Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC - Pasdaran-e Inqilab)
Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
Donald Trump on 08 April 2019 labeled Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization — an unprecedented move that marks the first time the US had formally named another country's military as terrorists. The U.S. designated the Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism as early as 2007, followed by Canada in 2012. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, two key neighboring rivals to Iran, designated IRGC a terror entity in 2018. The United Nations and the European Union have refrained from designating the IRGC as a terror entity but have blacklisted key individuals of the force, including its leader Qasem Soleimani.
While the Constitution of Iran entrusts the military with guarding Iran's territorial integrity and political independence, it gives the Revolutionary Guard [Pasdaran] the responsibility of guarding the Revolution itself. Established under a decree issued by Khomeini on May 5, 1979, the Pasdaran was intended to guard the Revolution and to assist the ruling clerics in the day-to-day enforcement of the government's Islamic codes and morality. The Revolution also needed to rely on a force of its own rather than borrowing the previous regime's tainted units.
The worldview of today's senior IRGC officials was forged in the Iran-Iraq war, which engendered strong resentment towards the US and the Arab world for the assistance given Iraqis against them. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader draw their power from the 500,000 war veterans and their families and therefore gear their policies to satisfy them.
The Pasdaran has maintained an intelligence branch to monitor the regime's domestic adversaries and to participate in their arrests and trials. Khomeini implied Pasdaran involvement in intelligence when he congratulated the Pasdaran on the arrest of Iranian communist Tudeh leaders.
The Baseej (volunteers) come under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. In 1988, up to 900,000 baseej were mobilized. The Baseej allegedly also monitor the activities of citizens, and harass or arrest women whose clothing does not cover the hair and all of the body except hands and face, or those who wear makeup. During the year ending in June 1995, they reportedly "notified 907,246 people verbally and issued 370,079 written notices against 'social corruption' and arrested 86,190 people, and also broke up 542 'corrupt gangs', arresting their 2,618 members, and seized 86,597 indecent videocassettes and photographs.
The Ashura Brigades force was reportedly created in 1993 after anti-government riots erupted in various Iranian cities and it consists of 17,000 Islamic militia men and women. The Ashura Brigades are reportedly composed of elements of the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) and the Baseej volunteer militia.
In August 1994, some Pasdaran units, rushed to quell riots in the city of Ghazvin, 150 km. west of Tehran, reportedly refused orders from the Interior Minister to intervene in the clashes, which left more than 30 people dead, 400 wounded and over 1,000 arrested.
Subsequently, senior officers in the army, air force and the usually loyal Islamic Revolutionary Guard reportedly stated that they would no longer order their troops into battle to quell civil disorder. A Pasdaran commander was among four senior army officers who are said to have sent a letter to the country's political leadership, warning the clerical rulers against "using the armed forces to crush civilian unrest and internal conflicts." In a communiqué sent to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, stated that "the role of the country's armed forces is to defend its borders and to repel foreign enemies from its soil, not to control the internal situation or to strengthen one political faction above another."
They are said to have then recommended the use of Baseej volunteers for this purpose. In a move believed to indicate a shift in the trust of the ruling clerics from the Pasdaran to the Baseej volunteer force, on 17 April 1995 Ayatollah Ali Khameini reportedly promoted a civilian, veterinary surgeon Hassan Firuzabadi, to the rank of full general, placing him above both Brigadier-General Mohsen Rezai, commander-in-chief of the Pasdaran and Brigadier General Ali Shahbazi of the regular armed forces.
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.
IRGC Economic Power
The IRGC has been amassing economic power since the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war. This trend greatly accelerated during the 1990s, when the IRGC profited from bribes from the lucrative Iraqi oil smuggling trade during the oil-for-food period. The IRGC command grew to resent the luxurious lifestyles and endemic corruption of the post-revolutionary clerical class during these years, as embodied by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. The IRGC reportedly felt their sacrifices were being squandered by others and moved to capture a greater slice of Iran's wealth and power.
During the war, the government funded the IRGC generously but then cut its budget after the war ended. The organization looked for ways to generate its own income, although some inside the organization opposed this strategy. At the same time, then President Rafsanjani turned to IRGC engineers, who had gained a lot of experience in the war at creative problem-solving, to help rebuild the country. IRGC began to form companies. It was a natural extension in peacetime to use the technical expertise accrued during wartime for the country's reconstruction.
The IRGC could generate its own budget, reducing the government's influence over the organization. President Khatami tried to control it through the budget, but opposing factions found ways to direct business towards the IRGC. The IRGC long dominated the ministries of defense and intelligence as well. This may have been the case well into the late nineties until former president Khatami's reformists were able to wrest control of the ministry of intelligence away from the hardliners.
