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The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Persian: سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی , Sepāh e Pāsdārān e Enqelāb e Eslāmi, also Sepāh) is a branch of Iran's military, founded after the Iranian revolution.[1] Sepāh is thought to number as many as 120,000 with its own
small naval and air units. It also controls the paramilitary Basij militia,[2] and in recent years has developed into a "multibillion-dollar business empire."[3] The Chief Commander of the Guardians is Mohammed Ali Jafari, who was preceded by Yahya Rahim Safavi.

 

 Like many young Iranians during the 1980-88 Iran–Iraq War, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a member of the Army of Guardians, in the Basij militia. In recent years the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has become a vast military-based conglomerate. It is active in oil and gas, telecom, and farming, to name a few sectons, and has considerable economic and political influence.[4]

 

 Since its origin as an ideologically driven militia,[5] 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 Ahmadinejad's administration — especially during the 2009 presidential election and post-election suppression of protest — has led many analysts to argue
that its political power has surpassed even that of the Shiite clerical system.[3][6] [7] [8]

 

 In Iran the name is commonly shortened to Sepāh e Pāsdārān (Army of Guardians), Pāsdārān e Enqelāb (پاسداران انقلاب) (Revolutionary Guards), or simply Pāsdārān (پاسداران) (Guardians) or Sepāh (Army).

 

 English-speaking media usually use the term Iranian Revolutionary Guards ("IRG").[9] In the US media, the force is frequently referred to
as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC"),[10][11][12], although this force is rarely described as a "corps" by non-US media.

 

 This article uses the abbreviation "IRGC".

 

 Branches & Manpower

 

Quds Force estimated 2,000 or anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000[13][14][15]

 

Basij 90,000 full-time, 300,000 reservists, 1,000,000 potential strength (2005 est.)[16]

 

IRGC Navy 20,000 (2005 est.)[17]

 

IRGC Air Force (unknown)

 

IRGC Ground Forces ~125,000 (2005 estimates)[citation needed]

 

Commander in Chief

 

Mohammed Ali Jafari

 

The IRGC is a combined arms force with its own ground forces, navy, air force, intelligence[18], and special forces. It also controls the Basij miitia, 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. [19] It is separate from, and parallel to, the other arm of the Iran's military, which is called Artesh (another Persian word for army).

 

 The IRGC controls the borders of Iran. This is a source for much of the widespread corruption commonly known throughout the IRGC.

 

 The IISS Military Balance 2007 says the IRGC has 125,000+ personnel and controls the Basij on mobilisation.[20] 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.[21]

 

 The IISS estimates the IRGC Naval Forces are 20,000 strong including 5,000 Marines in one brigade of three or four Marine Battalions.[22], 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.'

 

 The elite Ghods (or Quds) Force, sometimes described as the successor to the Shah's Imperial Guards, is estimated to be 2,000-5,000 in number.[2] It is a special operations unit, handling activities abroad. The United States describes it as a terrorist organization that backs militants in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.[23] There are suspicions that Ghods cadres are involved in recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, but the evidence is thin.

 

 Senior commanders

 

Further information: List of senior officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards

 

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari (Commander-in-chief)[24]

 

Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi (Chief of the Joint Staff)[25]

 

Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Zahedi (Revolutionary Guards' Ground Forces)[26]

 

Brigadier General Hossein Salami (Revolutionary Guards' Air Force)[26]

 

Rear Admiral Morteza Saffari (Revolutionary Guards' Navy)[27]

 

Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi (Commander-in-chief of the Mobilized Basij forces)[28]

 

Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani (Quds Force)[29] General Suleimani was responsible for negotiating several accords between Iraqi political figures.

 

Brigadier General Abdol-Ali Najafi (Secret unit)[30]

 

 History

 

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 and less traditional duties. These include the control of smuggling, control of
the Strait of Hormuz, and resistance operations.[31] 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.[31]

 

 The IRGC was formed in May 1979 as a force loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but later became a full military force alongside the army in the Iran–Iraq War. It was infamous for its human wave attacks, for example during Operation Ramadan, an assault on the city of Basra.

