Founded in 1979 following the Iran revolution, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is notorious as a fearsome ‘Gestapo-like’ organization, renowned for brutally supressing and murdering Iranian protesters and fomenting conflicts throughout the Middle East through its proxy allies. It was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by President Trump in 2019 and by the Canadian government in June this year. The IRGC is answerable directly to the Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, giving it substantial influence, often operating independently of the regular military. Its roles include internal security, protecting the Iranian regime, controlling strategic military systems, and conducting asymmetrical and unconventional warfare. 

The IRGC includes ground, naval, airforce and aerospace forces, along with its own intelligence, cyber, and special forces, such as the Quds Force, which conducts extraterritorial operations. It is believed to have around 150,000 personnel. It controls over 70% of the Iranian regime’s economy and pays no tax. Corrupt, senior IRGC commanders are known to have plundered billions, while 85 million impoverished Iranians struggle to survive. These criminals enjoy lavish lifestyles, with foreign villas in Turkey and Dubai. Their children are often educated in Western schools and universities. The EU and UK’s reluctance to follow America and Canada’s example in blacklisting the IRGC allows this scandal to continue.

The IRGC’s aerospace force controls the regime’s nuclear program, which has been focused on developing a nuclear bomb from the outset. The weaponization aspect of Iran's nuclear activities has not only persisted but has also expanded and improved over time, all while avoiding significant international scrutiny. Three weeks ago, Rafael Grossi, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), told an agency Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, that IAEA inspectors have been denied access to Iran for over three years. He warned that the mullahs have continued to increase their stockpile of enriched uranium, much of which is now at 60% purity, a hair’s breadth away from weapons grade. The mullahs have also removed many of the surveillance cameras erected by the IAEA’s inspectors. The IRGC aerospace force also manages Iran’s missile forces and conducts conventional and strategic missile launches and drone operations. IRGC commanders manage missile brigades, drone units, and radar and satellite operations, supplying drones and drone technology and training to Russia for Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine and to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, for use against commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, disrupting world trade.

While the paramilitary Basij is involved in internal security, policing, social services, and supplementing the regular military during emergencies, the IRGC commands its mostly civilian volunteers, who are organized into local cells and battalions. The Basij is widely hated by the Iranian population, as it is comprised largely of ill-educated thugs who specialize in vicious attacks on protesters and demonstrators, targeting women in particular. Outside Iran, the IRGC’s Quds Force is responsible for much of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and for sponsoring and controlling terrorist operations worldwide. The IRGC Navy conducts asymmetric naval warfare, including the use of small fast boats and submarines. Specialized in guerrilla naval tactics, mine warfare, and the use of speedboats, IRGC personnel have threatened US military vessels, attached limpet mines to commercial oil-tankers, seized commercial vessels in pirate-style attacks and generally disrupted traffic in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

The Quds force was commanded by General Qassem Soleimani, killed by an American drone attack in January 2020, as he emerged in a convoy from Baghdad Airport. Soleimani was a mass-murderer, earning his reputation for ruthlessness by pretending to help the west in ‘liberating’ the ancient Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul from Daesh (ISIS) fanatics who seized up to 30% of Iraq’s geographical territory between 2014 - 2017. In fact, Soleimani used the cover of “fighting terrorists” to reduce the cities to smoking ruins, killing tens of thousands of Sunni men in a genocidal campaign planned by the Supreme Shi’ia Leader Khamenei, that left only women and children as survivors. Soleimani also had the blood of countless Americans and European military personnel on his hands. His elimination, on the orders of President Trump, caused huge consternation in Iran and his post has been a difficult one for the mullahs to fill.

The mullahs have created, financed, trained, and maintained proxy groups to do their dirty work since the 1979 revolution. These include Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Shi’ia militias in Iraq and Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Indeed, they have provided more than $67 billion to Assad in the form of oil and cash payments. Millions of dollars have been paid to Hamas and it is well known that the Iranian regime was behind the coordinated Hamas attach on Israel on 9th October last year, triggering the war in Gaza. The mullahs have spent billions in Yemen and Iraq and despite their crumbling economy, announced a 131% increase in budget spending on the IRGC in March 2023, taking their annual spend to $2.89 billion. Bloodstained and venally corrupt IRGC officers now occupy most of the important positions in the mullahs’ regime, planning further repression at home and conflict and terrorism abroad. 

The time for appeasement is over. The EU and UK must now follow America and Canada’s lead and blacklist this extremist and fanatical organization. Arguing that the mullahs will close our embassies in retaliation, severing our ability to have dialogue with the regime, is absurd. Why do we wish to maintain dialogue with a pariah regime that regards us as their arch enemy. Instead of dialogue with the mullahs, we should have dialogue with the main democratic opposition movement the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and their courageous resistance units inside Iran. The west must show their support for the Iranian people and for their right to overthrow this tyrannical autocracy and restore, peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, women’s rights, and an end to the nuclear threat, in a secular Iranian republic.