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Pasdaran - Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) Print E-mail


The 125,000 strong Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG 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.

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. In 2005 Iran had about 150 Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel in Lebanon, military advisers in Sudan, and three observers with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Yahya Rahim Safavi [aka Rahim SAFAVI, aka Sayed YAHYA SAFAVI, aka Yahia RAHIM SAFAWI, aka Yahya Rahim AL-SIFAWI, aka Yahya Rahim SAFAVI, aka 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.

There were rumors pointing to a deep conflict between Yahya Rahim Safavi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but these were not well founded. By one account the new head of the Revolutionary Guard, Ali Jafari, was from a conservative sub-faction opposed to the more radical elements allied with Ahmadinejad. The former Guard head Yahya Rahim-Safavi, was said to be too openly sympathetic to the president. Others argued to the contrary that the hard-liners had counterattacked by installing a new head of the Revolutionary Guard who had written on revitalizing the Islamic revolution, worldwide. By this account Safavi was reportedly critical of Ahmadinejad, whereas Jafari was said to be a close associate of the President. A third view was that Khamenei's decision to replace Yahya Rahim-Safavi complied with the general rule of authoritarian regimes to rotate senior military commanders in order to prevent the rise of powerful military rivals. In any event, Safavi was appointed advisor and senior aide for armed forces affairs to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on September 1, 2007.

Safavi was replaced on 31 August 2007 by his long-standing rival, Mohamed Ali Jaafari Sahrourdi, also the head of the Basij Islamist militia forces. Jafari, (also known as Aziz or Ali Jafari), held certain theories about this institution. These theories ranged from very small matters such as whether the Basij should be a subdivision of the Revolutionary Guard’s Ground Forces, concentrating all power to the Guard and thereby minimizing the independence that exists in each of the factions of the armed forces, to matters at the core of Guard’s strategies and research. In his first press conference after being appointed to the post, he emphasized the issue of an unconventional warfare and the experience of Iraq. His speech was prominently aimed at explaining the theory of "asymmetric defense". During the previous two years as Ali Larijani became the secretary general of the Supreme National Security Council, General Jafari had been in close collaboration with him on research and strategic matters such as defense, the army, Iraq, the nuclear dossier, etc.

Jafari's appointment assigned the fate of the Islamic Republic to someone with a hands-on record in combating internal dissent. Jafari had spent nearly 15 years (from 1991-92 to 2005) as commander of the IRGC land forces, and had been head of its new Strategic Center, which has focused on the US military. General Jafari said on 20 October 2007 that the "Guards' primary mission at this juncture is to fight the internal threats." This reflected a new direction for the IRGC handed down from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and honed at the IRGC's Strategic Research Center, created in 2005, with Jafari at its head. Jafari's appointment suggested to some that Tehran took talk of possible US military action against Iran very seriously.

Jafari spoke to the press on September 3 and said the IRGC's role is to "expand" the deterrence capability against "the enemies of Iran and the revolution" without an exclusively military role. He said the IRGC will "hasten" to help other institutions in Iran "where necessary". Jafari added that Iran's "environmental conditions" have changed, and the IRGC needs to be flexible in facing new threats to Iran. The new commander assured reporters that the IRGC is better prepared than in the past to face these threats, and with the necessary intelligence on "enemies" and a considerable ballistic capability. He urged "the enemies" to leave the Middle East region and choose instead an "interaction" with Islamic states.

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.


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