“The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in Iran is a name to cement fear, terror and saber-rattling. In the region Iran’s military wing in all issues is seen in the Quds Force under the command of Qassem Suleimani. The IRGCestablished its political role alongside its military role, after Khomeini came to power in 1979, under the disguise of defending the Islamic revolution.”
“What is the IRGC? And what role does it play in various periods in the region? Is the IRGC a fearful force or has it been exaggerated in this regard. This is a subject that we will learn more about from Mr. Mehdi Abrishamchi.”
Source: Arabic Language Orient TV – 26 May 2015
Translation of Orient TV exclusive interview with Mehdi Abrishamchi
The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in Iran is a name to cement fear, terror and saber-rattling. In the region Iran’s military wing in all issues is seen in the Quds Force under the command of Qassem Suleimani. The IRGCestablished its political role alongside its military role, after Khomeini came to power in 1979, under the disguise of defending the Islamic revolution. The IRGC even has the last word in the economy and military industries after Khamenei, being the regime’s supreme leader. It is also said that decisions on Iran’s nuclear program is all up to the IRGC. However, outside of the country, from Lebanon to Syria, and meddling to bring the popular revolution in this country to a failure, and in Iraq to defend the government associated to Tehran, and recently in Yemen and the Houthi movements to gain control and dominance over the Yemenis lives and to turn this country into one of Iran’s spheres. What is the IRGC? And what role does it play in various periods in the region? Is the IRGC a fearful force or has it been exaggerated in this regard. This is a subject that we will learn more about from Mr. Mehdi Abrishamchi.
Mr. Mehdi Abrishamchi was born in 1948. He is a chemistry graduate from Tehran Engineering University. He is the representative of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and Chair of the National Council of Resistance of Iran Peace Commission. 47 years ago he joinbed the PMOI (MEK) and in 1971 he was arrested by the Shah’s regime along with the PMOI (MEK) founders. He spent 7 years in jail and was released during the anti-monarchial revolution and the overthrow of the Shah regime. He is from a renowned Azerbaijan family and in the first parliamentary elections following the Shah’s over throw he was a candidate from Tehran and received 350,000 votes. However, Khomeini’s regime banned him and other PMOI members from reaching the parliament. Before leaving Tehran his home was targeted in many IRGC attacks, but he was fortunate to exit Iran safely. He has represented the Iranian Resistance in many international delegations.
He has also written numerous books about the Resistance and the Iranian regime, including one called the “Revolutionary Guards” that has been published in French.
Anchorman: Greetings to you
How will you inform us about the establishment and formation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards?
Iranian Resistance member Mehdi Abrishamchi: Before answering your question I see it fit to send my greetings and hail your audience. I would also like to hail all those people who are struggling against the Iranian regime’s conspiracies in various Arabic and Middle East countries, especially the dear Syrian rebels. I would also like to congratulate the revolutionaries and the Free Syrian Army in their recent victories in Idlib and other areas. I sent them my warmest greetings, I salute them and they are doing a wonderful job. Their victory is definitely near and revolution will always prevail, meaning the overthrow of the Bashar Assad regime and the Khomeini regime in Iran.
Anchorman: We, too, salute you and are very proud to have you on Orient TV. Please.
Mehdi Abrishamchi: Regarding your question about the IRGC, it was established in 1979 immediately after the overthrow of the Shah. The reason was that Khomeini, who had stolen the anti-monarchial revolution and due to his reactionary and un-Islamic nature, didn’t want to respond to the Iranian people’s demands and slogans, with freedom topping the list. Therefore, he decided to quickly form a force by the name of the Revolutionary Guards and his objective was to suppress the people and spy on the opposition that was against the mullahs’ regime from the very beginning, because Khomeini could see that he could not resolve the political and social problems inside Iran.
Therefore, he had two paths before him: either give up power or crackdown on the people. He chose the second path and formed the IRGC in 1979. The first commander of the IRGC was an individual by the name of Javad Mansouri, a high-ranking criminal of the mullahs’ regime. After a short period, Mohsen Rezaie was assigned by Khomeini to form the IRGC intelligence branch to gather information on the mullahs’ opposition and dissidents.
Anchorman: Are you saying that from the beginning the IRGC only had an intelligence role?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: No. Other than the IRGC the regime had various intelligence systems that were accompanied with crackdown patrols. Mohsen Rezaie in 1981 became the IRGC commander and he remained in this position until 1997. After him was Rahim Safavi who led the IRGC from 1997 to 2007. From 2007 to this day the IRGC commander has been an individual by the name of Mohammad Ali Jafari.