 

 The IRGC does not report to the President of Iran, but is directed by the clerical branch of government.

 

 Lebanon Civil War

 

During the Lebanese Civil War, the IRGC allegedly sent troops to train fighters in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon[32]. In Lebanon, political parties had staunch opinions regarding the IRGC's presence. Some, mainly the Christian militias such as the Lebanese
Forces, Phalanges, 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 presense. Groups such as the PSP and Mourabiton did not approve of their presence, but to
serve political alliances they decided to remain silent on the matter.

 

 Terrorist activities

 

Former CIA officer, Robert Baer, claims significant Pasdaran involvement in various terrorist activities ranging from the 1983 United States Embassy bombing in Beirut[33] to the 1988 hijacking of Kuwait Airlines flight 422[34]. Kidnapped U.S. citizens were allegedly held at
Pasdaran's Shaykh Barracks in the Balabakk[35].

 

 The 1992 Israeli Embassy attack in Buenos Aires and the 1994 AMIA Bombing also in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for which the Argentinian government issued an arrest warrant for Imad Mugniyah 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."[36]

 

  2006 plane crash

 

In January 2006, an IRGC Falcon crashed near Oroumieh. All fifteen passengers died, including twelve senior IRGC commanders.[37]
Among the dead was General Ahmad Kazemi, the IRGC ground forces commander.[38]

 

  Possible attacks on Quds Force

 

On July 7, 2008, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author Seymour Hersh wrote an article in the New Yorker stating that the Bush Administration had signed a Presidential Finding authorizing the CIA's Special Activities Division 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. [39]

 

  Influence

 

 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 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.[40] The IRGC grew stronger under President Ahmedinejad, and assumed formal command of the Basiji militia in early 2009.[41]

 

 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.[42] Nearly one third of the members elected to Iran's Majlis in 2004 are also "Pásdárán".[43] Others have been appointed as ambassadors, mayors, provincial governors and senior bureaucrats.[23] However, IRGC veteran status does not imply a single viewpoint.[40]

 

 In the days before the 2009 presidential election, the Revolutionary Guard warned against a "velvet revolution" and vowed to crush any attempt at one.[44] 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" and called this `a revival of the revolution,` in a press conference.[41] 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,[7] that "many Iranians" fear "the outcome of the election was just a thinly-veiled military coup" by the Guard,[6] or even that Iran has now become a "regular military security government" with only "a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”[3]

 

  Economic activity

 

IRGC first expanded into commercial activity through informal social networking of veterans and former officials. 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.[3] It is thought to control around a third of Iran's economy through a series of subsidiaries and trusts.[45] The Los Angeles Times estimates that IRGC ties to over one hundred companies, with its annual revenue exceeding $12 billion in business and construction.[46] IRGC has been awarded billions of dollars in contracts in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, as well as major infrastructure projects.[47] It runs laser eye-surgery clinics, makes cars, builds bridges and roads, develops gas and oil fields and controls black-market smuggling.[3][40]

 

 The following commercial entities have been named by the United States as owned or controlled by the IRGC and its leaders.[48]

 

 Khatam al-Anbya 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[40] worth over $7 billion in 2006.[48]

 

Oriental Oil Kish

 

Ghorb Nooh

 

Sahel Consultant Engineering

 

Ghorb-e Karbala

 

Sepasad Engineering Co

 

Omran Sahel

 

Hara Company

 

Gharargahe Sazandegi Ghaem

 

The IRGC also exerts influence over bonyads, 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 contracts from the Ahmadinejad presidency. The IRGC exerts informal, but real, influence over many such organizations including:

 

 Bonyad-e Mostazafen va Janbazan (Foundation of the Oppressed or The Mostazafan Foundation)

 

Bonyad Shahid va Omur-e Janbazan (Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs)[40]

 

There are many allegations of IRGC black market operations, racketeering, and smuggling (including a widely rumoured near monopoly over the smuggling of alcohol, cigarettes and satellite dishes, among other things in great demand)[49] via jetties not supervised by the Government.[40]

