The head of public relations for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Ramazan Sharif, has insisted the military elite is helping the government to be more efficient and is not seeking any advantages.
In an interview with the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) on November 7, Sharif outlined the IRGC’s policies on the current situation in Iran and tried to elaborate on its relations with various state institutions.
“From the IRGC’s point of view, helping the government means promoting the ruling system’s efficiency. That’s why the IRGC has never refrained from assisting the government and will never do so in future,” he said.
However, he noted that the IRGC’s assistance depends on what the government requests.
“Some governments, for electoral purposes or their political future, might table matters not related to the IRGC. Nevertheless, the IRGC has always patiently responded to such matters. Regarding assistance to [successive] governments, the IRGC has established principles that are defined according to the supreme leader’s instructions.”
President Hassan Rouhani’s relationship with the IRGC has been rocky in recent months.
In June, Rouhani slammed the IRGC’s role in Iran’s economy, lamenting, “Part of the economy was controlled by an unarmed government, but we surrendered it to a government armed with guns.”
The remarks triggered an outcry among top commanders who accused Rouhani and his administration of weakening the IRGC.
Nevertheless, within two months of Rouhani’s re-election and his private meeting with the IRGC’s leadership, the president’s comments had softened to such an extent that, in response to recent U.S. sanctions imposed on the IRGC, he called it “beloved of the people of Iran.”
The IRGC has also softened its tone.
“The IRGC has never tried to pressure the government to gain any special advantages,” Sharif said. “The IRGC’s tasks are keeping the country safe, neutralizing plots [against Iran], and constructing and developing the country.”
The Iranian people and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei trust the IRGC, he maintained.
Referring to the IRGC’s role and position during elections, Sharif said, “It seems false fears have been created concerning the IRGC’s influence in elections. Is there any doubt about the IRGC defends the Islamic Revolution and that it is dutybound to immediately act against conspiracies during crucial periods like elections?”
“One should not interpret the IRGC’s confrontation with enemy plots as its meddling in elections,” he added.
Political dissidents and opposition groups both in Iran and abroad have long accused the IRGC of engineering elections for its own advantage, particularly in the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections that saw Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s victory.
Critics have also referred to a speech by IRGC Chief-Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari as evidence of having engineered the 2009 election. Speaking in 2014, Jafari said the IRGC’s main concern at the time was preventing reformists from returning to power.
Nonetheless, the IRGC has always dismissed such accusations as unfounded. On May 13, the supreme leader’s representative to the IRGC, mid-ranking clergy Ali Saeidi reiterated that the IRGC had never and would never interfere in elections.
However, a day before the comments, semi-official Mehr News Agency reported that during the final presidential debate, IRGC-run news agency Tasnim was busy publishing damaging reports about Rouhani and his first deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri.