The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, founded after the Iranian Revolution on 22 April 1979 by order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Whereas the Iranian Army defends Iranian borders and maintains internal order, according to the Iranian constitution, the Revolutionary Guard (pasdaran) is intended to protect the country’s Islamic republic political system. The Revolutionary Guards state that their role in protecting the Islamic system is preventing foreign interference as well as coups by the military or “deviant movements”.
The Revolutionary Guards have roughly 125,000 military personnel including ground, aerospace and naval forces. Its naval forces are now the primary forces tasked with operational control of the Persian Gulf. It also controls the paramilitary Basij militia which has about 90,000 active personnel. Its media arm is Sepah News.
Since its origin as an ideologically driven militia, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution has taken a greater role in nearly every aspect of Iranian society. Its expanded social, political, military and economic role under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration—especially during the 2009 presidential election and post-election suppression of protest—has led many Western analysts to argue that its political power has surpassed even that of the country’s Shia clerical system.
The Chief Commander of the Guardians since 2019 is Hossein Salami who was preceded by Mohammad Ali Jafari and Yahya Rahim Safavi respectively from 2007 and 1997.
The IRGC is designated as a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United States.