Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps
Posted: October 28, 2009
Updated: April 2012
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran's elite military unit designated by the U.S. State Department as one of the "proliferators of weapons of mass destruction," plays a central role in all aspects of Iran's political structure.
The IRGC was formed in 1979 to protect Iran's new revolutionary government against both international and domestic threats, and has played a vital role in Iran's domestic economy and politics. Many Iranian politicians, including cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, mayors, governors and ambassadors are drawn from the IRGC's ranks. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly threatened Israel's existence, is a former IRGC member.
As tensions between Iran and Israel, America and other Western countries continue to escalate, in particular over Iran's nuclear program, IRGC leaders have continued to threaten their "enemies" and boast of their military preparedness. For example, in late 2011 in response to increased international sanctions, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz, a shipping route vital to the global oil markets at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Amid war games near the Gulf less than two month later, the IRGC ground forces commander said that the "Sepah [IRGC] ground troops are able to carry out deterrent operations and our reaction will be quick and enemy targets will come under heavy fire."
In addition to defending the regime, the IRGC appears to be pursuing an offensive against its "enemies" abroad. Several recent attacks and planned attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in Asia and the Caucasus have been tied to the IRGC according to various governments.
IRGC's leadership has also sought to take credit for the uprisings throughout the Arab world, describing them as an "Islamic Awakening" directly resulting from Iran's revolution. IRGC General Yadollah Javani described "Islamic Iran" as "the source of this great change and awakening" throughout the Middle East. In Syria, however, the IRGC has been supplying weapons to help Bashar al-Assad's regime suppress dissent, according to U.S. government officials.