A joint study released in February 2017 by the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) and In Search of Justice (ISJ) established that Iran’s meddling in the region is institutionalized and the IRGC top brass has been directly involved.
There have been various degrees of intervention, depending on the country and its political situation. This meddling from Iran and the IRGC has increased since 2013, which has been attributed to the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1.
The IRGC, according to the study, has been directly involved in the hidden occupation of four Middle Eastern countries, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Iran is currently partnered with Russia and Turkey for Syrian peace talks, although Iran is backing Assad with Russia, while Turkey and Europe are siding with the Syrian opposition.
According to a report released by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in February, the IRGC runs 14 different training camps for its foreign mercenaries, including forces that are going to Syria. During the current ceasefire, Iran has been accused of breaking the ceasefire, despite its ally Russia negotiating it.
The IRGC has been active in spying and intelligence activities throughout the region. They have also carried out terrorist activities in 13 out of 14 countries, with the only exception being Oman, which has been active in helping the Iranian regime evade sanctions. Iran has also set up terrorist affiliates or networks in at least 12 regional countries. But these terrorist activities are just a part of the IRGC’s activities.
The IRGC is also directly meddling in the internal affairs of at least 8 countries, or it is actively plotting against their governments. These countries include Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan. This is part of the larger scope of Iranian foreign policy. In countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the regime’s ambassadors hail from the ranks of the IRGC or are chosen from individuals that have close ties with the IRGC.
For example, IRGC Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi, the head of the Iraq affairs desk at IRGC, who in January 2017 was appointed as the Iranian regime ambassador to Iraq. He is a senior advisor to the Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was in charge of the Iraqi para-military groups affiliated with the Iranian regime, and who oversaw the operations against Coalition Forces in Iraq, resulting in the death of hundreds of them.
This is just one example out of hundreds that shows the economic powerhouse of the IRGC has dedicated its financial and economic prowess to meddling in other countries, with the Iranian economy taking on this heavy burden.
Over the past 5 years, Tehran has spent over $100 billion for IRGC operations in Syria alone, with a large portion of those funds being provided through the Khamenei office’s secret budget allocations. Part of the money is spent on weapons and paying the Syrian army’s expenses. At least $1 billion is spent annually on salaries for forces tied to the IRGC, including armed forces, militias and Shiites protected by the regime. This is just in Syria. The expenses go up with each country that Iran has been active in throughout the region.
According to the study’s authors, “The common theme among militias formed by the IRGC is that they consider themselves to obey and to follow the command of Khamenei.”
Yet, this meddling has provoked a backlash, spawning the rise of groups like ISIS (Daesh) that seek to establish an “Islamic Caliphate”, while spreading their wrath and brutality to the four corners of the globe.
The NGOs who authored the report also listed some recommendations based on the comprehensive evidence of the IRGC’s actions, which are sanctioned by the regime. Included in these recommendations are:
Enforcing Resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council and in particular, stopping the regime’s missile activities and its smuggling of weapons to other countries, such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
Following these recommendations would require a united front from the international community, which might not be possible with Iran being backed and allied with Russia. The Trump administration is considering a proposal that would place the IRGC on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, as noted in the study’s recommendations.