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 via email, Twitter or Facebook.
The Supreme Leader’s Representative in the IRGC (Namayand-eh Vali-eh Faqih dar Sepah)
Based on the organizational structure of the IRGC, and according to the statute ratified on September 6, 1982, the Supreme Leader’s representative is recognized as one of the seventeen divisions of the IRGC, but, in practice, this office is an independent organization that is directly controlled by the Supreme Leader. Although the organization is not part of the chain of command in the IRGC, it plays an important role in the decision-making of high-ranking commanders. The program designed by this organization was ratified by the Supreme Council of the IRGC (which was dissolved in 1989) and by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic. The representative is also a member of the Central Selection Committee and the Supreme Disciplinary Assembly of the IRGC. According to Article 33 of the statute, the Supreme Leader’s representative can monitor all activities and the commanders’ orders in the IRGC to check their compatibility with Sharia law and the Supreme Leader’s policies. If the representative objects to an order, the commanders in charge need to take that objection into account and rectify their decisions.
The Representative’s Office has priority in taking political and ideological training and propaganda decisions (according to Article 31). Some of the organization’s duties in the IRGC include: Koran and morality training, assisting the clergy with scientific education, promoting the IRGC and publicizing its achievements, supporting religious missionaries, organizing religious events, reviewing and approval of all cultural content produced by the IRGC, holding religious and spiritual events, checking the compatibility of IRGC policies and regulations with Sharia law, making sure that staff are loyal to the regime and the Supreme Leader, training political and ideological instructors, assisting clergy in combat zones, expanding the information technology capabilities of the organization, training staff ideologically and politically, and conducting research and studies.
The organization has its own subsidiaries: the deputy representative’s office and the following divisions:
The Ideological Training Division: promotes religious ideological training and is responsible for organizing committed forces of the IRGC. The activities of this division include launching training courses for Koranic instructors. The division is also engaged in dispatching moral guides to different levels of the IRGC. These guides are involved in activities such as the provision of introductory combat training for elite and faculty members of the IRGC in Qom, and formation of think-tanks and production of guidance containing instructions on Islamic laws.
The Coordination Division: is tasked with training and coordinating the IRGC and Basij forces. In the words of its deputy in 2014, this division had the capacity to train 220,000 people that year and constituted the most powerful network of instructors and professors with seven thousand organizational, non-organizational and invited instructors
The Culture and Propaganda Division: works in the field of cultural promotion of the Revolutionary Guards. Activities of this division include holding Koran classes and competitions for the employees of the IRGC, including women employees. Among its most recent activities is the production of video clips for various cultural issues and of audio books for promotion of reading among IRGC members.
The Clergy’s Affairs Division: appears to serve as a venue for control of the clerics of the Elmie seminary in Qom and its coordination with Ayatollah Khamenei. To this end, it aims to strengthen clerics insights and ensure they are committed to the principle of Velayate Faqih (The Mandate of the Jurists) and are complying with Khamenei.
The Human Resources Division: is responsible for providing and strengthening the IRGC’s manpower.
The Planning and Budget Division: is in charge of budget and planning for the IRGC and its preparation in cultural arenas and the threat that the IRGC is supposedly facing on the cultural front. In the words of the deputy of this division in 2015, these threats are divided into soft, hard and semi-hard threats. Accordingly, the command of the IRGC is in charge of missions in the hard, semi-hard and soft arenas, and the representative is responsible for preparing the IRGC to confront soft threats.
Other divisions such as the Public Relations and Publications, the Ideological Political Division and the Political Division fall under the IRGC’s organizational chart, but are controlled by the representative’s office.
The political division has several subsidiaries, including the department of political study, department of information and communication, the departments of political managers and guides, and the department of study and analysis. The office also publishes public papers such as Javan (Youth) newspaper and the weekly journal, Sobh-e Sadegh (True Morning). Also, the Basirat (Insight) website is run by the office. The national network of Hadian-e Siasi-e Sepah (the IRGC Political Guides) is another subsidiary of the political division.
The Political Office of the IRGC was established in 1980. The office is controlled by the chief commander of the IRGC and is tasked with gathering and analyzing important news and events. However, after the internal structural changes, the office was assigned to the Supreme Leader’s representative. The Ruydad-ha va Tahlil-ha (News and Analysis) bulletin is an important IRGC internal magazine, published by this office. The bulletin has two different versions, a highly classified version for IRGC commanders, and a general version for everybody else in the force.
