IRGC Arrests Pro-State Telegram Channel Operators in ‘Warning to Others’

On Thursday media outlets close to the IRGC reported that Ali Gholhaki, a hardline journalist and operator of a number of pro-deep state, pro-IRGC  Telegram channel, had abruptly been arrested by the IRGC itself along with several of his colleagues.

The MP for Tehran, Malik Shariati, later confirmed the news, including who conducted the arrests: “It [the story] was disseminated, especially among officials, so it will be transparent for the people and serve as a lesson to others.”

The arrest by the IRGC of one of its well-known cheerleaders is being read by some as an internal settling of accounts, and a bid to put a stop to the chronic leaking of information from the Guards that has blighted their image over the past year.

An audio file of a 2018 conversation between IRGC commanders about how best to manage a newly-outed corrupt relationship between the Guards and Tehran Municipality caused a minor scandal in February.

To make it worse, in April, the former IRGC commander, notorious grifter and ex-Mayor of Tehran Mohamed Bagher Ghalibaf was pictured returning from a blowout shopping trip in Turkey.

In May, another audio file featuring top cleric Mehdi Taeb, head of the pro-IRGC Ammar Headquarters, came to light that alleged Ghalibaf had also been on trips to Turkey directly on behalf of the IRGC.

The individual breaches might not have come from the same source, but together they told a story, and created an atmosphere of deep unease within the IRGC.

What Were Gholhaki et al Doing?

IRGC-aligned media outlets report that the arrested parties were running “semi-secret”, “secret” and “shadow” Telegram channels.

They were all detained on the charges of “disturbing the public mind” and, more tellingly, of “publishing classified documents”.

Many of these Telegram channel were associated with Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf, the managing directors of Fars News Agency (whose ultimate owner and controller is the IRGC itself), Nizamuddin Mousavi, head of the Presidium of the Iranian Parliament, and scattered individuals including the conservative politician Mehrdad Bazarpash.

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