The IRGC is the Iranian state’s armed force charged with defending Iran’s revolutionary regime. It is separate from Iran’s conventional military force. The IRGC is composed of ground, naval, and air forces, and includes other components—such as an internal security militia (the Basij) and an external operations force, the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).
The IRGC-QF is one of the Iranian regime’s primary organizations responsible for conducting covert lethal activities outside of Iran, including asymmetric and terrorist operations. Iran views terrorism as a tool that it can use to support its efforts to deter and counter its perceived foes, assert leadership over Shia Muslims worldwide, and project power in the Middle East.
The IRGC-QF has plotted and conducted covert operations worldwide, and it provides guidance, training, funding, and weapons to Shia militant partners and proxies in other Middle Eastern countries. These partners and proxies offer the IRGC-QF a measure of deniability and increase its ability to operate around the world.
Based in Iran; the IRGC-QF has conducted operations primarily in Iraq and Syria, but also globally, including in the Homeland.
The IRGC has between 150,000 and 190,000 personnel. The IRGC-QF has between 5,000 and 15,000 personnel, handpicked from the broader IRGC for their competency and allegiance to the regime.
TACTICS AND TARGETS
The IRGC-QF targets US, Israeli, Saudi, and UAE interests, as well as Iranian dissident groups. As part of Iran’s state security apparatus, the IRGC-QF uses its intelligence and military capabilities to support its own terrorist operations and those of its partners and proxies. It has provided advanced military equipment to Lebanese Hizballah, including air defense systems, coastal defense cruise missiles, long-range rockets, and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). It also supplies Iraqi Shia militant groups with antiaircraft weapons, armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles, improvised explosive devices, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, and UAS.
FOREIGN TERRORIST GROUP DESIGNATION
The US State Department designated the IRGC as a whole as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in April 2019. Before that, the US Treasury Department had designated the IRGC-QF as an FTO and designated former IRGC-QF Commander Qassim Soleimani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, in October 2007. Treasury also sanctioned and designated current IRGC-QF Commander Esmail Ghani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in March 2012.