The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that rules the Iranian society at large is often called “a government above the government.” The revolutionary force including Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini formed the organization in April 1979, two months after the Iranian Revolution as they needed regular armed forces and an independent military organization to protect the republican system. The commander-in-chief and key members are still appointed by Ayatollah, the highest Shia priest and supreme leader of the country.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps consists of five groups including the Quds, which is in charge of armed forces, special warfare and overseas operations and the Basij militia. The organization is estimated to have had 190,000 members as of 2020. It is smaller than the regular army that has some 520,000 men, but it is assessed to have better soldiers and weapons. The navy that recently seized a Korean vessel and the Quds that educates and trains pro-Iranian militant organizations such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon are known as core groups among the five.
Iran’s navy, in particular, has undertaken a task of patrolling the Straits of Hormuz between the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, which some 30 percent of the global oil supply goes through. It has been seizing American warships and overseas vessels for approaching Iran’s territorial waters using small boats.
The Quds has led subjugation of the Islamic State, the Suni extremist group, in countries such as Syria and Iraq. Some analyze that it was behind the attack of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad by the Shia militia in Iraq in December 2019. In retaliation, the U.S. eliminated Qasem Soleimani, the then Chief Commander of Quds, at the Baghdad International Airport with an unmanned plane on January 3 last year.