Overview

Also Known As:

  • Islamic Revolutionary Guards
  • Pasdaran (“Guards”)
  • Revolutionary Guards
  • Sepah (“Corps”)
  • Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Eslami (“Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”)

Executive Summary:

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is tasked with preserving the Islamic Republic of Iran and the ideals of the 1979 revolution. The IRGC combines traditional military roles with a relentless focus on supposed domestic enemies. The IRGC is Iran’s primary instrument for exporting the ideology of the Islamic Revolution worldwide. It is rigidly loyal to Iran’s clerical elite. The IRGC is Iran’s main link to its terrorist proxies, which the regime uses to boost Iran’s global influence.

Within the IRGC are the Basij militia and the Quds Force (IRGC-QF). The Basij, literally “mobilization,” is a paramilitary organization charged with channeling popular support for the Iranian regime. The Basij is famous for its recruitment of volunteers, many of them teenage children, for human wave attacks during the Iran-Iraq war. Today, the Basij has two missions: to provide defensive military training to protect the regime against foreign invasion, and to suppress domestic anti-regime activity through street violence and intimidation.  After the contested 2009 Iranian presidential elections, for example, the Basij brutally quashed protests and attacked student dormitories.

The IRGC’s Quds Force specializes in foreign missions, providing training, funding and weapons to extremist groups, including Iraqi insurgents, Hezbollah, and Hamas. The Quds Force allegedly participated in the 1994 suicide bombing of an Argentine Jewish community center, killing more than 80 and wounding about 300. In the years since, the Quds Force has armed anti-government militants in Bahrain, and assisted in a 2011 assassination attempt on Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. The Quds Force also plays a key role in support of Syrian regime forces in that country’s civil war.

Doctrine:

The IRGC is an Iranian government agency tasked with defending the regime against internal and external threats. Espousing a radical ideology and a paranoid worldview, the IRGC uses secret police methods against its opponents within Iran, and terrorist tactics against its enemies abroad.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Iranian law defines the IRGC as “an institution commanded by the Supreme Leader whose purpose is to protect the Islamic Revolution of Iran and its accomplishments, while striving continuously . . . to spread the sovereignty of God’s law.”“Statute of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Islamic Revolution,” Islamic Parliament Research Center, ratified September 6, 1982, article 1, http://rc.majlis.ir/fa/law/show/90595.

In the first months after the 1979 Iranian revolution, before its existence was enshrined in law, the IRGC operated as a network of militant activists loyal to revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini. In this role, the IRGC helped to stamp out dissident currents within the revolutionary movement.Afshon P. Ostover, Guardians of the Islamic Revolution: Ideology, Politics, and the Development of Military Power in Iran, 1979-2009, University of Michigan, 2009, 50-52. The IRGC views its task as preserving the “Islamic republican” form of government created by Khomeini, and faithfully implementing the instructions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini after the latter’s death in 1989. Ahead of Iran’s June 2013 presidential elections, IRGC commanders reportedly made clear through public statements that they would only confirm a president who is loyal to Khamenei.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Iran Guards Wield Electoral Power behind Scenes,” Reuters, June 4, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/04/us-iran-election-guards-idUSBRE9530V120130604.

The IRGC today enjoys the power of a government agency, while still maintaining the zeal and fanaticism of an ideologically motivated terrorist group. The IRGC’s mission combines traditional military roles with a relentless focus on pursuing supposed domestic enemies. According to the Ministry of Defense, the IRGC’s role is to “protect [Iran’s] independence, territorial integrity, and national and revolutionary ideals, under the shadow of the orders given by the Commander in Chief, the Grand Ayatollah Imam Khamenei.”“Statement of the Ministry of Defense on the Anniversary of the Founding of the IRGC,” ISNA, April 21, 2014, http://bit.ly/1qFjx84. Political beliefs considered inconsistent with “revolutionary ideals” are treated as military threats. As IRGC commander Jafari recently put it: “today’s war is not fought on land or sea, it is fought at the level of belief, and the enemy is investing efforts to gain influence inside the Islamic Republican system.”“IRGC Commander: The Corps Supports Religious Authority,” ISNA, May 24, 2014, http://bit.ly/1j4suWo.

The IRGC’s doctrine combines rigid loyalty to Iran’s clerical elite with deep paranoia about the outside world. In IRGC publications, Iran is portrayed as threatened by American and “Zionist” plots, which are said to be capable of exerting great influence within Iran. Allegations of foreign meddling in Iran provide the justification for terrorism abroad, fueling the high-profile international conflicts that provide the basis for ever harsher crackdowns on internal dissent.

Over time, domestic repression has come to overshadow traditional military missions, as the IRGC’s influence has spread into every aspect of Iranian life.Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 32, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG821.pdf. In 2007, following the formal incorporation of the Basij militia into the IRGC, IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, “The new strategic guidelines of the IRGC have been changed by the directives of the Leader of the Revolution [i.e., Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei]. The main mission of the IRGC from now on is to deal with the threats from the internal enemies. [The number-two priority of the corps] is to help the military in case of foreign threats.”Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 33, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG821.pdf.

The IRGC considers its loyalty to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei a religious imperative. At times, the organization’s devotion to Khamenei slips into hero-worship: deputy IRGC commander Mohammad Hejazi recently credited Khamenei with overruling the objections of scientific experts to direct research towards increased accuracy in ballistic missiles, “resulting in proud accomplishments in this field.”“Commander Hejazi: The Leader’s Orders Led to Increased Accuracy of Ballistic Missiles,” ISNA, April 28, 2014, http://bit.ly/1q2U6JZ.

Organizational Structure:

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

By law, the power to appoint and remove the commander of the IRGC is given to the Supreme Leader. “Statute of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Islamic Revolution,” Islamic Parliament Research Center, ratified September 6, 1982, article 29, http://rc.majlis.ir/fa/law/show/90595. The Supreme Leader also appoints clerical representatives to the various units of the IRGC whose guidance and instructions are binding on commanders.“Statute of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Islamic Revolution,” Islamic Parliament Research Center, ratified September 6, 1982, article 33, http://rc.majlis.ir/fa/law/show/90595. Iranian law makes “belief and practical obedience to the principle of clerical rule” a condition of membership in the IRGC, further establishing absolute loyalty to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as the IRGC’s guiding principle.“Statute of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Islamic Revolution,” Islamic Parliament Research Center, ratified September 6, 1982, article 34, http://rc.majlis.ir/fa/law/show/90595.

Efforts to normalize the IRGC’s extraordinary role in Iran over the years have resulted in a complex organization chart. Administratively, the IRGC falls under the Joint Armed Forces General Staff, part of the Ministry of Defense. But these layers of oversight do not give Iran’s nominally elected civilian authorities real control over the IRGC, as the entire military remains subordinate to the Supreme National Security Council, which in turn answers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 9-10.