Anchorman: What is the difference between the IRGC and the army? Does the IRGC inside Iran carry out its measures independently?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: As I said from the beginning, with the start of the Iran-Iraq War, the role of the IRGC was internal crackdown. Khomeini had no trust in a classic army because many of the personnel and officers were in their ranks and files from the Shah era, and they were cooperating with opposition forces, including the PMOI. Therefore, Khomeini could not completely trust the army. Thus, he established this new force, meaning the IRGC, alongside the army in order to use it in the internal crackdown and the Iran-Iraq War. Khomeini used the war to strengthen the IRGC.
Anchorman: Do you mean that the IRGC is not an action military force, but it is also a political force on the ground?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: Yes, for two reasons the IRGC plays a political role. First of all, the IRGC is the pillar force in internal crackdown inside Iran and various cities. Second, its role is to export the so-called revolution, but it is in fact sending its fundamentalism and reactionary mentality outside of Iran, to the region and the entire globe. This is in line with Khomeini’s motto of seizing Quds through Karbala, and this was a mission assigned to the IRGC. Here, if you allow me, I will show a map that shows Iran’s intentions in exporting the revolution. This map shows the regime’s plot to export “revolution” from Iraq, to Syria, Jordan and then conquer Quds. This IRGC map was top secret at the time that we obtained and published it.
Anchorman: We will look more precisely into the IRGC’s role outside of Iran. However, on IRGC’s role inside Iran, as you already know, during the Green Revolution the IRGC carried out vast crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Iran’s streets and used force.
Mehdi Abrishmachi: The role of the IRGC inside Iran is to act as the spinal cord of all crackdown forces. This includes the Bassij paramilitary forces in all Iranian cities. The IRGC has 34 divisions across Iran’s provinces, with two divisions in Tehran to suppress the people. The IRGC had prior to 2009 and the so-called Green Revolution been suppressing the Iranian people. On June 20th, 181, after the PMOI announced a 500,000-strong rally in which the youth and people took part in, the IRGC opened fire on the people in that demonstration while the people were only demanding and chanting for freedom. Therefore, the IRGC played its crackdown role again in the uprisings of Mashhad, Isfahan and Ghazvin where thousands of people were killed. In 2009, as you said, in the demonstrations and uprisings that were staged on 27 December 2009 the repressive and IRGC forces carried out attacks on the people, killing and executing many, and also arresting and throwing young men and women to jail.
Anchorman: The IRGC is renowned throughout the world on its use of violence. We all remember the 2009 uprising how it reacted towards peaceful protests, treating the Iranian people with horrible measures. Is it true that the IRGC requires everyone that serves in the military must also pass through the IRGC?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: No. The IRGC does not have mandatory service for soldiers. But the people don’t want to join the IRGC because they reject this force, and thus the Iranian regime uses laws of mandatory service to force some people to serve in the IRGC. However, some youths pass through the army service program.
Anchorman: Some people say the IRGC is in charge of decisions regarding Iran’s oil and nuclear program and even declaring war or peace on a neighboring country?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: The IRGC doesn’t have the last word. It is Khamenei, the supreme leader that makes the final decisions. The supreme leader controls the IRGC and uses it for internal crackdown and exporting fundamentalism abroad. I have here with me an image along with a map that reveals the role of the supreme leader and IRGC. The IRGC receives orders from the supreme leader, not the opposite.
Anchorman: I meant its participation and control over various issues
Mehdi Abrishamchi: You see the supreme leader, IRGC commander Jafari, Quds Force commander and Khamenei envoys in the IRGC and Quds Force .
Anchorman: We are with you again and our guest is Mr. Mehdi Abrishamchi who has written a book about the Revolutionary Guards and its role inside Iran and abroad.
Mr. Abrishamchi, is it correct that the IRGC is responsible for associated parties to Iran, such as the Hezbollah in Lebanon and various Shiite militants in Iraq that have various names, and that the IRGC makes the decisions for them, and how do they work on the ground in these countries?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: After 1982 when the Iraqi government announced the withdrawal of all its forces from Iranian soil behind international borders, the Khomeini regime dispatched two brigades to Lebanon. The ‘Imam-e Zaman’ and ‘Zolfaghar’ brigades were sent to meddle in Lebanese affairs. It was afterwards that Hezbollah was established. However, this was not the regime’s last measures and in 1990 the Iranian regime, and Khamenei himself, formed a new unit named the Quds Force. Afterwards the Iranian regime’s armed forces were of 5 branches: the ground, air, sea and Quds forces, along with Bassij units. All these units were placed under IRGC command. After the Ministry of the IRGC and the Ministry of Defense were merged, the IRGC became the entity making the decisions for this unit. From then on the Ministry of Defense was chosen from the IRGC commanders. The army was placed under the orders of the IRGC. Therefore, they started their meddling in regional countries’ internal affairs.
