The Revolutionary Guards: An Introduction
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most important institution. The military-security institution commands huge influence in every aspect of Iranian public life, from culture and the environment to the economy, politics and judicial process. Whatever the field or area, the IRGC is not required to report to anybody and is answerable to no one.
The IRGC was created early after the 1979 Islamic Revolution by the order of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Its declared mission was to safeguard the revolution and its accomplishments. As the years have gone by, it has expanded its sphere of activities. The entities under its control have multiplied to such a degree that it now operates effectively as a parallel government. It interferes in all current affairs of the country and it aims to have control over every aspect of the way Iran is run.
In a series of reports, IranWire presents a detailed portrait of this powerful and mysterious institution and, for the first time, identifies and explains all bodies, institutions and other entities operating under the umbrella of the Revolutionary Guards, at the same time outlining its activities through an infographic and an interactive diagram.
The infographic is a visual representation of the Guards’ organizational structure and presents all institutions under the control of IRGC in one map. It resembles a family tree, a portrait of the IRGC with all its children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — a dramatic picture of power in Iran today.
In the interactive diagram, the viewer is able to use the mouse to see how various entities under the control of the Guards emerged, and how they are connected — exactly like a family tree.
IranWire has aimed for this series and the overall project to be informative and a solid research tool. But it is not perfect, and there will always be room for updates, enhancements and further information. We welcome your views, ideas and knowledge, so please do get in touch so please via email, Twitter or Facebook.
Social and Cultural Institutions
IRGC’s Political Office (Daftar-eh Siasi-eh Sepah)
The IRGC’s Political Office, which is also called The IRGC’s Political Bureau, was established in 1979 and is responsible for “gathering, editing and analyzing news and political events.” Although, according to the IRGC’s charter, this office is part of the IRGC’s commander-in-chief structure, it became part of the Supreme Leader’s representative’s office. It publishes the “News and Analysis” bulletin (Rooydad-ha va Tahlil-ha), which is the most important internal publication of the IRGC. There are two versions of this bulletin: “Classified,” which is for the IRGC commanders and “Public,” which is for all the IRGC cadre. The office also publishes the Javan newspaper, Sobh-e-Sadegh weekly, and the Basirat website.
The Supreme Think-Tank started its operations in May 2017 and is under the supervision of the chief commander of the IRGC. It was established by the order of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He wished to see such think-tanks at every level of the IRGC, and for them to “plan to accomplish different missions including hard and soft wars and also help citizens with services and construction projects.”
Tasnim News Agency
Tasnim News Agency was established in 2012. Its overall goal is to “promote Islamic movements and Islamic awakening around the world.” The license owner of the agency is Ati Sazan Farhang. From the very beginning, Tasnim has been backed by the IRGC’s Cultural and Social Division. Currently, Tasnim is a political, social, and cultural news outlet and has an office in all 31 provinces of Iran. According to its website, the agency’s functions are aimed at domestic and foreign realms. Domestically, it seeks to cover politics, economics, society and sports news in line with the goals of the Islamic Republic’s “holy” system. To do this, the agency claims to utilize state-of-the-art information technology using various audio and video mediums. Externally, it aims to help the Islamic Republic’s software against the so-called system of domination and the forces of imperialism. To achieve this, it attempts to promote the nature and achievements of the Islamic Revolution using an Islamic populist (Mardomsalarie Dini) model as opposed to a liberal democratic one. It also aims to confront deviation from the goals of populist revolutionary movements and Islamic awakening around the world. .
The Javan daily newspaper was first published in1998 and is under control of the IRGC’s Political Division. This newspaper is linked to the IRGC, and has repeatedly praised the IRGC’s involvement beyond military affairs. The managing director of the news agency is a hardline Principlist (Osulgara) figure, Abdollah Ganji. Ganji has been one of the prominent critics of President Hassan Rouhani’s domestic and foreign policies. He has gone on record to counter those who have been critical of the IRGC’s political involvement. A case in point is his reaction to the centrist conservative MP, Ali Motahari. In 2015, Motahari said that the IRGC had overstepped its limits and that its interference in political affairs contradicted its original mission set by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini. Ganji criticized Motahari’s statement saying that he misunderstood Khomeini’s directives about the IRGC’s non-intervention in politics, and that the organization’s role of as guardian of the Islamic Revolution encompassed all of the Revolution’s realms and achievements.
