Feb 03, 2011

According to the official reports from Iran, Brigadier General Ghasem Soleymani (Commander of the Qods force) has been promoted to the rank of Major-General.

Official reports from Iran stated that Ayatollah Khamenei presented this title to Ghasem Soleymani, who according to Iran’s Constitution is considered Chief of all the Armed Forces.

The rank of Major-General (in other countries’ militaries the equivalent to a two-star general) is the highest rank given to the armed forces serving the Islamic Republic. 13 Generals of the Islamic Republic will be introduced in this article.

General Firouzabadi: A General Who Neither Was a Soldier nor an Officer


The armed forces of the Islamic Republic currently has 13 Generals: four in the military, eight in the IRGC, and one named Hassan Firouzabadi who neither served in the IRGC nor in the military. Yet today he is both a high-ranking IRGC and Military Commander.

General Hassan Firouzabadi is the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.[1] While being Iran’s highest military officer after Ayatollah Khamenei, he lacks a background in both the military and the IRGC. Before receiving the rank of general and appointed to be the Chief of the Armed Forces in 1989, Hassan Firouzabadi had not served in any of Iran’s armed forces.

It was during the war and at the Khatem al-Anbiya base when Firouzabadi came close to collaborating with the Armed Forces. Hassan Firouzabadi, supervised by Hashemi Rafsanjani at the time, was commander of the Khatem base. Hassan Rowhani served as his deputy in charge of coordinating [meetings between] ministry representatives of the Mousavi government at the Khatem base.

After the war ended in 1988, a council of professional military figures decided to confer Hassan Firouzabadi the rank of general. Ayatollah Khamenei appointed him Chief of the Armed Forces.

Firouzabadi, now 59, has this job for 21 years. Ayatollah Khamenei highly admires him, and armed forces personnel consider Firouzabadi faithful and religious [enough] to be Commander of the Armed Forces.

It is said that his most important objective is a complete transition and no change in Ayatollah Khamenei’s commanders to the armed forces.


General Gholamali Rashid, Vice Chief of Staff and accredited by the IRGC

Contrary to General Firouzabadi, his deputy General Gholamali Rashid was one of the high-level IRGC Commanders during the Iran-Iraq war.[2]

Along with Mohsen Rezaee, Rahim Safavi, Ali Shamkhani, and Hossein Dehghan, Gholamali Rashid was one of the main and decision-making Commanders of the war. Because of this background, the IRGC forces hold him in high esteem.

General Mostafa Izadi: Deputy to the Chief of Armed Forces


According to official reports from Iran, there is another General named Mostafa Izadi.[3] General Izadi, one of the Najafabadi’s of the IRGC, was a top IRGC commander and for years after the war served as Commander of the IRGC Ground forces.

The IRGC forces, especially the ground forces, highly respect Izadi. Because he is close to Hosseinali Montazeri (the most famous critic of Khamenei), Izadi has been prohibited from gaining higher rank. Upon receiving the general rank two years ago, Izadi was chosen to be advisor to the Chief of the Armed Forces.

General Mohammad Bagheri: Intelligence and Operations Advisor to the Chief of Staff

According to public and official reports from Iran, Mohammad Bagheri is another advisor to Hassan Firouzabadi.[4]

He is the brother of Hassan Bagheri, the first director of IRGC intelligence and operations in the early 1980s and cited as a “martyr” in the Islamic Republic’s official literature.

General Mohsen Rezaee: An Ahmadinejad Critic and the Leader’s Humble Servant

Former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaee is maybe the very first general of the Islamic Republic’s Armed Forces.

From 1980 to 1997, he was the IRGC Head Commander[5] and is widely known among the IRGC forces as “Agha Mohsen”.

General Rezaee wrote a letter to Ayatollah Khomeini at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. He cites this letter as well as the government’s assessment of the country’s economic situation as important motives that influenced Ayatollah Khomeini to accept Resolution 59 and end the Iran-Iraq war.

Indeed after reading this letter which requested 350 battalions, 3500 tanks, 3000 bombs, 300 planes, 300 helicopters, as well as laser and atomic weapons to continue the war, Ayatollah Khomeini said to the country’s leaders that, “Despite all these problems, they still want to ‘continue the war’. That is no more than a slogan.”

Currently, Mohsen Rezaee is Director of the Expediency Council and no longer wears a uniform. He was a critic of Ahmadinejad during the 2009 Presidential Elections.

Even though still a critic of President Ahmadinejad, after the post-election unrest Rezaee professed to Ayatollah Khamenei that he completely renounced his opposition [to Ahmadinejad]. He dissociated himself from Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the other two opposition candidates.

Vice Admiral Ali Shamkhani: Not Ready to call the People’s Protests as Divisive Strife


Ali Shamkhani, successor IRGC during the Iran-Iraq war, and former Commander of the Navy in both the Military and IRGC, is another General of Iran’s Armed Forces who because of his military background is considered the most elite of all the officers now serving in the IRGC.

While being Vice Admiral of the Navy, Shamkhani is current head of the Research Center for Defense Aid.[6]

Ali Shamkhani previously served as Mohammad Khatami’s Minister of Defense, but he campaigned against the reformists during the 2001 presidential elections.

After the 2009 post-election unrest, Ali Shamkhani took part in the television program “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Despite the moderator’s pleas and counter to the official government propaganda, he was not ready to call the post-election protests as divisive strife.

General Ghasem Soleymani: The Most Famous IRGC Commander Known Outside of Iran

General Ghasem Soleymani is considered one of the most experienced Commanders in the IRGC. After becoming General, he was promoted to rank of Brigadier General and appointed Commander of the IRGC Qods Force. Furthermore, he has been Commander of the 41 Kerman Sarallah Brigade.[7]

It is said that IRGC forces highly approve him because of his military background in important battles during the Iran-Iraq war such as the Tassarof Fav and Karbala 5.

