The Thugs Who Lead Iran's Supreme Leader
The Daily Beast / Gary Sick

Their military role was established in the course of the Iran-Iraq War when the Revolutionary Guards—originally a ragtag collection of earnest but untrained volunteers—gradually shouldered aside the professional military. Unlike the professional military, which had always abjured a political role in Iran, the Revolutionary Guards were recognized from the start as the protectors of the Islamic republic. They have gone on to acquire an active and pervasive presence at all levels of the political structure, particularly under President Ahmadinejad, who has appointed his fellow guardsmen to positions throughout the bureaucracy.

The economic role of the Revolutionary Guards has been much remarked on in recent years. The Guards themselves and companies run by the Guards have won major contracts in every corner of the economy, from airport construction to telecommunications to auto manufacturing. They have also allied themselves with some of the most conservative clerics, who view the revolutionary government not as an alliance of Islam and the people but as divinely ordained rule by a philosopher king who is to be regarded as absolute in his judgments—political as well as theological.

These elements combine to form an impenetrable core that arrogates to itself all authority in the Islamic republic. Needless to say, it also provides tangible benefits to very specific groups: the leader himself, who is thus promoted to a position not simply as first among equa... >>>

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