InsideIran – Following the publication of an interview on July 5 in which the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that former president Mohammad Khatami was ineligible to return to Iranian politics, the ability of the IRGC to determine electoral candidates remains unclear. The IRGC commander addressed the topic while Iran prepares for the start of the process leading to parliamentary elections. Further complicating the IRGC’s role has been its recent enforcement of arrest warrants against several officials in the executive branch loyal to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On July 7, Iran’s highest judicial authority, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, indicated he was giving the IRGC free reign to continue asserting its presence directly into Iranian politics.
In a statement leaving little doubt as to his support for the IRGC, Head of the Judiciary Sadegh Larijani discussed the legal carte blanche provided to the Revolutionary Guards under the Iranian constitution.
“The responsibility of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards had been based in the [Iranian] constitution. This identity is not just that of a military force,” the judicial chief stated. The duties which “had been established in the constitution” included all activities necessary for the “defense of Islam and the school of Islam, and this basis is very important to the function of the [IRGC],” Iran’s Head of the Judiciary declared, according to Tabnak, a site affiliated with failed 2009 presidential candidate and ex-IRGC general Mohsen Rezaie.
The Iranian constitution defines the role of the IRGC as simply “guarding the Revolution and its achievements” in Article 150.
Reformist websites affiliated with the aides and followers of detained Green Movement leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi seized upon Sadegh Larijani’s statement immediately with alarm, with headlines declaring it to be a “defense of the interference of the IRGC in politics.” Reformist websites claim that Hassan Khomeini–grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Revolution–published a statement in response to the recent involvement of the IRGC in politics, declaring it contrary to the legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini.
BBC Persian Service reports that former president Khatami responded to the IRGC’s recent annexation of political power in an open letter to the head of the Revolutionary Guards, terming the development a “military coup.”
Sadegh Larijani’s ruling that the IRGC may assert itself in politics, and apparently vet candidates before elections, leaves doubt as to the role of other state organizations responsible for oversight of elections. The job of screening candidates to ensure the survival of the Revolution’s ideology is legally within the purview of the Guardian Council–thus far, it seems unclear how the IRGC’s declarations regarding candidates’ eligibility will interfere or overlap with the rulings of the Guardian Council.
Recently, according to the state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency, a number of IRGC officers have announced their intentions to resign and run for seats in Iran’s parliament.