Scholars who study the IRGC have concluded that “individuals appear to matter more than institutions when considering national security decision[-]making.”Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 11. Consequently, scholars have identified personal networks, often based on ties of family, friendship, or joint service in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War as the key factors in IRGC leadership.Will Fulton, “The IRGC Command Network: Formal Structures and Informal Influence,” American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, July 18, 2013, http://www.irantracker.org/analysis/fulton-irgc-command-network-july-22-2013. The opacity of the IRGC’s real command structure helps make Iran an erratic and therefore especially dangerous player in regional affairs.

Basij

The Basij militia, whose name means “mobilization,” is a paramilitary organization tasked with channeling popular support for the Islamic Republican regime. The Basij is most famous for its recruitment of volunteers, many of them teenage children, for human wave attacks on Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq War in which thousands died. Today, the Basij has two missions: giving military training to regime supporters to prepare them to resist foreign invasion, and helping suppress domestic opposition to the regime through street violence and intimidation.

The Basij presents itself as a popular volunteer association, although it is very much an organ of the state. The group’s “regular members,” said to number more than ten million, are unpaid volunteers motivated by ideological zeal or the hopes of advancement. Its “active members,” whose exact number is unknown, receive salaries and work full time to organize the volunteer members. The group has been nominally subordinate to the IRGC since the early 1980s, and organizational changes in recent years have increased the IRGC’s direct control over the Basij, apparently to better manage the two groups’ repression of internal dissent.Ali Alfoneh, “The Basij Resistance Force | The Iran Primer,” United States Institute of Peace, accessed February 27, 2015, http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/basij-resistance-force.

Khatam al-Anbia

Created in 1989, Iran’s Khatam al-Anbia (KAA) is an IRGC-controlled engineering firm that acts as the organization’s construction arm.Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 60, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG821.pdf. KAA maintains more than 800 subsidiaries, collectively employing more than 40,000 people.“IRGC Campaign,” United Against Nuclear Iran,” United Against Nuclear Iran, accessed February 14, 2017, http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/irgc/. Approximately 70 percent of the firm’s business is believed to be military-related.Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 62, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG821.pdf. KAA has played a role in building Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including the country’s nuclear facilities at Qom and Fordow.“UANI Launches World Wide Web Campaign, Calls on ICANN and RIPE to Disconnect and Cease Business with Sanctioned Iranian Entities,” United Against Nuclear Iran, September 18, 2012, http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/news/uani-launches-world-wide-web-campaign-calls-icann-and-ripe-disconnect-and-cease-business-sancti

The company has won more than 17,000 no-bid contracts from the government.“IRGC Campaign,” United Against Nuclear Iran,” accessed February 14, 2017, http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/irgc/. For example, in December 2012, KAA was reportedly set to begin construction of the “world’s tallest dam” in Iran after the government canceled a $2 billion contract with a Chinese firm and turned the project over to the IRGC.Joanna Paraszczuk, “Iran ready to construct ‘world’s tallest dam,’” Jerusalem Post, December 19, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/Iranian-Threat/News/Iran-ready-to-construct-worlds-tallest-dam. According to United Against Nuclear Iran, “Through Khatam al-Anbia, the IRGC has succeeded in assuming a dominant role in Iran’s oil and gas industry.”“IRGC Campaign,” United Against Nuclear Iran,” accessed February 14, 2017, http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/irgc/.

Quds Force

The Quds Force (IRGC-QF) is a special branch of the IRGC tasked with achieving sensitive missions beyond Iran’s borders. The IRGC-QF has played an active role in providing training and weapons to extremist groups including Iraqi insurgents, Lebanese Hezbollah, and others. The group’s commander is Major General Qasem Soleimani. In addition to overseeing the group’s violent attacks, Soleimani serves as an emissary of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, reportedly using a combination of violence and bribes to wield enormous influence over the politics of neighboring Iraq. He is also said to coordinate much of Iran’s support for the Ba’ath regime in the Syrian civil war.Dexter Filkins, “The Shadow Commander,” New Yorker, September 30, 2013, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/09/30/the-shadow-commander. Soleimani’s prominence has aroused jealousy in some circles, and he has clashed at times with IRGC commanders over the extent of his authority.Ali Alfoneh, “Disputed Chain of Command: Conflict at the Helm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards?” American Enterprise Institute, October 1, 2012, http://www.aei.org/article/foreign-and-defense-policy/regional/middle-east-and-north-africa/disputed-chain-of-command-conflict-at-the-helm-of-irans-revolutionary-guards/.

General Hossein Hamedani, deputy commander of an IRGC volunteer unit, told an Iranian news agency in 2008 that the IRGC is providing weapons to “liberation armies” in the Middle East, including groups in Lebanon and Iraq.Ali Akbar Dareini, “Iranian General Reports Arming ‘Liberation Armies,’” USA Today, October 27, 2008, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-10-27-2687460468_x.htm. Such liaisons are the responsibility of the IRGC-QF.

Training and Recruitment:

General

The IRGC is the third-wealthiest organization in Iran after the National Iranian Oil Company and the Imam Reza Endowment.Hossein Aryan, "Iran's Basij Force – The Mainstay of Domestic Security,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 15, 2009,  http://www.rferl.org/content/Irans_Basij_Force_Mainstay_Of_Domestic_Security/1357081.html. Due to its vast wealth, the IRGC is able to use a very simple recruitment tactic: money. The IRGC attracts young men by paying them up to $265 a month.“Hama Media Office: IRGC Presence ‘Noticeable,’” Syria Direct, February 26, 2015, http://syriadirect.org/main/36-interviews/1857-hama-media-office-irgc-presence-noticable. In 1982, the IRGC created its first high school in Tehran to train and indoctrinate young men into the organization. The IRGC opened similar schools throughout the country. Graduates went on to join the IRGC and Basij. The program ended and the schools closed in 1999, but the IRGC announced plans in early 2015 to reopen affiliated high schools. Saeed Aganji, “IRGC to reopen its own high schools,” Al-Monitor, February 24, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/iran-irgc-sepah-high-school.html.

The Basij and Quds Force operate under the IRGC and are responsible for the bulk of the umbrella organization’s recruitment. Both groups have developed an organized method of enrollment and training. Both the Basij and the Quds Force strategically place recruiters near holy sites, mosques, schools, and community centers to attract volunteers.Anthony H. Cordesman, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Al Quds Force, and Other Intelligence and Paramilitary Forces,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, August 16, 2007 http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/070816_cordesman_report.pdf. The IRGC also trains foreign fighters from groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.Mark Mazzetti, “Striking Deep Into Israel, Hamas Employs an Upgraded Arsenal,” New York Times, December 31, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/world/middleeast/01rockets.html.

Basij

Training

The Basij is a paramilitary organization operating under the IRGC that relies heavily on volunteers as well as paid members. The Basij constitution highlights the importance of training, stating that one of the force’s most important responsibilities is to train volunteers to “defend the country and the Islamic Republic regime.”Dr. Saeid Golkar, “The Ideological-Political Training of Iran’s Basij,” Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies, September 2010, http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB44.pdfl. The Basij is increasingly being used to quell internal unrest in Iran and, consequently, has become highly organized.

