Revolutionary Guards

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Revolutionary Guards

Revolutionary Guards, officially the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) or Pasdaran, Iranian military group formed in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution by young Islamic activists loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Originally intended as a people's army that would defend the country's Islamic rule and its revolutionary values, it also acted as a counterweight to Iran's regular military forces. The Guards grew into a major military force during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Now generally considered Iran's dominant military organization, it is responsible for the country's internal security, oversees Iran's strategic weapons, commands the volunteer Basij religious militia, and is in charge of the charitable foundations (bonyads) that are integral to the nation's economy; the group is also reported to be significantly involved in and enriched by black-market smuggling. The elite branch of the Guards, the Qods (Jerusalem) force, is responsible for its foreign activities. By the early 21st cent. the Revolutionary Guards included ground, naval, air, intelligence, and special forces components. The organization has considerable political influence; many members of parliament, cabinet ministers, and other politicians (including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) have been members. In Oct., 2007, the United States imposed sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards, which it accused of supporting terror attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, and against its Qods force, which it accused of supporting the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Under President Ahmadinejad, the Guards' political and economic influence has grown, and the support of it and the Basij militia was critical to the suppression of protests after Ahmadinejad disputed reelection (2009).

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