Middle East Briefs

Parallel to the Center’s scholarly work, Middle East Briefs provides a brief analysis of a single issue at the top of the region’s political, social, or economic agenda. Targeted primarily at decision-makers and opinion leaders, the publication was launched in 2005.

Current Edition

meb.jpgSeptember 2019 – The Informal Roots of the IRGC and the Implications for Iranian Politics Today

Maryam Alemzadeh

Middle East Brief 130 (Summary) — The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) plays a prominent role in carrying out the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy agenda. Noting this, the Trump administration has targeted the IRGC as part of its maximum pressure policy on Iran, recently announcing that the U.S. will designate it as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In this Brief, Maryam Alemzadeh describes the inherently informal nature of the IRGC and the notable degree of freedom that it possesses to embark on actions that go against centrally devised policies. She argues that this unconventional and flexible political structure was established in the very first days of the Islamic Republic, after the 1979 revolution, and reflects struggles between Islamists and technocrats over the nature of their new government. The IRGC’s organizational informality, flexible modus operandi, and ethos were consolidated during the armed conflicts of the following years. The Brief’s analysis has implications for the extent to which the Trump administration’s policies will be successful in restraining the IRGC’s regional activities.

Read Middle East Brief 130 (PDF)

Maryam Alemzadeh, Harold Grinspoon Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center.