Anchorman: We have heard about Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, the Popular Movement units in Iraq. All these groups receive their orders from the IRGC. Is the IRGC financially providing for these units?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: Your answer is yes. Here I have a chart showing the Quds Force hierarchy. In this chart you see that the Quds Force has placed forces in all countries of the world, including Iraq, Syria and even Western Europe and Latin America.
Yes, regarding your question, this is the IRGC that provides the finances necessary for the Quds Force’s activities abroad, and also the money needed inside Iran to suppress the people. The IRGC also provides for the Houthis in Yemen, militants in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon. I can say that the IRGC currently has 1,000 institutions and economic firms. The IRGC’s share of the Iranian regime’s 2013 budget was nearly 30%.
Anchorman: Many people have talked about the IRGC’s role, and especially Qassem Suleimani who repressed the Syrian people’s uprising. Of course he has played a large role in spilling the blood of the Syrian people. How did the IRGC play a role in the Syrian people’s revolution?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: The IRGC and Quds Force play a significant role in Syria.
Anchorman: Assad always says there are no Iranian forces, while Iranian forces are being killed on the ground in Syria, and even in Iraq.
Mehdi Abrishamchi: You are right. In Syria there are IRGC and Quds Force commanders, and lower ranks and files that are participating in the war against the Syrian people and defending Bashar Assad. For example, one of the IRGC commanders by the name of Hamedani says we currently have 130,000 Bassij forces and intend to dispatch them to Syria. Moreover, I refer to the IRGC members that have been killed in Syria and their pictures are seen here where they are being buried with ceremonies in Iran, and Ali Shamkhani, the regime’s Secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council said in the funeral ceremony for IRGC commander Hamid Taghavi: “If we don’t sacrifice the blood of the Taghavis, we have to bleed in Sistan, Azerbaijan, Shiraz and Isfahan.” Meaning inside Iran, and this shows the strategic status quo for them.
Anchorman: It appears that unfortunately the IRGC has a long arm in the region’s crises. Various Western experts say there is a new relationship between the regime and Houthis. For numerous years the US, Saudis, Yemenis were talking about Iran’s support for the Houthis. How is this relationship between the IRGC and the Houthis?
Mehdi Abrishamchi: No, this is an old plan. From 25 years ago the Iranian regime has been training the Houthis in Qom and it has established training bases in Lebanon to train the Houthis. The relationship between the Iranian regime and the Houthis is nothing new. Please allow me to read you one small part of a report Iranian regime officials have presented to the regime’s Supreme National Security Council. This report says, “Iran’s strategy continues to invest in the Assad regime and maintaining him in power. Khamenei has emphasized that Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen all have important roles in this regard with the Islamic republic. Therefore, we must not retreat from them and no measures must be forgone in this regard because we can place other Arabic countries, especially Saudi Arabia, in a blockade with this circle, and also continue our pressure on other countries like Egypt. This report also says Khamenei has a budget the same size as that of the entire country, and its political and military investments are allocated to Syria. Khamenei has said Syria is our red line. If it weren’t for the clairvoyance of the leader everything would have been over by now.”
Anchorman: The IRGC is the actual title of the Iranian regime’s policies in the region, as it is also called the regime’s hegemony project.
Mehdi Abrishamchi: Yes, you are completely right. The truth is that the Quds Force and IRGC play significant roles in the internal affairs of regional countries. 23 years ago we published a book entitled “Islamic Fundamentalism: The New World Threat” and in the section on the Islamic army in the region we have provided an explanation about the Quds Force’s role. In my book on the IRGC I have also provided ample explanations about the IRGC. The IRGC has a major role in all of the region’s problems, from Yemen, to Syria, Iraq and … However, the new fact that I want to explain to you is that the regime has generally reached the downfall phase, and the IRGC has also reached the crumbling phase. Why? Because all of the mullahs’ strategic policies have reached a dead-end. The consequences of this dead end can be seen vividly inside Iran and the region. The Iranian regime is using its efforts to build a bomb. However, now the international community is demanding it to stop its activities. We are also witnessing its forces suffering major defeats in Syria, Tikrit and Yemen, and all these show the Iranian regime’s defeats. In recent days, and in the rallies of Mahabad, Sanandaj and Ahvaz we have seen that the IRGC and the regime in its entirety have not been able to control these rebellions.
Anchorman: Thank you, Mehdi Abrishamchi, a writer and expert on Iran who has written a book on the IRGC. Thank you for accepting our invitation…