Iran commander asks FM to stay out of military affairs

December 12, 2013 - 6:15:52 am
DUBAI: The commander of Iran’s elite revolutionary guards force, Mohammad Jafari, has suggested the nation’s foreign minister stay out of military affairs in a growing debate over comments by the minister that indicated Iran was weak.

Last week Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by local media as saying the West had little fear of Iran’s military defences and could destroy them if it wished, although Zarif has said his statement was skewed and taken out of context.

“We consider him an experienced diplomat, but he has no experience in the military field,” Fars news agency reported Jafari as saying on Tuesday, without naming Zarif.

The commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Jafari was answering a question about whether US forces could destroy Iran’s military capability with a few bombs.

“It’s not like that at all. He has no military experience or expertise,” Jafari said during a visit to Tehran’s Imam Sadiq University.

Jafari also appeared to dismiss recent calls for the IRGC to stay out of politics, saying its duty was to protect the Islamic revolution.

“The main threat to the revolution is in the political arena ... and the Guards cannot remain silent in the face of that,” he said.

In September, both president Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there was no need for the force to be active in politics.

Major General Mohammad Jafari’s comments are some of the sharpest to be made by a senior official in public since the moderate Rowhani took office in August pledging to improve Iran’s relations with regional countries and the West.

The government’s diplomatic initiative led to an agreement with six world powers last month under which Iran is to curb its disputed nuclear programme in return for limited relief from sanctions that have squeezed its economy.

The interim accord has been widely welcomed by Iranians but hardliners are irked by the foreign policy shift and apprehensive that they are losing influence over Iran’s most powerful man, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Siavush Ranjbar-Daemi, a lecturer in Iranian politics at Manchester University in Britain said: “From the moment this presidency started Rowhani has been trying to redefine the IRGC presence in politics. He sees them as an obstacles to the nuclear agreement”.

“He’s trying to acquire as much influence as possible over Khamenei. Clearly the relationship between Rowhani and the Guards is not good. There will be a lot of adjustments and turf war.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s new envoy to Britain is to make his first visit to London this week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday, as ties thaw between the two countries.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that Hassan Habibollah-Zadeh would arrive today and “he will meet UK officials at the Foreign Office tomorrow, including the UK non-resident charge d’affaires Ajay Sharma”.

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