Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei has praised the Revolutionary Guard while their loyalty and power to quash dissent will be put to test once again during possible protests.
In a meeting with a group of senior IRGC officers and Basij paramilitary leaders on Thursday, Khamenei described the Revolutionary Guard as “the largest counter-terrorist organization in the world,” while international calls to designate the group as a terrorist outfit have been echoing across the political landscape of many countries.
Reacting to Khamenei’s flattering words, hundreds of Iranians rushed to social media to point out that the statement is accurate as long as the prefix “counter or anti” is removed from the word terrorist.
Washington designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group in 2019 and US lawmakers have made repeated calls to their allies to prioritize designating the group as such. In May, a bipartisan group of US congresspeople sent letters to the heads of US-allied nations -- the UK, Australia, Canada, and India – to reiterate calls to swiftly act and officially sanction the IRGC in its entirety.
Despite numerous pleas by politicians, diplomats, opposition leaders and activists, the UK and EU are still hesitant to proscribe the entity, which has proved to be the most destabilizing element in the Middle East region and a big threat to American and European citizens in the world, as well as the main suppression force in Iran.
During the meeting with his most important base of support, Khamenei warned of attempts to besmirch the IRGC and Basij forces, saying, "One of the important aspects of the enemy's activities is tarnishing the image of the IRGC. and the Basij; why? Because the Guard is awe-inspiring, the Basij is impressive, which makes them worried and anxious."
Elsewhere in his remarks, Khamenei emphasized that the US is the main enemy of the regime, saying that one of the past mistakes was not recognizing the US as ‘the enemy.’ “We must raise our voice against America,” he said.
The blandishment by the Supreme Leader came as many Iranians are planning to hold anti-regime protests to mark the anniversary of the Women, Life, Liberty movement, Iran’s biggest popular uprising sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in mid-September.
Khamenei depends on the IRGC and Basij to defend the main bastion of the regime as he cannot trust the traditional Army, which has been kept weak. However, minutes of a meeting of senior clerics and IRGC commanders with Khamenei, leaked to the media in March, indicated the negative impact of the protests on the morale of forces under the command of the IRGC and their burn-out, with several offering anecdotal accounts of insubordination.
“It is a well-equipped military organization. It is an efficient and independent organization capable of carrying out tasks that many of the world's major militaries cannot accomplish,” Khamenei stated during the Thursday meeting with the Supreme Assembly of Commanders of the IRGC.
IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds force leads activities of regime’s proxy forces against the United States, Israel, and other adversaries in the region and beyond. The IRGC is providing drones and missiles for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and is also involved in assassinations, kidnappings and cyberespionage operations across the globe.
The outfit is also behind drugs and arms trafficking and money-laundering and other cases of economic corruption both in Iran and abroad. The IRGC is also the main force to suppress any critical voice in Iran with its members unofficially exempt from due process in case of wrongdoing and corruption.
Over 500 Iranians have been killed by security forces, mainly consisting of the IRGC and its Basij militia, during the crackdown on the last year protests, which may resume throughout Iran in the coming weeks.
Numerous politicians across France, Germany, the UK, and other European nations are eager to push for the designation of the IRGC, asserting that it has been significantly delayed. Resolutions have also been adopted in their respective parliamentary bodies, underscoring the pressing need for the IRGC's designation. However, both UK and European governments perceive this step as a potential impediment to diplomatic engagement with the Tehran regime.