a town close to the Syrian border.

2006 plane crash


In January 2006, an IRGC Falcon
Dassault Falcon
The Dassault Falcon is a family of business jets, manufactured by Dassault Aviation.Aircraft include:* Dassault Falcon 10 Scaled down Falcon 20...

 crashed near Oroumieh. All fifteen passengers died, including twelve senior IRGC commanders. Among the dead was General Ahmad Kazemi, the IRGC ground forces commander.

Possible attacks on Quds Force


On July 7, 2008, Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 winning investigative journalist and author Seymour Hersh
Seymour Hersh
Seymour Myron Hersh is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters...

 wrote an article in the New Yorker stating that the Bush Administration had signed a Presidential Finding
Presidential Finding
A presidential finding is an executive directive issued by the head of the executive branch of a government, similar to the more well-known executive order. The term is mostly used by the United States Government, and in other countries may be identified by different terms...

 authorizing the CIA's Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 to begin cross border paramilitary operations from Iraq and Afghanistan into Iran. These operations would be against the Quds Force, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that had been blamed for repeated acts of violence in Iraq, and “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror.

October 2009 Pishin bombing



In October 2009, several top commanders of the Revolutionary Guards were killed in a suicide bombing in the Pishin
Pishin, Iran
Pishin is a city in and the capital of Pishin District, in Sarbaz County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 10,477, in 1,832 families....

 region of Sistan-Baluchistan, in the south-east of Iran. The Iranian state television said 31 people died in the attack, and more than 25 were injured. Shia and Sunni tribal leaders were also killed. The Sunni Baluchi insurgent group, Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack. The Iranian government initially blamed the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 for involvement in the attacks, as well as Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and later Pakistan for their alleged support of the Jundallah group. The United States denied involvement, but some reports of US assistance to Jundallah during the Bush administration have come from Western sources. The attacks appear to have originated in Pakistan and several suspects have been arrested.

Political


Ayatollah Khomeini urged that the country's military forces should remain unpoliticized. However, the Constitution, in Article 150, defines the IRGC as the "guardian of the Revolution and of its achievements" which is at least partly a political mission. His original views have therefore been the subject of debate. Supporters of the Basiji have argued for politicization, while reformists, moderates and Hassan Khomeini
Hassan Khomeini
Seyyed Hassan Khomeini is a "mid-ranking" Iranian cleric. He is the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, and son of the late Hojat-Ol Eslam Ahmad Khomeini...

 opposed it. President Rafsanjani forced military professionalization and ideological deradicalization on the IRGC to curb its political role, but the Pasdaran became natural allies of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei when reformists threatened him. The IRGC grew stronger under President Ahmedinejad, and assumed formal command of the Basiji militia in early 2009.

Although never explicitly endorsing or affiliating themselves with any political parties, the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran
Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran
The Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran , usually shortened to Abadgaran , is an alliance of some right-wing Iranian political parties and organizations. The alliance, mostly active in Tehran, won almost all of Tehran's seats in the Iranian Majlis election of 2004 and the Iranian City and Village...

 (or Abadgaran), is widely viewed as a political front for the Revolutionary Guards. Many former members (including Ahmadinejad) have joined this party in recent years and the Revolutionary Guards have reportedly given them financial support.

As an elite group, members of Pasdaran have influence in Iran's political world. President Ahmadinejad joined the IRGC in 1985, serving first in military operation in Iraqi Kurdistan before leaving the front line to take charge of logistics. A majority of his first cabinet consisted of IRGC veterans. Nearly one third of the members elected to Iran's Majlis in 2004 are also "Pásdárán". Others have been appointed as ambassadors, mayors, provincial governors and senior bureaucrats. However, IRGC veteran status does not imply a single viewpoint.

In the days before the 2009 presidential election
Iranian presidential election, 2009
Iran's tenth presidential election was held on 12 June 2009, with incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad running against three challengers. The next morning the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran's official news agency, announced that with two-thirds of the votes counted, Ahmadinejad had won the election...

, the Revolutionary Guard warned against a "velvet revolution
Velvet Revolution
The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place from November 17 – December 29, 1989...

" and vowed to crush any attempt at one. Three weeks after the election the Guard's commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, "publicly acknowledged they had taken over the nation's security during the post-election unrest
2009 Iranian election protests
Protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election against the disputed victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world starting June 13, 2009...

" and called this `a revival of the revolution,` in a press conference. Another Guard general Yadollah Javani, stated that there would be no middle ground in the dispute over the election results, there being only two currents -- "those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it."

