IRGC commander Jafari: Election of a reformist was a ‘red line’ in 2009

A leaked video, whose veracity and date have yet to be confirmed, purports to show IRGC commander Majour-General Mohammad-Ali Jafari discussing his organization’s political preferences and strategy toward the controversial 2009 Iranian presidential election and the post-election crisis. 

In a leaked video posted on the Facebook account of Iranian opposition figure Mohammad Nourizad, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Majour-General Mohammad-Ali Jafari can be seen discussing his organization’s response to the Green Movement demonstrations in an open and frank manner with what appears to be members of that body’s senior leadership. Nourizad is a former journalist for the conservative Kayhan daily newspaper who was arrested after writing a series of critical letter about the crackdown on the Green Movement to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The video does not appear to have been taken in secret, although its authenticity has yet to be verified.

In the video Jafari makes clear that the IRGC viewed the election of a reformist and the return to power of the reform movement as anathema:

“The worry and concern which existed and the red-line that existed for the forces of the revolution was that the forces that were against the revolution and its values, which during the period of the Second of Khordad [Reform era, 1997-2005] had found an opportunity and had penetrated the regime, would once again come to power.”

He asserted that “In the election and the events afterward,” referring to the Green Movement demonstrations, “it became clear why they [reformists] insisted so much that the IRGC and Basij, under the label ‘military forces’, should not interfere with the election. Jafari said that if reformists had it their way, “we should not interfere, so that they could carry out their plot while the IRGC and Basij do not bother them.”

Jafari next acknowledged that “many officials, many elites, and even some clergymen are unclear in relation to the events that happened,” referring to allegations of fraud in the 2009 Iranian presidential election, “and some still have objections.”

He then turned his attention to the crackdown on the Green Movement, which followed the 16 June 2009 Friday sermon by Khamenei, in which the Iranian supreme leader dismissed the demonstrations and asked them to retreat from the streets. In that sermon Khamenei had declared that “Demonstrating strength on streets after the election is not correct, but is rather challenging the principle of elections and the principle of democracy. I ask everyone to cease this approach. This approach is not a correct approach. If they do not cease, then the responsibility of the consequences, the chaos, will be with them.”

Remarking on Khamenei’s sermon calling for demonstrations to cease, Jafari said that:

“After that it was natural that we must not allow even what they themselves call ‘quiet demonstrations’ take place. It was predicted that when this approach was taken there would be one or two more days of demonstrations,” referring to the decision to crackdown, “however, fortunately with this approach, from Saturday afternoon and after this ban came into place, nothing happened anymore. And the reason was clear, because the majority of those who participated in the these demonstrations came from the [affluent] north of the city and they are not very accustomed to enduring difficulties and taking a stand. This was completely apparent.”

“Two very fundamental and strategic actions had an impact in clearing up this affair. One was the very widespread arrests which was carried out by the security forces, and partially the IRGC, at the level of planners and ideologues of this affair.”

“And then the confrontations,” referring to the second action taken to clear up the demonstrations, “which in a widespread manner, with the presence of the Basij popular forces and the IRGC, and with the assistance of the police and security organizations, took place for confronting this affair, including the most important one which took place on Saturday afternoon.”

The latter refers to the crackdown on the Saturday following Khamenei’s sermon, which led to a number of casualties, including the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, who became a symbol of the Green Movement.

“These two fundamental actions plus the cutting of their communications, meaning creating disorder in their communication systems, including internet networks, mobile networks, SMS, etc.  had a big impact on messing up their plans.”

If real, the video is perhaps one of the best indications we have of the IRGC’s political preferences during the sensitive post-election period in 2009. However, as the video is referring to a specific period, and is not dated, it is unclear what we can extrapolate about the IRGC’s political preferences today, especially vis-a-vis current centrist President Hassan Rouhani who received significant support from reformist-oriented voters during the 2013 presidential election. It will be interesting to see how the Islamic Republic’s political establishment, and the IRGC itself, react to the leaked video.

Last updated Monday 02 June 2014.