Scientific and Educational Institutions
Imam Hussein University(Daneshgah-e Imam Hussein)
The Imam Hussein University - the most important educational entity of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) - was established in 1986. The university was originally established as an educational institute (markaz-e amoozesh-e ali) and, two years later, by obtaining the necessary permits, became a university.
According to its charter, the university’s central office is in Tehran, but it can expand into other provinces, if agreed by the Supreme Leader. Also, if it plans to admit foreign students, a confirmation from the leader is required. Its budget is embedded within the IRGC annual budget and the university is tasked with training the future officers of the IRGC and conducting military research. The students can either enter the university via the general exam (Concours) or take the exclusive entrance examination. It is only a graduate school and does not offer undergraduate programs. Students receive grants and scholarships and, after graduation, immediately start working for the IRGC.
The university also offers programs and benefits to attract researchers. Researchers can get two months off their military draft, or even entirely substitute the draft, by doing research. Elite students chosen by “Iran’s National Elites Foundation” (Bonyad-e Melli Nokhbegan) and the “Military Forces’ Elites Foundation” (Bonyad-e Nokhbegan-e Niroohay-e Mosalah) can substitute their military service with a research project after a short introductory military training.
Board of Trustees (Hey’at-e Omana)
The board of trustees of the Imam Hussein University has 13 members: the chief commander of the IRGC, the Supreme Leader’s representative in the IRGC, the minister of defense, the minister of science (or his representative), the director of planning and budget organization (or his representative), the head of the Joint Staff of the IRGC, the chief commander of the IRGC Ground Forces, the heads of human resources and the education and training offices of the Joint Staff of the IRGC, two university faculty members chosen by the chief commander of the IRGC, one chosen by the head of the Joint Staff of the IRGC, and the dean of the university. The board acts upon the Supreme Leader’s directives and orders in setting the general policies for the university. The board’s major decisions, such as appointing new officials, university bylaws, structural and organizational affairs must be confirmed by the Supreme Leader.
University Commander (Farmandeh Daneshgah)
According to the IRGC statute, “the dean of the university shall be chosen from the IRGC qualified officers.” The chief commander of the IRGC recommends the dean, and the Supreme Leader confirms him. The dean holds the office for three years. His discharge needs the Supreme Leader’s confirmation.
Alongside the university commander, the following officials are active in running the university: the chief of staff of the Supreme Leader’s representative at the university, faculty commanders, IRGC commanders, research institutes managers, the Intelligence Protection Agency at the university, and the religious education director of the Supreme Leader’s representative’s office. They are involved in policymaking, monitoring and confirming the university curricula. The departments of education, research, administration and finance, student affairs, planning and budget, post-doctoral, and engineering are under direct supervision of the university commander.
The faculties of the university are as follows:
Great Prophet has six research centers specializing in science and technology and 30 education and research groups. It provides Master’s courses in geography and holy defence, military geography, strategic information, geographic information system (defence studies). The faculty has two research publications: Afaq Security Research and Military Geography.
Cyber Electronic has five science and technology centers and 25 research and education groups. It offers doctoral degrees in electronic engineering, electronic warfare (telecommunications, radars, electromagnetics) and Master’s degree in electronic engineering/electronic warfare). The center has two publications that are: Journal of Electronic and Cyber Defence and the Journal of Ra’d.
Defense and Security has four centers and 20 education and research groups. It offers Master’s courses in Strategic Defense studies. It has two journals: Defense Policy and Journal of Sacred Defense.
Velayat Command and Control Faculty has one center and 12 education and research groups. The research committees of this faculty are active in training and commanders and directors in ground, air and naval, resistance and popular spheres. The faculty offers Master’s courses in defense affairs management (air, ground, naval, logistics and armed services, and popular resistance). The faculty has a publication, Management and Defense Research.
Imam Hadi Institute has one center and six research groups. It offers Master’s degrees in security sciences and protection, passive defense (national security). It publishes the Journal of Protection and Security Research.