The Basij has an extensive membership of regular, active, and special recruits. Each classification is based on the volunteer’s level of training and, to a lesser degree, on his level of commitment.Dr. Saeid Golkar, “The Ideological-Political Training of Iran’s Basij,” Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies, September 2010, http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB44.pdf.

The Basij relies heavily on Ideological-Political Trainers (IPTs) to indoctrinate and educate its fledgling members. IPTs are divided into three groups: organizational, non-organizational, and invited members. Organizational and non-organizational IPTs typically hold high school degrees, while invited trainers are usually well-connected and well-educated.Dr. Saeid Golkar, “The Ideological-Political Training of Iran’s Basij,” Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies, September 2010, http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB44.pdf. Trainees are also required to attend at least 18 hours of ideological and political courses on subjects like “Major Islamic Commandments.”Dr. Saeid Golkar, “The Ideological-Political Training of Iran’s Basij,” Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies, September 2010, http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB44.pdf.

The next level of training consists of courses that include “Jihad and Defense of the Quran,” and “Fluency in Reading the Quran.” Specialized training courses in areas such as advanced psychological warfare and anti-riot training last even longer but are not mandatory. Only after completing this final level of training can Basij members go to mosques, schools, and factories to organize.Dr. Saeid Golkar, “The Ideological-Political Training of Iran’s Basij,” Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies, September 2010, http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB44.pdf. Basic Basij members are also trained in practical matters such as weaponry, guard duty, civil defense, and first aid.“Dr. Saeid Golkar, “The Ideological-Political Training of Iran’s Basij,” Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies, September 2010, http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB44.pdf.

IPTs are themselves educated by a network of political guides. IPTs are taught subjects like Islamic commandments, the Quran, the history of Islam, sociopolitical knowledge, and the fundamentals of belief.“Dr. Saeid Golkar, “The Ideological-Political Training of Iran’s Basij,” Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies, September 2010, http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB44.pdf.

Recruitment

Basij recruitment relies heavily on the cooperation of local and regional mosques.Ali Alfoneh, “The Basij Resistance Force | The Iran Primer,” United States Institute of Peace, http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/basij-resistance-force. Members are recruited under “clergical [sic] supervision and trusted citizens.” Paid Basij positions are available by application at Basij central offices.Ali Alfoneh, “The Basij Resistance Force | The Iran Primer,” United States Institute of Peace, http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/basij-resistance-force.

Quds Force

Training

The Quds Force is a special unit of the Revolutionary Guard that oversees weapons and training.Paul Richter, “Top Iranians Direct Iraq Missions,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2007, http://articles.latimes.com/2007/oct/24/world/fg-usiran24. The Quds Force’s commander is Major General Qasem Soleimani. Basic training can last anywhere from three to nine months and takes place at three main facilities in Iran. The first is the Imam Ali Base near Tehran, which specializes in ground training for foreign fighters. The second is the Wali-e-Assar Base in Shiraz and the third is the “Jerusalem Operation” College in Qom, where trainees study spirituality and ideology. There are other smaller training facilities throughout the country that are used to train armed groups from foreign countries as well.Dore Gold, “Inside the Octopus: Unraveling Iran’s terrorist Quds Force,” Israel Hayom, March 16, 2012, http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3532. The Quds force helps operate the Manzariyah training center in Iran near the holy city of Qom. The Manzariyah training center recruits from a pool of foreign students studying at a nearby religious seminary.Anthony H. Cordesman, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Al Quds Force, and Other Intelligence and Paramilitary Forces,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, August 16, 2007, http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/070816_cordesman_report.pdf. The Quds force also recruits in Iraq, where they pay Iraqi Shiites up to $150 per month to go to Iran to train.“Experts: Iran’s Quds Force Deeply Enmeshed in Iraq,” Fox News, February 16, 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/02/16/experts-iran-quds-force-deeply-enmeshed-in-iraq/.

Recruitment

The Quds Force sets up recruitment offices near Islamic holy sites to attract a wide variety of devout people from many nationalities throughout the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. The most important recruitment office is in the “Dar al-Tawahid” hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.Dore Gold, “Inside the Octopus: Unraveling Iran's terrorist Quds Force,” Israel Hayom, March 16, 2012, http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3532. The Quds force helps operate the Manzariyah training center in Iran near the holy city of Qom. The Manzariyah training center recruits from a pool of foreign students studying at a nearby religious seminary.Anthony H. Cordesman, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Al Quds Force, and Other Intelligence and Paramilitary Forces,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, August 16, 2007, http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/070816_cordesman_report.pdf. The Quds force also recruits in Iraq, where they pay Iraqi Shiites up to $150 per month to go to Iran to train.“Experts: Iran’s Quds Force Deeply Enmeshed in Iraq,” Fox News, February 16, 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/02/16/experts-iran-quds-force-deeply-enmeshed-in-iraq/.

Financing:

IRGC

The IRGC received a reported 55 percent increase in Iran’s proposed 2017-18 fiscal budget, up from $4.5 billion to $7 billion. Iran’s military budget has reportedly experienced a 70 percent increase in funding during President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure,“Budget Bill in Parliament,” Financial Tribune, December 5, 2016, https://financialtribune.com/articles/domestic-economy/54697/budget-bill-in-parliament. growing from $3.3 billion in FY 2013-14 to more than $5 billion after Hassan Rouhani assumed the presidency in 2013. Ahead of the FY 2016 budget, however, Rouhani reportedly sought to cut the IRGC’s budget in favor of Iran’s army.Abbas Qaidaari, “Rouhani moves to slash IRGC budget, empower army,” Al-Monitor, May 5, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/05/iran-military-spending-irgc-budget-reduced-army-increase.html. The Iranian parliament rejected the cut and raised the IRGC’s budgetary allocation.J. Matthew Mcinnis, “Rouhani hopes the new parliament will give him a break,” Newsweek, May 6, 2016, http://www.newsweek.com/rouhani-hopes-parliament-gives-him-break-455673.

The IRGC is also Iran’s most powerful economic actor, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which labeled the National Iranian Oil Company “an agent or affiliate of the Revolutionary Guards.”“Treasury Links Iran Oil to Elite Military,” U.S. Institute of Peace, September 25, 2012, http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2012/sep/25/treasury-links-iran-oil-elite-military. Within the IRGC, the Quds Force exerts control over strategic industries, commercial services, and black-market enterprises.Greg Bruno, Jayshree Bajoria, and Jonathan Masters, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 14, 2013, http://www.cfr.org/iran/irans-revolutionary-guards/p14324. According to a 2007 Los Angeles Times report, the IRGC has ties to over 100 companies, controlling over $12 billion.Kim Murphy, “Iran’s $12-Billion Enforcers,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2007, http://articles.latimes.com/2007/aug/26/world/fg-guards26. These funds are used to exert influence in Iran and Iranian proxies. According to Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, the IRGC is “heavily involved in everything from pharmaceuticals to telecommunications and pipelines – even the new Imam Khomeini Airport and a great deal of smuggling. Many of the front companies engaged in procuring nuclear technology are owned and run by the Revolutionary Guards. They're developing along the lines of the Chinese military, which is involved in many business enterprises. It's a huge business conglomeration.”Robin Wright, “Iranian Unit to Be Labeled ‘Terrorist,’” Washington Post, August 15, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/14/AR2007081401662.html.

