Features include interactive map, in-depth stories, and more.Download now. »
The week's top five must-sees,
delivered to your inbox.
The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, often called Revolutionary Guards, is a branch of Iran's military, founded after the Iranian revolution on 5 May 1979. Whereas the regular military defends Iran's borders and maintains internal order, according to the Iranian constitution, the Revolutionary Guard is intended to protect the country's Islamic 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 IRGC has 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, and in recent years has developed into a "multibillion-dollar business empire," and is reportedly the "third-wealthiest organization in Iran" after the National Iranian Oil Company and the Imam Reza Endowment. Since its origin as an ideologically driven militia, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution has taken an ever more assertive role in virtually 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 analysts to argue that its political power has surpassed even that of the Shiite clerical system. (via Freebase)