OPINION: IRGC’s Massive Control Over Iranian Politics and Economy

By Hamed Mohammadi

It has been nine years since the U.S. military special forces, on orders from former President Barack Obama, carried out an operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden, the founder of the pan-Islamic militant group al-Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden was reportedly a God-loving man who, in his last will, explicitly asked that most of his wealth, estimated at around $29 million, be spent in the service of “God and Jihad.” He regarded the fight against the U.S. as “Jihad for the Glory of God” and a privilege and a blessing for his entire group.

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Abdollah Haji Sadeghi, the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has said: “The IRGC derives its identity from a doctrine, and receives its strength from God, not through its capabilities.”

According to Mr. Haj Sadeghi, the leader of the Islamic Republic has set three tasks for the representatives of Velayat-e Faqih (the supreme Islamic jurisconsult): namely “promoting religious insights,” “strengthening revolutionary values” and “supporting progress.”

Religion becomes a dangerous tool in the hands of dictators. A totalitarian regime based on religion is even more threatening. During World War II, a large segment of the Catholic Church either remained silent or supported the German dictator Adolf Hitler. Hitler had the support of the church and the clergy, who placed their trust in God.

Sadeghi’s comments about the IRGC’s devotion to God are the Shia version of the same ideology and governing system that controlled the ties between religious institutions and Nazi Germany.

“For decades, the Catholic Church has been accused of staying silent over the crimes of the Nazis and even acting to ‘bolster’ the Third Reich,” Daily Mail said on May 3. “But a new report from the council of Catholic bishops in Germany describes how bishops ‘made themselves complicit in the war’ by not opposing Adolf Hitler.”

On the same day, The Times wrote that “the report into the role of bishops between 1939 and 1945 stated that hundreds of priests accompanied the Wehrmacht on the frontlines to offer spiritual guidance.”The Wehrmacht refers to the united armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945.

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Despite their massive differences, there are some similarities between the IRGC and the Wehrmacht.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush reportedly planned to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization back in 2007. The current editor-in-chief of Kayhan London Elahe Boghrat wrote a brief article in German titled “SS Revolution” in the same year which argued that the IRGC closely resembled the “Schutzstaffel” (SS).

The “Schutzstaffel” (SS) was a powerful paramilitary organization under Hitler and Nazi Germany.

“The terrorist organization [IRGC] has a massive presence in the Iranian economy. It works with religious institutions and clerics and their families to control a large segment of the service industry,” Ms. Boghrat wrote. “Iranians living in the country or exile gave up any hope of getting support from the German government, non-government organizations, and the EU a long time ago. The Iranian regime brutalizes its people in the streets. Our nation is suffocating, but no one cares about these atrocities.”

Ms. Boghrat wrote those lines when former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office. The IRGC has grown in size, strength, and influence since the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Nowadays, it has its tentacles in every aspect of Iranian politics and the economy.

In 2017, Kayhan London came in possession of a document that showed that senior officers in the Iranian military had ordered the removal of the word “Iran” from the armed forces prayer ceremonies and replaced it with “Islam” and “Revolution.” Immediately after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the armed forces’ morning prayers were changed entirely.

“God, grant us the privilege of being soldiers who hasten the return of Imam Mahdi,” a passage in the morning prayer says.

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Shia Muslims believe that the 12th Imam, Hujjat Allah ibn al-Hasan al-Mahdi, also known as Imam-e Zaman (Imam of the time), went into occultation at 14 in 869 AD and will return one day to restore peace and justice to the world.

At first glance, the IRGC seems to have a similar structure to the regular army. However, its operations and objectives are more aligned with that of a militia force, a jihadist organization, or a terrorist group. No other military in the world has deployed 200,000 troops outside its borders.

Speaking to a group of seminarians in February 2019, the head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court Hojatoleslam Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, said: “If we cannot help the Revolution, the [Shia] Afghan Fatemiyoun Division [Liwa Fatemiyoun], the Pakistani Zainab Brigades [Liwa Zainabiyoon], the Popular Mobilization Forces [PMF] and the Yemini Houthi Rebels will do it for us.”

The IRGC is the largest terrorist organization in the world that has wide-body aircraft, guided ballistic missiles, and multi-national armed militias under its control. It is also the most powerful organization within the Islamic Republic, enjoying unlimited control over the country’s economy. Besides its economic power, the organization has imperialist aspirations.

The IRGC and its special operation wing, the Qods Force, are, respectively, responsible for crushing domestic unrest and conducting unconventional warfare and military intelligence operations in the region and brutalizing protesters in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

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According to the Islamic doctrine, the sectarian Shia or Salafist ideology notwithstanding, each Muslim must do his or her utmost to establish an Islamic state. Those who have been systematically indoctrinated into Islamic Ideology cannot exercise critical judgment any longer and lose their identity. While Shia and Sunni Salafist militias are ideologically far apart, they share the same root and foundation.

Salafism is a revivalist movement within Sunni Islam that emerged in Egypt in the late 19th century as a response to Western European imperialism. It had roots in the 18th-century Wahabi movement that originated in modern-day Saudi Arabia. It is, however, less challenging to fight Salafist terrorist organizations than the state-sponsored Shia groups that have access to vast economic resources.

Islamic Ideology has replaced moderate nationalism in the IRGC. The IRGC promotes extremist nationalism, which resembles the racist ideology of national socialism of the Nazi era.

A significant segment of the Islamic Republic’s political structure comprises members of the IRGC. They occupy senior posts in every ministry and organization in the government. The IRGC regularly deploys military advisors, diplomats, and militia units to various spots around the world.

No other terrorist organization operates on such a large scale. Members of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and even the Taliban, which governed Afghanistan for a time, can be hunted down, surrounded, and destroyed, but not the IRGC. A government supports and sponsors the IRGC.

President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are spokesmen for the IRGC, in the same way that former presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohammad Khatami, and the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were.

The IRGC is facing an existential threat now that the U.S. has officially designated the organization as a terrorist organization.

The IRGC’s priority is not to protect the nation and the country but to safeguard the Revolution and the Islamic Republic regime even at the expense of the Iranian people.

This article was translated and adapted from Persian by Fardine Hamidi.

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