Several sources have commented on increased power of the Guard following the election, saying that "it appears that the military likely will become the strongest stakeholder" in Iran, that "many Iranians" fear "the outcome of the election was just a thinly-veiled military coup" by the Guard, or even that Iran has now become a "regular military security government" with only "a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

On 5 July 2011 the head of the Guard (Mohammad Ali Jaffari) declared former president Mohammad Khatami
Mohammad Khatami
Sayyid Mohammad Khātamī is an Iranian scholar, philosopher, Shiite theologian and Reformist politician. He served as the fifth President of Iran from August 2, 1997 to August 3, 2005. He also served as Iran's Minister of Culture in both the 1980s and 1990s...

 unfit to return to Iranian politics. This vetting power was traditionally the purview of the Guardian Council
Guardian Council
The Guardian Council of the Constitution , also known as the Guardian Council or Council of Guardians, is an appointed and constitutionally-mandated 12-member council that wields considerable power and influence in the Islamic Republic of Iran....

, but two days later the highest judicial authority of Iran, (Sadegh Larijani) issued a statement in support of Jaffari saying “the responsibility of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards [has] been based in the constitution ... " and includes all activities necessary for the “defense of Islam ..." Also in July 2011, the first Pasdaran commander was nominated to a post in Iran's cabinet not related to defense when Brig. Gen. Rostam Ghasemi (head of Khatam al-Anbiya, "the most powerful economic wing of the Revolutionary Guards") was nominated for minister of petroleum. Petroleum is Iran's "most strategic sector", and if confirmed Ghasemi will be "in a position to oversee energy contracts".

Economic activity



IRGC first expanded into commercial activity through informal social networking of veterans and former officials. IRGC officials confiscated assets of many refugees who had fled Iran after the fall of the Bani-sadr regime. It is now a vast conglomerate, controlling Iran’s missile batteries and nuclear program but also a multibillion-dollar business empire reaching almost all economic sectors. It is thought to control around a third of Iran's economy through a series of subsidiaries and trusts.

The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

 estimates that IRGC has ties to over one hundred companies, with its annual revenue exceeding $12 billion in business and construction. IRGC has been awarded billions of dollars in contracts in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries
Ministry of Petroleum of Iran
The Ministry of Petroleum manages the oil industry, the producer of oil and petrochemical products. MoP is in charge of all issues pertaining to exploration, extraction, exploitation, distribution and exportation of crude oil and oil products. In addition, according to the "", issuing import...

, as well as major infrastructure projects.
The following commercial entities have been named by the United States as owned or controlled by the IRGC and its leaders.
  • Khatam al-Anbia
    Khatam al-Anbia
    Khatam al-Anbia is an Iranian engineering firm controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps . The firm, also known as GHORB, is the IRGC's major engineering arm and one of Iran's largest contractors in industrial and development projects...

     Construction Headquarters, the IRGC’s major engineering arm & one of Iran’s largest contractors employing about 25,000 engineers and staff on military (70%) and non-military (30%) projects worth over $7 billion in 2006.
  • Oriental Oil Kish (oil and gas industry),
  • Ghorb Nooh,
  • Sahel Consultant Engineering,
  • Ghorb-e Karbala,
  • Sepasad Engineering Co., (excavation and tunnel construction).
  • Omran Sahel,
  • Hara Company (excavation and tunnel construction),
  • Gharargahe Sazandegi Ghaem.
  • Caisson Construction Company ( Foreign Branch, active in Venezuela)


In September 2009, the Government of Iran sold 51% of the shares of the Telecommunication Company of Iran
Telecommunication Company of Iran
Telecommunication Company of Iran was established in 1971 with a new organizational structure as the main responsible administration for the entire telecommunication affairs, and Iran Telecommunication Industries was also founded in the same year to manufacture the required equipment for the...

 to the Mobin Trust Consortium
Mobin trust consortium
The Mobin Trust Consortium is a company affiliated with the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps.. As such, it is an economic engine of the Revolutionary Guards that has been used to acquire state monopolies, or other commercial and business interests important to conservative Iranian political...

 (Etemad-e-Mobin), a group affiliated with the Guards, for the sum of $7.8 billion. This was the largest transaction on the Tehran Stock Exchange
Tehran Stock Exchange
The Tehran Stock Exchange is Iran's largest stock exchange, which first opened in 1967. The TSE is based in Tehran. As of July 2010, 337 companies with a market capitalization of US$72 billion were listed on TSE...

 in history. IRGC also owns 45% participation in automotive Bahman Group
Bahman Group
Bahman Group is a Tehran, Iran-based manufacturer of vehicles under license by Mazda. Founded in 1952 by Mr. Amanollah Sarbaz and his son, they have since then manufactured, under license, versions of Mazda's trucks. Today they manufacture versions of the Mazda B-Series pickups and the previous...

 and has a majority stake in Iran's naval giant SADRA
SADRA
SADRA also known as "Iran Marine Industrial Company" was founded in 1968 as a small ship repair yard in Bushehr. Since then, SADRA has established itself as the leading shipbuilding and shiprepairing company in Iran. SADRA is also active in offshore oil & gas development. SADRA specializes in...

 through Khatam al-Anbia
Khatam al-Anbia
Khatam al-Anbia is an Iranian engineering firm controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps . The firm, also known as GHORB, is the IRGC's major engineering arm and one of Iran's largest contractors in industrial and development projects...

