The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, on Tuesday said personnel belonging to the IRGC would not be allowed to engage in political activities for the upcoming presidential elections.
“Like in the past, nobody in the IRGC, neither the guards (IRGC troops) nor the commanders, is permitted to interfere in the elections politically or factionally and to discredit the candidates,” Jafari said in a gathering of IRGC commanders, reported pro-government Tasnim News Agency.
The general also said the IRGC’s monitoring organisations would punish anyone violating the order, which is backed up by Iran’s constitution that bans all military and armed forces from interfering in elections.
However critics have called the IRGC one of Iran’s most powerful political and economic forces saying the country’s military was becoming the key decision-maker in policy-making.
Writing in The National, Dr. Majid Rafidzadeh, a political scientist, argued that all the obstacles preventing the IRGC from expanding its influence were being lifted ahead of the election.
“This suggests the next supreme leader will more probably be the IRGC’s pawn. And, if the IRGC controls the next supreme leader, it rules Iran’s political establishment unequivocally,” he argued.
The Harvard scholar also claimed that the IRGC had used the instability in Iraq and Syria to penetrate these countries, thus increasing Iran’s political and ideological influence in the region and bolstering the IRGC’s position internally.
Set up following the 1979 Iranian Revolution and tasked with protecting the Revolution, the IRGC has become a pillar of Islamic Republic since. The elite unit within the military are seen as a force to prevent foreign intervention, military coups and protect Iran’s Islamic system.
A recent proposal by the Donald Trump administration to list the IRGC as a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ stalled due to concerns it could backfire. The move is seen as a way of curbing Iranian influence in the Middle East.
International rights organisations have accused Iran of using the IRGC to suppress domestic opposition such as the Green Movement as well as women’s activists and ethnic and religious minorities like the Kurds, Sunnis and Arabs.