Social and Cultural Sciences has five science and technology centers and 25 research and education groups. The science committees of this faculty are active in the field of social and cultural sciences, crisis management, psychological operation and soft war, cultural management, communications and media and teaching and training. It provides Master’s degree in crisis management and has the following publications: Islamic Education and Training, Women and Family, Military Psychology, Crisis Management, Soft War Observation, and Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense Studies
Strategic Management and Strategic Planning has six science and technology centers and 35 education and research groups. The research committees of this faculty include management science, strategic thinking, science and research management, institutional planning and transformation, enterprise architecture, human resources, institutional behavior and culture, performance management, strategic planning and resistance economy. The faculty provides doctoral degree in industrial management with a focus on systems management. The faculty’s publications are Islamic Management, Human Resources Research and Management and Strategic Management of Organizational Knowledge.
International Studies has four centers and twenty education and research groups. It provides doctoral degrees in regional studies and Master’s Degree in management of defense affairs (with a focus on special operations).
Technology and Communications has six science and technology centers and 25 research and education groups. Research committees of the faculty are active in the fields of electrical engineering, computer engineering and technology of electronic systems, command and control engineering, data communication engineering, aircraft engineering, basic and applied software engineering and security and coding. The faculty offers Master’s courses in electrical engineering (integrated electronic circuits), macro and nanoelectronics, power (electronic power systems and electronic machines), field and wave telecommunications, system telecommunications, secure and encrypted telecommunications, computer engineering and computer networks). The faculty publishes three journals; Radar, Scientific Journal of Marat.
Technology and Engineering has six science and technology centers and 30 education and research groups. The research committees of the faculty study in the fields of aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, chemical engineering and new technologies. The faculty offers Doctoral courses in mechanical engineering and industrial engineering and Master’s courses in industrial engineering (logistical engineering, supply chain and macro system), mechanical engineering (energy conversion and applied design), chemistry, chemical engineering, and aerospace (aerodynamics and aerostructures). The faculty’s publications are Aerospace Mechanics and Fluid Mechanics and Aerodynamics.
Basic Sciences has five science and technology centers and 25 education and research centers. The faculty offers Doctoral courses in physics (nanobiotechnology), chemistry (organic and analytical), and Master’s courses in chemistry (organic, mineral and analytical), biology (molecular cells), physics (nuclear and molecular atom), nanochemistry and applied mathematics. The faculty’s publication is Journal of Science and Technology of Modern Defense.
Engineering Institute for Passive Defense has five scientific centers and 15 education and research groups. The Research Committees of the faculty are active in the fields of civil engineering, passive defense, and safety and coordination of sciences and new technologies. The faculty offers Master’s degrees in passive defense and civil engineering. It publishes the Journal of Passive Defense.
Other institutes close to the university are:
The Counter-Terrorism Research Institute The center’s mission is to make the study of counter-terrorism compatible with the Iranian experience in warfare and Islamic principles. In the words of the commander of Imam Hussein University, Hussein Ahangar, “the center is designed to educate cadre of expertise and generate curriculum for promotion of the Islamic Revolution’s security doctrine.”
Logistics Studies and Research Institute was established in 1999 in Imam Hussein University with the goals of promoting integration and coordination in logistical studies, production of knowledge and logistics technology, resolving logistical issues and use of surplus capacity to improve development and the logistics systems of the armed forces and public and private sectors.
Advanced Materials and Nonotechnology Center was inaugurated in 2016 by General Hussein Salami the deputy commander of the IRGC. The center has seven specialized laboratories of synthesis 1 and 2, powder production, mechanical properties, advanced manufacturing. It has three research groups in textile and electronic materials, electromagnetic materials and structural materials. The center has a library with more than four hundred titles.
The Khatam-al-Anbia (the Last Prophet) Education Center was founded in 2012 with the goal of expanding the technical and scientific capacity of Khatam- al-Anbiya’s managers. The Center offers specific courses for Khatam- al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters managers.
Those graduates who have benefitted from grants and scholarships must serve in the IRGC after graduation. Imam Hussein University only admits male candidates and, after admission, applicants are required to pass a six-month basic Revolutionary Guards training course. In recent years, the university has tried to attract more graduate and doctoral candidates and currently offers masters programs across 33 majors and doctorates in nine programs. It has two military training camps, in Tehran and Qom, which are dedicated to short-term training courses. The university has 300 faculty members and 2300 students.
Imam Hussein Military and Revolutionary Guards Academy (Daneshgah-e Afsari va Tarbiat-e Pasdari-e Imam Hussein)
Imam Hussein Military and Revolutionary Guards Academy was established in 2008. In that year, the chief commander of the IRGC decided to separate this academy from Imam Hussein University. According to the original plan, the new academy was going to have three branches: comprehensive, research, and officers. But the Supreme Leader did not approve the research academy.
