A specter haunts the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI): growing instability in civil-military relations. To be sure, the IRI is also possibly facing the threats of either a war with a coalition of foreign powers or a revolution by an increasingly disillusioned population. While these are not remote possibilities, the thrust of this paper suggests that the recent trajectory of civil-military relations in the IRI bears watching closely because they could unravel, pitting the state's coercive apparatus against the people or even against the state itself if the armed forces believe they have to step in. A major rift between the government and the armed forces would constitute a threat to the stability and legitimacy of the nezam, the IRI's political, socioeconomic and cultural "system." If the rift were to end up in a direct takeover of the state, this would sound the death-knell of the Islamic Republic.
This paper, a summary of a longer project on Iranian civil-military relations, aims to provide a succinct history of the evolution of the relationship between the military and the political process from 1979 to 2018. Space constraints do not allow for discussion of the rich theoretical and conceptual literature.1 The general literature on Iranian civil-military relations has been sparse in comparison with that devoted to Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey. In the early years of the IRI, there were some efforts to explore civil-military relations;2 however, data were still sparse, access to Iranian discussions of civil-military relations well-nigh impossible, and there were "more exciting things" to study concerning Iran.
While Iran has not suffered military coups over the course of its modern history, the Iranian military has still been a force to be reckoned with in the political and socioeconomic spheres. Civil-military relations in the Global South are not solely about whether the military takes over the government. The military can also exert great influence on political and socioeconomic processes and structures without directly ruling the state.
A set of pressures, both foreign and domestic, has affected the trajectory of IRI civil-military relations from the 1979 revolution to the present. Each set of pressures represents a danger to the stability of civil-military relations; occurring simultaneously, they present an alarming and ongoing threat to the stability of the IRI. Both the external and domestic pressures that the IRI is facing threaten to destabilize civil-military relations. The IRI is under pressure from unbending ideological external enemies who now want "regime change." It is mired in a conflict in Syria, helping its ally against common foes. Some Iranian bloggers have called this costly involvement "Iran's Vietnam." The IRI's exchange of fire with another foreign power, Israel — also involved in the Syrian war, but more prudently — threatens to involve Iran in war with the most powerful military in the Middle East. The IRI is facing serious domestic socioeconomic pressures from a long-suffering population that is profoundly alienated and seeking a new identity for the country. The discontent has accelerated since the U.S. decision to impose severe sanctions on Iran following the Trump withdrawal from the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In 1977, His Majesty Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, shahinshah, aryamehr (king of kings and light of the aryans), was at the pinnacle of his power. Thanks to oil, Iran was in the throes of massive socioeconomic progress and development. The shah was in complete control of an impressive military, to the extent that he promoted officers above the rank of major and interfered in operational matters that would ordinarily concern only staff officers. The most senior officers were tightly linked to the dynasty. In 1972, 60 per cent of the highest-ranking officers were members of elite Tehran families or tightly linked through marriage to prominent families that were, in turn, connected to the Pahlavi dynasty. A prominent exception was Mohammad Khatami, the commander of the Iranian air force, who came from a lower-middle-class family in Rashd, married into royalty and became rich through dubious real estate and construction deals.
In 1978, the truth of the Iranian "miracle" was unveiled when the populace erupted against inequitable wealth distribution, inflation, political oppression, revulsion at rampant cultural "Westernization," and subordination to the United States. Massive demonstrations in which almost every social stratum was represented and which the police and military were unable to put down led to a collapse of law and order and a precipitous fall in government legitimacy. Paralysis set in as neither the shah nor the military knew what to do; both the ruler and his treasured institution withered in the face of massive adversity. In 1979, the revolution triumphed.
The revolutionary coalition that triumphed against Mohammad Reza Shah was united on one thing only: getting rid of him. However, there were many rival ideological views and groups. They began to fall out almost immediately.4 There was a struggle over control of the armed forces, viewed as a 'counterrevolutionary' threat by all the revolutionary forces. The clerics and a number of lay Islamists and pious nationalists who were united around the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, took power and established an Islamic republic with him as the supreme religious ruler. Once the Islamists had outwitted their erstwhile allies, one of their most important goals was to ensure control over a military establishment they were profoundly suspicious of, but whose maintenance they viewed as essential to the protection of the revolution and the state.
THE FIRST REPUBLIC: 1979-89
Revolutionary turmoil, internal opposition, and war characterized the situation of the "first republic." One of its main goals was to ensure control over the armed forces, to stem "counterrevolutionaries" trying to bring back the shah, and to prevent the military from falling into the hands of other revolutionary parties. Moreover, the major contours of civil-military relations in this period were determined and shaped by the long war with Iraq (1980-1988).
