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Pasdaran - Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

The 125,000 strong Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Pasdaran) secures the revolutionary regime and provides training support to terrorist groups throughout the region and abroad. Both the regular military (the Artesh) and IRGC are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). This new ministry, established in 1989, was first headed by Akbar Torkan, a civilian and a former head of the defense industries establishment. MODAFL curtailed the institutional autonomy of the IRGC and brought it under the overall defense umbrella. The IRGC Ministry was scrapped, and its command structures were brought within the new MODAFL.

In late July 2008 reports originating with Iranian Resistance network said 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.

Considered the military vanguard of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC; aka Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) is composed of five branches (Ground Forces, Air Force, Navy, Basij militia, and Qods Force special operations) in addition to a counterintelligence directorate and representatives of the Supreme Leader. It runs prisons, and has numerous economic interests involving defense production, construction, and the oil industry. Several of the IRGCís leaders have been sanctioned under UN Security Council Resolution 1747.

The IRGC has been outspoken about its willingness to proliferate ballistic missiles capable of carrying WMD. The IRGCís ballistic missile inventory includes missiles, which could be modified to deliver WMD. The IRGC is one of the primary regime organizations tied to developing and testing the Shahab-3. The IRGC has attempted to procure sophisticated and costly equipment that could be used to support Iranís ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

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.

By 1986, the Pasdaran consisted of 350,000 personnel organized in battalion-size units that operated either independently or with units of the regular armed forces. In 1986 the Pasdaran acquired small naval and air elements. By 1996 the ground and naval forces were reported to number 100,000 and 20,000, respectively.

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.

The IRGC has a growing presence in Iran's financial and commercial sectors and extensive economic interests in the defense production, construction, and oil industries, controlling billions of dollars of business. The profits from these activities are available to support the full range of the IRGC's illicit activities, including WMD proliferation and support for terrorism.

The IRGC continues to be a primary focus of U.S. and international sanctions against Iran because of the central role it plays in all forms of Iranís illicit conduct, including Iranís nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, its support for terrorism, and its involvement in serious human rights abuses. As Iranís isolation has increased, the IRGC has expanded its reach into critical sectors of Iranís economy, displacing ordinary Iranians, generating revenue for the IRGC and conducting business in support of Iranís illicit activities.

The U.S. has acted against the IRGC and the IRGC-Qods Force for their involvement in proliferation and terrorism support activities, respectively. In joint actions on October 25, 2007, the State Department designated the IRGC, under E.O. 13382, for having engaged, or attempted to engage, in proliferation-related activities, and Treasury designated the IRGC≠-Qods Force pursuant to E.O. 13224 for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations. Treasury at that time also designated nine IRGC-affiliated entities, including Khatam al-Anbiya, and five IRGC-affiliated individuals as derivative designations of the IRGC.

Elements of the IRGC have also been designated for UN sanctions pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1737 and 1747. All UN Member States are required to freeze the assets of entities and individuals listed in the Annexes of those resolutions, or designated by the UNSCR 1737 Committee, as well as assets of entities owned or controlled by them or by persons or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction and to prevent funds or economic resources from being made available for their benefit. The European Union has also designated IRGC-affiliated companies, including Khatam al-Anbiya, for their support to Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

In June 2011 the US continued efforts to expose the IRGCís expansive economic reach Ė this time, into Iranís maritime and transportation sectors. Using nonproliferation authorities the US designated Tidewater Middle East Co. (Tidewater), an IRGC-owned port operating company that manages the main container terminal at Bandar Abbas and has operations at six other Iranian ports. The Bandar Abbas port handles approximately 90 percent of Iranís containerized shipping traffic and has been used by Iran to export arms and related materiel in violation of several United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).

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