Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011..
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps released a statement on Wednesday claiming the country was now working at maximum capacity in preparation for a “full confrontation” with its “enemy,” which is a reference to escalating tensions with the United States.
The statement, from newly appointed IRGC commander Hossein Salami, said that this was a decisive moment for the Iranian “revolution” and that Iran’s enemies were working hard to break the stability and will of the Iranian people.
On April 8, the US designated the IRGC a terrorist organization. Salami was appointed to head the organization on April 21.
The Guard Corps is Iran’s most important military force, with units that control ballistic missiles, naval auxiliaries and ground forces. It also runs internal security, has local militias and has cadres that work abroad to advise Iranian allies. As a “revolutionary” organization, it is the backbone of the state and its theocratic regime. It is estimated to have several hundred thousand personnel and local militia members.
Since tensions began to escalate on May 5 between the US and Iran, the IRGC has been careful not to provoke Washington, but Salami has reassured the Iranian parliament that his men are up to the task of defending the country. For instance, on May 13 the IRGC commander said that US naval forces might present an “opportunity” for the group to strike at, and the IRGC hinted that it was preparing for “full scale war” with the US.
The May 15 statement, published at Fars News, Tasnim News and the Iranian official government news site IRNA, says that members of the IRGC are prepared across the country, referring to the organization as a “jihadist system.” Salami argues that the US has a strategy to destabilize Iran and that Tehran’s enemies have ignored peace, security and dignity in their drive against the country.
But Iran’s people are “indebted to the resistance,” he says. “Our enemies have reached the end of their line,” he writes. He claimed that Iran’s enemies have “osteoporosis,” that they are basically a paper tiger and that Iran’s “full opposition” will reveal that.
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Wednesday that the country was at the peak of its defense preparations. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also said Wednesday that the Iranian people are the source of the country’s strength. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is in Japan seeking to shore up support in Asia as tensions rise.
Taken together, the statements appear to show that Iran is trying to convince its own people that it is ready to face any US threats.
The US has said that any attacks by Iran or by its allies and proxies will result in retaliation. On May 12 and 13, ships were sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman, and drones attacked Saudi Arabia from Iran’s allies in Yemen, raising the tensions. The US has recalled non-essential staff from Iraq.
Salami appears to be hinting that the IRGC has mobilized its local Basij militia units and its provincial corps commanders throughout Iran. Recently, the IRGC had been used to help deal with floods throughout Iran, dispatching its forces to rural areas. It also has had to deal with tensions on the Pakistan border, where terrorist groups have attacked the group’s locations. Iran is also concerned about tensions in the Kurdish region of northwest Iran, and in Arab areas of Ahwaz.
In short, Iran’s regime is overstretched, losing vital finances due to sanctions, its oil sector ravaged, and flooding crippling the country. It has wasted money on foreign conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. Now, the IRGC wants to assert that it is ready for a “full opposition” against the “maximum pressure” that Iran admits it is under. Salami, who has only been on the job for a month, now faces a massive test.
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