 

 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.[3]

 

 In September 2009, the Government of Iran sold 51% of the shares of the Telecommunication Company of Iran to Etemad-e-Mobin (Mobin Trust Consortium), a group affiliated with the Guards, for the sum of $7.8 billion. This was the largest transaction on the Tehran Stock Exchange in history.[50] A private firm was excluded from bidding one day before shares were put on sale - despite being initially approved by Iran’s Privatization Organization - because of a “security condition.”[51]

 

  Controversy

 

Main article: Controversies surrounding Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution

 

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 into Iran[52] — training Hezbollah[53] and Hamas[54] fighters, and has been accused by the US government of being involved in the Iraq War.[55]

 

 According to Geneive Abdo IRGC members were appointed "as ambassadors, mayors, cabinet ministers, and high-ranking officials at state-run economic institutions" during the administration of president Ahmadinejad [8] Appointments in 2009 by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have given "hard-liners" in the guard "unprecedented power" and included "some of the most feared and brutal men in Iran."[8]

 

References and notes

 

   1.

    IISS Military Balance 2006, Routledge for the IISS, London, 2006, p.187

   2.

      ab Abrahamian, Ervand, History of Modern Iran, Columbia University Press, 2008 p.175-6

   3.

      ^ abcdefMichael Slackman (2009-07-21). "Hard-Line Force Extends Grip Over a Splintered Iran" (in English). New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/world/middleeast/21guards.html?hpw=&pagewanted=print. Retrieved 2009-07-21.

   4.

      ^http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090927/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_telecom_2

   5.

      ^Frykberg, MelL (2008-08-29). "Mideast Powers, Proxies and Paymasters Bluster and Rearm". Middle East Times. http://www.metimes.com/International/2008/08/29/mideast_powers_proxies_and_paymasters_bluster_and_rearm/5485/. Retrieved 2008-08-29.

   6.

      ^ ab"Arrests at new Iranian protests". BBC News. 2009-07-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8161824.stm. Retrieved 2009-07-21.

   7.

      ^ ab"CRISIS AS OPPORTUNITY FOR THE IRGC". Stratfor. 2009-07-27. http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/8877/. Retrieved 2009-08-01.

   8.

      ^ abcGENEIVE ABDO (2009-10-7). "The Rise of the Iranian Dictatorship". Foreign Policy (magazine). http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/10/07/the_rise_of_the_Iranian_dictatorship. Retrieved 2009-10-13.

   9.

      ^Someone said, 'Lads, I think we're going to be executed' 7 April 2007

  10.

      ^Brainroom Facts: Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, Friday, March 23, 2007

  11.

      ^Newsweek, (dead link)

  12.

      ^Why Iran Seized the British Marines, By Howard Chua-Eoan/New York, Mar. 23, 2007

  13.

      ^ Daragahi, Borzou and Spiegel, Peter. "Iran's elite and mysterious fighters", Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2007.

  14.

      ^ "Experts: Iran's Ghods Force Deeply Enmeshed in Iraq", Fox News, February 15, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2007.

  15.

      ^ Shane, Scott. "Iranian Force, Focus of U.S., Still a Mystery", The New York Times, February 17, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2007.

  16.

      ^GlobalSecurity.org [http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/world/iran/basij.htm Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij Mobilisation Resistance Force] 19 February 2006

  17.

      ^ Center for Strategic and International Studies The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War - Iran28 June 2006

  18.

      ^ [http://www.janes.co.uk/security/international_security/news/jdw/jdw061004_1_n.shtml Janes international security news (dead link)

  19.

      ^ICL - Iran - Constitution

  20.

      ^IISS Military Balance 2006, Routledge for the IISS, London, 2007

  21.

      ^ See the Yahoo Groups TOE Group for an estimated Iranian ground force order of battle.

  22.

      ^ The IISS estimates the IRGC Naval Forces are 20,000 strong including 5,000 Marines (one brigade),

  23.

