Listen to the story.
Earlier this week, Iran disclosed that it was building a second uranium enrichment plant, despite UN demands it cease its enrichment activities. The site is believed to be near the city of Qom, guarded by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards. The World's Laura Lynch looks at the apparently growing role of the Revolutionary Guards in the Islamic Republic.
JEB SHARP: I'm Jeb Sharp and this is The World. Iran says it views tomorrow's talks in Geneva as an opportunity and a test. Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator is slated to meet with officials from the US and five other nations. US officials are calling for Iran to come clean on its nuclear program or face tougher sanctions. The pressure on Iran is building after last week's revelations that Tehran has secretly been building a second uranium enrichment plant. It's next to a military compound run by the country's revolutionary guard. As The World's Laura Lynch reports, that's just another indication of the guard's growing influence inside Iran.
LAURA LYNCH: A missile roared high above the skies of Iran last weekend, a show of military might and defiance. After all, the successful test of the country's long range missiles came right after Iran was chastised fro hiding a second nuclear fuel plant. The test came courtesy of the revolutionary guard's air force, headed by a very proud general, Hussein Salemi.
HUSSEIN SALEMI: The missiles that were launched today were advanced long range missiles that belonged to us and have been manufactured by the missile command of the Iran's revolutionary guard air force.
LYNCH: No surprise that the guard's core, numbering more than one hundred and twenty five thousand, is involved in matters military. But Mosenz Sazagara says it's become so much more than a fighting force.
MOSENZ SAZAGARA: Revolution we got is now a government inside the government of Iran. A regime inside the regime of Iran.
LYNCH: He says Sazagara was a founding member of the revolutionary guard. He researched other countries' military make-up, including America's, on his way to building the military and intelligence force, that's charged with protecting the ideals of the Islamic revolution.
SAZAGARA: You know the evolution we got that we establish at the first days of, which revolution was not [INDISCERNIBLE] at least were revolutionary guards. In those days we thought that we were going to create a peaceful army and organization to mobilize people to descend the concrete. That's was the main idea.
LYNCH: Alongside the military though, the guard created a voluntary force, the Bezique militia, well known as the shocks troops who battled protestors on the streets this summer. But Sazagara, now a dissident living in the US, says over the years the guard has creeped into almost all corners of Iran's society and economy.
SAZAGARA: They are everywhere and not only in military but they are involved in security, economy, propaganda. They are involved in TV, radio and everywhere.
LYNCH: In the last few days, a firm tied to the guard has taken a controlling interest in a telecommunications company that controls the infrastructure of landlines, cell phone networks and data storage and exchange in Iran. And that's just the latest in a string of enterprises under its control from dentistry to engineering to charities. It's also developed political clout. A string of former guard members are in top positions. T hey include the president, Mahud Abdinijad. But Iranian academic, Rasul Nafisi, says even with all that power, the military men miscalculated earlier this year when the elections descended into protests. Nafisi says they let it happen in an effort to downplay their growing influence.
RASUL NAFISI: They are interested in elections for two reasons. Number one, to look legitimate in the eyes of the nation. Number two, to look legitimate in the eyes of the world.
LYNCH: The old struggle for military superiority has evolved into a battle for control over Iran's economy and the wealth it brings. Mosenz Sazagara hears from some of his old comrades who are unhappy about the way the guard has changed. But Rasul Nafisi says those men have lost influence.
NAFISI: I believe that as we go forward, we will have more and more of a uniform ideological group with tremendous interest in the economy.
LYNCH: They may still put on a good show, displaying the latest military hardware for all the world to see, but it's the guard's ever growing economic power, ties to perhaps as many as a hundred companies with revenues of billions of dollars that may well make it the most powerful force in Iran. For The World, I'm Laura Lynch.