Iran: Dilemmas of Dual Containment

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Ahmed S. Hashim | Go to book overview

3
Internal Security

While much of the analysis of the character of the Iranian government focuses on its economic policies and the politics of its ruling elite, there are other important indications of the government's character. Pragmatic efforts to solve economic problems do not necessarily mean a regime is tolerant, moderate, or has changed its original ambitions. The actions of Iran's internal security forces provide additional insights into the attitudes that shape its intelligence operations overseas.


The Iranian Security Forces

Iran's internal security forces have several major elements. Several government agencies are responsible for internal security, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the Ministry of Interior, and the Revolutionary Guards, a military force established after the revolution which is coequal to the regular military. Paramilitary volunteer forces known as Hizbollahis or Basijis also conduct vigilante actions.

Iranian intelligence plays a major role in the surveillance of hostile movements and potentially hostile ethnic and religious groups. The Revolutionary Guards has a major internal security mission, particularly the Guards infantry forces. There are also some 740 Basij Ashura battalions in the Revolutionary Guards for internal security missions and riot control. According to some reports, the Basij now has up to 230,000 young men who are used at the local level to enforce Islamic values, report on threats to the revolution, and act as a mobilization base for the Revolutionary Guards. These Basij forces are present in virtually every public area and activity in Iran and routinely harass any man or woman that deviates from what the Basij regards as the proper norm.

The Ministry of the Interior has a major internal security mission, and law enforcement agencies like the police and gendarmerie often have senior officers from the Revolutionary Guards. There is also a growing force of local volunteers, or Hezbollah, who monitor popular behavior to

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