In a press conference on Tuesday 01 September 2015, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Majour-General Mohammad-Ali “Aziz” Jafari followed in the footsteps of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in warning against a multifaceted American attempt to penetrate Iran in the post-deal era.
On Iran’s role in Syria
He presented the IRGC as a bulwark against American and Israeli penetration in the region, especially in Syria. He emphasised that the Islamic Republic (especially the IRGC) was ready to help those countries that had made a request to the utmost of its ability, in addition to the “military advisory support” it is already providing, to counter the “proxy wars” begun by enemies of the Iranian-led resistance front. “This program continues until the final defeat of the enemy.”
“Syria is on the front lines of the resistance and this one of the reasons of our support for Syria. Syria has been with the Islamic Revolution from the beginning and has helped the Islamic Republic to the utmost of its ability in our wars. It has been aligned with the resistance front as well as Iran and this issue has resulted in the Zionist regime and the United States to focus on destroying this regime in Syria… Comprehensive support for the Syrian regime is our revolutionary and Islamic duty…”
On Iran’s missile industry
Highlighting the Iranian supreme leader’s support for the Iranian missile program, Jafari remarked: “One of our strategic capabilities includes possession of surface-to-surface missiles below the range of 2000 km.”
He said that the trend of advances in missile technology will continue, noting that Iran has been “able to accomplish any need and expectation that has come from the supreme leader regarding increasing precision and quantity and quality…”
Dismissing United Nations Security Council-mandated limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program as part of the nuclear deal, Jafari asserted that: “This issue is in no way acceptable to the Islamic Republic and no one exists in Iran to accept these kinds of limitations.”
On the IRGC’s role in Iranian politics and the economy
Jafari then responded to questions raised about controversies surrounding the role of the IRGC in Iranian politics and the economy. On the economy, Jafari emphasised the potential importance of the IRGC in realising Ayatollah Khamenei’s notion of creating a “resistance economy” developed by using domestic resources: “We know helping the economy of the country as one of our essential duties. This is because of the vast capabilities at the disposal of the IRGC and Basij. This vast and popular organisation has a high capability and with its help we can do fundamental things in the economic domain…We announced our capabilities several times. Of course it has been well received but we do not know why these desires do not become operationalised. Our expectation from government officials is that given all of the emphasis of the supreme leader on the resistance economy they come and use this huge popular capability.”
Taking on accusations that the IRGC plays an undue political role and interferes in Iranian elections, Jafari shot back about plots by the enemy to infiltrate Iran’s power structure:
“The enemies have specific plans and goals in the elections. They are seeking the coming to power of currents aligned with them and individuals who can become a part of the Islamic Republic’s leadership and support their policies. This plan of the enemy will take place through various currents and parties.”
“We must be careful that political currents and parties that in their record have had disagreements with the revolution, the people, slogans of the revolution and orientation of the revolution, not place themselves in the mold of new organisations so that they lead our people to make mistakes.”
Jafari’s reference to political currents “in the mold of new organisations” may have been regarding the reformist Union of the Nation of Islamic Iran Party, a re-incarnation of the now-banned Islamic Iran Participation Front, which recently held its first majour gathering. The event was held in the large Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) auditorium with the presence of most if not all of the country’s main reformist figures, including Mohammad Khatami who joined the audience via video message.
Jafari continued by addressing the question of whether the IRGC is “interfering in elections”. He acknowledged his organisation issues warnings, but argued that this was done within the framework of the constitution: “The reason for the warnings of the IRGC is that the IRGC has taken shape to protect the revolution and its achievements according to article 150 of the Constitution.”
Article 150 of the Iranian Constitution states that: “The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, organized in the early days of the triumph of the Revolution, is to be maintained so that it may continue in its role of guarding the Revolution and its achievements. The scope of the duties of this Corps, and its areas of responsibility, in relation to the duties and areas of responsibility of the other armed forces, are to be determined by law, with emphasis on brotherly cooperation and harmony among them.”
Next the IRGC chief argued that today cultural, political, and economic threats are more important than military threats, a theme familiar to those who have followed his and Ayatollah Khamenei’s thinking over the years. From his perspective more than military threats, the Islamic Republic today is “confronted by political, cultural and economic threats. Here it is the essential duty of the IRGC to enter if cultural, political and economic threats want to strike a blow against or divert the course of the Islamic Revolution.”
“If in this situation the IRGC does not play a role it has not performed its mission correctly. However when the IRGC enters this domain and issues warnings or takes actions, those who want to take actions against the Islamic Revolution through political or cultural paths, it is natural that they they begin psychological and propaganda operations against the IRGC and accuse the IRGC of political interference that the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] banned when in fact the saying of the Imam is that the IRGC not support a particular faction.”
The latter is reference to Ayatollah Khomeini’s famous dictum regarding the military’s role in Iranian politics, which remains a topic of some controversy in terms of what it does and does not permit.
In a move that appeared aimed at hedging against accusations of bias in favour the conservative-leaning principalist current, Jafari concluded by saying:
“Today we witness in the principalists currents aligned with the revolution tens of party currents that the IRGC cannot support a single one of them.”