Pondering the Pasdaran

Rand emeritus David Ronfeldt posed an interesting question in the comment section of an earlier post that I wanted to bring to the fore, make a few observations about and open for some crowdsourcing to see if anyone has some good information on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Pasdaran) leadership:

I had a stray thought this morning about Iran’s IRGC, and wanted to risk asking about it somewhere.  in doing a quick search of blogs I follow, this is the only one that has recently made passing reference to the IRGC, specifically in this post.  so I’ll try first here.

I keep re-learning what a massive operation the IRGC is – tantamount to  what Jane Jacobs termed a “monstrous moral hybrid” perhaps.  the IRGC/IRG starts as an effort to consolidate various paramiltary forces following the 1979 iranian revolution.  now it has its own ground, naval, air, and special forces.  more interestingly, it has expanded economically, and acquired assets to become a multi-billions enterprise, including public construction projects, and even dentistry and travel.  it can shut out private business competition, for it can easily underbid and then overrun, while also using recruits and conscripts as labor.  in sum, it represents an hybrid of tribal, hierarchical, and market priniciples, if not network ones too. 

Now, that supports the usual way of looking at this:  just a gigantic hybrid operating inside a state, almost as a semi-autonomous state within a state.  and that’s not uncommon in many countries.  the chinese and cuban militaries are heavily involved in economic enterprises too.  and in parallel fashion, this is a growing trend  among criminal enterprises as well, like the zetas mentioned in your reading  recommendations above.  

but then I had this stray thought:  the IRGC is not so much a state within a state, as a caliphate within a state.  I am not well-informed about how to define and think about caliphates.  but the little I know leads me to think this might be a thought worth further consideration and analysis.  esp. if the irgc could be considered as a model for an emerging Shia caliphate, and one that is way ahead of radical Sunni aspirations. 

so: an emerging caliphate within a state.  any comment?  advice for further thinking?   

I am not a Persianist or expert on Twelver Islam but David’s questions cross a number of disciplinary boundaries, as most interesting questions usually do. Using one “lens” here, such as security studies or Iranian history or IR theory, by themselves, are not enough with a semi-opaque government like that of Iran. This analysis probably should be approached in a multi-disciplinary fashion, so I welcome anyone out there with a relevant perspective to add what you know about Iran and the Pasdaran in the comment section.

I think that the issues here are structure, behavior and motivation of the Pasdaran as an institution within Iran.

First on the “state within a state”model:

Page 1 of 4 | Next page