Soon after the Shah of Iran was forced from power in 1979, a small group of the uprising’s young leaders suggested the creation of a national guard, tasked with preserving the new Islamic revolution and counterbalancing the country’s conventional military.
Ayatollah Khomenei, the charismatic cleric who soon became the country’s supreme leader, hesitated to call the members of the new force “guards”, fearing the word was too close to the French word widely used to refer to the ousted monarch’s elite personal force.
Instead he opted for sepah, a Persian word for soldiers with historical connotations, and the new force became known asthe sepah-e-pasdaran or “army of the guardians”.
Most foreign governments, however, refer to it as the Islamic revolutionary guard corps – a force that, 38 years later, has become a key player both inside Iran and across the region.
Reports that the US government is poised to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group have sparked jitters in Tehran, overshadowing Donald Trump’s expected plan to tear up the landmark nuclear deal.
The US accuses the IRGC of terror mainly because of its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas, organisations that the US and EU have both designated as terrorist groups. Trump has argued that Iran’s support for such groups violates the spirit of the nuclear deal.
Iranian officials say privately that Trump’s ability to unravel the nuclear deal is bound by the US Congress and the reaction of Washington’s allies in Europe. They warn, however, that a move against the IRGC would be a step too far and could even push the two countries towards open war...
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