The Rise of the Pasdaran. Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

By Rubin, Michael | Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

The Rise of the Pasdaran. Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps


Rubin, Michael, Middle East Quarterly


The Rise of the Pasdaran. Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. By Frederic Wehrey, et al. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2009. 129 pp. $26.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), or Pasdaran as it is known in Persian, has always played a unique role in Iran; it has served not only as a territorial defense force, but as an ideological army, merciless toward political opposition, and as the main tool in the regime's export of revolution. Over the past two decades, the corps' power has increased militarily, politically, and economically.

The Rise of the Pasdaran is a useful but flawed manual in understanding the IRGCs history and role. Separate chapters sketch out the organization's various domestic functions; its training and indoctrination; its economic role; and its increasing influence in politics. Not covered at all, however, is the IRGCs external activity, its role in terror sponsorship, including its relationship to the Qods Force, the IRGC unit responsible for the deaths of dozens of Americans. Nor is the IRGCs military doctrine or its divisions covered adequately. Perhaps the authors believed the focus on the Guards' domestic role precludes discussion of these matters, but this lack, especially regarding the IRGC navy and its ballistic missile wing, weakens the book, as both have a considerable impact on the domestic sphere.

The authors rightly note that IRGC involvement in domestic politics makes it vulnerable to factional disputes, but the study of such infighting is superficial. Determining the ideological breakdown of specific units is important for U. …

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