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Revolutionary Guards Put Pressure On Rouhani And Potential Rivals

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Meets IRGC Commanders in Tehran, July 24, 2017

While the stage is set for U.S. President Donald Trump to make his long-awaited announcement on U.S. policy toward Tehran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at 12:45 EST, on October 13, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is watching from the sidelines.

Trump is reportedly expected to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization, which would place Tehran under even more pressure.

Individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are already on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the IRGC as a whole is not.

IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said on October 8, “If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American Army to be like Islamic State all around the world.”

Meanwhile, anticipating Trump’s decision to impose sanctions on the IRGC, the military, economy, and security elite group has apparently started to target potential rival entities in Iran by flexing its muscles.

Disregarding the latest comments by President Hassan Rouhani describing the IRGC as “beloved” by the Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese people, the top IRGC commander in Kerman Province admitted that the military elite is responsible for arresting the brother of Rouhani’s vice president.

Furthermore, the IRGC-affiliated Tharallah commander Gholam-Ali Abu Hamza called on the people of Kerman to protest the Executives of Construction of Iran Party (ECIP) for “monopolizing” all facilities available in Kerman.

The ECIP is a pro-Rouhani political party founded by 16 members of the cabinet of President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1996. Later, Rouhani’s current first deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri, also joined the party. The ECIP is also a member of the Council for Coordinating Reforms Front, which supports Rouhani’s government.

In unprecedented comments that appeared on Tasnim, a news website run by the IRGC, Hamza also lambasted MPs who protested new restrictions imposed on reformist former President Mohammad Khatami.

The new restrictions imposed on Khatami are also an indication the IRGC and hard-liners are tightening the screws on those regarded as reformists and a potential alternative political force.

Moreover, several politicians regarded as reformist were sentenced to prison terms recently.

Hamza’s speech was so controversial that Tasnim took it down from its site just hours later.

Hamza commenced his speech by proudly disclosing that the IRGC was responsible for arresting Mehdi, the brother of Rouhani’s first deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri.

The Tharallah Army commander also insisted that business companies related to ECIP spokesman Hossein Marashi should be accountable to the IRGC’s branch in Kerman and report their activities and cash flow.

Insisting that many large companies in Kerman, including Mahan Air and Kerman Motors, are dominated by the EICP, Hamza lamented, “Why has everybody kept mum about these facts? Why is nobody answering these questions?”

The IRGC commander went further, warning, “We have already sent them a message and, once again, I am calling on them to come forward, be accountable, and present their records and balance sheets; otherwise, the IRGC will confront you.”

Without further elaboration, Hamza explicitly threatened the EICP, “We (the IRGC) will return to the treasury all properties and wealth that you have illegally amassed so far.”

Marashi former MP and governor-general of Kerman, is the founder of many industrial and investment corporations in the province.

Washington has accused Mahan Air of helping the IRGC’s warmongering and spreading terrorism.

Referring to Mehdi Jahangiri, Hamza said that he had been detained by the IRGC, saying, “Whoever moves against the people and the regime, the IRGC will swiftly suppress them. We are going after them one after another.”

“The IRGC of Kerman has not asked anybody’s permission for detaining Eshaq Jahangiri’s brother,” he said.

Eshaq Jahangiri appeared to confirm his brother's arrest in a post on Instagram on October 6.

"I have no exact information about how the arrest was made; neither do I know anything about the allegation," he wrote.

He said the arrest was predictable and that he hoped it is not a case of political abuse.

Mehdi Jahangiri runs the Tehran Chamber of Commerce and is also the founder of the private Gardeshgari Bank. He is also the founder of the Tourism Financial Group, which includes several companies working in banking, tourism, construction, oil, gas, the petrochemical industry, and mining.

The unprecedented comments, as well as restriction on Khatami and other intimidating pressures by hardliners, come at a time when the IRGC and Rouhani have apparently declared a ceasefire.

Nevertheless, it seems that the IRGC, while avoiding any direct attack on Rouhani, has decided to go after his closest allies who are believed to be potentially in favor of Tehran’s interactions with Washington.