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A look at Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

The IRGC must be placed on the US FTO list
The IRGC must be placed on the US FTO list

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

 

Nov. 14, 2018 - The name Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has been intertwined and synonymous with the current clerical regime of Iran for the past few decades. From the Iran-Iraq War to several regional conflicts, to economic activities and internal crackdown of unrests across the country, the IRGC has had a major role in shaping the Iranian regime’s domestic and foreign policy.

 

Establishing The IRGC

Following the 1979 revolution, Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini realized the need to have an advantage and apparatus to quell any domestic threats and unrest. Considering the fact that they could not trust the Iranian military, police and other state forces for this purpose, the ruling mullahs began the process of launching their own parallel forces.

The IRGC was established on May 5, 1979, less than three months after the revolution. What started as a paramilitary group of ideologically trained units loyal to the supreme leader has now grown to be the sole protector and backbone of the ruling mullahs in Iran.

The IRGC answers directly to the supreme leader, now Ali Khamenei, and is given unconstrained jurisdiction and authorities. The IRGC is actually above Iran’s classic army in the hierarchy, and provided with enormous economic and political power. The IRGC has now evolved to be a “parallel” or shadow government of Iran, accountable to Khamenei only.

 

IRGC Role In Domestic Crackdown

From day one, the IRGC spearheaded a campaign aiming to purge dissidents, intellectuals, journalists, writers, opposition figures and organized labor unions. The principal target has consistently been Iran’s main opposition entity, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), highlighted in a gruesome manner during the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly PMOI/MEK members and supporters.

“The orders for the systematic execution of dissidents came from Khomeini himself in the form of a fatwa (religious edict). His intention was to purge the country of any opposition, notable the main dissident organization, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK),” said Hamid Yazdan Panah, an Iranian human rights activist and lawyer, in a piece published by The Hill.

Throughout the 1980s, the IRGC carried out numerous campaigns targeting dissidents abroad. These efforts included groups across the spectrum, including Kurdish and Baluchi groups, members of the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), among others.

The infamous “chain murders” of the 1990s targeting political opponents and dissident writers inside Iran was carried out by the notorious Ministry of Intelligence & Security (MOIS) and IRGC units without any individual ever facing justice for their murderous roles.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the IRGC and its paramilitary Basij militia to crush the 1999 student uprisings, enjoying the blessing of Hassan Rouhani, who was then the regime’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and later became the president of the Iranian regime.

The IRGC was once again unleashed during the 2009 uprisings to quell any pro-democracy demands. The Guards went on a spree of arresting thousands, torturing hundreds and secretly executing dozens.

The IRGC has relentlessly targeted the main Iranian opposition PMOI/MEK through the years, following both the 1979 revolution and afterwards when the organization went into exile, mainly in Iraq. MEK members were kidnapped and/or assassinated also in Europe.

 

Political Interference & Terrorism

The Iranian regime proclaims to have a divine mission of establishing a universally just government across the globe. It therefore considers meddling in other countries’ internal affairs as justified and necessary measures. As a result, the use of terrorism and spreading fundamentalist viewpoints are not policies of mere marginal importance. Alongside the brutal repression of all domestic protests, Tehran’s very survival fully depends on remaining loyal to this practice.

Tehran’s notorious activities have expanded to 13 countries and the IRGC is also known to have launched spying cells or networks in at least 12 different countries, while most have seen authorities apprehend members of such groups.

 

IRGC Fomenting Sectarian Tension And Violence

One very deadly method explored by the Iranian regime has been aggravating sectarian rifts across the Middle East, especially in its western neighbor of Iraq that continues to remain a very fragile state. A cruel irony, however, is witnessed in the reality that while the IRGC is known to recruit Shiites for militia groups, it has also fueled support for Sunni terrorist groups.

“Indeed, the bipartisan 9/11 commission report, which investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 al Qaeda terror attacks — the largest mass casualty terrorist attack in U.S. history — pointed out that there was ‘strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers,’” The Washington Times reported.

This is aimed at fulfilling Tehran’s ultimate objective: overwhelming the entire region with chaos, and utilizing such a situation to expand their field of influence. Iran is “securing an arc of influence across Iraq and Syria that would end at the Mediterranean Sea,” according to The Guardian.

The IRGC can be described as the Iranian regime’s arm to establish the first “Islamic Caliphate” by taking first measures in this outline in 1979, long before Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). 

In fact, the violence promoted by the Iranian regime across the region under the flag of Shiite Islam, parallel to the atrocious crackdown imposed on Sunni communities in various countries, have encouraged the rise of Daesh.

 

Hidden Occupation And Expansion of IRGC Abroad

The IRGC Quds Force, the unit’s extraterritorial entity currently commanded by Qassem Suleimani, is tasked to carry out foreign missions across the Middle East and beyond. In the broader picture, the IRGC has never limited its expansion and terrorists to the region.

