Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 July 2021
In the 1960s and 1970s, revolutionary guerrilla groups rose as the epitome of anti-imperialist resistance across the globe. Feeling the heat of this global movement, Iranian activists left the country to undergo guerrilla training and participate in irregular battles in the Middle East and beyond. After the 1979 revolution, a few of these trained guerrillas became involved in the formation of a revolutionary state militia, soon to be known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). This did not make the IRGC a professional guerrilla force, despite IRGC leaders’ retrospective claims. Nevertheless, the IRGC can be seen as a participant in and a contributor to the global network of guerrilla organizations, although not in terms of structure and practice. This chapter follows Iranian activists’ extraterritorial networks and trajectories of key individuals within them. It demonstrates that as a state-sponsored militia, the Revolutionary Guards translated the common global guerrilla agenda – that of a systematic fight against a given imperialist state – into defying state-mandated rigid and centralized organization. With the help of previously tested patterns of informal order within Islamist circles, the IRGC emerged as a revolutionary organization for postrevolutionary times, leaving its mark on a new era of state-sponsored yet insurgent militias.
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