Initially the Pasdaran was planned as an organization that would be directly subordinate to the ruling clerics of the Revolution. The Revolutionary Council in 1979 was composed of 12 members and the Pasdaran of 30,000 members, divided as follows: Central Council of Saltanatabad, Tehran (4,000 members), Provincial Command (20,000), other commands for border checkpoints and key areas (3,000) and a training center at Aliabad (3,000). The commander of the Pasdaran was Ayatollah Lahuti and its chiefs of staff were Hojjatoleslams Hashemi Rafsanjani and Gholam Ali Afrouz.
By September 1980, the Pasdaran was capable of deploying forces at the front. Initially, the forces were sent to conduct operations against Kurdish rebels, but before long they were deployed alongside regular armed forces units to conduct conventional military operations. Despite differences, the Pasdaran and the regular armed forces cooperated on military matters. During the Iran-Iraq War this occured largely out of necessity, but by the end stages a unified military command (the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics) had been established to oversee both organizations.
The Pasdaran was also given the mandate of organizing a large people's militia, the Basij Force (also known as the Mobilization Resistance Force), in 1980. In a 1985 Iranian News Agency report, Hojjatoleslam Rahmani, head of the Basij Forces of the Pasdaran, was quoted as stating that there were close to 3 million volunteers in the paramilitary force receiving training in some 11,000 centers. It was from Basij ranks that volunteers were drawn to launch "human wave" attacks against the Iraqis, particularly around Basra. Subsequently the Pasdaran, on Khomeini's instructions, initiated the training of women to serve the Revolution. Even after the Iran-Iraq War, authorities claimed that the Basij upon mobilization could number around 1 million individuals.
The first operations commander of the Pasdaran was Abbas Zamani (Abu Sharif), a former teacher from Tehran. A graduate of the College of Education (Islamic Law Section), Zamani was one of the founders of Hezbollah in 1971. As early as 1970, when he first traveled to Beirut, he established contacts in Lebanon with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and various other guerrilla groups there. Unverified reports claimed that the Pasdaran had received organizational and training assistance from the PLO, but no Palestinians were known to have visited the Aliabad or other Pasdaran training grounds. Khomeini and his supporters in Iran, as well as many other Iranians, continued to support the Palestinians, however. For example, PLO leader Yasir Arafat was one of the first world leaders to visit Tehran after the Revolution. He opened a diplomatic mission in what formerly had been the Israeli embassy.
The Pasdaran was quite active in Lebanon. By the summer of 1982, shortly after the second Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Pasdaran had nearly 1,000 personnel deployed in the predominantly Shia Biqa Valley. From its headquarters near Baalbek, the Pasdaran provided consistent support to Islamic Amal, a breakaway faction of the mainstream Amal organization that contemplated the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon. The secular Baathist Syrian regime found the Pasdaran presence in Lebanon alternately helpful and threatening. The Pasdaran's alleged involvement in anti-American terrorism in Lebanon remained difficult to confirm.
From modest beginnings, the Pasdaran became a formidable force. Under the command of Mohsen Rezai, the Pasdaran became large enough to match the strength of the regular military. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in 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, and it has claimed responsibility for hit-and-run raids on shipping in the Persian Gulf. Darting out from bases on a chain of small islands in Swedish-built speed boats (known collectively by the company name as "Boghammars," a term which became synonymous with Iranian boats of this type) equipped with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the Pasdaran established a naval zone in northern Gulf waters.
Hosain Alai, the Pasdaran Naval Commander, announced on 27 April 1987, that the Pasdaran was in "full control" of certain portions of Gulf waters and would continue to operate from Farsi Island, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as from Sirri, Abu Musa, and Larak islands. At that time 200 Pasdaran pilots reportedly were in training in East Germany. However, during the mid-1990's, newer model aircraft went exclusively to the regular air force, thus effectively negating any IRGC air capability. The IRGC still controlled helicopter and some aircraft elements, though there was speculation that its traditional aircraft elements had been transfered back to the Air Force.
By 2000 the IRGC Navy operated from several island bases and, when directed in the past, was the force of choice for launching attacks against Arabian Gulf shipping from make-shift bases constructed on oil platforms, and several small Gulf islands. Locations included Al Farsiyah, Sirri, Abu Musa, and Larak. No common fleet structure has been identified, but the basic pattern seems to be small "naval guerrilla" formations. "Boghammar"-type patrol craft and coastal missile battery sites were under IRGC control.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|