Friday, 26 October 2007

Knowledge: Who Are The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp?

Pasdaran military display taken recently (Source Unknown)


The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or Pasdaran 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.

The 125,000 strong Revolutionary Guard 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).

Although the IRGC operates independently of the regular armed forces, it is 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. From the beginning of the new Islamic regime, the Pasdaran (Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Islami, or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Revolutionary Guards) functioned as a corps of the faithful. Its role in national security evolved from securing the regime and eliminating opposition forces to becoming a branch of the military establishment.

As a means of countering the threat posed by either the leftist guerrillas or the officers suspected of continued loyalty to the shah, however, Khomeini created the Pasdaran, designated as the guardians of the Revolution.


Initially the Pasdaran was planned as an organization that would be directly subordinate to the ruling clerics of the Revolution. 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 have cooperated on military matters.

Since 1979 the Pasdaran has undergone fundamental changes in mission and function. Some of these changes reflected the control of the Islamic Republican Party (IRP) (until its abolition in 1987) over both the Pasdaran and the Crusade for Reconstruction. Others reflected the IRP's exclusive reliance on the Pasdaran to carry out certain sensitive missions. The Pasdaran, with its own separate ministry until 1989, evolved into one of the most powerful organizations in Iran. Not only did it function as an intelligence organization, both within and outside the country, but it also exerted considerable influence on government policies. In addition to its initial political strength, in the course of several years the Pasdaran also became a powerful military instrument for defending the Revolution and Islamic Iran.

The Pasdaran was also given the mandate of organizing a large people's militia, the Basij, in 1980. It is from Basij ranks that volunteers were drawn to launch "human wave" attacks against the Iraqis, particularly around Basra.

The first operations commander of the Pasdaran was Abbas Zamani (Abu Sharif), a former teacher from Tehran. 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. 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.

Although little was known about the Ministry of the Pasdaran, its intelligence-gathering operations, and its relationship with SAVAMA, several reports speculated that the Pasdaran maintained an intelligence branch to spy on the regime's 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

With the abolition of the IRP in 1987, observers were uncertain whether the Pasdaran would continue to enjoy unlimited support from high-ranking clerics. Its power base remained strong in 1987, with the continuing support of Khomeini and other religious authorities. Having eliminated armed leftist groups such as the Mojahedin and the Fadayan, the Pasdaran had fulfilled all IRP expectations .Staunchly religious, nationalistic, and battle-trained since 1980, the Pasdaran had emerged as a critical force in determining Iran's national security strategy. In a post-Khomeini era, the Pasdaran could wield enormous power to approve or disapprove governmental changes.

The IRGC's active involvement in domestic politics began following Ayatollah Khomeini's death in 1989. Using the experience it gained in carrying out large projects during the war with Iraq, the corps has become a force in Iran's economy by launching numerous companies. Many of these enterprises receive lucrative government contracts and are active in the agriculture and oil sectors, on road and dam construction, and in automobile manufacturing. In addition, former IRGC commanders run the Oppressed and Disabled Foundation, an extremely powerful and wealthy organization that takes care of underprivileged Iranians.

In the 1990s some IRGC commanders denounced then-President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's political, social, and economic reforms as damaging to the values of the revolution. Following the 1999 student riots, some hard-line elements of the IRGC warned Khatami that his reforms were endangering the revolutionary order and that the IRGC could not stand by and watches as the fruits of the revolution were destroyed. As a result, these IRGC officers said, they essentially had no alternative than to intervene to uphold the interests of the Islamic regime. In a letter to Khatami, 24 IRGC commanders stated that they would take the law into their own hands unless the president cracked down on demonstrators.

By 2005 the IRGC's long reach into political affairs was increasingly apparent. Iran's parliament included about 80 former IRGC members, while other former members command the regular army and the national police. Still more occupy important civilian and government positions, such as municipal councilors, mayors, provincial governors, university professors, and businessmen. And possibly most significant, none other than the country's new president -- Mahmud Ahmadinejad -- served with the IRGC during the Iran-Iraq War.

In many respects that structure of the Pasderan has similarities to other Para-military organisations throughout history with its encroachment into the nation. It serves in a similar manner as the KGB in the Soviet Union and the SS Nazi Germany-having the characteristics of a state within a state.

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