Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) conducted its latest war games this week. Named the Great Prophet 11, the military drills included all the usual panoply to be expected. From the I.R.G.C. touting its capacity to wage warfare in urban terrain to testing of drones, missiles and artillery firepower, the three-day war games had it all.
Comment: It would be obvious to conclude the United States is the primary audience of this muscular display. After all, the I.R.G.C. has much at stake in any effort to be able to shape American calculations. The drills come at a time when the U.S. Congress is deliberating eight new sanction bills against Iran, including one that would designate the entire I.R.G.C. a terrorist entity. President Donald Trump, unlike Obama, is by some accounts seriously open to such efforts by members of the Congress.
But while the I.R.G.C.’s trepidations about U.S. policy toward Iran are real, its inordinate military showmanship is also a cue to the Iranian people. The message is simple, and it claims that only the I.R.G.C. can defend Iran from external threats. As has been the case in previous years, the I.R.G.C. constantly strives to shore up its credentials as the vanguard of Iran. The trouble for the I.R.G.C. is that many Iranians are openly incredulous about such claims. They see I.R.G.C.’s brinkmanship at home and abroad—including its adventurist military interventions in Iraq and Syria—to be the reason behind resurgent international pressure on Iran.