The Rivalry Between Iran’s Armed Services

The army vented its frustration this week over its losing competition against the IRGC.

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A longstanding struggle between the services of Iran’s armed forces spilled into the open this week after the government’s official news agency published an interview with a senior army commander. Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, the coordinating deputy of the Islamic Republic’s army, said that state media ignored his service in favor of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and criticized the IRGC’s dominant position in the economy and politics. Sayyari said the IRGC’s involvement in politics violated national principles, and he praised the army for not engaging in self-promotion. The interview was deleted within hours of publication, likely at the direction of the government, but for a moment, the world got a glimpse into Iran’s deep-rooted inter-service rivalry. The competition between the conventional army, known as the Artesh, and the IRGC has been a central feature of Iran’s military landscape since the 1979 revolution. But unlike a lighthearted army-navy game or bureaucratic tussles over funding, this is a perilous fight over economic, political and ideological influence in which only one side can win. It is a battle over not only operational capabilities, but the direction of the country. Since the 1980s, the IRGC – considered the guardian of Shiite Islamism, whereas […]

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Caroline D. Rose
Caroline Rose has a Masters of Science (MSc) in the History of International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Just before joining GPF she served as a Research Associate for LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU), where she researched the nexus between illicit economies and armed insurgencies. She earned her undergraduate degree from American University's School of International Service and has worked previously at both Brookings Institute and the Atlantic Council. Her studies and projects at these institutions covered a range of topics, from Russian and Chinese cyber warfare, evolving American interest within a changing international order, and grand security strategies against state-led revisionism in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific. Throughout she's written for a diverse array of publications including Limes in Italy.