In recent years, however, especially since the political upheaval following rigged presidential elections in 2009, the MOIS has been pushed aside in many areas by the separate, independent and much clumsier IRGC. “You read about ‘the elite IRGC’ and the ‘elite Quds Force,’” says a veteran American operative in the counter-terror wars. “Well, there is nothing ‘elite’ about the IRGC. It’s not the MOIS, which has a certain elegance.”

“They are using Hezbollah operatives where they can find them, or borrow them, and they are willing to use criminal elements,” says the American operative. “That’s what happens when you try to push out nine plots in six months. One maybe, or two. But nine–you get sloppy.”

According to one of our correspondents in the region who is in close contact with various governmental sources in Iran, senior leaders of the regular Iranian army, which has been sidelined for decades as the IRGC gained strength, are now accusing the IRGC of squandering precious military resources and political capital it its efforts to save the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a major Assad supporter, according to these sources, supplying expensive military hardware to help bolster the regime. His IRGC allies advised Assad early on to hang tough and forget about reforms, much as they had done when suppressing the popular protests in Iran in 2009.