Power in the Islamic Republic has traditionally rested upon a fundamental alliance between the revolutionary Shi’a clergy and the Revolutionary Guard. Initially, there was a clear division of labor between the two institutions. While the fundamentalist Shi’i clergy has ruled Iran since 1979, the Guard has performed its assigned task of “safeguarding the revolution and its ideological nature, against all internal and external enemies. But, with the constant expansion of the Guard’s influence and presence in all spheres of life in Iran, the Islamic Republic is being increasingly ruled as well as protected by the Guard. The rise of the Guard has been systematic and creeping.
Faced with increasing public pressures and demands for political and economic liberalization, and beset by the deepening internal fissures, especially after the recent controversial presidential election, the ruling clergy has proved unwilling or incapable of stemming the tide. Most importantly, for the first time since 1957 revolution, the very legitimacy of the regime has been challenged by a growing number of its critics and opponents. It seems that, under prevailing and destabilizing conditions, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has relied increasingly on the Revolutionary Guard and its militia, as effective instrument to confront and subdue, by all means, all those who actually or potentially pose a serious threat to the stability of the Islamic republic as it stands.
Furthermore, former officers and commanders of the Guard have gradually and in unprecedented numbers, seized positions of power in civilian institutions, such as government ministries and Islamic Consultative Assembly, thus expanding the Guard’s political power base. It is not surprising, therefore, that with its growing economic and political clout and impressive military capabilities, the Revolutionary Guard has morphed into a “state within the state.”