Soldiers of the Revolution

A Brief History of Iran's IRGC

Members of the Basij militia march in a parade commemorating the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War, September 2010.  Morteza Nikoubazi / Reuters

In August, news emerged that Russia had begun to use Iran’s Shahid Nojeh Air Base to stage bombing raids on northern Syria. For those familiar with the region, this was a shocking reversal of long-standing Iranian policy—signaling the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that foreign troops had been allowed to use Iranian bases.

The significance was not lost on Iranians. In protest, one member of parliament quoted the revolutionary slogan “Neither East nor West,” which had symbolized Iran’s quest for self-determination and rejection of American and Russian imperialism. National security officials defended the agreement, but within days, Iran’s defense minister, Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, announced that Russia’s use of the base had ended. Dehghan explained that Russia’s access had been based on shared strategic interests in Syria and could occur again, but also blamed Russia for “showing off” by publicizing the partnership to

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