Pasdaran incorporated evolving from revolutionary to praetorian guard
Arasli, Jahangir E.
Bruneau, Thomas C.
Sotomayor, Arturo C.
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Although the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was originally an ideologically driven militia, it has recently taken an ever more assertive role in virtually every aspect of Iranian society. Why and how did the IRGC become such a relevant actor? This study traces the historical and political evolution of the IRGC and challenges the conventional wisdom that portrays the Corps as a mere instrument of the state. Instead, it argues that the rise of the IRGC within the Iranian regime is the result of two negative dynamics in civil-military relations. First, the mismanagement of service rivalries between Iran's Army and the Corps allowed the latter to have excessive control over key state functions, including security strategy, foreign policy and the defense sector. Second, once empowered, there was nothing to keep the IRGC checked and balanced, since Iran suffers from a weak system of civilian control. These two perverse dynamics not only shaped the Corps' identity as a self-contained corporation, but it actually propelled it into the center of Iran's politics.