In quite unprecedented comments, President Hassan Rouhani has described the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, IRGC as “beloved” of the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iraqi Kurds.
Rouhani’s comments, made during a cabinet meeting, are published amid a possible plan by the US president, Donald Trump to designate Iran's most powerful security force and economic player as a terrorist organization.
Furthermore, President Donald Trump is expected to declare his decision on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, before the end of the week.
Rouhani warned, “If the United States wants to commit the next mistake and take action against the Revolutionary Guards, this is a mistake on top of another mistake; the Revolutionary Guard is not just a military unit, but it has a place in the hearts of the Iranian people and has defended our national interests in times of threats to the country".
The Islamic Republic’s president went further and asserted, “The Revolutionary Guards are not only popular among the people of Iran, but also among the Iraqi people because they saved Baghdad. It is also popular with the Iraqi Kurds, because they saved Erbil. It is also popular with the people of Damascus and Syria, because they saved Damascus. It is popular among the Lebanese people because it has been a supporter of the dignity and independence of Lebanon; the IRGC has always aided the oppressed and stood up against terrorists".
However, Rouhani found it necessary to disregard his previous criticism of IRGC actions against the JCPOA and contradicting his government’s efforts at reaching a nuclear deal.
“Today, the proponents and opponents of the JCPOA stand together and have the same voice; we consider violating commitments…wrong and treacherous for national interests, the region and the world".
Nevertheless, the echoes of bitter differences between Rouhani and the IRGC in recent months have not yet died down.
The war of words between the two reached a point that they openly attacked each other from public tribunes.
Rouhani repeatedly criticized the IRGC’s interference with economic affairs and described it as “a government with guns”.
The IRGC’s top commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari retaliated, “A government without a gun will be humiliated by the enemy and surrender”.
While the war was intensifying, the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei apparently stepped in and called on both sides to down play their differences and reach a compromise.
IRGC strongmen met with President Rouhani on July 24, weeks after the incumbent was declared the winner of the May 19 presidential election, beating his main challenger reportedly backed by the IRGC.
The only official photo released after the meeting shows Rouhani alone, while all the IRGC top commanders are facing him in full force.
Almost nothing, save pleasantries exchanged, was leaked out about the meeting.
Nonetheless, Rouhani’s new comments in support of the IRGC are apparently a reaction to the hard line president Trump is expected to take.
Congress requires the president to certify Iranian compliance with the deal every 90 days. The next certification date is October 15.
Analysts believe that if Trump decides against certifying Iranian compliance with JCPOA, it will not immediately kill it but push it closer to the verge of collapse.
Decertifying Iran’s commitment to the deal will pave the way for Congress to possibly authorize more restrictive measures against Iran.