In the short run, at least, s beef with has more to do with its aggressive, destabilizing in the Middle East than with its program, which, experts agree, is yes away from producing even a single .

The institution responsible for implementing the political wfe and mility aspects of that is the Pasdanbetter known in the West as the ian Ry Gud Corps (IRGC).

The IRGC was forged on the anvil of the Islamic R of 1979. It has grown steadily in power and influence over the Res turbulent 40-ye . Today the Gud is a , and ly powerful, politico-mility organization within . It has no exact counterpt in any Western nation.

The Pasdan functions as both the sword and shield of Supreme Ali Khamenei and the Shiite theocracy over which he pres, and it remns out the chn of command of s conventional med .The Supreme commands the IRGC, and his imprimatur, in the eyes of the siers of the Gud, legitimizes every act of violence it perpetrates.

The Guds primy missions e to defend religious orthodoxy at and to spread s anti-Western, pro-Islamic ideology throughout the . The IRGCs senior ship sees its primy enemies as the , Israel, and their ies in the Middle East. At , it wages a constant struggle agnst seculism, reformers, moral laxity, atheism, and anyone that chenges the righteous path of True .

The of the comes through very clely in this excerpt from an ely, IRGC ation:

Imperialism and global Zionism, with the of governments and their henchmen, e everyday involved in plots agnst the spread and penetration of the Islamic r among the hets of the of and the fore we can and must shoulder the global of Islam. We have no recourse except the mobilization of the fthful of the Islamic r and must, with the mobilization of in every region, strike fe into the hets of our enemies so that the idea of invasion and destruction of our Islamic r will exit their s. If our r does not have an internationa and aggressive roach, the enemies of Islam will agn enslave us cultury and politicy.

The extraordiny in exporting the ry ethos by any means necessy explns in lge pt why its the only foreign government entity labeled a terrorist organization by . made that determination this past April, but the IRGC has been at the epicenter of what historian Crist cs the twi w between and for almost 40 yes.

The Corps today consists of about 125,000 men, but its influence is much er than that number would indicate. Experts estimate the organization controls as much as one third of the ian , with an especiy strong presence in construction, , and . The Gud has its own tele s channel. Many of the countrys leading e former Gudsmen, and the organization is regully ced upon to thwt the efforts of groups like the Mujahedin-e Khalq that seek to ize s hdline political institutions and diminish the power of the Supreme .

To quash dissent or mobilize ian behind a pticul cause or project, the IRGC ship deploys the Basija vast pamility organization of some 10 million with chapters in many , es, government offices, and mosques. The Basij is a cross between a cultural organization and a that provides basic religious and mility instruction. Recruits e volunteers noted for their religious zeal.

The Quds Force consists of about 5,000 men. Its a kind of hybrid of the CIAs Special Operations Group and the Berets.

Western powers, especiy the , e most concerned with the of the Ry Guds elite special , the Quds Force; its navy, which is a distinct from the countrys regul naval force; and its balic missile force, which is rapidly expanding in capability and would be responsibility for managing if somehow found a way to develop them.

The Quds Force consists of about 5,000 men. Its a kind of hybrid of the CIAs Special Operations Group and the Berets. According to er journaDexter Filkins, its members e "divided between combatants and those who trn and oversee foreign assets." The force has es focusing on , , , sabotage, and unconventional wfe.

From s point of , the Quds most troubling activity has been its role as a force multiplier. Quds operatives have trned, funded, and med a vast net of proxy throughout the er Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, a handful of Shiite groups in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite mility in Saudi abia, to name but a few. According to expert Ray Takeyh of the Rand Corporation, this proxy force net today consists of 200,000 fighters.

s proxies have been deployed agnst the or its ies in the Lebanese Civil W of the 80s; the ws in Afghanistan and Iraq; the .-led coalition in the civil w in Syria, and the Saudi-Houthi struggle in Yemen, among . Interestingly, ian-supported Shiite fought with the n coalition agnst ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

General Qassem Soleimani, the chismatic commander of the Quds, is a national hero in . Dexter Filkins describes him as "the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today" and the principal mility strategist and tactician in 's effort to combat Western influence throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Many experts believe he has been one of the leading strategists for the Assad regime in the ongoing Syrian Civil W for the last several yes.

The IRGCs mosquito navy of 20,000 men be sm, but it remns a significant concern for the . Navy in the current crisis because of its highly developed asymmetric wfe capabilities. It has more than a thousand sm attack boats, a formidable ray of anti-ship missiles and naval mines, and it is highly skilled in hit-and-run and swming tactics.

The IRGCs balic missile program is the most robust in the Middle East, and it continues to progress. The programs Ry Gud commanders e determined to transition from liquid to solid propelled sys, which e more sustnable. They e also striving to improve accuracy, which still leaves much to be desi.

According to one of the leading experts on the Pasdan, Afshon Ostov, the Gud is at once a champion of s ry ethos and a pragmatic organization with an roach to strategic affrs that comes closer to realpolitik than Islamism the is in many ways a microcosm of the Islamic Re, from the struggle to ve and independent path to its controversial rise into a regional power.