The first republic purged the armed forces, known generally as the Artesh, which will be referred to as the regular military henceforth. The purges had three goals: (a) punish the military for its "sins" against the people during the course of the revolution; (b) remove all vestiges of Pahlavism and imperial culture; and (c) "Islamize" (create an ideological force) the military.5 To consolidate their ideological control over the regular military, the clerics also set up the Ideological-Political Directorate of the Armed Forces (IPD). The IPD infiltrated its clerics and agents from the Joint Staff down to the level of the platoon in the early years. One of the more effective tactics of the IPD clerics was to promote officers from religious families or from those with close familial ties to clerical families.
The clerics also ensured that multiple security and intelligence services maintained close watch on the regular military. It may have been the vigilance of the revolutionary security and surveillance services, the ineptitude of the would-be coup plotters — or both — which resulted in the uncovering of the serious Nuzhih plot of July 1980. Few incontrovertible facts about this coup attempt against the new government are known except that it involved army and air force officers and that the government got prior wind of it due to leaks or desertions from the ranks of the would-be plotters. However, from what can be pieced together years later, an incomplete picture of the plot has emerged. In clear violation of the "principles of coup-making," the plotters made fatal errors: too many personnel were involved, the coup was overly complex with too many moving parts, and there was ineffective coordination between the ground and air components of the units assigned to overthrow the government. The conspiracy reinforced the revolutionaries' paranoia about the reliability of the regular military. There was another round of purges and a further reduction of the readiness of the armed forces only a few months before Iraq's Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in September 1980.6
The clerics created their own parallel military force, the Pasdaran-e-Enghelab-e-Islami, or the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC, also called the Sepah), in early May 1979.7 The mission of the IRGC was to protect the revolution, maintain domestic law and order, fight dissident movements, and balance the regular armed forces. The IRGC originally consisted of 6,000 men drawn from those who had fought against the shah's regime, but by the middle of 1980 it had already expanded to 25,000. Recruits were ethnic Persians or Azeris between 17 and 28 years of age from the poor or religious socioeconomic strata. Once an applicant was approved for membership in the IRGC, he was sent to a military installation for training in basic field craft and small-unit tactics.8 The IRGC's missions included restoring order in the cities and enforcing Khomeini's monopoly on power by hunting down and killing government and military leaders of the imperial regime and members of opposition groups, policing Iran's populace, and protecting government officials and facilities.
The revolutionary government used both the regular army and the IRGC to put down separatist movements in peripheral regions. It frowned harshly on the autonomist aspirations of the country's ethnic minorities. However, the regular military's activities in Iranian Kurdistan witnessed an odd juxtaposition among three positions: There were officers like artillery specialist Colonel Ali Sayyad Shirazi of the 64th Oromiyah Division, who believed in very "robust" counterinsurgency against Kurdish rebels, forcing Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr to remove him from that theater of operations. Shirazi did not fade from the scene. He was descended from a long line of clerics linked to important religious leaders and managed to move up the ranks during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Other officers undertook the unsavory task of putting down their fellow citizens, hoping not to draw attention to themselves. A handful refused to follow orders and were purged or executed.
Cooperation and civil-military relations between the regular military and the IRGC were put to the test during the bloody Iran-Iraq War, which Saddam Hussein initiated in order to cut the Islamic Republic down to size, make border adjustments in Iraq's favor, and stop interference in Iraq's fragile political and socioeconomic affairs. Early in the war, Iran's response was haphazard and uncoordinated, causing much bad blood between the regular military and the IRGC. Attempts by Iran's first president, Bani-Sadr, to promote the regular military as the premier force in the struggle against Iraq roused the ire of the clerical establishment and the IRGC. Javad Mansouri, one of the founding members of the IRGC and its first "unofficial" commander, claimed that one of the factors contributing to its poisonous relationship with the regular army was a Bani-Sadr edict that forbade the military from providing the IRGC with the necessary equipment to fight the war.9 The IRGC accused Bani-Sadr of trying to make the regular army "a tool in his own hands, so that he could wield it as a powerful weapon against the Imam's Line."10 The government thought Bani-Sadr suffered from "Bonapartist" tendencies: after claiming success on the frontline he would march back to Tehran at the head of a military column to claim power for himself, in a manner similar to Napoleon Bonaparte's takeover of the French republic on November 9, 1799.11
On June 14, 1981, a group of senior officers, including the commander of the ground forces of the regular military, met with Khomeini. Their intention was to show the leader that they were committed to the new system. The ground forces commander stated,
The army… will make an effort not to interfere with politics. The comings and goings of this minister or that minister and other changes will not affect the military's maintenance of and obedience to the laws approved by the Constitution on the orders of the leader of the revolution.12
Ayatollah Khomeini took this opportunity to give one of his most important speeches on the dangers of politicization of the military:
It is the duty of every single garrison to see to it that political issues do not reign there, for once a soldier becomes involved in political matters, then he is no longer a soldier. The soldier who is preoccupied with who is to lead, who is to stay behind or what ought to take place; the soldier who is preoccupied with this or that group, is no longer a soldier; he is then turned into a politician who has usurped a soldier's helmet.
