Iran Election Watch 2012: Which group does the IRGC support?

In this week’s Sobh-e Sadegh editorial entitled “Who shall we vote for?”, Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, head of the Islamic Revolution Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Political Bureau and editor-in-chief of Sobh-e Sadegh, gave the clearest indication yet of which group the Guards support in this Friday’s Majlis elections.

Javani listed ten characteristics which he considered essential for a group or candidate to gain the IRGC’s approval, thereby indicating the Guards’ choice in a not-so-subtle manner. The list consisted of a number of platitudes common in the Islamic Republic’s political discourse, including “revolutionary”, “populist”, “pro-Velayat-e Faghih”, “anti-arrogance” [anti-American], “virtuous and pious”, “sagacious and aware”, and “efficient”. However three characteristics stood out because of what they may reveal about the IRGC’s political preferences in the 2012 Majlis election.

The first of these three characteristic was “not attached to centers of power and wealth.” On the one hand, this statement attempted to automatically dissociate the IRGC from the “centers of power and wealth”, thereby portraying the Guards as a genuinely popular and uncorrupted institution. On the other hand it also demonstrated the IRGC’s hostility to potential rival power centers and gave the green-light for its would-be political representatives in the Majlis to attack these perceived enemies.

The second characteristic was “willingness to confront the Sedition”, the regime’s terminology for the 2009-2010 Green Movement and  the “Perverted Current”, a reference to the Iranian president’s chief-of-staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and his supporters. The third and final characteristic was that the group or candidate be “unafraid of the enemy”, a position that essentially advocates a hard-line foreign policy which includes hostility toward the United States and Israel and support for Iran’s nuclear program, among other things.

While the first seven characteristics could conceivably apply to a number of groups or candidates, the last three correspond to the defining aspects of the Persevering Front of the Islamic Revolution, a Principalist electoral list in Friday’s elections led by Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi and associated with key figures in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first term in office between 2005-2009. As previously described on this website, the Persevering Front has been one of the most vociferously anti-Green and anti-Mashaei groups in the regime. Moreover, the Persevering Front has also sternly criticized centers of power and wealth, a veiled reference to ex-President and current Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and leading figures associated with the bazaar such as Habibollah Asghar-Owladi.

The Persevering Front’s main rival in the elections is the Principalist Unity Committee (PUC), which has representatives from all major Principalist groups. It was originally supposed to include the Persevering Front, but the latter split because it viewed the PUC as being hostile to the Ahmadinejad administration and conciliatory toward Greens, Mashaei, and Rafsanjani, among other things.

Given the increasingly central role which the IRGC plays in every aspect of the regime, could its political endorsement equal victory at the polls Friday? The upcoming elections could reveal much about the evolving political dynamics of the Islamic Republic and whether the IRGC truly is the power behind the throne, as many suspect.