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The title “Revolutionary Guards” is short for “the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution” They are also known as Pasdaran, which is “guardians” in Farsi, the national language of Iran. The Revolutionary Guards were founded in Iran during the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution to carry out the mission of ideologically preserving the Islamic Revolution. The new Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers were anxious about possible intervention from United States and other countries in the West after the United States and Britain sponsored coup of Mohammed Mossadeqh in 1953. The coup, also referred to as Operation Ajax, restored power to the pro Western Shah Reza Pahlavi.
Ideological preservation includes, but is not limited to, safeguarding Iran from future interference from the West and maintaining an Islamic state. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, falling under the broad Ministry of Defense umbrella, operates completely independent of Iran’s regular army, the Artesh. Structured similarly to the Artesh, the Revolutionary Guards are outfitted with ground forces, navy, air forces, intelligence and special volunteer forces. They are specifically responsible for the control Iran’s strategic missile and weapons program, national security, border security, drug smuggling, resistance operations and control of the Strait of Hormoz.
With manpower of well over 125,000 and the possibility of 1 million or more if reservists are included, the Revolutionary Guards have pursued their mission causing a significant amount of debate and controversy in the international community. Most famous for their human wave attacks during assaults on cities, the Revolutionary Guards have been known to provide military training and arms to many terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East and the world.
One of the most controversial relationships remains to be the training of Hezbollah militants by the Revolutionary Guards. Other terrorist organizations believed to have been aided by the Revolutionary Guards are Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Taliban. In addition, the Revolutionary Guards have been suspected of helping to destabilize Iraq after the United States’ removal of Saddam Hussein 2003. Many believe that the Revolutionary Guards have trained, funded and supplied arms to Shiite militias during a time of rebuilding. The Revolutionary Guards’ involvement with militant organizations and suspected activity of supplying Shiite militias earned them a spot on the United States’ list of terrorist organizations in October of 2007.
Furthermore, the Revolutionary Guards have grown into more than just another army in Iran. They now dabble in all kinds of business and help dilute the lines of business and government. They control billions of dollars in engineering and construction capital, manufacturing and the illegal importation of alcohol and have links to university laboratories and weapons manufacturing.