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Iran Table of Contents


Role in National Security

From the beginning of the new Islamic regime, the Pasdaran functioned as a corps of the faithful. Its role in national security evolved from securing the regime and eliminating opposition forces to becoming a branch of the military establishment. The Pasdaran's most problematic role, however, has been in intelligence.

Although little is known about the Ministry of the Pasdaran, its intelligence-gathering operations, and its relationship with SAVAMA, several reports have speculated that the Pasdaran has maintained an intelligence branch to spy on the regime's adversaries and to participate in their arrests and trials (see SAVAMA , this ch.). Khomeini implied Pasdaran involvement in intelligence when he congratulated the Pasdaran on the arrest of Iranian communist Tudeh leaders. Observers also believed that the Pasdaran had contacts with underground movements in the Gulf region. Given their importance in domestic politics, it would have been possible for Pasdaran members to be assigned to Iranian diplomatic missions, where, in the course of routine intelligence activities, they could monitor dissidents. Observers believed that Pasdaran influence might be particularly important in Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

Under the command of Mohsen Rezai, the Pasdaran became large enough to match the strength of the regular military. Its power base remained strong in 1987, with the continuing support of Khomeini and other religious authorities. Having eliminated armed leftist groups such as the Mojahedin and the Fadayan, the Pasdaran had fulfilled all IRP expectations. With the abolition of the IRP in 1987, however, observers were uncertain whether the Pasdaran would continue to enjoy unlimited support from high-ranking clerics. Staunchly religious, nationalistic, and battle-trained since 1980, the Pasdaran had emerged as a critical force in determining Iran's national security strategy. In a post-Khomeini era, the Pasdaran could wield enormous power to approve or disapprove governmental changes. In contrast to the Pasdaran, which had a primary responsibility for upholding the Revolution, the major concern of the Iranian military was the prosecution of the war with Iraq.

Data as of December 1987