After the 2015 nuclear agreement—which opened Iran’s economy to the international market— Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government attempted to restrict the IRGC’s economic power in Iran, open Iran’s economy internationally, and attract foreign investors by canceling government contracts with IRGC subsidiaries. An unidentified IRGC source told Reuters in November 2016 that any U.S. attempt to restrict the Iranian economy from global markets would result in the IRGC regaining its economic control of Iran.Parisa Hafezi, “Iran’s Guards using Trump victory to claw back power,” Reuters, November 21, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-politics-guards-idUSKBN13G1NB. In March 2016, Khamenei called for the IRGC to play a larger role in creating a “resistance economy” in Iran, independent of the international community.Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, “Revolutionary Guards look to play bigger role in Iran's economy,” Reuters, March 22, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-economy-irgc-idUSKCN0WO137.

In August 2015, Reuters reported that the IRGC stood to benefit from the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran as part of the P5+1 nuclear deal. One beneficiary Reuters highlighted is IRGC conglomerate KAA, which reportedly controls at least 812 affiliated companies worth billions of dollars.Babak Deghghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati, “Firms linked to Revolutionary Guards to win sanctions relief under Iran deal,” Reuters, August 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/09/us-iran-nuclear-sanctions-idUSKCN0QE08320150809;
“Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” United Against Nuclear Iran, accessed February 14, 2017, https://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/report/islamic-revolutionary-guard-corps-irgc.
KAA subsidiary companies have been sanctioned by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations as “proliferators of weapons of mass destruction,” according to the U.S. government.Babak Deghghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati, “Firms linked to Revolutionary Guards to win sanctions relief under Iran deal,” Reuters, August 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/09/us-iran-nuclear-sanctions-idUSKCN0QE08320150809. The IRGC reportedly controlled one-third of Iran’s economy as of 2010.Mark Gregory, “Expanding business empire of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” BBC News, July 26, 2010, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-10743580. As of November 2016, the group viewed the possibility of renewed sanctions against Iran and the threat posed by ISIS as pathways to limiting foreign investment in Iran and reestablishing IRGC control of the economy.Parisa Hafezi, “Iran’s Guards using Trump victory to claw back power,” Reuters, November 21, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-politics-guards-idUSKBN13G1NB.

Basij

The Basij received a budget of $310.85 million in the 2015 fiscal year.“Iran decreases IRGC budget for next year,” AzerNews, January 18, 2016, http://www.azernews.az/region/91769.html. In the 2009-2010 budget, the Basij received $430 million from the government, but also reportedly earned large sums of cash through its control of non-profit foundations created by the Basij and IRGC in the 1980s and 1990s. The Basij is also reportedly a major investor in the Tehran stock exchange.Ali Alfoneh, “The Basij Resistance Force | The Iran Primer,” United States Institute of Peace, accessed February 27, 2015, http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/basij-resistance-force.

Key Leaders

History

 

Violent Activities

IRGC and IRGC-Quds Force

The Council on Foreign Relations describe the IRGC and Quds Force as Iran’s “primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”Greg Bruno, “State Sponsors: Iran,” Council on Foreign Relations, last updated October 13, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/iran/state-sponsors-iran/p9362. According to a 2010 Pentagon report, the Quds Force “maintains operational capabilities around the world,” and “it is well established in the Middle East and North Africa and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela.”Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/. Further, the report concluded that if “U.S. involvement in conflict in these regions deepens, contact with the IRGC-QF, directly or through extremist groups it supports, will be more frequent and consequential.”Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/. Illustrating this point, Ayatollah Khamenei in 2012 reportedly ordered the Quds Force to step up attacks against Western targets in retaliation for U.S.-backing of Syrian rebels in that country’s civil war.Con Coughlin, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Orders Fresh Terror Attacks on West,” Telegraph (London), August 22, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9490878/Irans-supreme-leader-orders-fresh-terror-attacks-on-West.html.

According to a 2013 bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to label the Quds Force a terrorist organization, the Quds Force “stations operatives in foreign embassies, charities, and religious and cultural institutions to foster relationships, often building on existing socio-economic ties with the well-established Shia Diaspora, and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America.”“Text of H.R. 854: Qods Force Terrorist Designation Act (Introduced Version),” GovTrack.us, February 27, 2013, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr854/text.

The IRGC and IRGC-QF have been accused of the following acts in individual countries:

Afghanistan:

  • The Pentagon has accused the Iranian regime of providing “ongoing” support to insurgents – and insurgent leaders Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ismail Khan in particular – through Quds forces, which are working with non-governmental organizations and political opposition.Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/. “Arms caches have been recently uncovered [in Afghanistan] with large amounts of Iranian-manufactured weapons, to include 107 millimeter rockets, which we assess IRGC-QF delivered to Afghan militants,” according to a 2010 Pentagon report.Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/.
  • The U.S. State Department suspects Iran, through the IRGC-QF, of providing training and weapons—including “small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, and plastic explosives—to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.Greg Bruno, “State Sponsors: Iran,” Council on Foreign Relations, last updated October 13, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/iran/state-sponsors-iran/p9362.

Argentina:

Austria:

  • On July 13, 1989, Iranian Kurdish dissident Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou was shot to death along with Fadil Rasoul and Abdullah Ghaderi after being lured to a supposed negotiation with Iranian government officials. The three Iranians who committed the murders were arrested by Austrian authorities, but later released. Austrian police confirmed that at least one of the suspected killers was bearing an Iranian diplomatic passport.“Iranian Wounded in Vienna Killings,” Reuters, July 17, 1989, http://articles.latimes.com/1989-07-17/news/mn-2921_1_iranian-kurdish. However, the suspected killers were allowed to leave Austria and return to Iran “after the Austrian government came under massive pressure from the Iranian government.”“Iranian President Allegedly Involved in Vienna Murders,” Austrian Times, June 18, 2009, http://www.austriantimes.at/index.php?id=14092. Iran’s Minister of Information and Security, Ali Fallahian, later boasted of the assassinations in a televised interview, saying: “we were able to deal vital blows to the cadres” of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Ghassemlou’s group.“Iran: Mykonos Trial Provides Further Evidence of Iranian Policy of Unlawful State Killings,” Amnesty International, April 10, 1997, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/015/1997/en/0fb294cb-ea83-11dd-b05d-65164b228191/mde130151997en.html.

