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IRGC Intelligence Chief Warns Against 'Infiltration' In Parliamentary Elections

Hossein Taeb (C), IRGC Intelligence chief in a ceremony, with Qassem Soleimani to his left. File photo

IRGC Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb has warned against "infiltrators" entering the Iranian Parliament in the upcoming elections in February, amid tensions between President Hassan Rouhani and the country’s hardliners.

Speaking at a gathering of election supervisory boards on Thursday, November 14 in Mashhad in north-eastern Iran, Taeb said the IRGC Intelligence Organization will prevent "Counter-revolutionaries and corrupt individuals" from gaining seats in the Parliament.

Most of the political debates in Iran during recent weeks hinged around the upcoming elections, although at first glance most of the heated debates appear to be about financial corruption.

As an example, President Hassan Rouhani on November 10 accused the Judiciary of handling corruption cases in a selective way and not targeting the conservative camp.

Immediately, hardliners attacked the president from all sides, some saying that the real reason for his remarks is the conviction of his brother on charges of taking bribes.

Meanwhile, in a more recent development, Judiciary officials claimed that they have returned Rassoul Danialzadeh, an industrialist implicated in corruption cases who had fled and was living abroad.

Earlier this year, a court in Tehran accused Danialzadeh, aka the King of Steel, of having donated a large house to the wife of Rouhani's brother.

All these mutual recriminations and threats are seen as a prelude to parliamentary elections.

The news about Danialzadeh's “return” is bound to put pressure on Rouhani, since he is a potential witness to the alleged wrongdoings of the president’s brother.

Meanwhile, the issue of "infiltration" as a manifestation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's paranoia about foreign influence in Islamic Republic’s ruling establishment has also been a major part of political debates in Iran as the deadline for the parliamentary election gets closer.

Hardline media have been using the term to describe some of Rouhani's colleagues in the cabinet, claiming that some of them, as well as Rouhani and some of Iran's nuclear negotiators hold dual nationality. Denials by the Rouhani-controlled Intelligence Ministry do not appear to have effectively countered the opposite argument furthered among others by the IRGC Intelligence operatives.

Khamenei has defined "infiltration" as "a process that uses money and sex appeal to change the people's beliefs, ideals, attitudes and lifestyle," adding that "infiltrators target the elite ,influential people and the country's decision makers."

Taeb, the most feared intelligence official in Iran said on Thursday, "The issue of infiltration is serious, and we have to stop it. They want to enter their agents into the Majles and we are determined to prevent the entry of corrupt and counter-revolutionary elements into the Parliament. "

Echoing Khamenei's keywords, Taeb said, "The enemy is doing networking within the country's political sphere in an attempt to infiltrate the political system," adding that the constitutional watchdog Guardian Council is responsible for preventing infiltration into the system."

He said "the enemies" might want to do away with "the discretionary or approbative supervision," which is the regime's jargon for vetting election candidates. This, he said, will justify their attacks on the Guardian Council.

In fact, the Guardian Council is one of the focal points of the debates surrounding the elections. While Guardian Council Chief Jannati has charged that Rouhani's Interior Ministry is shuffling local governors ahead of the elections to influence the voting, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said defiantly on Thursday, "We might even want to replace local governors in the evening before the election day."

Taeb once again lashed out at the issue of corruption to make it known that in his opinion it is the opposite faction, the pro-Rouhani reform and moderation camp, which is soft on corruption.

The Guardian Council and the IRGC Intelligence have been seriously accused of rigging the elections, particularly after 2005 when the IRGC Intelligence Organization was a smaller body known as IRGC Intelligence Unit. Both have denied interfering with the elections but their denials were not very convincing for both internal reformists and external opponents.