ISIS has captivated Western attention for so long with its gruesome beheadings, stabbings, vehicular homicides, shootings and bombings in Europe and the United States, the horrific aftermaths deservedly the focus of television news, that virtually forgotten is the world’s biggest terror threat – Iran’s IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The IRGC, often misidentified in Western press as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps dwarfs ISIS by any measure.
ISIS never had more than about 30,000 fighters, equipped mostly with small arms, with very little access to high-tech weaponry.
In contrast, the IRGC has about 125,000 fighters. It is the only terror organization in the world with an army, navy, and special forces.
To truly appreciate the political standing of Iran’s regular armed forces in today’s Islamic Republic, the key is to take into account the impact of the ongoing and unparalleled internal feud in the top ranks of the regime. The feud, pitching the factions of Supreme Leader Ayatollah ‘Ali Khamenei and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad against one another in a bitter contest for power, has turned the Artesh into an inescapable entity that neither faction can afford to ignore. Given, however, that Ayatollah Khamenei is the ultimate Commander-in-Chief in Iran’s constitutional setup, he appears to be succeeding in his attempts to shape the Artesh with the aim of further consolidating his grip on power in Iran.
As Khamenei has set out to appeal to Artesh commanders, as well as the rank-and-file, two developments are evident. First, the Artesh is increasingly idealized by the state-controlled media. This is a noticeable trend because the Islamist regime has largely sought to ignore or sideline the regular armed forces in the course of the 32-year history of the Islamic Republic. Instead, the Artesh is now periodically put in the front position when the regime in Tehran seeks to brandish its self-declared military capabilities. In contrast, up until recently the Artesh was rarely if ever given the chance to outshine the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its politically-favored military counterweight.
Second, there are now a growing number of joint Artesh-IRGC military exercises and operations. This development in particular suggests that Khamenei’s efforts to bring the Artesh under his tutelage might go beyond merely rhetoric and public relations campaigns at the hands of state-run media.
Full article: Iran: Ayatollah Khamenei’s Advances Toward The Artesh – Analysis (Eurasia Review)