Azerbaijan:

Bahrain:

  • The government of Bahrain has accused the Quds Force of providing explosives training to Bahraini militants opposed to the government. On December 29, 2013, the Bahraini Coast Guard intercepted a speedboat carrying weaponry and explosives meant for Shiite militants in Bahrain, particularly the 14 February Youth Coalition.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224826.htm. Following the incident, authorities discovered weapons caches in Bahrain, dismantled a car bomb, and arrested 15 Bahraini nationals.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224826.htm.

Germany:

India:

Iran:

  • The IRGC has been accused of numerous violent acts against the Iranian population, particularly during the 2009 protests against Ahmadinejad’s reelection. The Basij paramilitary organization is accused of brutally suppressing protests after the June 2009 election.“IRGC’s Basij Paramilitary Trains Special Battalions for Crackdown on Potential Protests,” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, February 24, 2014, http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2014/02/basij-battalions/.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of protesters were arrested after the June 12, 2009, elections and the Basij militia attacked student dormitories, beating the students and ransacking their rooms.“Iran: Halt the Crackdown,” Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/06/19/iran-halt-crackdown. Human Rights Watch also reported members of the Basij militia appearing in large groups at mass demonstrations and attacking protesters.“Iran: Halt the Crackdown,” Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/06/19/iran-halt-crackdown. There were reports of Basij members armed with clubs and chains beating up anyone suspected of participating in the protests against the government.“Iran: Halt the Crackdown,” Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/06/19/iran-halt-crackdown.

Iraq:

  • Former U.S. President George W. Bush accused Iran, and the IRGC in particular, of providing roadside bombs to militants within Iraq in 2007.Greg Bruno, Jayshree Bajoria, and Jonathan Masters, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 14, 2013, http://www.cfr.org/iran/irans-revolutionary-guards/p14324.
  • In 2007, Shiite militants, under the direction of the IRGC, kidnapped British computer expert Peter Moore and four security guards, who are held in Quds Force-run prisons. Mona Mahmood, Maggie O’Kane, and Guy Grandjean, “Revealed: Hand of Iran behind Britons’ Baghdad Kidnapping,” Guardian (London), December 30, 2009, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/dec/30/iran-britons-baghdad-kidnapping. Moore was released in December 2009, but the four guards were killed.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department added the Quds Force to its list of terrorist supporters after coalition forces captured a number of Iraqi militants with alleged ties to Hezbollah and the Quds Force.Greg Bruno, Jayshree Bajoria, and Jonathan Masters, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 14, 2013, http://www.cfr.org/iran/irans-revolutionary-guards/p14324.
  • According to the Pentagon, Quds forces are supporting terrorists through Iranian embassies in Iraq. In 2010, the outgoing Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, and the new ambassador, Hassan Danafar, were identified as Quds Force members.Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/.
  • The United States has also accused the Quds Force of providing Iraqi militants with armor-piercing explosives, homemade bombs, anti-aircraft weaponry, rockets, RPGs, and explosives.Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/.
  • Eliminating the possibility that Quds Force operations in Iraq are undertaken by a handful of individuals acting under their own volition, the Pentagon has linked the Quds Force’s actions in Iraq directly to the Iranian regime. “Although its operations sometimes appear at odds with the public voice of the Iranian regime, it is not a rogue outfit. It receives direction from the highest levels of the government and its leaders report directly, albeit informally, to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/.
  • In 2008, Gen. Hossein Hamedani, deputy commander of a volunteer militia in the IRGC, told an Iranian news agency that the IRGC is providing weapons to “liberation armies” in the Middle East, including in Lebanon and Iraq.“Iranian General: Tehran Arming ‘Liberation Armies,’” Fox News, October 27, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/10/27/iranian-general-tehran-arming-liberation-armies.

Israel:

Lebanon:

Mexico:

Saudi Arabia:

  • A truck bomb explodes on June 25, 1996, at a dormitory complex at Saudi Arabia’s Khobar Towers, housing U.S. Air Force pilots and staff, and kills 19 people, including 19 Americans and wounding 372.“Attorney General Statement,” U.S. Department of Justice, June 21, 2001, http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2001/06/khobar.html. A U.S. federal grand jury in 2001 indicted the leader of Saudi Arabia Hezbollah and 13 other members for the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, and charged “elements of the Iranian government inspired, supported, and supervised members of the Saudi Hizballah. In particular, the indictment alleges that the charged defendants reported their surveillance activities to Iranian officials and were supported and directed in those activities by Iranian officials. This indictment does not name as defendants individual members of the Iranian government.”“Attorney General Statement,” U.S. Department of Justice, June 21, 2001, http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2001/06/khobar.html.
  • Six Hezbollah members captured after the attacks implicated Iranian officials. After “overwhelming” evidence presented by experts on Hezbollah, U.S. Federal Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled in December 2006 that Iran was responsible for the Khobar Towers bombing, and ordered the Iranian government to pay $254 million to the families of 17 Americans victims.Carol D. Leonnig, “Iran Held Liable In Khobar Attack,” Washington Post, December 23, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/22/AR2006122200455.html. Lamberth pointed to evidence that the Iranian military worked with Saudi Hezbollah members to carry out the attack, and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security provided money, plans, and maps to help carry out the bombing.Carol D. Leonnig, “Iran Held Liable In Khobar Attack,” Washington Post, December 23, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/22/AR2006122200455.html.

Syria:

Syria is Iran’s main supply route to Hezbollah in Lebanon“Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224826.htm. and thus a strategic asset. As such, the Iranian government has an interest in keeping besieged Syrian President Bashar Assad in power.

  • Before the Syrian civil war, between 2,000 and 3,000 IRGC officers were stationed in Syria, helping to train local troops and managing supply routes of arms and money to neighboring Lebanon.Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, “Iranians Accused of a Plot to Kill Saudis’ U.S. Envoy,” New York Times, October 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/us-accuses-iranians-of-plotting-to-kill-saudi-envoy.html.
  • By Iran’s own admission, members of the Quds Force are acting in an advisory capacity to Syrian government forces in that country’s civil war, and Iran has committed itself to providing arms, financing, and training to Iraqi Shiite fighters in the war. A retired senior IRGC commander claims there are at least 60 to 70 Quds Force commanders in Syria at any given time.Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, “Iranians Accused of a Plot to Kill Saudis’ U.S. Envoy,” New York Times, October 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/us-accuses-iranians-of-plotting-to-kill-saudi-envoy.html.
  • In April 2011, the United States and the European Union accused the Quds Force of providing equipment and support to help the Syrian regime suppress revolts.Greg Bruno, “State Sponsors: Iran,” Council on Foreign Relations, last updated October 13, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/iran/state-sponsors-iran/p9362.
  • In 2013, two senior Quds Force commanders were killed in fighting in Syria. According to Iranian media, Commander Mohammad Jamalizadeh Paghaleh, killed in November 2013 in Aleppo, was volunteering to defend Sayyida Zainab mosque in Damascus, more than 200 miles away from Aleppo.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224826.htm.

