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Iranian guards

A European-based Iranian exile group reports that there are major divisions within the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Islamic shock troops that the U.S. government has linked to international terrorism.

The group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, stated in a report that its sources inside Iran think there is major discord within the paramilitary force that is believed to have a major role within the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The August report stated that both the leadership and the structure of the IRGC are undergoing widespread transformation.

“As a result of these changes, the IRGC will not be solely a centralized force,” the report said. “It will be transformed to 31 provincial forces, and each commander will be given widespread power and authority. The paramilitary Basij forces in each province will also be organized under the authority of the same regional IRGC commander.”

According to the report, problems of desertions, retirements and buyouts in the IRGC over the past year prompted leadership changes and reforms.

The report said a new strategy for the group was adopted in 2005 that called for the IRGC to prepare to carry out terrorist attacks, including the use of suicide strikes, stepping up development of missile forces, and development of nuclear weapons as part of preparations for any response to foreign attacks on Iran.

The report quoted IRGC commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, speaking to a new IRGC strategy center as saying, “If the enemy makes the smallest moves against our country and people, we will endanger its interests all over the world.”

Other reported changes included the IRGC navy taking command of the Persian Gulf region from the Iranian navy, and the upgrading of missile units.

The report was produced by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which the State Department regards as a front for the People’s Mujahideen of Iran and has designated as a terrorist group. The group in the past provided some of the first details of Iran’s nuclear program, ahead of U.S. intelligence agencies, but it also has made a number of unverified claims.

A U.S. official said of the report that “there have been some personnel changes in the IRGC, but they don’t appear to be that dramatic.”

Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council, said in a statement that the IRGC changes appear to be an effort by the Tehran government to reorient the paramilitaries toward domestic security.

“The situation is volatile, and despite brute suppression, the Iranian cities have been the scene of more than 5,300 anti-government demonstrations and protest acts in 2007,” he said.

“On the other hand, the Qods Force, the extraterritorial arm of the IRGC, has been strengthened and has been expanding its export of terrorism and fundamentalism in other countries in the region, in particular Iraq, with freer reign.”

Coming purge?

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