LATEST: Twitter & Facebook Blocked — Again

SUMMARY: For weeks, we have watched rising tension between President Rouhani and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, over the Syrian issue, nuclear discussions, and even domestic matters. While Rouhani has been trying to assert his authority, the Guards have used their media outlets — and perhaps disinformation — in an effort to limit the President’s foreign policy of “moderation” and “engagement”.

However, it was only on Monday that Rouhani brought the conflict into the open, taking matters directly to the Guards in an address to their senior commanders.

See Iran Analysis: Rouhani To Revolutionary Guards “No Politics, But You Can Have Economic Role”

The President praised the Guards as protectors “of this land’s border and country [and] also the preservers of God’s borders”, and then he got to the point: “[The IRGC] is above political currents, not alongside and inside political currents.”

Rouhani tried to ease IRGC concerns about their substantial economic interests, saying that the Guards should continue to take part in large-scale oil and gas projects and declaring that the IRGC is not competing with public and private sectors.

However, his challenge had been made. How will the Guards respond?

Initial indications were that the Guards will sweep aside the comments about politics and focus on the economic reassurances. Fars portrayed Rouhani as saying that that the Guards were essential to oil and gas development, “since the IRGC knows the country’s conditions very well”, while Sepah News said all is well: “The IRGC Will Assist The Government In The Economy And In Fighting Corruption”.

Supreme Leader Talks & Tweets About “Heroic Flexibility”, Wrestlers & “Hegemonic Challenge”

In an apparent dig at Rouhani’s policy of engagement, the Supreme Leader has expounded his philosophy of “heroic flexibility” in domestic and foreign policy, but cautioned about not over-stretching when it comes to “the enemy”.

The Supreme Leader’s office used Twitter to offer a concise description of the philosophy:

Meanwhile, Fars News (close to the Revolutionary Guards) proffers a more detailed explanation on its English website:

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said he has long held the belief in “heroic flexibility” in domestic and foreign policy, but cautioned that the tactic which is very necessary on some occasions should only be practiced after one gathers deep insight about the nature of his/her foreign rivals.

How does one gather such deep insight into one’s foreign rivals? Khamenei, through Fars, explains that this comes through “complete loyalty to Islam and revolution values”.

There appears to be a catch, however.

The Supreme Leader said that “whoever is more loyal to the main message of the Islamic Revolution” and “can analyze the enemies’ plots and behavior within the framework of the hegemonic system’s challenge with the Islamic Revolution” will be “further exposed to the arrogant powers’ fury and wrath.”

So, is Khamenei saying that by being “the most loyal” to the Islamic Republic, one can understand the enemy’s plots, but will bear the brunt of the fury of those plots?

Fars does not elaborate, but it does leave us with this clue, offering insight into what prompted the Supreme Leader’s remarks on wrestling, hegemonic challenges and “heroic flexibility”:

[The Supreme Leader’s] remarks came after Iran confirmed receiving a letter from US President Barack Obama.

Will The Real Rouhani Stand Up (On Twitter)?

As the confusion over which of two English-language Twitter accounts are officially affiliated with the President’s office, the original — @HassanRouhani — tweeted this message on Tuesday afternoon:

This account is the earlier of the two (the other being @drRouhani) to be created, and was opened during the Rouhani’s Presidential election campaign earlier this year. EA believe that this account is affiliated with the President’s office.

Twitter & Facebook Blocked — Again

So, it appears the lifting of restrictions inside Iran on social media such as Twitter and Facebook is short-lived.

New York Times Tehran bureau chief, Thomas Erdbrink, tweeted this morning that both sites are blocked once more.

Erdbrink cites a hardline official who called yesterday’s development a “glitch.”

Supreme Leader Reiterates Opposition to Nuclear Weapons

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has reiterated his stance that Tehran does not desire nuclear weapons.

He told a meeting of IRGC commanders this morning “We are against nuclear weapons not because of the US or other countries, but because of our beliefs.”

“And when we say no one should have nuclear weapons, we definitely do not pursue it ourselves either,” Khamenei added.

MPs Dismiss BBC Persian Film Claims IRGC in Syria

A number of high-profile MPs have reacted to the BBC Persian film about Iranian documentary filmmakers Hadi Baqbani by dismissing claims that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp have any presence in Syria.

National Security and Parliamentary (NSFP) Commission Chairman MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi, NSFP member and former IRGC commander MP Esmail Kowsari and NSFP member MP Ebrahim Agha Mohammadi said it was a “ridiculous claim,” and an “utter lie.”

Kowsari added, “We do not send military forces to Syria. The only thing we do is to transfer our experience to Syria.”

The three men did not, however, refer to Esmail Heydari the Iranian veteran and filmmaker who also died while making a film about a Shia militia group.

Raja News, also responding to the BBC Persian film, makes the misleading claim that Baqbani was kidnapped by Syrian opposition.

While it also argues that the film does not prove any IRGC presence in Syria, it states that the film is in line with previous IRGC statements about the Quds Force’s personnel “advising and experience transferring role.”

Supreme Leader Defends IRGC

The Supreme Leader has defended the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp’s (IRGC) “brilliant record of feats.”

His office also Tweeted his comments from a meeting with IRGC leadership, stating that although “It’s not crucial 4 IRGC 2safeguard political arena,but it must be familiar w/ #politics”.

Khamenei’s remarks, which come after President Rouhani yesterday told IRGC commanders that the Guards should stay out of “political games”, suggest the two men hold different opinions as to the role of the IRGC.

Fars News Propaganda Against Saudi Arabia

Fars News continues its propaganda offensive against Saudi Arabia, claiming that “Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan has recently taken a secret trip to Amman to do the final security arrangements for intensified moves against Syria.”

There has been an upsurge in media propaganda against Saudi Arabia, and Prince Bandar in particular, for their role in supporting the Syrian opposition in recent weeks.

IRGC Commander Warns of Response if US Attacks Syria

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned Washington yesterday that a US military move against Syria will lead to a response by the IRGC.

Jafari said, “If the US makes any military move, it will face numerous problems…God willing, the US will adopt wise decisions in this regard and won’t expose itself to danger.”

He added that “the IRGC will act upon its responsibility” in the face of a US attack on Syria.

Reports: Restrictions Lifted on Websites, Facebook, Twitter

Iranian authorities appears to have lifted barriers to Facebook and Twitter for the first time since 2009 and mass protests over the disputed Presidential election.

People in Iran, including the Tehran correspondents of The New York Times and the Washington Post, said on Twitter that they could access the service without using a Virtual Private Network.

Some websites have been unblocked, including EA WorldView and the homepage of the National Iranian American Council.

President Rouhani promised in his campaign that he would address the issue of censorship, and his Government sent a further signal when all members of the Cabinet opened Facebook pages.

Already, the initiative has prompted some controversy: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s Facebook page was hacked last week, with messages posted about the 2009 election.

MP, Economist Reacts to Rouhani Challenge to Revolutionary Guards

Following President Rouhani’s speech telling the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that it should stay out of politics, leading MP Ahmad Tavakoli has taken the fight farther: he has said the Guards are rivals of the people and private businesses and that they should only involved in large economic projects.

Economist Saeed Laylaz has taken a similar line but has also criticized Rouhani for being too soft on the IRGC’s financial activities, urging the President to limit the Guards’ economic interests.