Turkey:

  • In February 1996, two Iranians thought to be members of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran were assassinated in Turkey. An Iranian citizen, Reza Massoumi, was convicted of the killings. At his trial, he stated that he had acted on orders from the Iranian government.“Document - Iran: ‘Mykonos’ Trial Provides Further Evidence of Iranian Policy of Unlawful State Killings,” Amnesty International, April 10, 1997, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/015/1997/en/0fb294cb-ea83-11dd-b05d-65164b228191/mde130151997en.html.
  • In the aftermath of the 2009 election crisis in Iran, Iranian refugees in Turkey began to report facing monitoring and harassment from Iranian government agents inside Turkey.Deborah Amos, “Iranian Agents Track Dissidents Who Fled To Turkey,” National Public Radio, January 4, 2010, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122207587.

United States:

  • According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Mansour Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, acted on behalf of the Quds Force to plan a failed assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., in 2011.“Treasury Sanctions Five Individual Tied to Iranian Ploy to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx. The Treasury named Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani; senior Quds Force officer Hamed Abdollahi, who coordinated aspects of the plot and oversaw the other Quds Force officials directly responsible for coordinating and planning this operation; Abdul Reza Shahlai, a Quds Force official who coordinated the operation; and Ali Gholam Shakuri, a Quds Force official who met with Arbabsiar to discuss the assassination and other planned attacks.“Treasury Sanctions Five Individual Tied to Iranian Ploy to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx.
  • Abdul Reza Shahlai, a Quds Force official who coordinated the failed assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador, had previously been linked to the killing of U.S. forces in Iraq, according to Col. Timothy J. Geraghty, USMC (retired).“Marine Commander Links 1983 Bomb and 2011 Plot,” United States Institute of Peace, October 26, 2011, http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2011/oct/26/marine-commander-links-1983-bomb-and-2011-plot.
  • A 2012 New York Police Department intelligence report linked the IRGC or its proxies to nine foiled international plots against Jewish or Israeli targets.Mark Hosenball, “Exclusive: New York Police Link Nine 2012 Plots to Iran, Proxies,” Reuters, July 20, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/20/us-iran-hezbollah-plots-idUSBRE86J0SW20120720.

Yemen

The Basij:

While it was involved in the Iran-Iraq War, the Basij was primarily a domestic organization within Iran, where it acted as an extra-judicial police force.

  • During the early years of the revolution, before the new regime could establish an effective police force, the Basij was responsible for maintaining security, removing anti-revolutionary components and Shah loyalists from the system.Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 30. To do this, it created an information network nicknamed “the 36 million information network.”Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 30.
  • In July 1980, loyalists to the Shah attempted a coup, called the Nojeh coup attempt, but a Basij spy had infiltrated the group and reported it to the ayatollah’s regime.Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 30.
  • The Basij was kept out of the Iran-Iraq War during its first year, but its later participation is credited with transforming Iran’s position from defensive to offensive.Frederic Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, Arlington, and Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation, 2009), 30.
  • The Basij paramilitary organization is accused of brutally suppressing protests after the contested June 2009 election.“IRGC’s Basij Paramilitary Trains Special Battalions for Crackdown on Potential Protests,” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, February 24, 2014, http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2014/02/basij-battalions/. According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of protesters were arrested after the June 12 elections and the Basij militia attacked student dormitories, beating students and ransacking their rooms.“Iran: Halt the Crackdown,” Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/06/19/iran-halt-crackdown. Human Rights Watch also reported members of the Basij militia appearing in large groups at mass demonstrations and attacking protesters.“Iran: Halt the Crackdown,” Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/06/19/iran-halt-crackdown. There were reports of Basij members armed with clubs and chains beating up anyone suspected of participating in the protests against the government.“Iran: Halt the Crackdown,” Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/06/19/iran-halt-crackdown. Hezbollah and Hamas were also suspected of working with the Basij to quash the protests.Paul L. Williams, “Hamas and Hezbollah Unite to Crush Iranian Dissidents,” Canada Free Press, June 18, 2009, http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/12109.

Designations

Designations by the U.S. Government:

October 25, 2007: The Department of the Treasury designates Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224.“Treasury Sanctions Five Individuals Tied to Iranian Plot to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx; “Treasury and State Department Iran Designations Identifier Information Pursuant to E.O. 13224 (Terrorism) and E.O. 13382 (WMD),” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 25, 2007, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Documents/hp644report.pdf. October 25, 2007: The Department of the Treasury designates Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and their Supporters under Executive Order 13382.“Nonproliferation,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, accessed February 25, 2015, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/programs/documents/wmd.pdf; “Treasury and State Department Iran Designations Identifier Information Pursuant to E.O. 13224 (Terrorism) and E.O. 13382 (WMD),” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 25, 2007, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Documents/hp644report.pdf; “Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism,” U.S. Department of State, October 25, 2007, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/oct/94193.htm.
October 25, 2007: The Department of the Treasury designates Hosein Salimi, commander of IRGC air force; Brigadier General Morteza Rezaie, deputy commander of the IRGC; Vice Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian, in 2007 the most recent former chief of the IRGC Joint Staff; Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi, in 2007 the most recent former commander of Basij militia; Brigadier General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, as Individual associated with IRGC, designated under Executive Order 13382.“Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism,” U.S. Department of State, October 25, 2007, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/oct/94193.htm. September 29, 2010: The Department of the Treasury designates Mohammad Ali Jafari, then commander of the IRGC forces; Sadeq Mahsouli, then Minister of Welfare and Social Security; Qolam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejel, then Prosecutor General of Iran; Saeed Mortazavi, former Tehran Prosecutor-General; Heydar Moslehi, then Minister of Intelligence; Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, then Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces; Ahmad-Reza Radan, then Deputy Chief of Iran’s National Police; Hossein Taeb, then Deputy IRGC Commander of Intelligence, as Human rights abusers under executive order 13553.“Fact Sheet: New Executive Order Targeting Iranian Officials Responsible for or Complicit in Serious Human Rights Abuses,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 29, 2010, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg877.aspx.
February 2011: The Department of the Treasury designates Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran Prosecutor General; Mohammed Reza Naqdi, commander of IRGC’s Basij Forces, as Human rights abusers under executive order 13553.“Treasury Designates Tehran Prosecutor General, Basij Commander for Human Rights Abuses in Iran,” U.S. Department of Treasury, February 23, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1076.aspx; “Fact Sheet: New Executive order Targeting Iranian Officials Responsible For Or Complicit In Serious Human Rights Abuses,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 29, 2010, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg877.aspx. October 13, 2017: The U.S. Treasury labels the IRGC a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for its activities “in support of the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) … for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hizballah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban.”“Non-proliferation Designations; Iran Designations; Counter Terrorism Designation Update,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171013.aspx; “Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0177.aspx.

