Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is involved in training recruits to believe that jihad can be an offensive ideology and that thousands of young Shi’ites across the Middle East should answer Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei’s calls for military strikes, a new report shows.
Titled ‘Beyond Borders: The Expansionist Ideology of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ and published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the report looks deeply at Iran’s training of IRGC members. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday about the key findings.
Kasra Aarabi, who authored the report, concludes that for over four decades “the Iranian regime has worked tirelessly to impose a totalitarian state-sanctioned Shia Islamist ideology, both inside and outside Iran. Nowhere is the engine of this ideology more visible than the IRGC.” The way that Iran’s regime indoctrinates people including recruits to the IRGC is to present itself and Shi’ites as victims and claim it is “resisting.”
This may have been true in the 1970s and 1980s, but today Iran is more often the aggressor in places like Syria and its allies are often involved in suppressing protests in Iraq and Lebanon.
Iran’s IRGC pushes a sectarian message arguing, according to the report, that Shi’ites are under attack from a “[Sunni] Arab-Zionist-Western axis.” Images circulated on Telegram accounts and social media show how they push claims that the US and the West created ISIS, or that Jews and Israelis created Saudi Wahhabist Islam.
The report documents how Iran’s IRGC has presented its role as part of a religious war. This is an all-encompassing ideology that embraces not only concepts like “jihad” but also instructs volunteers on how to organize their family life and pushes a chauvinist line of thinking.
The author compares the documents to the Salafist-Jihadi worldview of groups like ISIS, and argues that both the IRGC and its extremist opponents on the other fringe manipulate scripture. Imagery is important here too. The IRGC symbol, used by its proxies and allies, is a first holding a rifle which denotes “the supposed religious legitimacy of violence.”
Iran Briefing | News Press Focus on Human Rights Violation by IRGC, Iran Human Rights