The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is extremely influential in Iranian national security affairs. It affects the formulation and execution of policy regarding Iran’s nuclear program, conflict in Syria, global asymmetric operations, domestic security, and many other matters. The IRGC leadership constantly makes public statements, tailored for a variety of audiences, sometimes with remarkable candor. Analyzing the patterns and nuances of those public statements provides critical insight into the way some of Iran’s decision-makers are thinking about their security challenges and their own strategies. On the issues of greatest concern to the United States, the IRGC leadership seems to be unified and tightly bound with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on a platform of defiance.
With very few exceptions, the messaging of the IRGC leadership is unified, consistent, and reflective of the Supreme Leader’s position. For example, Khamenei issued a rare explicit warning to Israel during his widely-covered March 2013 Nowruz address. Khamenei cautioned, “[Israel] sometimes threatens us with a military strike, but they themselves know that if they make any mistake the Islamic Republic of Iran will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground.”
IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari affirmed this declaration a little more than a month later: “The Supreme Leader’s deterrence warnings to our enemies are serious and based on the realities and capabilities of Islamic Iran’s decisive and defensive power.”
Two days earlier, IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami said, “Everything that the Supreme Leader orders is based on realities that exist within our defensive powers. If Israel makes a mistake, all of his statements will be put to action.”
Speaking at the same event, Armed Forces General Staff Deputy IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi said, “We are preparing our armed forces and have used all capabilities so that we can operationalize the Supreme Leader’s statement in the smallest amount of time. We hope that [Israel] does not act stupidly.”
Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) deputies IRGC Major General Mostafa Izadi and IRGC Brigadier General Ali Shadmani also reiterated this threat almost verbatim in the following weeks. The consistency and timing of these senior commanders’ statements suggests a coordinated messaging campaign.
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