The chief commander of the IRGC appoints the academy’s commander. It trains low to middle rank IRGC officers and commanders. In addition, it also holds short-term training courses for higher ranked commanders. The academy only offers bachelor’s degrees. Students can pursue their education at Imam Hussein University.
Currently, all the IRGC and Basij educational undergraduate centers operate in coordination with the academy. They include the University of Aerospace Technologies and Sciences, Shahid Mahallati University, and Basij’s Motahari Academy.
During the Syrian Civil War, the academy deployed 100 officers to Syria to train the Islamic Republic allies in the region. Some of the high-ranked IRGC commanders teach at the academy, including current and former chief commanders Mohammad Ali Jafari and Yahya Rahim Safavi, and Commander Ali Fazli who was in charge of suppressing post-election protests in 2009. The current commander of the academy is Ali Fazli.
The number of students at the academy is estimated to be more than 5,000. In addition to military training, it offers courses in the field of humanities, politics, and cyber warfare. The Supreme Leader has been present at the academy’s graduation ceremonies every year.
The academy has four subunits:
1. The Security College which trains officers in security matters (particularly the Intelligence officers of Imam Ali Brigade, airline security agents and the officials’ bodyguards.
2. The Intelligence College, which trains IRGC intelligence officers.
3. The Technology and Engineering College: trains officers in the fields of technology and engineering
4- The Basics of Jihadi Sciences (Former Military Sciences) College: All students have to go through their general course in this college.
4. The College of Culture, Education and Religious Missions (Daneshkadeh Farhangi va Tarbiat va Resalat) is specialized in social science and soft power. Applicants for the School of Culture must go through the IRGC’s qualification process and then take part in the entrance examination of this school. All academy students must take their general courses at the School of Culture.
Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences
The Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences is named after the 12th Hidden Imam of Shias. The university was initially a faculty of medical science in Imam Hussein University. In 1990, and after various structural changes, the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences began its operations as an independent university. On March 8, 1995, the Supreme Leader approved its establishment. The Ministry of Health and Medical Sciences officially recognized the university in January 12, 1996.
Its most important mission is stated as the training of IRGC medical personnel and conducting academic research. All the medical facilities of the four IRGC forces and the Basij Organization are under the supervision of Baqiyatallah University.
Currently, the university only grants admission via scholarships. Students who wish to enroll first need to pass the general courses at Imam Hussein Officers’ Academy. This university also admits students from both the general university entrance examination, or the specific examination designed exclusively for its applicants. Before admission, students are required to introduce themselves to the IRGC selection committees for in-person interviews. After admission, students are considered as IRGC employees.
Board of Trustees
The board of trustees for the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences has eleven members: the chief commander of the IRGC, supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC, the minister of defense, the minister of health and medical sciences (or his representative), the director of the Planning and Budget Organization (or his representative), the head of the Joint Staff of the IRGC, the heads of Medical Resources and Clinics of the Joint Staff of the IRGC, one faculty member chosen by the chief commander of the IRGC, one chosen by the head of the Joint Staff of the IRGC, and the commander of the university. The board acts upon the Supreme Leader’s directives and orders in setting the general policies for the university. The board’s major decisions, such as appointing new officials, university bylaws and structural and organizational affairs, must be confirmed by the Supreme Leader.
University Commander (Farmandeh Daneshgah)
According to the IRGC statute, “the university commander shall be chosen from the IRGC qualified officers.” The chief commander of the IRGC recommends the university commander, and the Supreme Leader confirms him. He holds the office for three years, and the chief commander of the IRGC is the one who announces the appointee. His discharge also needs the leader’s confirmation. Alongside the commander, the University Council (Shooray-e Daneshgah) supervises policymaking, monitoring, and confirming university curricula. The council includes the following officials: the chief of staff of the Supreme Leader’s representative in the university, the heads of Medical Resources and Clinics of the Joint Staff of the IRGC (or his deputy), deputy commanders, research institutes managers, the representative of the Intelligence Protection Agency at the university, directors of all supervised hospitals, and the religious education director of the Supreme Leader’s representative’s office.
Assistant commanders supervise the following activities: education, research, cultural, human resources, medical, administration and finance, students affairs, planning and budgeting, and international affairs.
