Fact Box: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard: From Military Operations to Business Empire

DUBAI, Jan 19 (Reuters) – The General Staff of Iran’s armed forces, which coordinates activities between its conventional army and the Revolutionary Guards, warned the European Union on Thursday not to designate the elite force as a terrorist entity, state media reported.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament called on the EU to list the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, accusing it of repressing domestic protesters and supplying drones to the Russian military deployed in Ukraine.

Here are some questions and answers about the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s dominant military force, with its own army, navy, air force and intelligence wing:


It was established shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 to protect the Shiite clerical ruling system and provide a counterweight to the regular armed forces.

He is responsible to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The IRGC is estimated to have an army of 125,000 soldiers with ground, naval and air units. He also commands the Basij religious militia, a volunteer paramilitary unit loyal to the clerical establishment often used to crush anti-government protests.

The Basijis organized “human wave” attacks on Iraqi troops during the 1980s war. In times of peace, they enforce Iran’s Islamic social laws. Analysts say Basij volunteers could number in the millions, with a million active members.

The Quds Force is the IRGC’s spy and paramilitary arm that heavily influences its allied militias across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen to Syria. Its members fought in support of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and have supported Iraqi security forces in their fight against Islamic State militants in recent years.

Its commander-in-chief, Major General Qassem Soleimani, was killed by the United States in a drone strike in Iraq in 2020. His death fueled fears of a major conflict. Killing all American leaders would not be enough to avenge the killing of Soleimani, a senior Iranian guard commander later said.

The IRGC, designated a terrorist group and sanctioned by the United States, has been trying to shape the Middle East in Tehran’s favor for years. For example, he founded Lebanon’s Hezbollah in 1982 to export Iran’s Islamic revolution and fight Israeli forces that invaded Lebanon the same year.

Hezbollah is now a major military force that has played a role in regional conflicts.


The IRGC oversees Iran’s ballistic missile program, which experts consider the largest in the Middle East.

The Gardai have used missiles to target Sunni Muslim militants in Syria and Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq. The United States, European powers and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran for a 2019 missile and drone attack that disabled the world’s largest oil refinery in Saudi Arabia. Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.

Former US President Donald Trump has pointed to Iran’s missile program as one of the points not addressed in his 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which he cited as a reason for pulling out in 2018.

The Garda have extensive conventional combat equipment and capabilities which have been demonstrated in their involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.


Former Revolutionary Guard officers occupy key positions in the Iranian establishment, from the government to the parliament. Most of President Ebrahim Raisi’s cabinet is made up of former IRGC officers.

The IRGC’s mandate to protect revolutionary values ​​prompted it to speak out when it felt the system was under threat.


After the Iraq War in the 1980s, the IRGC became heavily involved in the reconstruction of Iran and expanded its economic interests to a wide network of businesses, from oil and gas projects to construction and telecommunications. His business interests are worth billions of dollars.

Reporting by Michael Georgy Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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