Facing more US sanctions, Iran’s President Rouhani has backed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, despite his quarrels with the military organization over political, economic, and social issues.
On Wednesday Rouhani used a Cabinet meeting to describe the IRGC as “beloved” of the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
Donald Trump is expected to announce by Friday that he is decertifying Iranian compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal, opening the way for Congress to reimpose sweeping sanctions within the next 60 days. These could include restrictions on the IRGC, which has a prominent stake in Iran’s economy.
Rouhani warned yesterday:
If the United States wants to commit the next mistake and take action against the Revolutionary Guards, this is a mistake on top of another mistake; the Revolutionary Guard is not just a military unit, but it has a place in the hearts of the Iranian people and has defended our national interests in times of threats to the country.
The Revolutionary Guards are not only popular among the people of Iran, but also among the Iraqi people because they saved Baghdad. It is also popular with the Iraqi Kurds, because they saved Erbil. It is also popular with the people of Damascus and Syria, because they saved Damascus. It is popular among the Lebanese people because it has been a supporter of the dignity and independence of Lebanon; the IRGC has always aided the oppressed and stood up against terrorists.
The statement was a shift from Rouhani’s recent sparring with Iran’s hardliners. Calling the IRGC a “government with guns”, he has indicated that its expanding stake in the economy — with large stakes in companies and control over most infrastructure projects through its engineering and logistic branches — is hindering recovery. Last weekend he challenged restrictions on former President Mohammad Khatami, including a three-month ban on public appearances, and questioned the judiciary’s detentions on political grounds.
But yesterday Rouhani saw unothing but unity in Iran: “Today, the proponents and opponents of the JCPOA [nuclear deal] stand together and have the same voice; we consider violating commitments…wrong and treacherous for national interests, the region and the world.”
It was the second display of reconciliation between the Government and the Guards this week. On Monday, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were photographed smiling and warmly embracing on the sidelines of a ceremony in Tehran.