Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has always given the upper hand in foreign policy to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) rather than the foreign ministry.
However, his speech on Wednesday during a meeting with IRGC commanders was another step toward yet another omission of the foreign ministry and its diplomats from the heart of Iran's foreign policy; that is the Middle East policy and the challenge against the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday Khamenei for the first time clearly designated the IRGC to be in charge of "extending the Islamic Republic's outlook beyond the borders of Iran."
This, as well as Khamenei's negative attitude toward Rouhani's negotiations with Europe and emphasize on the continued reduction of Iran's commitment to the nuclear deal with the West could mean more challenges against EU and European powers, and inevitably the shrinking of Rouhani and Zarif's playground in the game of diplomacy in the interest of giving a bigger role in foreign policy to the IRGC.
As far as Khamenei is concerned, his representative in foreign policy is IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, not Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
The spirit of Khamenei's speech on Wednesday was handing over strategic affairs in both foreign and domestic policy to the IRGC. Khamenei has never been so dependent on the IRGC and the IRGC has never had such an opportunity to become the Islamic Republic's most important player inside and outside Iran.
In the speech, Khamenei expressed his support for the IRGC's approach in domestic and foreign policy, including its aggressive military and political posture abroad and its interventions in domestic politics, culture and economy.
The posting of videos of Lebanese Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah and Qassem Soleimani on Khamenei's official website after Rouhani's recent visit to New York, as well as Khamenei's speech send the message to the world that it must recognize the real Iran with the policies of Khamenei, Soleimani and the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, not with Rouhani's visit to New York and his talks with the French President and UK Prime Minister.
Khamenei is saying that the Islamic Republic is not going to give up using proxy groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hashd al-Sha'bi in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. Nor he is going to give up challenging the U.S. and Israel. Meanwhile, he is saying that he is not interested in negotiations with Europe.
Inside Iran, Khamenei is absolutely happy with IRGC's behavior regardless of what critics might say. He has even advised the Guards in his Wednesday's speech "to be even more active in the areas of economy, culture and ideology."
All this means handing over the controls to the IRGC in both domestic and foreign spheres. In a period Khamenei has nicknamed "The second step of the revolution," critics in and out of the IRGC might be omitted if Khamenei deems necessarily.
The secret behind this new policy could be Khamenei's advice about "preventing the IRGC from becoming old and conservative." This means commanders who absolutely agree with Khamenei's views may remain in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and even be promoted. But those with the slightest difference with his views, as well as those who think differently, could be omitted or isolated in the name of "rejuvenation."