Just a few days after the spokesperson of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) announced that the force was “not defined by the narrow and limited political circles,” ayatollah Khamenei’s deputy representative in the force gave a different picture by saying, “The Guards support the principlists,” die hard hardliner ideologues who claim to support the ideals of the 1979 revolution.
Speaking during the fourth seasonal seminar of the representatives of Iran’s supreme leader in the ground forces of the IRGC, cleric Abdollah Haji Sadeghi stressed the force’s participation in political affairs and said, “The IRGC will definitely take a position in the political posturing against the revolution and this is one of its inherent characteristics.”
Sadeghi further claimed that the force was created to “deepen and export the values of the revolution,” and added that “in the confrontation between the principlists (hardline ideologues) and liberal reformists we support the principlists and there is nobody more principlist than the IRGC.”
He described principlism to be a belief in “religious content and in velayate faghih in all spheres,” and concluded that the Guards were the leaders in these.
These remarks come despite earlier statements by the spokesperson of the IRGC who had rejected the notion that the force had to support a political faction after cleric Ali Saeedi had said before the March 2 elections that “the Majlis had to be in the hands of the principlists.”
On March 1Guards brigadier general Ramezan Sharif had stressed that “the IRGC had never defined itself in the narrow and limited circle of factional politics and had always viewed itself as the defender and guard of the Islamic revolution ideals and values.” He further clarified this statement by saying that it would be diminishing to limit the Guards strictly to factional politics.
To make matters worse, the public relations office of the IRGC issued a statement saying that the views of both of these individuals constituted the official position of the force. Prior to this statement, the very same public relations office had said that the official positions of the force would be announced only by the supreme commander, the representatives of ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC public relations office.
In recent years criticism over the interference of military forces in the political affairs and political parties of the country have been on the rise even though officials of the armed forces have been denying it. Still, these officials have also supported the principlists and have even intervened to defend them.
In another related event, on September 11, 2011, the then head of the IRGC political office Yadollah Javani wrote an article in Sobh Azadegan, the official magazine of the force which operates under the supervision of ayatollah Khamenei’s representative there as the campaign for the March 2 Majlis elections had begun, in which he stressed on supporting the principlists.
Javani claimed in the article that the IRGC did not belong to any political group and had no sympathy for any group either, but also added, “The IRGC supports the discourse on principlist ideology. The principlist views or the very discourse of the Islamic revolution are clear and known to the IRGC.”
Soon after assuming the post of IRGC commander issued by ayatollah Khamenei in 2007 Mohammad Ali Jaafari expressly announced his support and that of the forces under command for the principlists.
Later that year, Jaafari also told a group of Basij students that it was necessary to defend the principlist movement for the continuation of the revolution, adding that it was a divine duty and inevitable for revolutionary forces (such as the IRGC) to do so.”
He openly expressed joy that the principlist movement or force had returned to the revolution after a 25 year lapse and dominated the two of the three government branches (executive and judiciary).
These remarks brought forth some criticism and Jaafari subsequently toned down his position and even claimed that his remarks were not to support any political or faction and added that the IRGC only supported the values and thoughts of the principlists.
A large group of current regime critics who at one time played key roles in the birth of the Islamic republic have in recent years criticized the IRGC for ignoring the directives of the founder of the regime ayatollah Khamenei and accused the armed forces of interfering in political affairs of the country and supporting a specific faction, thus deviating from the ideals of the revolution and the Islamic regime.
Ayatollah Khomeini had expressly banned the armed forces from engaging in political affairs. His political will also clearly and expressly states this. The constitution of the Islamic republic also has clauses that ban the members of the armed forces, the police, the Guards and the Basij from entering any political or other groups and states that they must stay away from “political games.”
But the current leader ayatollah Khamenei has in various remarks assigned political tasks and missions to the armed forces, in addition to those in the security and economic realms.
In fact, Jaafari’s earlier comments that stressed the political involvement of the Guards in addition to their other activities specifically quotes ayatollah Khamenei. “Just as the supreme leader does not accept any restrictions for the IRGC in carrying out its mission in various realms to defend the Islamic revolution, the force must be prepared to defend the Islamic revolution and its accomplishments in all spheres,” he said. He said that the IRGC was the “powerful arm of the leader,” and added that the force was also a non-armed arm of the leader.