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Former President Mohammad Khatami has joined the chorus to defend the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), describing it as the pillar of Iran’s national security.

Khatami, who is extrajudicially banned from attending public gatherings or traveling abroad, has also vehemently defended Iran’s missile programs and praised the IRGC for what he called fighting terrorism, reported a dissident website, Kalemeh, on October 16.

Ignoring the restrictions imposed on him, Khatami met with members of the Islamic Associations of Tehran University, where he said, “They should not misunderstand. There might be some different opinions in the Islamic Republic but, when it comes to guarding Iran’s dignity, the foundation of the revolution, our principal national interests and resisting outside threats, we are unified and have no differences.”

Khatami is considered a leading figure of the loyal opposition, which is committed to the Islamic Republic but opposes the more hardline factions, supported by the Supreme Leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Echoing earlier comments made by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Khatami insisted, “How could anybody come forward and disparage the IRGC with their exorbitant comments, while it is firmly confronting terrorists and making sacrifices?”

Khatami stepped in to defend the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations, including fighting to keep Bashar al-Assad in power despite international criticism against the Syrian president for suppressing dissidents and killing civilians.

Earlier, former U.S. President Barack Obama had said Iran was responsible for killing civilians in Syria, along with Russia and forces loyal to al-Assad.

Dismissing the new U.S. strategy presenting the IRGC as a group supporting terrorist activities in the Middle East, Khatami asserted, “[The new strategy] is bravado and threats.”

The reformist ex-president has defended the IRGC and dismissed differences in the Islamic Republic while the elite military has always tried to downgrade and humiliate him.

At the height of Khatami’s presidency, the IRGC’s top commander wrote him a letter blatantly threatening him with dire consequences. Furthermore, the IRGC humiliated him by preventing Khatami’s government from opening Tehran’s new international airport until its demands were met.

The IRGC has gone further, accusing Khatami of attempting to install a secular regime in Iran, along with other reformists supported by the West and particularly the United States.

“Khatami and his reformist allies should be arrested and tried for trying to establish a non-religious ruling system in Iran,” said Yadollah Javani, head of the political bureau of the IRGC.

According to Kalemeh, Khatami, during his meeting with Tehran University students, also defended Iran’s missile program.

“Are we after missiles to attack others?” Khatami asked his audience. “But in the middle of current wars, aren’t we supposed to be capable of defending ourselves against present threats? It is no one else’s business.”

Meanwhile, Khatami said of Iran’s nuclear activities, “We are interested in peaceful nuclear technology, and we are not going to leave it behind just for the sake of appeasing others.”

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