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Vanguard of the ImamReligion, Politics, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards$
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Afshon Ostovar

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199387892

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199387892.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
Vanguard of the Imam

Afshon Ostovar

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a narrative of the 2011 takeover of the British Embassy in Tehran by Basij students. The semiotics of the episode are used to explain some of the core characteristics of the IRGC: its Shiite religious identity, relationship to clerical authority, politics, heroes, special devotion to the supreme leader, and privileged place in revolutionary Iran. Brief overviews of the IRGC and the scholarly literature on the IRGC are provided. To further broaden understanding of the IRGC, this chapter considers larger conceptual and theoretical issues: the IRGC’s relationship to pro-clerical activism; the centrality of the supreme leader to the IRGC’s identity and place in Iran’s Islamic system; the role of conflict in the development of the IRGC and the Islamic Republic; and the IRGC’s impact on the formation and development of Iran’s Islamic system (nezam).

Keywords:   Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, IRGC, modern Iranian history, modern Middle East history, Shiite Islam, Shi`ism, armed forces, state formation, praetorianism, political Islam

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