Designations by Foreign Governments and Organizations:

Canada listed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force as a terrorist entity in December 2012.“Currently Listed Entities,” Public Safety Canada, accessed February 25, 2015, http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx. The European Union levied financial sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in March 2012.“COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 267/2012 of 23 March 2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Regulation (EU) No 961/2010,” Official Journal of the European Union, March 24, 2012, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:088:0001:0112:EN:PDF. The European Union has also levied financial sanctions on individuals affiliated with the IRGC, including: Qasem Soleimani,“European Union Consolidated Financial Sanctions List,” European Commission, October 16, 2017, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/8442/Consolidated%20list%20of%20sanctions. Chief of IRGC Joint Staff Ali Akbar Ahmadian,“European Union Consolidated Financial Sanctions List,” European Commission, October 16, 2017, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/8442/Consolidated%20list%20of%20sanctions. Basij commander Mohamed-Reza Naqdi,“European Union Consolidated Financial Sanctions List,” European Commission, October 16, 2017, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/8442/Consolidated%20list%20of%20sanctions; “COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 359/2011 of 12 April 2011 concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Iran,” European Commission, April 14, 2011, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:100:0001:0011:EN:PDF. IRGC General Commander Muhamed Ali Jafari,“European Union Consolidated Financial Sanctions List,” European Commission, October 16, 2017, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/8442/Consolidated%20list%20of%20sanctions; “COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 359/2011 of 12 April 2011 concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Iran,” European Commission, April 14, 2011, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:100:0001:0011:EN:PDF. and IRGC Intelligence Commander Hussayn Taeb.“European Union Consolidated Financial Sanctions List,” European Commission, October 16, 2017, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/8442/Consolidated%20list%20of%20sanctions; “COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 359/2011 of 12 April 2011 concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Iran,” European Commission, April 14, 2011, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:100:0001:0011:EN:PDF.
The United Nations designated several individuals affiliated with the IRGC, including Qasem Soleimani on March 24, 2007;“The List established by resolution 2231 (2015) and maintained by the Security Council,” United Nations, January 17, 2016, http://www.un.org/en/sc/2231/2231%20List_17%20Jan.pdf Mohammad Reza Naqdi on March 3, 2008;“The List established by resolution 2231 (2015) and maintained by the Security Council,” United Nations, January 17, 2016, http://www.un.org/en/sc/2231/2231%20List_17%20Jan.pdf. and IRGC Air Force Commander Salimi Hosein on December 23, 2006.“The List established by resolution 2231 (2015) and maintained by the Security Council,” United Nations, January 17, 2016, http://www.un.org/en/sc/2231/2231%20List_17%20Jan.pdf.

Associations

Ties to other extremist groups:

The IRGC-Quds Force provides training, logistical assistance and material and financial support to many extremist groups. For example:

 

Taliban“Treasury Sanctions Five Individual Tied to Iranian Ploy to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx.

General Hossein Musavi and Colonel Hasan Mortezavi, senior IRGC members, were designated on August 3, 2011 as terrorists under Executive Order 13224 for providing financial and material support to the Taliban.Bill Roggio, “Iranian Qods Force commanders linked to Taliban: US Treasury,” Long War Journal, August 6, 2010, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/08/iranian_qods_force_c.php.

ISAF General Stanley McChrystal stated that Iran is training Taliban insurgents and providing them with weapons. This was corroborated by a Taliban commander who stated that Iran was training Taliban fighters in “small unit tactics” because they “both want to kill Americans.”Bill Roggio, “Iranian Qods Force commanders linked to Taliban: US Treasury,” Long War Journal, August 6, 2010, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/08/iranian_qods_force_c.php.

The IRGC has provided the Taliban with 107mm rockets.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2010,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 18 2011, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2010/170260.htm.

On October 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned the IRGC for its support of the Taliban and other groups. “Non-proliferation Designations; Iran Designations; Counter Terrorism Designation Update,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171013.aspx;
“Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0177.aspx.

Hamas“Treasury Sanctions Five Individual Tied to Iranian Ploy to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx.

IRGC head General Mohammad Ali Jafari admitted in November 2012 to transferring missile technology and other military assistance to Hamas.Ashish Kumar Sen, “Iran Admits Giving Hamas Technology for Missiles,” Washington Times, November 21, 2012, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/nov/21/iran-admits-giving-hamas-technology-for-missiles/.

Khaled Meshaal, the former head of Hamas’s political bureau, has traveled to Iran to improve ties and receive increased material support. “We [Hamas] stretch our hand of cooperation for materializing the Palestinian cause, because Palestine is an essential issue that needs more efforts,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, told Al-Manar television, a network affiliated with Hezbollah.“Hamas asks for more Iran’s support,” Tehran Times, January 15, 2015, http://www.tehrantimes.com/politics/121455-hamas-asks-for-more-irans-support.

On October 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned the IRGC for its support of Hamas and other groups.“Non-proliferation Designations; Iran Designations; Counter Terrorism Designation Update,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171013.aspx; “Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0177.aspx.

Hezbollah“Treasury Sanctions Five Individual Tied to Iranian Ploy to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx.

The Iranian government uses the IRGC Quds Force to transfer cash and weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god.

On November 4, 2009, Israel intercepts merchant vessel FRANCOP carrying 36 containers (60 tons) of weapons to Hezbollah. The cache includes 122mm katyushas, 107mm rockets, 106mm antitank shells, hand grenades and light-weapon ammunitions.Anshel Pfeffer, “Israel seizes ship in Mediterranean carrying more than 3,000 rockets,” Haaretz, November 5, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israel-seizes-ship-in-mediterranean-carrying-more-than-3-000-rockets-1.4742 The weapons transfer was reportedly coordinated by the IRGC, given its bases in Lebanon and financial support for Hezbollah, which is estimated at $100-200 million annually.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god.

An Iranian IRGC commander and six Hezbollah fighters were killed on January 18, 2015, by an Israeli strike, indicating increased cooperation between Iran and Hezbollah.Ali Alfoneh and Bill Roggio, “Senior Qods Force general killed in suspected Israeli airstrike,” Long War Journal, January 19, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/01/senior_qods_force_ge.php.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has helped Iraq, Syria, Palestine and the Lebanese Hezbollah by exporting the technology that it has for the production of missiles and other equipment, and they can now stand against the Zionist regime, the ISIL [Islamic State group] and other Takfiri [apostate] groups and cripple them,” IRGC aerospace force commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said.Stuart Winer, “Iran Boasts of Rocket Aid to Palestinians, Hezbollah,” Times of Israel, February 3, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-boasts-of-rocket-aid-to-palestinians-hezbollah/.

On October 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned the IRGC for its support of Hezbollah and other groups.“Non-proliferation Designations; Iran Designations; Counter Terrorism Designation Update,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171013.aspx; “Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0177.aspx.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad“Treasury Sanctions Five Individual Tied to Iranian Ploy to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx.

