A year after Iran’s election protests, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have reshaped life and politics within the country to a degree not seen since the revolution. The opposition press has been banned, protesters have been imprisoned, and the streets have been flooded with paramilitary forces. The IRGC has not only targeted the opposition, but also moderates within the ruling regime. The Guards have even started their own political tribunal to prosecute dissidents.
The politicization of Iran’s security establishment has been ongoing for years, accelerating when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an IRGC veteran, rose to power and padded his government with former Guards. What is new is the shift in Iran’s governing structure. Now the security establishment is the strongest element within the regime. The Guards run the country’s alleged nuclear-weapons program and control missile sites and air bases. Where military officers once looked to their civilian and clerical counterparts as a source of power, that balance has been reversed. Some analysts predict that the Guards may be soon able to overrule even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself. Looks like the hardliners have lost control of their creation.