Some able observers of ian believe the Gud has a significant voice in the making of s as well as its implementation. Given its symbiotic relationship with Khamenei, and deep roots in the countrys political , this seems entirely plausible.

Cobbled together by Ayatollah Ruhollah Kini from a wide ray of Shiite and med gangs during the r, it served as a counterforce to the regul my and force, which were regded as untrustworthy because of their close association with the Shah of . The Guds spent most of 1980 and 1981 conducting assassinations and mginalizing non-clerical elements of the r, including s and Mxists.

Not for nothing has the administration ced Quds 's primy mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorism.'

When the regul my performed lethgicy in the face of Sad Husseins invasion of in 1980, the IRGC stepped into the breach, activating the Basij, and employing hunds of thousands of ptiy trned wriorsincluding ng teenagersin massive wave assaults agnst the invaders. Often they defeated the Iraqis, but incur horrendous ties in the process.

After it ea that might defeat Iraq and come to dominate the region, the , , and the ab Sheikdoms threw their support behind Iraq. According to Ostov, the -Iraq W contributed significantly to the IRGCs panoid of the out . The w, of course, ended in stalemate in 1988, but not before the IRGC orchestrated a campgn to halt the flow of oil to and from Iraq through the Strts of Hormuz.

Protecting the free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf and the Strts of Hormuz has been a mission of the . Navy since 1949. When an ian mine badly aged the .S. Samuel B. Roberts, a guided missile cruiser, the . Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis, one of the lgest naval surface actions since W II. n ships and rcraft destroyed roughly half of s naval in one dayApril 18, 1988.

It was during the ely yes of the -Iraq W (1980-88) that Ry Gud covert agents cobbled together diverse Shiite groups in Lebanon into an umbrella organization the came to know as Hezbollah. The IRGC was intimately involved in the trning, funding, and ming of the Hezbollah terrorist cells that bombed the n embassy in Beirut in April 1983, and the much more costly suicide truck bombing that destroyed the bracks of a battalion of . Mines in that , killing 1 men.

After much dithering, Ronald Reagan decided to withdraw the Mines without retaliating agnst .

Nonetheless, IRGC-trned proxies continued to make a misery for ns in Beirut, capturing, torturing, and killing CIA station William Buckley, and ptiy blowing up the . embassy annex on September 20, 1984, killing .

In the 90s, says Ostov, the Gud became the standd-beer for hdline in , and was amply rewded for its with hunds of contracts for reconstruction projects. Its net of proxies expanded. The Quds Force played a pivotal role in planning the suicide bombing of an gentine Jewish Center in 1994 that killed 80, and the destruction of the Khob Towers in Saudi abia in 1996, where . r Force personnel flying missions over Iraqs no-fly zones were d. Nineteen servicemen were killed, and almost 500 civilians wounded.

The 9/11 attacks on the ly enhanced the profile and standing of neoconservatives in who wanted to use n mility power to reconfigure the Middle East a pro-Western, democratic lines. The abject flure of this project is due at least in pt to the IRGCs dexterity in spreading its pro-clerical, anti-Western throughout the region.

Ironicy, the Bush administrations ely es in the Global W on Terror (GWOT) in Afghanistan and Iraq had the effect of strengthening the IRGC at and abroad. The GWOT seemed to confirm suspicions that the ns were conducting covert operations in with a to overthrowing the Ayatollahs hdline regime and replacing it with reformers receptive to democratic and institutions. According to Ostov, the GWOT not only fled to contn the IRCG, it was a boon to the organization, and both directly and indirectly encouraged its political involvement, domestic expansion, and entry into the Iraq W agnst the ns and their ies.

The Quds Force in Iraq went into high ge, expanding its trning, ming, and funding efforts, as well as providing strategic and operational advice to combatant groups. It did the same thing on a lesser scale in Afghanistan.The Bush administration was so concerned about s support for Shiite insurgents in Iraq that in 2005 in began to make detled plans for attacking directly.

According to the administration, the Quds Force was directly involved in operations in Iraq that killed 600 n service members.

Today, wields a deal of political influence in Iraq through its ies, the Supreme Council for Islamic R and the Badr Corps.Members of both groups h positions in the Iraqi government.

In 2012, Quds force operatives attempted to orchestrate the assassination of the Saudbassador to the in a swanky Georgetown . The plot fell apt when one of the operatives tried to hire the assassin through an interry who turned out to be a DEA informant. Not for nothing has the administration ced Quds s primy mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorism.

The current crisis between and Tehran has made Gen. Soleimani even busier than usual, as his naval retn responsibility for defending s interests in the Persian Gulf, and have been directly involved in attacking tankers, shooting down a . drone, and seizing the tanker Stena Impero on July 19.

Should the decide on a mility , the s e very good that n will be engaging the wriors of the Rean Gud.

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