Military Wiki
Army of the Guardians of
the Islamic Revolution


Supreme Leader of Iran
Senior officers
Military Branches
Aerospace Force
Ground Force
Quds Force
Ranks insignia
Iranian Revolution
Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
نیروی زمینی سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی
Seal of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
Active 1979-present
Country Iran
Size 100,000 ca.
Part of Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
Engagements Iran–Iraq War
Syrian Civil War
Mohammad Pakpour

The Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, acronymed NEZSA (Persian: نزسا‎), are the force which the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, also known as Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), maintain in parallel to the regular army of Iran. In addition to their conventional military role, the revolutionary guards' ground forces are more geared towards internal disorder than the regular army. The IRGC's Ground Forces are more focused on internal security and has become less effective as a conventional fighting force since the end of the Iran–Iraq War.[1] There are around 100,000 IRGC Ground Force troops.[2]

As of 2014 the IRGC GF lacked of main battle tanks and other heavy equipment. The heaviest equipment consists of armoured personnel carrier.[3]

According to Anthony Cordesman and Bryan Gold, the IRGC Ground Forces control the Basji and strictly cooperate with Basji's Imam Hossein Brigades.[3]


The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution was officially established on 5 May 1979. It was conceived as a popular militia force to monitor the remainders of the Shah’s Artesh and defend the Islamic Revolution (such as against Nojeh coup plot).[4] However, the official establishment followed several months of activity of the Revolutionary Guards.[5]

According to Mohsen Rafiqdust, the establishment of and armed force tasked to secure the Revolution was proposed by Hojjat al-Islam Mohammad Montazeri, son of Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri; Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini ordered in February 1979 the establishment of such a force, which was established by Mohammad Montazeri itself and Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, leader of the Islamic Republican Party.[5] Moshen Rafiqdust was charged with organizing the Revolutionary Guard and Abbas Duzduzani was the first Commander.

Between February and December 1979, the IRGC evolved from a loose militia into an armed force;[5] In early days, IRGC units seemed to operate independently and in different capacities in different locations.[5] In March 1979, a national command was established.[5]

The mission of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution accorded primacy to an internal security role, while at the same time pushing for the export of the Islamic Revolution:[4] in the early days, the IRGC was responsible for both internal and external intelligence and security, which was carried out in conjunction with the prime minister’s office; the alghare’eh, combat units, were involved in fighting enemy groups.[4][5]

Initially, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution operated in coordination with Komitehs and their command echelon, but with an official approval.[5]

In the aftermath of the official establishment of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, there were four factions within it; these factions were included in the Command and Central Councils, with the greates influence exercised by the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization.[5] Members of the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization in the IRGC used their positions against the People's Mujahedin of Iran, Tudeh and Fadai in the general campaign against the political left and ethnic minorities, where the left was strong.[5] In September 1979, the IRGC were entrusted with providing security detail to Friday congregational prayer leader Ayatollah Montazeri, while failed to resist Iranian students in the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.[5] The 1979 Iranian constitution gave Khomeini the supreme command of all armed forces, including the IRGC.[5]

In the wake of Iraq invasion of Iran in 1980, Islamic Republican Party (whose forces were led by the IRGC) and leftist organizations harshly confronted each other, resulting in thousands of casualties; the impeachment and removal of President Abolhassan Banisadr allowed the Islamic Republican Party to gain control of the defence strategy and to involve deeply the IRGC in it.[5]

The Iran-Iraq war caused the IRGC to align closely with the clerical rule of the Islamic Republican Party; IRGC commander Moshen Rezai resigned from Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization due to the latter's contrast with the clerical rule.[5] During the confrontation between Montazeri and President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, hundreds were arrested from IRGC ranks. By 1988, the radical-leftist faction had vanished within the IRGC.[5]

IRGC membership grown steadly in the first years of operation and during the Iran-Iraq War: by the end of 1979 there were about 10,000 guardsmen; in mid 1980 the number swelled to 25,000 and reached 50,000 by the end of 1981. In 1986 there were 350,000 guardsmen,[5] organized into battalion-level units.[6] The Iran-Iraq war forged the identities of the IRGC, Basij, and other associated organizations.[5]

After the war, the Iranian leadership provided the IRGC new outlets of service.[5] Some, external to the Basij, proposed their demobilization or their merger in the IRGC under the name of Resistance Guard.[7] Instead of demobilizing IRGC and Basij, Iranian leadership maintained and expanded their mobilization, particularly in extra-military sectors.[5]