The first major public indication of IRGC assertiveness in the country's economy came when it successfully closed down the newly-built Imam Khomeini International Airport in may 2004, after citing "security concerns" with the foreign operator, Turkish firm TAV. The real reason was supposedly related instead to contract issues.
The IRGC had a monopoly over black market trade in embargoed goods, including consumer electronics, western clothing, and construction materials.
The IRGC amassed economic power, particularly since Ahmadinejad's 2005 election. Unleashed after years of curbs on its overt economic activities under president khatami, it began winning larger contracts, while circumventing government tendering procedures. The vast sums of money gained from such projects reportedly not only line the pockets of past and present IRGC members, but streamline the acquisition of weapons systems and possibly fund of terrorist organizations.
On 27 September 2005 the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC)-affiliated 'Etemaad-e Mobin Consortium' (EMC) bought a 50 percent plus one share stake in the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI) for an amount equivalent to USD 7.8 billion. The sale, the largest in the Tehran Stock Exchange's history, was consistent with other recent 'privatizations' under President Ahmadinejad which transferred ownership of state assets from the government to quasi-public sector institutes, often the IRGC.
While there was strong foreign and domestic interest in this TCI tender, Iran's Privatization Organization (PO) engineered the pre-sale qualifications such that ultimately only two IRGC-affiliated consortia were competing. The government's sale of a majority stake in the country's largest telecommunications provider to the IRGC serves both to consolidate control of a strategic sector in IRGC hands while also assuring it of substantial profits in the years ahead.
IRGC Political Power
IRGC's growing power was a "creeping military coup," aimed at taking power out of the hands of the clerics. The IRGC successfully helped Ahmadinejad become mayor of Tehran in 2003 and some 90 former IRGC members get elected into the 2004 7th parliament out of a total of 290 members.
In 2004 the IRGC held the key to the nuclear dispute as it controled the government's strategic technologies, including the Shahab missile program and vital parts of the nuclear technology effort. The IRGC greatly influenced the law enforcement forces and controled national TV and radio by former IRGC member Ali Larijani.
With the election of former IRGC officer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency in 2005, the political influence of the IRGC was on the upsurge. Since his election, Ahmadinejad brought back many of the same IRGC vets that Khatami worked so hard at getting rid of from the ministry of information, as well as naming numerous other retired IRGC members to government office.
Subsequently, deputy speaker Ali Motahari and reformist opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi sharply criticized Taeb and the IRGC intelligence service’s operation in parallel to the Ministry of Intelligence. Among the most prominent arrests were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's brother, Hossein Fereydoun, and brother of Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, Mehdi Jahangiri, on charges of corruption.
In the latest in a wave of criticism against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s close associates, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb, describing him as "psychologically imbalanced" and not fit for the job. He accused the judiciary and the IRGC of fabricating cases against his aides over political differences.
In a September 2018 video, Ahmadinejad lashed out against Taeb, saying that all he does is "fabricate cases,” revealing that during his presidency, he was opposed to him assuming his current post. The former president asserted: “All state officials know that he is imbalanced and everyone knows what he has been up to." Ahmadinejad said that "the fabrication campaign against him and his aides was launched by the Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC Intelligence in 2011 under Taeb’s leadership."
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, and the site is also sacred for Jews, who refer to it as Temple Mount. Iran, Israel’s archenemy, frequently expresses solidarity with the Palestinians and holds an annual “al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day” each year on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The Palestinians claim that Israel intends to change the decades-long status quo at the site, where non-Muslims can visit but not pray. Israel repeatedly and vehemently denied the accusation, and accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of incitement for making such comments.
In a common mistake, the Guard set up a replica of the gold-topped Dome of the Rock instead of the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque. Official photos showed one of the troops going to the top of the dome and waving an Iranian flag and a red-colored flag, a symbol of martyrdom.
On Friday 20 November 2015 air planes and helicopters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Forces shot the pre-determined targets in a drill dubbed 'To Beitol-Moghaddas' underway in Qom City, central Iran. The helicopters and fighters of the IRGC conducted patrol missions in depth of the hypothetical enemy's positions. The forces were also supported by infantry forces during the operations. Tucano aircrafts were used in the drill.
Thousands of Basij paramilitary troops participated in an exercise simulating the attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Some 120 brigades of Basij, which is the paramilitary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), stormed and captured a replica of the mosque in the city of Qom.
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Guards’ aerospace division, said his force deployed Shahed-129, or Witness-129, drones during the war games. The drone, unveiled in 2013, has a range of 1,700 kilometers (1,050 miles), a 24-hour nonstop flight capability and can carry eight bombs or missiles.
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