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Graphic shows a timeline of th Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force.
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MILITARY

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

By Duncan Mil

May 9, 2019 - The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is Iran’s most potent security, military, political and economic organization, responsible for the protection and survival of the regime.

In recent days, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo claimed that Iranian forces are “escalating their activity” and said the threat of attacks against U.S. forces in the region was high.

The Pentagon has deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region, which includes the Middle East and Central Asia.

The move comes after the Pentagon increased its estimate on the number of U.S. military personnel killed by Iranian-backed forces in Iraq between 2003 to 2011 from 500 troops to at least 603. That means approximately one in every six American combat fatalities -- 17 per cent -- in Iraq were attributable to Iran and its IRGC-Quds Force.

The commander of the Quds Force is Major General Qassem Suleimani, a small man of sixty-two, with silver hair and a close-cropped beard. Suleimani took command of the Quds Force in 1998, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favour.

Although the U.S. and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980, after the Tehran embassy siege, Washington maintained contact with Suleimani. Goodwill continued in the days after the 9/11 attacks, with Suleimani eager to help the U.S. destroy their mutual enemy, the Taliban.

The high point of U.S.-Iranian cooperation came after Saddam Hussein’s regime collapsed in 2003, with Ryan Crocker, then a senior State Department official, and Suleimani jointly vetting potential Shiite members of Iraq’s fledgeling government -- the Iraqi Governing Council.

And as recently as March 2015, during the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Tikrit from so-called Islamic State, President Barack Obama ordered U.S. Air Force support for offensives by Quds Force and Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units, which were under Suleimani’s command.

Now, the Trump administration is honing its anti-Iran campaign. In recent weeks, the U.S. has intensified its sanctions-heavy campaign against Iran. In April, it designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, and then in May, it declined to extend waivers for Iran’s oil customers to continue purchases.

On May 8, the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from a 2015 landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, Trump ordered new sanctions on Iran, this time targeting the Tehran’s export revenues from its industrial metals sector.

PUBLISHED: 09/05/2019; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Associated Press, Getty Images
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