IRAN: Commander outlines Revolutionary Guard's muscular role in politics and economy
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard all but admitted Tuesday that his elite military branch is overseeing the country's domestic politics, shutting both the country's reformists and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's confidantes out of power.
Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari also opined on the country's foreign policy objectives in an interview with the semi-official Mehr News Agency [link in Persian] and admitted that the Revolutionary Guard was heavily involved in Iran's energy sector.
In the extraordinary interview conducted Monday, Jafari outlined the muscular role the ideologically driven Revolutionary Guard, or IRGC, sees for itself in policing Iran's political elite, especially after the arrests of key figures around Ahmadinejad, described contemptuously as "the deviant current" by Iranian hard-liners.
"Since the IRGC serves as law officer of the judiciary and since the deviant current's case has special complications, the IRGC arrested and detained these people based on a recommendation by the judiciary," Jafari was quoted as saying. "These people have not committed security crimes; however, they have committed economic and moral offenses. The people that have been arrested had close ties with main figures of the current."
The Revolutionary Guard's powerful role in Iran came to light following Iran's 2009 presidential elections, which many allege was blatantly rigged by Jafari in favor of Ahmadinejad to prevent moderates from taking over.
The moderates and reformists cried foul, joining millions in the streets for months of pro-democrcacy street protests derided as "the sedition" within the cosmology of regime pillars such as Jafari, who used the security forces to crack down on demonstrators.
In the interview, Jafari -- appointed to his post by the country's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei -- took it upon himself to outline the conditions he would set for the return to politics of reformists -- including former President Mohammad Khatami, who was elected to office twice with more than 70% of the popular vote.
"Members of the reformist camp who have not crossed the red lines can naturally participate in political campaigns," he said. "However, Mr. Khatami's success in his activities depends on his stances. Mr. Khatami did not pass his test successfully during the sedition incident and he showed a lot of support for the sedition leaders."
So far, Jafari continued, Khatami "has not yet adopted a stance to distance himself from those actions. ... I do not think people will forgive him."
Jafari also spoke about the IRGC's involvement in the economy, particularly the energey sector, where its construction wing -- Khatim Anbiya -- has taken on a gas exploration project in the Persian Gulf.
"The IRGC's approach toward implementation of economic projects has always been accompanied with a jihadi spirit," he said.
On foreign policy, Jafari was relatively cautious. He dismissed as politics retiring U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' contention that Iran could have a nuclear bomb in three years. "They make a lot of nonsense remarks," he said. "Whenever they become disappointed or fail to achieve their goals, they resort to political accusations or assassination."
He said the IRGC had taken up responsibility for protecting nuclear scientists after a spate of assassinations last year.
"At the moment, the enemy who has become disappointed in taking military measures against Iran aims to carry out terrorist actions and to cause insecurity and assassinate," he said. "We have gained evidence and information about such moves. The solution is that all intelligence and security organizations and officials in different bodies should remain vigilant."
Jafari accused the U.S. of stirring up the uprising in Syria -- the IRGC's base for spreading its power to the eastern Mediterranean region -- "because Syria is the only country of the region that stood up to U.S. and Israel."
But he noted what he described as differences between the American and Israeli positions on Syria. "They are worried that if they provoke unrest in Syria, certain groups might come to power in the country which could act against Israel's interest," he said.
-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photo: Mohammad Ali Jafari. Credit: Mehr News Agency