London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani met with with veteran commanders of the influential Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Wednesday, and outlined his plans for Iranian foreign policy.
“The election had a message reflecting the intention of Iranian people to pursue a pro-active and dynamic foreign policy through which mutual rights and interests will be achieved,” Rouhani said.
With two weeks to go before assuming office, Rouhani is pushing hard to strengthen relations between himself and the powerful conservative hierarchy of the IRGC, a bulwark of the Islamic Republic’s political system.
Ensuring that the military and security establishment remains onside is seen by many observers as vital for Rouhani, given the fate of the reformist president Mohammad Khatami in the late 1990s and early 2000s, who faced obstruction and opposition from within the security establishment which undermined his presidency.
Rouhani, a senior cleric, trod a fine line during his address, aiming to reconcile his agenda for a more open, liberal approach, the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, and the sacrifices that the IRGC have made to defend and protect it.
Rouhani told the IRGC leadership: “No Iranian will accept damaging his country’s rights, interest, and security.” Given Rouhani’s long-standing position at the Supreme National Security Council, Iran’s president-elect enjoys strong relations with the IRGC.
“We can have a logical interaction with the international community on a constant and step by step progress,” Rouhani emphasized.
Rouhani also alluded to the hard-line attitude adopted by some figures that do not support his conciliatory approach.
In an implicit reference to the isolation and suppression of reformist leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, Rouhani called for Iran’s hard-line elements to exhibit greater tolerance and broadmindedness.
Rouhani stressed that raising questions about people’s faith and extending accusations are harmful and have no place in Iranian politics.
“Our religion Islam says that once one someone says ‘I testify that Allah is the only God and I testify that Mohammad is Allah’s messenger,’ we must accept this and have no right to shed doubt on it,” he added.
Present in the meeting between Rouhani and the IRGC leadership were Mohsen Rezaei, the IRGC’s former commander, former presidential candidate, and current secretary of Expediency Council. In addition to this, current Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi and Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the former defense minister in Mohammad Khatami’s administration, were also present.
Observers speculated that the purpose of the meeting was to bolster the existing ties between Rouhani and influential IRGC generals for a smooth transfer of of power next month, when Rouhani is due to be sworn in as president.
Outgoing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad enjoyed a close relationship with the IRGC during his first term, though ties became frayed during his final term in office.
In particular, Ahmadinejad’s reputation suffered substantially due to his strong support for his favorite aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, as well his reluctance to conform with Iran’s traditional conservative faction.
Meanwhile, Rasoul Montajab Nia, a pro-reform member of National Trust Party, has said that serious efforts are underway to secure the release of Mehdi Karroubi— a founding member and secretary general of National Trust Party—from house arrest, according to the Tehran Press website.
“Once these efforts come to fruition the National Trust Party will resume its activities calling its central committee,” Montajan Nia was quoted as saying.
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