The university has four major schools: medical, pharmacy, nursing, and health and sanitation. Other important affiliates are: the Medics in Combat Research Center, the Genetic Research Center, Roshd Laboratories, and the Behavioral Sciences Research Center.
Jamaran Heart Hospital
Jamaran Heart Hospital was established in 1983 when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was suffering from cardiovascular disease. The IRGC medical unit established a specialized hospital to take care of the Ayatollah. The hospital was first called Imam Khomeini Hospital. After Khomeini’s death in 1989, the IRGC expanded the hospital and currently it operates under the name of Jamaran Heart Hospital, providing patients with heart surgery, angiography, emergency care, radiology, and dentistry. The name of the hospital refers to the area in north Tehran where the hospital is located.
Established in 1929, Najmieh Hospital was the first modern hospital in Tehran. The owner and sponsor of the hospital was Malek Taj aka Najm-al-Saltaneh, a Qajar princess. The Qajars ruled Iran from 1789 to 1925. Malek Taj was also the mother of Mohammad Mossadegh, the prime minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953. Malek Taj built the hospital with her personal wealth and dedicated half of its beds to poor patients without money. She appointed her daughters as managers. In the years leading to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the hospital was part of the “Imperial Medical Center” (Markaz-e Pezeshki-e Shahanshahi). The hospital was confiscated after the Revolution and was assigned to the IRGC. Currently, the hospital specializes in gynecology, obstetrics, and internal medicine.
Borzuyeh Medical Group LLC started building medical centers in the capital Tehran and the city of Arak in the 1970’s, but the 1979 Islamic Revolution stopped the construction of the hospitals. The Arak Hospital was almost completed and 80 percent of the Tehran project was also finished. After this the near-finished hospitals in Arak and Tehran were confiscated and assigned to the Mostazafan (the Oppressed) Foundation.
In March 1985, Mohsen Rafighdoost, the IRGC Minister) asked Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to transfer the ownership of Baqiat-Allah Hospital from the Mostazafan Foundation to the IRGC so it could be used for the treatment of those injured during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Ayatollah Khomeini agreed. In June 1985, the board of directors of Borzuyeh Medical Group wrote a letter to Ayatollah Khomeini and asked him to stop the violation of their rights and properties. Ayatollah Khomeini wrote a letter to Mir-Hussein Mousavi, the prime minister at the time, asking him to grant them their wish, but nothing happened and the hospital remained in the hands of the IRGC. The medical group did not give up and continued their efforts over the following years, with a lawsuit in an administrative court to attempt to take their properties back.
The hospital’s land in Tehran was more than 3,000 square meters or 3,230 square feet. After completing the construction of the hospital, the IRGC tasked Imam Hussein University to run the hospital, which fell under the duties of its medical school. In 1989 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the IRGC to use the hospital for educational purposes as well. This made it well known in the medical community. Currently, it has 650 beds and provides 5,000 patients with medical care on a daily basis, making it one of Tehran’s largest medical facilities. The hospital admits the general public, but IRGC personnel and their families have priority.
The hospital has the following faculties:
The Faculty of Medicine began admitting students in 1991. Between 1991 to 1995, the faculty admitted about 100 students per year due to the IRGC’s increasing demand for medical staff. Since 1995, the faculty has admitted about 30 students per year.
The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science began admitting students from 2012. In 2016, the head of the faculty, Abdolmajid Charaqail told the media that the faculty was admitting doctorate students from Basiji and non-Basiji participants of the university entrance exam, Konkur, with scholarships. He added that students who gained places would obtain the benefits and salaries of official personnel of the armed forces.
The Faculty of Public Health was previously established as the Health Group in Imam Hussein University, the faculty was founded in 1994 with the goal of training health personnel for military hygiene and a cadre to meet the IRGC’s needs, together with conducting research in military health. The university began to offer Master’s degrees in military health in 1997 and Master’s degrees in military nutrition in 2005. Since 2010, the faculty admits qualified students for courses in Bachelor of Health, Bachelor of Engineering Professional Health, Bachelor of Health Services Management and a number of Master’s courses in health, including environmental health engineering, professional health and general health.
The Faculty of Nursing has a stated mission to train revolutionary, ideologically committed and experts with a military background in the field of nursing, in particular martial medicine in order to meet the needs of the armed forces (including, the IRGC) and their families.