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The ‘deviant current’: Illusion or reality

Brigadier-General Yadollah Javani , the head of the IRGC's political bureau

Brigadier-General Yadollah Javani , the head of the IRGC’s political bureau

This week’s front-page editorial in Sobh-e Sadeq, the main organ of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), written by the head of the IRGC’s Political Bureau Yadollah Javani discusses how the organization views the “deviant current” (a reference to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and his circle) and shines some light on the recent struggles within the Principalist faction.

In an article entitled “The deviant current: Illusion or reality” Javani addressed the three prevailing approaches to the new political discourse introduced by Mashaei and his circle which much of the anti-Mashaei Iranian press has taken to calling the “deviant current”. Mashaei has called for, among other things, some degree of secularization and the limitation of the political role of the Shiite clergy, emphasis on the “Iranian school” of Islam (a veiled form of Iranian nationalism) and the unprecedented demand of better ties with the people of Israel. The first view, according to Javani, is that of those who call the existence of the deviant current an illusion and accuse anyone who criticize it as being anti-Ahmadinejad, referring to Mashaei and his circle themselves. The second view is held by those who exaggerate its dangers and use it to smear President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his administration, including Reformists Pragmatists and Traditional-Principalists. The third view, which Javani implies is held by the IRGC, is that while the deviant current presents challenges, Ahmadinejad’s government should not be reduced to Mashaei and his followers but rather be regarded for its long record of hard work and service to the country. Javani thus appears to be telling the reader that while the IRGC has not been very receptive to Mashaei’s new discourse, this should be no means be taken to mean it no longer supports Ahmadinejad or his administration.

Indeed the appointment of the ex-commander of the Khatam-al Anbia Headquarters, the main economic arm of the IRGC, Rostam Ghasemi to the oil ministry by the president is a confirmation of the view that his relations with the Guard is indeed warm. [1]

Javani’s article also gives a bit of perspective on the IRGC’s leanings on the infighting within the Principalists. Neo-Principalists, represented by Ahmadinejad and his circle, have facilitated the expansion of the Guard into the leading heights of the Iranian state at an unprecedented rate. They have given the IRGC a near monopoly over national security, given it billions of dollars in government contracts and privatized assets, appointed key ex-Guardsmen to strategic positions throughout the bureaucracy and much more. The Traditional-Principalists on the other hand have been half-hearted at best in aiding the Guard’s ascent and have relatively little to offer compared to the Neo-Principalists. The former is loosely organized and lacks a coherent political vision and strategy to bring it safely through Iran’s stormy political waters. Worst of all, from the IRGC’s perspective, the Traditional-Principalists at times appear sympathetic to the Pragmatists and Reformists, who the Guard has clearly identified as its enemies in the crackdown that followed the 2009 Iranian political election crisis.

The Neo-Principalists, who appeared to be backing Mashaei and his new discourse have jettisoned this political line after the wave of negative attention it received over the last year from all corners of the regime. Instead they have shifted to a new discourse known as the 3rd Tir. This political line emphasizes an uncompromising attitude toward the Pragmatists and Reformists, a focus on social-economic justice and critically a central role in the state for the IRGC. In light of the highly sensitive 2012 Majlis (Iran’s legislature) election then, it appears that the Guard is likely to throw its weight behind the Perseverance Front of the Islamic Revolution, a pro-Neo-Principalist and 3rd Tir oriented election committee, rather than the Seven Plus Eight Committee/Principalists Unity Committee, which represents a coalition of major Traditional-Principalists groups. In such a scenario we would likely see a more pliant Majlis which has much less friction with Ahmadinejad, easing the IRGC’s increasingly more visible rise as the dominant political actor in Iran.