… Entering politics would ruin the reputation of the armed forces…. Just as heroin destroys the human body, politics in the armed forces destroys its nature. I command army commanders to stop discussing political issues in the army. If politicians wish to speak to the army, they must be stopped.13
However, the acrimonious relationship between the liberal-nationalists elements and the clerics and Islamists threatened to derail civil-military relations at a time when Iran faced a dire national security threat from Iraq. Ayatollah Khomeini finally came to believe that Bani-Sadr was the most serious impediment to stable civil-military relations and the successful prosecution of the war and fired him. The early turmoil in civil-military relations in the republic is what most likely prompted Khomeini to include numerous references to what he believed would constitute the 'correct' foundations of civil-military relations. These references appeared in various statements and speeches most of which were included in his political will and testament and the Sahifeh-ye-Nur (Collection of Imam Khomeini's Guidance) published by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation Press. In volume four of the Sahifeh-ye-Nur, Khomeini declared that the involvement of the armed forces in politics would lead to disintegration of military effectiveness, open the military to manipulation by domestic politicians and machinations by foreign powers. He concludes with his famous statement on civil-military relations: "for an army, politics is more harmful than heroin." Whenever tensions appeared in civil-military relations following Khomeini's death, various government organs — media and the ideological journal of the armed forces Saff — and politicians would remind the country of the "Imam's" admonition concerning the dangers of a politicized military.
The demise of Bani-Sadr in June 1981 weakened the technocrats, nationalists, and "liberals" and enabled the government and its supporters to formulate their own way of warfare.14 They created a unique military structure that appealed to and mobilized different segments of the population in the war. This three-tiered structure was divided into the regular military, the IRGC and the Mobilization of the Oppressed (Basij). Nationalists found their place in the regular military. For this group, the war was a national struggle to defend Iran's territorial integrity and honor. Islamic revolutionaries and religious-oriented youth from humble backgrounds flocked to the IRGC. Young and old from rural areas volunteered for the Basij, often turning up in groups from various villages around the country and serving together at the front. For members of these latter two organizations, the struggle against Iraq was a "holy war" in defense of Islam against the atheists of the Iraqi Baath party.15 This three-tiered military structure represented the high point in the emergence of harmonious civil-military relations and operational effectiveness, and it was responsible for the Iranian victories in Khuzestan in the spring and summer of 1982.
Once a triumphant Iran invaded Iraq in revenge, the three-tiered military structure began to unravel, and problems re-appeared in civil-military relations. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm of some senior officers, the regular army was not keen to invade Iraq in 1982. However, it chose not to oppose the wishes of Ayatollah Khomeini. The IRGC showed more enthusiasm for the enterprise, but as Iranian offensives failed in the teeth of Iraqi defenses, the IRGC leadership complained about a lack of support from the regular military. The Basij proved unequal to the task of supporting an endeavor as complicated as the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, it ended up being a burden on the IRGC, which was responsible for its training and logistical needs. As Iran's war effort faltered in 1987, the IRGC lost not only well-trained soldiers but also its enthusiasm for the war.
Iran was decisively defeated on the battlefield in the summer of 1988 by superior Iraqi forces. Last-ditch efforts to create better and more effective coordination among Iran's forces failed to stem the tide of defeat. In early June 1988, Khomeini appointed the speaker of the Majlis (parliament) Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani — who was heavily involved in the war effort — as acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces. His mission was to ensure full coordination among the various troops and to eliminate waste and inefficiency in the war.16 By then it was too little, too late; Rafsanjani quickly realized that Iran had to sue for peace.
THE SECOND REPUBLIC: 1989-1997
Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989 and was succeeded by former President Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei as supreme leader (vali-e-faqih). Though a political veteran who had been keenly involved in the war, he was lacking in clerical credentials. Rafsanjani was elected president twice: from 1989 to 1993, and from 1994 to 1997. Both terms were characterized by tensions in civil-military relations. Early tensions stemmed from the fear of the IRGC that its corporate interest, embedded in its sense of identity as separate from the regular army, was going to be threatened by the civilian authorities. In the mid-1990s, tensions resulted from the state's request that the military establishment put down growing urban disturbances.
