The recent ratcheting up of tension between the Trump administration and the Islamic Republic has cast the spotlight once again on the regional activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the controversial elite body that handles most of Iran’s regional Middle Eastern policy. Caught on the defensive after the substantial failure of candidates considered to be allied, or very close to it, in the May 2017 presidential elections in Iran, such as Ebrahim Raisi and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the IRGC has also been hit by an increasing offensive coordinated by the president, Hassan Rouhani, against its sprawling domestic economic empire. Yet the IRGC’s regional activities are, for the moment, undiminished, and they benefit from the outspoken support of figures who have had a contentious relationship with the elite unit, such as Rouhani himself and his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami. This article will analyze the state of play with regard to the complex relationship between the IRGC and other influential stakeholders within the Islamic Republic and will assess in particular the new phase of IRGC-state relations in Iran, which has resulted in the effective bisection of opinions and viewpoints regarding the unit’s internal and external activities.
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies
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