A controversial comment made by an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) General has thrust him under the spotlight.
“We (IRGC) told Yemenis [Houthi rebels] to strike two Saudi oil tankers, and they did it,” IRGC-run Fars news agency cited General Nasser Sha’bani as saying on Tuesday, August 7.
Hours later, Fars news agency (FNA) amended the report by taking out the comment.
In the initial report, General Sha’bani was referring to an attack on the Saudi oil tankers that happened in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait which connects the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea and is a narrow, strategic navigation lane for oil and international trade.
Immediately responding to the attacks by Yemen’s Iran aligned Houthi movement, Saudi Arabia temporarily halted oil shipments through the strait on July 25.
"All oil shipments through Bab al-Mandab Strait have been suspended temporarily until... maritime transit through the area is safe," Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said at the time.
Three days later, Saturday, July 28, a statement by the Energy Ministry said shipments had resumed.
“The decision to resume oil shipment through the strait of Bab al-Mandeb was made after the leadership of the coalition has taken necessary measures to protect the coalition states’ ships,” Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in the ministry statement.
Yemen’s Houthi group, for its part, said on July 31 it would halt attacks in the Red Sea for two weeks to support peace efforts.
Despite repeated denial by Tehran and Houthis, Saudi Arabia has time and again accused its regional adversary, the Islamic Republic of Iran, of supplying missiles to the Houthis.
Tehran has frequently insisted that its assistance to the Houthi rebels in Yemen has no military dimension, but, comments attributed to IRGC General Sha’bani say otherwise.
Therefore, in a statement on Tuesday, Head of the IRGC Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif denied reports by certain “Western media” about the recent comments by Brigadier General Nasser Sha’bani, a “retired IRGC commander”.
Nevertheless, there has been no news so far on the “retirement” of the General.
Brigadier General Nasser Sha’bani is a senior commander of IRGC, serving in different capacities, including city, provincial and regional command posts of IRGC, as well as deputy commander of Tharollah [military] Headquarters which is responsible for defending Iran’s capital city, Tehran.
Sha’bani started serving IRGC 37 years ago by commanding its forces in city of Amol, in Mazandaran province, northern Iran, where in a bloody battle over controlling the city, his forces wiped out their adversary, the “Union of Iranian Communists” guerillas, in January 1981.
During the last years of Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), Sha’bani was responsible for IRGC forces in the western parts of Iran, neighboring Iraq.
Furthermore, Sha’bani played a pivotal role in routing Mujahedin Khalq Organization’s (MKO) forces who in an ambitious operation entered western Iran in 1988, hoping to reach Tehran and overthrow the Islamic Republic led by elderly Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
By personally fighting against MKO forces and later writing a book on it, Sha’bani strengthened his position in IRGC.
The book, “Dead-end in Strategy, Defeat in Tactics”, under the guidance of the current Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, was presented by Sh’bani as his Ph.D. thesis.
Reports by news outlets affiliated with the ruling establishment in Iran confirm that Sha’bani has been serving as the deputy of the Tharollah headquarters from 2014 to 2018. These outlets have not published one single news item concerning the retirement or dismissal of Sha’bani from his high-profile position.