      ^ ab"Q+A-Iran's Revolutionary Guards weave powerful web". Reuters. 2009-07-23. http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLM225970. Retrieved 2009-07-24.

  24.

      ^Mideast Powers, Proxies and Paymasters Bluster and Rearm

  25.

      ^ [www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=5206 Iran’s top military commanders die in plane crash]

  26.

      ^ abhttp://www.khamenei.ir/EN/Message/detail.jsp?id=20060121A

  27.

      ^Iran to hold large-scale naval war games

  28.

      ^Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij Mobilisation Resistance Force

  29.

      ^Iran Revolutionary Guards expect key changes in high command

  30.

      ^Iran: New chief appointed for secretive military unit

  31.

      ^ ab[1]

  32.

      ^frontline: terror and Tehran: inside Iran: the structure of power in Iran | PBS

  33.

      ^ Baer, Robert: See No Evil, Crown, New York (2002)

  34.

      ^ibid, p. 131

  35.

      ^ibid p. 81

  36.

      ^ Goldberg, Jeffrey: In the Party of God, 'New Yorker' October 28, 2002 on-line at http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/10/28/021028fa_fact2?currentPage=all

  37.

      ^Iran’s top military commanders die in plane crash

  38.

      ^Plane crash kills Iran commander

  39.

      ^ Hersh, Seymour (2008-07-07). "Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran". The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh?currentPage=all.

  40.

      ^ abcdefWehrey et al.. "The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps". National Defense Research Institute, RAND Corporation. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG821/. Retrieved 2009-07-24.

  41.

      ^ abIran's Revolutionary Guard acknowledges taking a bigger role in nation's security By Borzou Daragahi. July 6, 2009. accessed 9-July-2009

  42.

      ^"18 of Iran’s 21 new ministers hail from Revolutionary Guards, secret police". Iran Focus. 2005-08-14. http://www.iranfocus.com/en/iran-general-/18-of-iran-s-21-new-ministers-hail-from-revolutionary-guards-secret-police-03315.html. Retrieved 2009-07-22.

  43.

      ^ Roy, Olivier, The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East, Columbia University Press, 2008, p.133, 135

  44.

      ^Iranian Revolutionary Guard won't tolerate 'velvet revolution'

      John Lyons, Tehran | June 12, 2009. accessed 9-July-2009

  45.

      ^"Profile: Iran's Revolutionary Guards" (in English). BBC News. 2007-10-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7064353.stm. Retrieved 2008-12-27.

  46.

      ^Kim Murphy (2007-08-26). "Iran’s $12-billion enforcers" (in English). Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/aug/26/world/fg-guards26. Retrieved 2008-12-27.

  47.

      ^Azadeh Moaveni (2007-09-05 As enforcers of cross border activities, the IRGC has maintained a monopoly on smuggling, arresting competitors and controlling the vast bulk of the Iranian alcohol, tobacco, opium, etc industries. As enforcers of Iranian moral codes, the IRGC uses its power to control prostitution rackets as well.). "Iran's Rich Revolutionary Guard" (in English). Time. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1659039,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-27.

  48.

      ^ ab"Fact Sheet: Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism". United States Department of the Treasury. 2007-10-25. http://www.treasury.gov/press/releases/hp644.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-24.

  49.

      ^Iran's Revolutionary Guards: Showing who's boss

  50.

      ^Iran's Rev. Guard buys stake in Iran telecom September 27, 2009

  51.

      Elite Guard in Iran Tightens Grip With Media Move, MICHAEL SLACKMAN October 8, 2009

  52.

      The Iran Agenda by Reese Erlich, Robert (FRW) Scheer

  53.

 (Baer, R, See No Evil, 2002, Three Rivers Press, page 250)

  54.

       Mark Mazzetti, "Striking Deep Into Israel, Hamas Employs an Upgraded Rocket Arsenal," New York Times, January 1, 2009.

  55.

     Iran's Revolutionary Guards patrol Persian Gulf, U.S. says

 

 

   

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