Who Are Iran's Revolutionary Guards?

[Wall Street Journal] Amir Taheri - The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is an army answerable to no one but the "Supreme Leader" of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is also a business conglomerate that controls over 500 companies active in a wide range of industries - from nuclear power to banking, life insurance to holiday resorts and shopping centers. While the IRGC is the dominant force within the ruling establishment in Tehran, it is not a monolith. The IRGC is not a revolutionary army in the sense that the ALN was in Algeria or the Vietcong in Vietnam, which were born during revolutionary wars. The IRGC was created after the Khomeinist revolution had succeeded and the majority of those who joined it were opportunists. The IRGC "exports" revolution through the Quds (Jerusalem) Force: 15,000 highly trained men and women specializing in "martyrdom operations," a code word for guerrilla war, armed insurgency and terrorism. Some IRGC former commanders who did not share the Islamic Republic's goals have already defected to the U.S. Hundreds of others have gone into low-profile exile, mostly as businessmen in the UAE, Malaysia and Turkey. Many prominent IRGC commanders may be regarded as businessmen first and military leaders second. A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment. While many Iranians see the IRGC as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime.

2007-11-15 01:00:00

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