Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have accused President Hassan Rouhani of deliberately weakening them, amid a growing battle over the Guards’ large stake in the Iranian economy.
Brigadier General Abdollah Abdollahi, the commander of the Guards’ engineering and logistics branch Khatam al-Anbia, launched one of the latest challenges, “I have a major complaint with the Rouhani Administration.” He claimed that the Government owed a substantial debt to the IRGC “but now [it] is talking about the government without guns and the government with guns”.
Rouhani and the Guards have swapped criticisms in recent weeks over economic affairs. The President has said that a privatization plan under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad merely allowed the Guards to grab significant shares in State enterprises, and has promised that his Government’s approach will put a priority on recovery and stability.
Abdollahi insisted that those who claim the Guards are competing with the private sector are “ignorant or wrong”, with all of its economic efforts carried out at “the government’s request”, and said that “it is not right to create a negative atmosphere”.
He then justified the expansion of the IRGC’s holdings, saying “the private sector is not capable of doing” what the Guards are achieving, including with large State projects.
The commander of the paramilitary Basij Organization, IRGC Brigadier General Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar, bolstered Abdollahi’s statements, calling the “weakening” of the Guards an “unpardonable sin”. He said ominously, “It cannot be believed that the weakening [is due to] a mistake or neglect.”
Gheibparvar added that, at a time when the Guards face pressure from Saudi Arabia, the US, and Europe, “It is surprising that there are some within the country, too, who wish to focus their attacks on the IRGC.”
And the deputy commander of the IRGC Ground Forces, Brigadier General Abdollah Eraghi, added:
The government’s first duty is the creation of security in the country, and the more powerful and capable the country’s armed forces are, the more stability exists in the society….No one can say that the armed forces don’t need to strengthened, because the armed forces are responsible for creating and maintaining society’s security.
The Guards’ rhetorical offensive could threaten Iran’s attempt at economic recovery amid implementation of the July 2015 nuclear agreement. Despite ongoing US sanctions, the Government and France’s energy giant Total announced a $4.8 billion deal last week to develop part of the South Pars oilfield. However, Abdollahi indicated that the IRGC sees the foreign investment as a threat to the Guards’ position, with companies such as Italy’s ENI likely to follow Total.
The Friday Prayer Leader of Mashhad, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, said that the deal with Total did not serve Iranian interests and asked the judiciary to be “sensitive to foreign contracts”.
(h/t to Iran News Roundup for translations)