Despite General Soleymani’s position as the IRGC Qods Force commander, he was in contrast to other top IRGC commanders silent about domestic matters such as the post-election unrest and avoided publicly expressing his beliefs. That’s why protestors haven’t heard any criticism from him.

General Soleymani is one of the most famous IRGC commanders known outside of Iran. Western media have identified him as one of the most influential figures in Middle Eastern politics—specifically in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Palestine.

General Soleymani’s name is on the UN and US Sanctions list alongside Rahim Safavi and Mohammad Ali Jafari.

General Rahim Safavi: Chief Aide and Advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei

General Yahya Rahim Safavi, known among the IRGC armed forces as “Agha Rahim”, is one of the Iran-Iraq war’s elite commanders. He was the Chief Director of IRGC Intelligence and Operations.

After the war, he was Deputy Commander of the IRGC and succeeded Mohsen Rezaee in 1997 as Head Commander of the IRGC. [8]

During his term as Head Commander of the IRGC, General Safavi was one of the Khatami Administration’s critics. In 1999, he considered domestic critics of the regime as anti-revolutionary and emphasized that “Because our tongue is our sword, we must chop off some people’s necks and cut off their tongues.”

It is said that he also opposes Ahmadinejad but never publicly expressed his opinion outside of private meetings.

In the middle of Ahmadinejad’s first term in office in 2007, Safavi was removed from his post. Mohammad Ali Jafari replaced him.

In the nineteen months since the post-election unrest Safavi opposed the protests. Like individuals such as Basij Commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi and IRGC Intelligence Organization Director Hossein Taeb, Safavi was indirectly involved in the crackdown on the post-election turmoil.






Mohammad Ali Jafari: Former Commander of the Sarallah Base and Current Head Commander of the IRGC

Mohammad Ali Jafari, known as “Aziz Jafari”, was promoted to the rank of General in 2007. During the Iran-Iraq war, he was one of the second-class Commanders, meaning inferior than the five main IRGC Commanders, and superior than the Brigadier Generals.

After Mostafa Izadi, he became Commander of the IRGC Ground Forces, then director of the IRGC Center for Aid, and a little later became Head Commander of the IRGC.

During the Khatami presidency, Aziz Jafari was commander of the IRGC Sarallah base and one of the 27 IRGC commanders who signed a threatening letter to Mohammad Khatami.

Many of the regime’s opponents believe that the IRGC and the Sarallah Base commanded by General Aziz Jafari played a key role in illegally interfering with the 2009 Presidential Elections, arresting and detaining political activists, as well as clashing with protestors in the streets.[9]

General Atallah Salehi: Head Commander of the Military

Head Commander of the Military[10], artillery officer and one of the officers trained in the Shah’s Royal Army, General Atallah Salehi is not widely known among Iran’s armed forces.

Even so, on February 8, 2009 he published an article criticizing the Islamic Republic Voice and Vision’s manipulation of facts about the Iran-Iraq war and its coverage of the Military’s role.

Contrary to previous Military Commanders who rarely expressed their opinions about domestic affairs, after the 2009 post-election turmoil General Salehi criticized people chanting “God is Great” on the rooftops, stating that nobody can expect the military to be soft on divisive strife.

General Ali Shahbazi: The Supreme Leader’s Chief Military Advisor

General Ali Shahbazi is a contemporary of Ali Sayyad Shirazi, the famous military commander during the war with Iraq.

His relationship with Ayatollah Khamenei goes back to the years when Ayatollah Khamenei was the representative of the Islamic Republic’s founders in the Supreme Council of Defense. Yet this very relationship helped him get appointed as the very first Head Commander of the Islamic Republic’s Military after Khamenei became Supreme Leader.

Afterwards, he became Head of the Trusted University Council for National Defense[11] but suddenly resigned from his post as Head Commander of the Military.

It is said that he resigned because of his dissatisfaction with the government’s decision about a brutal argument between the IRGC and the military over the property of a base in Shiraz.

General Mohammad Salimi: The Supreme Leader’s Military Advisor

After Ali Shahbazi, General Mohammad Salimi became Head Commander of the Military. He is known in Iranian politics as an official close to the Hojjatieh School.

He was already retired when called to serve again as Head Commander of the Military.[12]

General Salimi after a while resigned from his post and gave his position to General Salehi.

General Hassani Saadi: Advisor to the Chief of Staff of Armed Forces

Hassani Saadi, another military general, previously was commander of the Military’s Ground Forces. He is now organizational advisor to the Chief of Staff. He is a professional and non-political figure.

* * *

Even though Iran’s generals have distinguished military backgrounds in the Iran-Iraq war and in defending the country’s borders, many critics believe these elite IRGC and Military Commanders of various ranks play a role in crushing the people’s discontent.

It can be concluded that there is criticism of the abovementioned commanders from the old forces and from within the IRGC body.

[1] For more information about General Firouzabadi, you can visit the Expediency Council’s Website as he is a member:

[2] Gholam Ali Rashid was Commander of Qods Forces Operations who prepared the grounds for liberating the city of Khorramshahr.

[3]Ettelaat Newspaper, January 27, 2010

[4] IRGC-backed Javan Online Website, January 28, 2010

[5] For more information about Mohsen Rezaee, please visit

[6], September 26, 2005

[7] Fars News January 28, 2010


[9] See the text of the Seven Reformist Activists’ complaint: Radio Farda, August  8, 2010

[10] Fars Online April 11, 2010

[11] This verdict was issued for Ali Shahbazi in April 1992.

[12] General Salimi was recalled to duty in 2000. He resigned in 2005.

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