The IRGC has either a controlling interest or outright ownership of businesses in a wide variety of Iranian industries and benefits greatly from a black market economy that has grown up in response to Western economic sanctions. The IRGC has also steadily been given a greater share of power in society. It owns prominent media outlets in the country, and recent legislation provides civilians under the control of the IRGC with extensive license to publicly accost people for violating Islamic laws and cultural norms.
Some analysts have observed this growth of IRGC power and determined that the trend will only continue, as the paramilitary group may now wield enough political power to influence the selection of a new Supreme Leader in the event of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s death.
On Monday, Rouhani was quoted as saying, “If guns, money, newspapers and propaganda all gather in one place, one can be confident of corruption there. He went on to say that e ven morally upright figures f rom the history of Islam would become corrupt under such conditions. But this has not stopped Rouhani f rom proposing a budget that gives more money to the group that he described in these stark terms.
Based on this budget, in the Iranian year beginning March 20, the IRGC will have 6.5 billion dollars to spend on its various paramilitary and propaganda activities. Already, the IRGC is appropriated more money than the regular Iranian army, accounting for 62 percent of total military spending. That total is also set to increase by more than a third under the new budget.
Operating as a branch of the IRGC, the Quds Force conducts paramilitary activities in foreign countries and supports local terrorist organizations. In this capacity it has been involved in fighting in Iraq, where Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani is widely believed to be effectively in charge of Shiite militias and the regular army.
Being named after the Persian word for Jerusalem, the Quds Force evokes Iran’s declared foreign policy of bringing about the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Concordantly, IRGC rhetoric is often directed at this target. Such was the case on Wednesday when Lieutenant Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami once again claimed advancements in Iran’s missile programs and said the new weapons “make the Zionists tremble with fear,” according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.
Ironically, the same article points out that other Iranian officials have insisted that the nation’s missile programs are purely for defensive purposes and are no threat to the region. But the notion that any nation would “tremble in fear” of Iran’s military strength seems to belie this commentary.