The IRGC provides Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with financial and military aid.Holly Fletcher, “Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” Council on Foreign Relations, April 10, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/israel/palestinian-islamic-jihad/p15984. It reportedly began sending support after PIJ was exiled to Lebanon in 1987.Holly Fletcher, “Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” Council on Foreign Relations, April 10, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/israel/palestinian-islamic-jihad/p15984.

South American terrorist networks

According to a 2010 Pentagon report, Quds Force members are actively developing terrorist networks in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America to attack the United States in the event of a breakdown in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West.Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/. The report further claims the Quds Force engages in “paramilitary operations to support extremists and destabilize unfriendly regimes.”Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command“Treasury Sanctions Five Individual Tied to Iranian Ploy to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 11, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1320.aspx.

The Iranian regime has been a long-time benefactor of the PFLP-GC.“PFLP, DFLP, PFLP-GC, Palestinian Leftists,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 31, 2005, http://www.cfr.org/israel/pflp-dflp-pflp-gc-palestinian-leftists/p9128. Iran and the PFLP-GC were the prime suspects in the aftermath of the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103.Michael Wines, “Palestinian Group and Iran Tied to Pan Am Bomb,” New York Times, February 8, 1989, http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/08/world/palestinian-group-and-iran-tied-to-pan-am-bomb.html. U.S. officials have said there is “no question” about ties between Iran and the PFLP-GC.Michael Wines, “Palestinian Group and Iran Tied to Pan Am Bomb,” New York Times, February 8, 1989, http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/08/world/palestinian-group-and-iran-tied-to-pan-am-bomb.html.

Los ZetasCharlie Savage and Scott Shane, “Iranians Accused of a Plot to Kill Saudis’ U.S. Envoy,” New York Times, October 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/us-accuses-iranians-of-plotting-to-kill-saudi-envoy.html.

The IRGC reportedly plotted with Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas in 2011 to blow up the Israeli embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina.Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, “Iranians Accused of a Plot to Kill Saudis’ U.S. Envoy,” New York Times, October 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/us-accuses-iranians-of-plotting-to-kill-saudi-envoy.html.

 

According to a 2010 Pentagon report, Quds Force members are actively developing terrorist networks in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America to attack the United States in the event of a breakdown in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West.Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/. The report further claims the Quds Force engages in “paramilitary operations to support extremists and destabilize unfriendly regimes.”Bill Gertz, “Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela,” Washington Times, April 21, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/.

Ties to foreign governments/leaders:

Syrian governmentRuth Sherlock, “Iran Boosts Support to Syria,” Telegraph (London), February 21, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/10654144/Iran-boosts-support-to-Syria.html.
Iran has threatened to use the IRGC to repel foreign attacks on Syria.Ian Black, “Iran Confirms It Has Forces in Syria and Will Take Military Action If Pushed,” Guardian (London), September 16, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/16/iran-middleeast. The IRGC has “several hundred” operatives in Syria advising the Syrian army and fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war.Ruth Sherlock, “Iran Boosts Support to Syria,” Telegraph, February 21, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/10654144/Iran-boosts-support-to-Syria.html.

Media Coverage

Rhetoric

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Qasem Soleimani, September 16, 2015

“The US officials believe that any reconstruction of their hegemony should be started from where had been their debacle, and this is Middle East, where the Islamic Revolution has extended its scope of influence. The US policies today have significantly changed compared to those in the past; in an attempt to revive its power, the US has been working on four major policies; the first is reinvigorating the US status through UN-mediated devices and other purportedly legitimate means such as human rights in the region; the second issue is to bring stability to Zionist regime; now any country with relations to Zionists is champion of trust for the US.”“US undergoing ‘serious damage’ in ME,” MEHR News Agency, September 16, 2015, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/110184/US-undergoing-serious-damage-in-ME.

Qasem Soleimani, September 16, 2015

“Eastern Europe and east Asia are rivals to the US; Latin and South America are since long a backyard of the US; however, these geographies do not provide the US with a source of power; an important geography where the US hegemony suffered is the Middle East; what has happened during recent 20 years between Iran and the US, is that the Revolution irrevocably tarnished the components of the US superpower status in the region, with many examples to illustrate the case. With making alliances, the US had been working to remove Hezbollah from Lebanese political scene; however, neither had it the power necessary to contain Hezbollah, nor did its alliances succeed even an inch in scoring concrete results; rather, these efforts strengthen Hezbollah in scales that now its leader Seyed Hassan Nasrallah clearly displays its power before the eyes of the west.”“US undergoing ‘serious damage’ in ME,” MEHR News Agency, September 16, 2015, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/110184/US-undergoing-serious-damage-in-ME.

Qasem Soleimani, September 16, 2015

“Containing and weakening the Islamic Republic of Iran is an important policy of the US under present state of the region; the campaign is carried out through direct confrontation and through its proxies in the region near Iran’s borders; a second approach consists of attempts to make countries in the region more dependent on the US.”“US undergoing ‘serious damage’ in ME,” MEHR News Agency, September 16, 2015, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/110184/US-undergoing-serious-damage-in-ME.

IRGC commander Brigadier General Mohsen Kazzemeini, September 2, 2015

“And we will continue defending not just our own country, but also all the oppressed people of the world, especially those countries that are standing on the forefront of confrontation with the Zionists.”Ariel Ben Solomon, “Khamenei calls to increase air defense,” Jerusalem Post, September 2, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran/IRGC-commander-Iran-will-bolster-military-until-Israel-defeated-Palestinians-free-414983.

IRGC Brigadier General Mohsen Kazzemeini, September 2, 2015

“[Military preparedness will be increased until] it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine.”Ariel Ben Solomon, “Khamenei calls to increase air defense,” Jerusalem Post, September 2, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran/IRGC-commander-Iran-will-bolster-military-until-Israel-defeated-Palestinians-free-414983.

Qasem Soleimani, September 1, 2015

“America plans to preserve [IS] so that Muslims will continue to need the Americans, and in reality they have turned this into leverage.”Arash Karami, “Soleimani: US power in region has declined,” Al-Monitor, September 1, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2015/09/soleimani-us-power-decline.html.

Mohammad Ali Jafari, April 27, 2015

“The traitor Saudi Arabia is following the path of Israel.”Thomas Erdbrink, “Iranian General Says Saudi Arabia Will Soon Be Toppled,” New York Times, April 27, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/world/middleeast/iranian-general-says-saudia-arabia-will-soon-be-toppled.html?ref=world.

Mohammad Ali Jafari, April 27, 2015

“The final cause and goal of the Islamic Revolution is creating an Islamic civilization. And we do our best to develop in the path of creating Islamic civilization.”Thomas Erdbrink, “Iranian General Says Saudi Arabia Will Soon Be Toppled,” New York Times, April 27, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/world/middleeast/iranian-general-says-saudia-arabia-will-soon-be-toppled.html?ref=world.

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