The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Sepah e Pasdaran e Enqelab e Eslami) is an ideologically motivated branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran's military. Like many young Iranians during the 1980-88 Iran–Iraq War, Iran's current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a member of the Army of Guardians, specifically as a member of the Basij militia. English-speaking media usually use the term Iranian Revolutionary Guards ("IRG"). In the US media, the force is usually referred to as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC"), although this force is rarely described as a "corps" by non-US media.

The Pásdárán have their own ministry, and are thought to number as many as 120,000 with their own small naval and air units. They also control the Basij volunteer force.

The IRGC has five arms:

  • Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
  • Air Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
  • Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
  • Basij
  • Quds Force

The force's main role is in national security, responsible for internal and border security, as well as law enforcement. It is also responsible for Iran's missile forces. The operations of the IRGC are geared towards asymmetric warfare and less traditional duties. These include the control of smuggling, control of the Strait of Hormoz, and resistance operations. Thus, the role of the IRG will complement the more traditional role of the regular Iranian military with the two forces operating separately and focusing on different operational roles.

The IRG were formed in May 1979 as a force loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but later became a full military force alongside the army in the Iran–Iraq War. It was infamous for its human wave attacks such as during Operation Ramadan, an assault on the city of Basra.


Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic RevolutionEdit

The Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution have two roles, internal security, and support for the regular Army. They have 110,000 men organised into 8 divisions. Small arms tend to be the same as in the Army. The main military vehicles are 'Technicals' based on Toyota Landcruisers, carrying a range of weapons including:

  • Heavy machine guns
  • General purpose machine guns
  • Anti-tank missiles
  • Surface to air missiles
  • Anti-aircraft guns
  • Recoilless rifles

Air Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic RevolutionEdit

The Air Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution has several roles including air defence, and support for other AGIR branches, but its main role is operating and maintaining Iran's force of strategic ballistic missiles.


Aircraft Role Number in service Number acquired Service entry Origin
Chengdu F-7M Airguard Fighter 24 24 1986 China
Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot Ground attack 13 13 1991 Russia (7 Iraq)
Embraer EMB 312 Tucano Light attack 40 40 1989 Brazil
Antonov An-74TK-200 Coaler Tactical transport 11 11 1999 Russia
Dassault Falcon/Mystere 20E VIP transport 1 1 1973 France
Mil Mi-171 Hip-H Transport helicopter 27 27 2000 Russia
Mil Mi-25 Hind-D Attack helicopter 16 16 1991 Russia (Iraq)

Ballistic MissilesEdit

Name Class Range Service Entry Notes
Shahab-1 SRBM 350km 1987 Scud-C variant
Shahab-2 SRBM 750km 1990 Scud-C variant, optional submuniion warhead
Shahab-3 MRBM 2100km 2003 Based on the Nodong-1
Fajr-3 MRBM est. 2500km 2006 MIRV capable
Ghadr-110 MRBM 1800km 2007 2 stages
Ashoura MRBM 2500km 2007 2 stages, solid fuelled
Sajjil MRBM 1930km in development first flight NOV08
Shahab-5 IRBM 3000km 2006 3 stages, based on Taep'o-dong 2
Shahab-6 IRBM 6000km in development based on Taep'o-dong 2

Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic RevolutionEdit

The Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution or Revolutionary Guards' Navy consists of 20,000 men and 1,500 crude boats and fast attack boats separate and in parallel to the regular Navy of Iran.

  • 20 C 14 class missile boats
  • 10 Thondar class missile boats
  • 10 Tir class torpedo boats
  • 10 Peykaap class torpedo boats
  • 1 Taedong-B class semi-submersible fast attack craft
  • 2 Taedong-C class semi-submersible fast attack craft
  • Approximately 1,500 armed motor boats, and RHIBs. Armament can include:
    • Heavy machine guns
    • Medium machine guns
    • Rocket propelled grenades (hand-held)
    • Surface to air missiles (hand-held)
    • Rifles (hand-held)
    • Multiple rocket launchers
    • Recoilless rifles
  • Commando unit


The Basij (literally "Mobilization") is a volunteer based Iranian paramilitary force founded by the order of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on November 1979. The Basij are subordinate to, and receive their orders from, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

They are famous for providing the material for human wave attacks during the Iran-Iraq War.

Currently Basij serve as an auxiliary force engaged in activities such as law enforcement, emergency management, the providing of social service, organizing of public religious ceremonies, and more controversially morals policing and the suppresson of dissident gatherings. They have a local organization in almost every city in Iran, and a branch in virtually every Mosque.

The size of the Basij is a matter of conjecture, with some officials quoting the figure of "20 million". The accepted figure is 90,000 full time, 300,000 reservists, and up to one million in a full mobilisation.

Only 25% of Basij carry weapons in their normal duties. The main weapon is the Kalashnikov rifle.

Basij membership can bring priviliges in education, business, and politics. They frequently act as a religious police force.

Quds ForceEdit

The Quds Force (Niru e Qods), is a special unit of Iran's Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. Its mission is to organize, train, equip, and finance foreign Islamic revolutionary movements. It further states that the Quds Force maintains and builds contacts with underground Islamic militant organizations throughout the Islamic world.

The Quds Force reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It has a number of geographical directorates:

  • Western countries
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India
  • Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan
  • Turkey
  • North Africa
  • Arabian peninsula
  • Republics of the former USSR

Estimates of its size vary from 2,000-50,000.


Inside IranEdit


As an elite group, members of Pasdaran have influence in Iran's political world. President Ahmadinejad is a veteran of the corp which he joined in 1985 serving first in military operation in Iraqi Kurdistan before leaving the front line to take charge of logistics. Nearly one third of the members elected to Iran's majlis in 2004 are "Pasdaran" according to analyst Roy Olivier.


The IRGC are thought to control around a third of Iran's economy through a series of subsidiaries and trusts. The Los Angeles Times estimates that IRGC ties to over one hundred companies that control more than $12 billion in business and construction. IRGC has been awarded billions of dollars in contracts in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, as well as major infrastructure projects.


Through the Quds Force, the IRGC controls, or effectively influences political and terrorist movements across the world, especially the Middle East. It effectively controls Hizbollah in Lebanon, and northern Israel. It exerts a strong influence on Hamas, and is probably involved in the Iraq War through Shi'ite insurgent groups.

It is regarded as a terrorist organisation by the United States.