“The world should rest assured the IRGC will soon establish branches in the US and Europe,” IRGC Brigadier General Salar Anoush said recently.

The IRGC has also launched a massive network of training camps inside Iran and abroad to gain new recruits for its proxy militia groups. Hundreds of future soldiers arrive from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen each month to undergo such training courses. 

The IRGC’s broad meddling makes its involvement in covertly occupying four regional countries undeniable: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Scenes in Syria during the past several years have made the IRGC’s deadly role crystal clear. Reports indicate up to 70,000 IRGC foot soldiers and cannon fodders were roaming the Levant, involved in launching killing sprees.

“The Iranian regime’s military incursion in Syria came at a great cost to Tehran. According to reports obtained by the NCRI from within the regime’s own ranks, Iran’s death toll in the Syrian war are estimated to be over 12,000,” according to a research report.

The IRGC has allocated both its human and financial resources to make good on its security threats, in tandem with military attacks. The IRGC has also been establishing cultural centers across the Middle East and throughout Europe and North America, aiming to expand its influence. They have monopolized control of more than 90 ports and loading docks in the Persian Gulf for shipping supplies, weapons and explosives to their preferred destinations. To this day, 14 different countries are known to have been targets of such covert activities.

 

IRGC Influence In Iran’s Foreign Policy

With Khamenei’s approval, the IRGC enjoys special and powerful dominance over the regime’s foreign policy and agenda. For example, the Guards have taken full control over Iran’s embassies in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. While having prominence in the affairs related to Armenia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In view of the significance to IRGC operations, the Iranian regime’s ambassadors and diplomatic missions to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are appointed directly by the IRGC and not the Foreign Ministry of Iran. It is worth noting that Iran’s current ambassador to Iraq, Brigadier Iraj Masjedi, was formerly in charge of the IRGC’s Iraq desk, as its chairman and a senior Quds Force advisor. The Quds Force is overseeing the Iranian regime’s operations in Syria and Iraq.

Masjedi himself supervised and coordinated attacks against U.S.-led Coalition forces in Iraq, leaving scores killed and wounded.

 

Growing Grip Of IRGC Over Iran’s Economy

The IRGC quest to gain full control over Iran’s economy began following the Iran-Iraq war. This grip grew significantly during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, himself a former IRGC commander, from 2005 to 2013.

The IRGC has gained increasing influence in major sectors of Iran’s economy, such as oil and gas, and the construction industry. The exact number of IRGC-affiliated front companies remains unknown, simply due to the fact that they seek to evade sanctions through the use of various front companies and institutions in different countries.

Ironically, the IRGC benefited enormously from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) the regime signed with the world powers.

Of nearly 110 agreements signed since the JCPOA’s signing, worth at least $80 billion, 90 counts of these deals have been with companies owned or controlled by Iranian state entities, according a Reuters analysis.

 

IRGC Controlling Iran’s Nuclear & Ballistic Missile Programs

The IRGC is now considered a huge conglomerate of different companies and assets. Parts of its holdings include controlling Iran’s missile drive and the controversial nuclear program.

The IRGC owns and controls dozens of companies, involved in procuring the technology needed to develop ballistic missiles and sensitive nuclear products. The IRGC has been entrusted to develop and pursue the ballistic missile program and all its aspects. A senior Iranian official once boasted about Iran having a sixth missile production line, including the Shahab-3/3B, with a range of over 2,100 kilometers.

 

Terror Designations

The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted the IRGC Quds Force back in 2007 for “Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism.” The Quds Force is known to provide material support to terrorist groups such as the Taliban, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other such entities.

In 2017, the Treasury designated the Iranian regime’s IRGC as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” for the “activities it undertakes to assist in, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of the IRGC Quds Force.”

As the U.S. State Department has designated the IRGC Quds Force as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” there are growing calls in Washington calling for similar damning measures against the mother IRGC entity to deliver a crippling blow to the mullahs’ regime.

The Iranian regime considers this a declaration of war.

 

Final Words

The mullahs’ regime of Iran is a dictatorship on a mission to agitate and expand its influence throughout the region and beyond. The IRGC is the main apparatus and the leverage for this regime to continue its aspirations and existence through domestic crackdown and export of terrorism abroad, whether through proxy wars, terror attacks or spreading its extremist ideology.

“The IRGC is dedicated to protecting the Islamic Revolution, not the state of Iran. As guardians of the Islamic Revolution, it supports terrorist activities by the Quds Force and its other military divisions. The IRGC finances these terrorist activities through its business activities, making the overall o simply the paymaster for terrorist activities by its constituent elements,” wrote Raymond Tanter and Ed Stafford in The Hill.

The cancerous and unchecked growth of the IRGC throughout the region is a threat to not only the Middle East but also Europe. A dangerous fundamentalist ideology drives this armed (military) entity. The world needs to take this threat seriously before it is too late.

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