April 29, 2022 | Policy Brief

Iran Increases Funding for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

April 29, 2022 | Policy Brief

Iran Increases Funding for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Iran significantly increased its funding in 2021 for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the regime’s primary tool for exporting Islamist extremism and supporting terrorist groups, according to a new report released on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This budget increase strongly suggests that the regime would use any financial windfall associated with a new nuclear agreement to boost support for its regional proxies and paramilitary forces.

“In 2021 Iran’s military budget increased for the first time in four years, to $24.6 billion,” SIPRI stated. “Funding for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps continued to grow in 2021—by 14 per cent compared with 2020—and accounted for 34 per cent of Iran’s total military spending.”

While precisely measuring Iran’s military spending is difficult given its opaque funding mechanisms and the IRGC’s entwinement with the private sector, Tehran has long used the IRGC and its Quds Force to support terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and a bevy of other militias in Iraq and Syria. These organizations constitute vital tools in Iran’s hegemonic campaign for regional supremacy, which aims to attack, undermine, and control other governments in the Middle East at the expense of U.S. interests and those of its allies.

Iran-backed terrorist organizations have killed hundreds of Americans, from the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983 to the war in Iraq that began in 2003. A 2019 U.S. Army study concluded that the IRGC in 2005-2006 developed weapons specifically designed to kill Americans. The IRGC then smuggled those weapons into Iraq, where it trained militias how to employ them. The Pentagon estimates that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq killed at least 603 American troops.

That fact is why over 1,000 veterans and family members of those killed or wounded by Iran-backed organizations wrote to President Biden in January urging him not to release frozen Iranian funds until Tehran compensates the families of the victims.

Despite the IRGC’s track record and continued misbehavior, the Biden administration has been considering removing the group from the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). Such a step would reduce the ability of U.S. victims of Iranian terrorism to sue the IRGC and providers of material support to the IRGC, reduce options for criminal prosecutions and penalties, and signal to others that a terrorist group can receive sanctions relief without having to cease its support for terrorism. Perhaps that is why 900 Gold Star family members and wounded veterans wrote another letter earlier this month asking Biden not to delist the IRGC.

The 14 percent increase in the IRGC’s budget makes clear that Tehran is as determined as ever to fund the group and support terrorism. If past is prologue, one should expect more IRGC-backed terrorism targeting Americans, Israelis, Arab partners, and others if Tehran receives tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Bradley Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Ryan Brobst is a research analyst. For more analysis from the authors and CMPP, please subscribe HERE. Follow Bradley on Twitter @Brad_L_BowmanFollow FDD on Twitter at @FDD and @FDD_CMPP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Military and Political Power