Both President Obama and Governor Romney have spoken a good deal about Iran and have outlined general principles if not specific strategies. President Obama believes in the efficacy of diplomacy and continues to place faith that the Islamic Republic wants only nuclear weapons capability and will not take the final half step of actualizing nuclear weapons ambitions. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, on the other hand, declares that he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, although, beyond the campaign rhetoric, how he would go about this is far from clear.
Both Obama and Romney, however, avoid talking about the key to the problem: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is important for several reasons:
- Custody, control, and perhaps command of any nuclear weapon would be in the hands of the IRGC.
- The IRGC controls perhaps 40 percent of Iran’s economy.
- While the Islamic Republic grants the IRGC an annual budget of perhaps $5 billion, since 2007, the IRGC economic wing has won over $35 billion in state contracts; it makes an additional $12 billion annually through its “invisible jetties” and smuggling networks. This means that the IRGC is now financially independent from the control of the very people whom the Obama administration seeks to strike a deal.
The IRGC is not a simple military, but rather an ideological army. Today, it operates as the Supreme Leader’s Praetorian Guard. Since 2007, its chief, Mohammad Ali Jafari, has identified Iranians themselves rather than external armies as posing the greatest threat to the Islamic Republic. It was Jafari’s “mosaic doctrine” and the subsequent reorganization of the IRGC into provincial units which helped the regime put down the 2009 student uprising.