In 1989, the IRGC lost its ministry and was merged with the Artesh in the Ministry of Defence and Armed Force Logistics as part of a Rafsanjani's policy aimed at reforming and consolidating the state control over governmental institutions. THe IRGC even received a military ranks system.[5] Between 1990 and 1995 the Basij Resistance Force was supported by new Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei against the Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution in equipment allocations. The Basij supplanted the IRGC also in guarding sensitive buildings and installations.[7]

However, Supreme Leader Khamanei managed to forge in the early 1990s a solid alliance with the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution; in late 1990s, during the Mohammad Khatami's presidency, the IRGC provided the conservative faction considerable resources in the usage of force in combating perceived political threats.[5]

During the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), the IRGC was increased its influence in Middle East (in Lebanon but especially with Shiite stakeholders in Iraq), but also in Chavez's Venezuela.[5] In 2009 Basij military responsibilities (including Basij military training) were transferred back to the Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution in order to free the former and let it to concentrate on cultural struggle.[7]

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been involved in active support to Syria since early stages of the Syrian Civil War; while the initial instrument of support was the Qods Force, the IRGC Ground Forces subsequently stepped in.[2]

In 2017, Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, IRGC Ground Forces Commander, stated that the NESZA set up a drone centre.[8]


  • Mohammad Jafar Asadi (2008-2009)[9]
  • Mohammad Papkour (2009–present)


Across their 38 years-long history, the IRGC Ground Forces underwent to several organizational changes. From 2007 until 2015, they were organized in territorial commands in order to ensure defence against ground invasion and decapitation strikes, as well as to counter internal unrest. Alongside territorial commands, the IRGC Ground Forces also have conventional formations.[2]

Parade of IRGC Tank transporters

The 2007-2015 structure included 32 separate commands: 32 Provincial commands and a Tehran city command;[2] IRGC territorial commanders have a direct supervision over local Basji organizations[7] and enjoy of authority and autonomy in order to be enabled to independently take action in case of an immediate crisis arising,[10] Provincial units are composed of the natives of the province in which the IRGC Ground Force members serve.[11]

The IRGC also maintain a structure of infantry and armoured formations.[8] NEZSA also include artillery and engineer units and an airborne brigade. The IRGC Ground Forces have recently announced efforts to form an air assault unit.[2]

The IRGC Ground Forces have several elite units, the Saberin Unit. The Saberin Unit is a force highly trained in a number of specialized capabilities. Some IRGC divisions and brigades have separate Saberin units directly subordinated to them.[2] The IRGC has also designated certain formations as light infantry commandos, or takavaran.[2] In 2017 the NESZA set up a drone centre.[8]

Due to the involvement of the IRGC Ground Forces in the Syrian Civil War,[2] according to Ali Alfoneh for Atlantic Council an increased deployment of IRGC Ground Forces in Syria changed the IRGC itself from a political army, tasked with countering domestic unrest, to an expeditionary force.[11]

See also


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Bucala, Paul; Kagan, Frederick W. (March 2016). "Iran’s Evolving Way of War". pp. 10–11. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cordesman, Anthony H.; Bryan, Gold; Garrett, Berntsen (2014). The Gulf Military Balance The Conventional and Asymmetric Dimensions.. Lanham: Center for Strategic & International Studies. pp. 131–132, 143. ISBN 9781442227927. Retrieved 18 June 2017. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "The Rise of the Pasdaran Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps". 2008. pp. 20–21, 30. Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 "Guardians of the Islamic Revolution Ideology, Politics, and the Develo pment of Military Power in Iran (1979–2009)". 2009. pp. 48,51–53,54–55,59,60–61,66,68–69,73–74,75,85–86,100,108,130,157,135–136,132,173–174.;jsessionid=DF7BFA33BF18FF73E9117CB0504F14E1?sequence=1. Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  6. Sloan, Stephen; Anderson, Sean K. (2009). Historical Dictionary of Terrorism. Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press. p. 318. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Golkar, Saeid (2015). Captive Society: The Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran. Washington D.C.: Columbia University Press. pp. 17–19, 27–28, 31. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "IRGC Ground Forces launch drone organization". PressTV. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2017. 
  9. "Report: Iran appoints new commander in Syria". Al Arabiya News. 29 December 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  10. Sinkaya, Bayram (2016). The Revolutionary Guards in Iranian Politics: Elites and Shifting Relations. New York: Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 9781138853645. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Alfoneh, Ali (4 April 2017). "Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Transform into an Expeditionary Force". Retrieved 18 June 2017. 

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