The Current Power Base in Tehran
Over the past two weeks we began publishing a series of articles regarding the three pronged sources of power and control in Iran: Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Rouhani or the Iranian Guards Revolutionary Corps (IRGC), currently led by Mohammad Jafari. Although Jafari himself is still not a visible power player, the IRGC definitely is. The IRGC, “the principal defender of the Islamic Revolution“, has a disproportionate amount of control on Iran’s politics, policies and economy (next post in the series) – control that resembles the KGB at its hiatus and is strengthened by Khamenei at the expense of the clerics since he took office. In fact, half the cabinet members of former president Ahmadinejad were current/former IRGC officials as was Ahmadinejad himself.
Rouhani’s Moderate” Cabinet
Last week, Rouhani chose his cabinet members and reduced the number of posts of IRGC members – while introducing “technocrats and economic planners” in their stead. This choice led to speculations, once again, that Rouhani is promoting a moderate version of Iran in the hopes of rapprochement with the West. Unfortunately, much as with Rouhani himself, Tehran’s definition of moderate is not easy to pin down.
His defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dheghan, is a top IRGC commander as is Hamid Chitchian, the future minister of energy – a key role in Tehran’s government. Rouhani did reduce the number of IRGC officials in his cabinet and yes, some of his cabinet members seem to have been chosen for their abilities and not for their political ties to current controlling factors. And yet, some of his cabinet members are far from moderate:
- Mahmoud Alavi, minister of Intelligence, is a firm believer in martyrdom and a supporter of Hezbollah and Hamas which he calls the “pupils of the revolution”. Expect no moderation from Alavi since he does not plan to ever “back down against the arrogance” (arrogance being a key word for the US and the Western powers).
- Mostafa Poutmohammadi, minister of Justice, was implicated in “crimes against humanity, including the executions of thousands of political dissidents in 1988 and … in 1998” and is far from moderate as to compromises: “With our actions and our resistance, we have cornered the arrogance. We have severely frightened and confused the arrogance.”
The Future According to the Past
But perhaps more importantly, no one, inside or outside of Tehran, knows how the IRGC, and Khamenei himself, will react over time to this Rouhani’s “moderation” strategy.
Rouhani may have reduced the IRGC’s direct influence in his cabinet but the IRGC’s base of power includes Khamenei himself and as long as Rouhani’s moderation does not hamper the IRGC’s hold on Iran’s economy, it may be business as usual for the IRGC.
If and when that line is crossed, Rouhani, and the West, should remember what happened to former President Khatami who was deemed as too liberal by Khamenei and soon found himself ousted in favor of Ahmadinejad.
Earlier articles on the IRGC: