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Iranian armed forces deputy chief joins cacophony against American “infiltration”

A recent speech by the Iranian armed forces deputy commander underlies President Hassan Rouhani’s relative isolation when it comes to the Islamic Republic’s campaign against American “infiltration”.

At an event on Thursday 12 November 2015 commemorating the death of Hassan Tehrani-Moghaddam, a father of Iran’s missile program, a new and influential voice was added to the cacophony of voices raging against the threat of American “infiltration” of Iranian society, politics, and the economy. On the occasion Majour General Gholam-Ali Rashid added his weight as deputy chief of staff of the armed forces behind the campaign against what Iran’s supreme leader has labelled as U.S. efforts to infiltrate Iran.

Contemplating Iran’s situation after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially referred to as the Iran deal, he remarked that: “After the nuclear agreements, some seek to pretty-up America’s hateful visage. These people are divided in two groups: The first group are naive and are not traitors, and perhaps some officials are part of the first group. But some are traitors and infiltrators. We must stand against both groups, because they want to open America’s path to the country.”

Rashid’s remarks are only the latest along a chain of comments by senior Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Majour-General Aziz Jafari, and Chief Justice Sadegh Larijani, against “infiltration” of the Islamic Republic by pro-American forces.

To date four Iranian-Americans and at least four Iranian journalists have been arrested by the IRGC’s intelligence unit and prosecuted by the judiciary for a host of allegedly infiltration-related crimes. A number of the Iranian-Americans and journalists arrested were either thought to be sympathetic to or worked for the Rouhani administration.

The arrest of the Iranian journalists precipitated the latest round of the contentious infiltration debate, leading to Rouhani’s admonishment of the judiciary for an alleged lack of impartiality and indifference to justice. Drawing on a Persian idiom, Iran’s president implicitly accused the judiciary of being “corrupted”. Chief Justice Larijani did not take kindly to what he characterised as the president’s “insult” and “accusation”.

By targeting individuals associated with the Rouhani administration, it appears that IRGC intelligence and the judiciary have implicated the president and his supporters in the perceived American infiltration plot, either as naive fools or willing traitors. Rashid’s latest comments further add to the trend of Rouhani’s increasing domestic political isolation as one Iranian power center after another closes ranks against the president and alleged “infiltrators”. But whether he ultimately becomes isolated or shifts the balance of power in his favour may be determined by the upcoming February 2016 Iranian elections, which will decide control of the parliament and Assembly of Experts.