LATEST: Supreme Leader’s Chief of Staff: “Our Military Consultants Saved Karbala, Najaf, and Baghdad” in Iraq

Iran’s regime hardliners continued their attack on President Rouhani on Saturday, targeting his remarks about “corruption” and the Revolutionary Guards.

At a conference on corruption earlier this week, the President warned that money once “given under the table now is being given on the table“. He called for the “elimination” of monopolies: “Anything which does not have rivalry or whose management is monopolised is flawed. This is wrong and the problem has to be uprooted.”

On the surface, those remarks were not controversial, given that Iran has been shaken over the last three years by scandals which include a $2.6 billion bank embezzlement and the conviction of President Ahmadinejad’s officials such as 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi in fraud cases. The Supreme Leader also spoke at the conference and called on all regime officials to be responsible and vigilant.

However, the President was far more provocative when he said that “when weapons, wealth, and media are in control of a single institution, an inevitable result would be corruption”.

The comment was taken as a jibe against the elite Revolutionary Guards, who have expanded their involvement in Iran’s economic institutions and companies.

An EA correspondent said, “I believe that soon we will witness attacks on Rouhani and his Government from Sepah and their allies.”

The fightback against Rouhani began in the Tehran Friday Prayer, when Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami sniped, “Corruption will not be eradicated by just holding conferences.”

And on Saturday, the critics began a direct assault. The head of the Basij militia, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, challenged Rouhani:

Unlike what some politicians say, the Basij and Revolutionary Guard need to be present on all grounds including the “defensive economy”. It is only this way that corruption can be eradicated.

MP Mohsen Sarami Foroushani taunted, “Fighting corruption has to start from the President’s office”. He claimed that Rouhani was increasing the Government budget for 2015/16 so he could use the funds for his agenda in the next Presidential election.

Rouhani’s senior advisor Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht responded, “If we wanted to do any work for our election campaign, we know how to do things and we don’t need to do these things [using the Government budget].

Supreme Leader’s Chief of Staff: “Our Military Consultants Saved Karbala, Najaf, and Baghdad” in Iraq

The Supreme Leader’s Chief of Staff, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, has said that Iran’s military “consultants” saved Iraqi cities from an Islamic state offensive.

Golpayegani told a ceremony in Shiraz that the “consultants” had helped “devoted Iraqi forces” pushed back “the Takfiri terrorists” so cities hosting Shia shrines were untouched: “[They] saved Karbala, Najaf, and even Baghdad.”

He continued, “In Syria, too, the same conditions prevail, and in addition, if Syria had not been supported, today both Syria and Iraq were captured by the Takfiri forces.”

Iran Hosts Deputy UN Envoy, Presses For “Realistic Views” To Solve Syrian Crisis

Iran has hosted the deputy UN envoy on Syria, Ramzy Ezzeddin, as discussions continue on a UN proposal for a “freeze” in fighting in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian called for a political resolution with “realistic views based on what is existing on the ground”.

At the same time, Abdollahian tried to define an “acceptable” opposition for any talks including the Assad regime: “There must be a distinction between terrorists and domestic opposition”. He added:

While [UN envoy Staffan] de Mistura’s plan to “freeze” the fighting in Aleppo is in progress, the foreign-backed arming and training of the moderate opposition is in stark contrast to this plan, and the UN must officially decry the arming of the opposition.

Ezzeddin was cautious in his remarks on Iran’s proposals, saying they were “noticeable”.