Home > Middle East, Politics > A Change of Guard in Tehran

A Change of Guard in Tehran

Farideh Farhi writes in Informed Comment Global Affairs:

On September 1st, Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei announced a change in the leadership of Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Eslami (IRGC). Brigadier (now Major) General Mohammad Ali (Aziz) Jafari was given a new star and appointed as sepah’s new commander while Yahya Rahim Safavi who had led sepah for the past 10 years became the leader’s military advisor, occupying a newly created and probably ceremonial position.

Given the recent news about the possibility of the United States placing sepah on the list of terrorist groups, the move led to speculations about it being a reaction to American pressures. Chances are, however, that it had very little to do with the possible designation, the news for which, from what I now understand, was in any case inaccurate as the contemplated designation was apparently regarding the Qods force, a part of sepah that is said to be engaged in operations in Iraq.

Indeed, in response to direct questions in this regard both commanders in separate news conferences suggested that the decision for change was made about two months ago. Safavi went as far as to say that Ayatollah Khamenei simply does not like anyone serving at any position for more than 10 years. The move nevertheless reveals a couple of interesting points about the role of military in Iranian politics which is usually overlooked.

First and foremost is the tight civilian control that exists over the military in Iran. In the past couple of years, since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2005 election, there has been a lot of loose talk about the increasing importance of the military in Iranian politics. The reality is that sepah (as well as the regular military) as an institution remains under the constitutionally sanctioned tight reign of the leader’s office. And for years Ayatollah Khamenei has taken that job very seriously, rotating leaders and demanding institutional changes depending on perceived needs and circumstances.

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Categories: Middle East, Politics
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