Also of importance is the Office of Supervision by the Supreme Leader’s representative, which is in charge of monitoring all activities and affairs in the IRGC in order to provide the representative with comprehensive scheduled reports. Yet “all activities and affairs” does not include the military, security or even the economic activities of the IRGC. In practice, the Office of Monitoring only controls ideological and political training. Another important body is the Office of Islamic Confirmation of Regulations and Plans. This office was formed in 2015 and is tasked with approving the compatibility of the IRGC’s regulations and plans with Shari’a laws.
Other organizations controlled by the representative are:
The Imam Sadegh Research Institute of Islamic Sciences: was established in 1981 as the Islamic Research Center with the goal of producing ideological and educational textbooks and research material for the IRGC. In 1994, it was registered as a research center by the Ministry of Science. In 1997, the research center was inaugurated with three research groups in politics, theology and social sciences. In 2013, it was transformed into the Research Institute and in 2014, following a decree by Ayatollah Khamenei, was upgraded to the Imam Sadegh Research Institute of Islamic Sciences. In addition to research centers in politics, theology and sociology, this institute has the following centers: Center for Texts, Center for Training and Complementary Education, Information Technology Division, Digital Media Production and Publishing Center. It also has an office for scientific publications and one think-tank. The research centers have 12 scientific groups which are active in developmental, applied and fundamental research projects in the fields of humanity and Islamic Science. According to its website, the Zamzam Hedayat publisher is part of the Research Institute, and publishes more than 600 book titles.
Shahid Mahallati Higher Education Complex: is in the city of Qom, where Iran’s most important Shia seminary is located. The complex trains ideological and political teachers for schools and universities. It was established in 1982. Its first mission was to prepare ideological and political educators for the IRGC. In 1987, Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology officially recognized it and the IRGC expanded its operations to include cultural and social events as well as the training of clerics who are employed by different armed forces in Iran. The Supreme Leader’s representative in the IRGC is in charge of most major decisions in the college.
The complex has the following schools: theology and Islamic studies, culture and s, ideological and political studies, regular army draftees’ training, the Center for Training Clerics, and the Center for Applied Science and Learning. The Supreme Leader’s representative in the IRGC is in charge of approving the curricula and ensuring that they are in line with Islam and IRGC guidelines. In addition, the military training of all clerics who wish to serve in the armed forces takes place at the college. The complexx admits candidates for associate and bachelor’s programs from the IRGC, as well as from the army and police personnel.
The details of the subsidiaries and centers of the Shahid Mahallati Higher Education Complex are as follows:
The School of Theology and Islamic Studies: This school is active in the field of theology and Islamic studies.
School of Culture and Communications: This center’s website is undergoing construction, but according to the pronouncements of the IRGC’s representative in 2006, the activities of this faculty appear to aim at adapting communication sciences with the culture and teaching of Islam.
School of Ideological and Political Studies: The school appears to train ideological and political guides of the IRGC. This school publishes the journal Religion and Politics.
Center for Training Clerics: The center was launched following Khamenei’s recommendation in 2011 to train clerics working at the service of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic. To this end, the IRGC formed the center in the holy city of Qom and under the control of the Shahid Mahallati Higher Education Complex. Since then the center is active as a school within the complex. In the words of the head of the complex in 2015, “In the past four years, more than 2,000 clerics from different sections of the armed forces have undergone 75 days to four-month training courses under the direction of the center.” He also added that “ training in skills and familiarity on working in an organization has been beneficial for the clerics and the center is prioritizing other educational programs as well.”
Center for Applied Science and Learning: Established in 2006 after holding its first learning course in political promotion. According to its website, the center offers various courses according to the demands of society, and since its formation, has produced 2,000 men and women graduates with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The center admits students for associate degrees in physical training, cultural affairs and public relations, management of administrative affairs, management of office affairs, promotion of Islamic thought and education, and Islamic missionary education. The center also provides a Bachelor's degree in public relations, cultural management, Koranic educator training (with a focus on political guidance).
The representative has offices in IRGC bases around Iran. During the past four decades the following individuals have been the Supreme Leader’s representative in the IRGC: Hasan Lahuti (September-December 1979), Fazlollah Mehdizadeh Mahallati (September1980-December1980), Mohammad-Reza Faker (December 1980-July 1983), Hasan Taheri-Khoramabadi (July 1983-December 1983), Fazlollah Mehdizadeh Mahallati (December 1983-March 1986), Mahmoud Mohammadi-Araqi (March 1986-March 1989, as the Deputy Representative), Abdollah Nuri (March 1989-July 1990), Mahmoud Mohammadi-Araqi (July 1990-February 1992), Mohammad-Ali Movahedi-Kermani (February 1992-January 2006), Ali Saedi (January 2006-March 2018), Abdollah Haj-Sadeghi (March 2018-present).