.

The IRGC also exerts influence over bonyad
Bonyad
Bonyads are charitable trusts in Iran that play a significant role in Iran's non-petroleum economy, controlling an estimated 20% of Iran's GDP. Exempt from taxes, they have been called "bloated", and "a major weakness of Iran’s economy", and criticized for reaping "huge subsidies from government",...

s
, wealthy, non-governmental ostensibly charitable foundations controlled by key clerics. The pattern of revolutionary foundations mimics the style of informal and extralegal economic networks from the time of the Shah. Their development started in the early 1990s, gathered pace over the next decade, and accelerated even more with many lucrative no-bid contract
No-bid contract
The term "no-bid contract" is a popular phrase for what is officially known as a "sole source contract". A sole source contract implies that there is only one person or company that can provide the contractual services needed, and any attempt to obtain bids would only result in one person or...

s from the Ahmadinejad presidency. The IRGC exerts informal, but real, influence over many such organizations including:
  • Bonyad-e Mostazafen va Janbazan
    Bonyad-e Mostazafen va Janbazan
    The Mostazafen Foundation of Islamic Revolution formerly Bonyad-e Mostazafen va Janbazan is a charitable bonyad, or foundation, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the second-largest commercial enterprise in Iran behind the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company and biggest holding company in the...

     (Foundation of the Oppressed or The Mostazafan Foundation)
  • Bonyad Shahid va Omur-e Janbazan
    Bonyad Shahid va Omur-e Janbazan
    The Bonyad Shahid va Omur-e Janbazan, or Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs is an Iranian governmental entity that receives its funding directly from the national budget. Former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force commander Hossein Dehghan acts as president and director of this...

     (Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs)

Controversy


From its origin as an ideologically driven militia, the IRGC has taken an ever more assertive role in virtually every aspect of Iranian society. Its part in suppressing dissent has led many analysts to describe the events surrounding the 12 June 2009 presidential election as a military coup, and the IRGC as an authoritarian military security government for which its Shiite clerical system is no more than a facade.

Since its establishment, IRGC has been involved in many economic and military activities among which some raised controversies. The organization has been accused of smuggling — including importing illegal alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and satellite dishes, into Iran via jetties not supervised by the Government. — training Hezbollah and Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 fighters, and has been accused by the US government of being involved in the Iraq War.

In December 2009 evidence uncovered during an investigation by the Guardian newspaper and Guardian Films linked the IRGC to the kidnappings of 5 Britons from a government ministry building in Baghdad in 2007. Three of the hostages, Jason Creswell, Jason Swindlehurst and Alec Maclachlan, were killed. Alan Mcmenemy's body was never found but Peter Moore was released on 30 December 2009. The investigation uncovered evidence that Moore, 37, a computer expert from Lincoln was targeted because he was installing a system for the Iraqi Government that would show how a vast amount of international aid was diverted to Iran's militia groups in Iraq.

According to Geneive Abdo
Geneive Abdo
Geneive Abdo is an American journalist who has covered "numerous Islamic countries for over a decade."She was the correspondent in Iran for The Guardian starting in 1998 before "slipping out" of the country with her husband in February 2001 under threat of arrest for "publishing fabrications and...

 IRGC members were appointed "as ambassadors, mayors, cabinet ministers, and high-ranking officials at state-run economic institutions" during the administration of president Ahmadinejad Appointments in 2009 by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

 have given "hard-liners" in the guard "unprecedented power" and included "some of the most feared and brutal men in Iran."

See also


  • Ali Movahedi-Kermani
    Ali Movahedi-Kermani
    Hojatoleslam/Ayatollah Ali Movahedi-Kermani is representative of Ali Khamenei in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was a member of the 3rd Assembly of Experts....

  • Ali-Reza Asgari
    Ali-Reza Asgari
    Brigadier General Ali-Reza Asgari was an Iranian general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, deputy defense minister, and cabinet member of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami....

  • Composite Index of National Capability
    Composite Index of National Capability
    The Composite Index of National Capability is a statistical measure of national power created by J. David Singer for the Correlates of War project in 1963. It uses an average of percentages of world totals in six different components. The components represent demographic, economic, and military...

  • Islamic Republic of Iran Army
    Islamic Republic of Iran Army
    The Islamic Republic of Iran Army is the ground force of the Military of Islamic Republic of Iran. In Iran, it is also called Artesh, which is Persian for "army." As of 2007, the regular Iranian Army was estimated to have 465,000 personnel plus around 350,000 reservists for a total of 815,000...



Further reading

(discusses U.S. military clashes with Iranian Revolutionary Guard during the Iran–Iraq War) also available for free download in full or a brief summary

Background


Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

IRGC

  • [ Weekly Newsletter] published by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (in Persian)
  • Official media news outlet used by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (in Persian)

General