IRGC Corporate Interests
The Iran-Iraq War ended in a catastrophe for the country's armed forces. Tehran assuaged the fears of the IRGC that they would bear the brunt of the blame for operational failures at the front. While the regular army had always counseled caution and had adopted a conservative and methodical approach to operations, the IRGC was always more confident of victory, even in the face of Iraq's growing technological superiority. This confidence proved misplaced in the wake of humiliating defeats between April and July 1988. IRGC commander Mohsen Rezai was forced to admit to certain mistakes at the front line. Nonetheless, to their credit, the ruling clerics admitted that the government itself had made strategic and operational mistakes over the course of the war.
In a speech to the IRGC commanders in October 1988, President Rafsanjani tackled the issue of operational failures during the war and postwar rebuilding of the armed forces head on. Rafsanjani praised the IRGC, stressing that they were, indeed, an integral element in Iran's conception of national defense:
There is a time when the enemy comes to fight against us; when he brings about conditions like those in Afghanistan; when someone comes and occupies your land; occupies your homes; like Palestine; like in parts of Lebanon; or like ourselves at the beginning of the war when they attacked our homes and brought the war deep into our country. Under those conditions one may say that one should fight with Molotov cocktails or with stones or by strapping bombs around our waist and going under the tanks, as some people say.…17
Still, Rafsanjani added that the IRGC had to move with the times. The decentralized organization had changed during the war as a result of the exigencies of the front and massive organizational and structural changes, including the introduction of aircraft, armor and artillery into its table of organization and equipment (TOE). Now, after the war, it was expected to become professional. The end result would be a formal military institution that was more disciplined, with a recognized formal rank structure, and better trained. In Rafsanjani's own words:
The IRGC now is not as it was in the early days. Now it has organization; its units and departments are also organized. However, these should be completely military organizations…. This is one of the responsibilities of the IRGC commanders, to think and to change their organizations into… a completely military organization…. I spoke earlier about the time when we were attacked. Well, with only a few hours' preparation the least one could do was to equip oneself with G-3s or Kalashnikovs and to fire them. However, that is not sufficient for us now. We have gradually come to realize… that matters such as rank and hierarchy, salary… and so on constitute the necessities for an armed force…If the regime is to serve God, the IRGC must not think that when it is attacked it can fight with Molotov cocktails.18
Following Rafsanjani's election to the presidency, Teheran prudently decided that it would drop any idea of merging Iran's wartime forces into a single large force. Yet, it also became clear that Iran would never have efficient and organized forces if the three-tiered structure were maintained intact. The structure fostered massive waste and unhealthy competition between regular troops and IRGC units, and brought about duplication of effort in the defense industries.19 Rafsanjani was determined to make the forces more efficient, even if they were to remain as separate organizations.
The IRGC would become professionalized, with a hierarchical structure similar to that of the regular armed forces. Most of the new IRGC ranks were equivalent to those of the army, a fact that may have generated some unease among both groups. Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, echoed and supported Rafsanjani's view that the Guards must professionalize and pay attention to training and scientific methods of warfare.20 However, to allay the fears of the IRGC concerning its future, Khamenei declared that the Guards would remain in existence to "carry out its crucial responsibility of militarily defending the Revolution."21
Finally, in order to maintain the loyalty of all the armed forces and ensure the country's security, the ruling clerics moved with surprising alacrity following the war with Iraq to cater to the military's corporate interests, emphasizing benefits and modern weaponry. As the 1990s progressed, and the country suffered economic crisis and isolation, it became clear that the Islamic Republic would have serious problems in meeting these commitments. Given the fact that a major cause of dissatisfaction was a lack of weapons and resources, this could have constituted a problem for the civilian authorities. They therefore moved to expand the domestic military-industrial base. While it has made significant strides, there has been a tendency to exaggerate its achievements, for both domestic and foreign audiences.
Law and Order
By the mid-1990s, President Rafsanjani's luster had dimmed. First, his socioeconomic programs, while causing considerable distress to the lower classes, did not manage to set Iran on the road to economic recovery. Moreover, many within the ruling hierarchy opposed the president and his technocratic "Western-oriented" advisers. Second, Rafsanjani failed to significantly improve Iran's relations with the outside world. Third, he became embroiled in political infighting with conservative elements, at the expense of implementing his programs. The clearest symbol of his decline came in the June 1993 presidential elections, when he was re-elected for his second and final term.
Riots and demonstrations in shantytowns that crowded the major urban centers became regular occurrences during 1994. The worsening economic and social conditions during Rafsanjani's second term presented a situation fraught with potential problems between the civilian authorities and the armed forces. A decline in law and order, especially in the volatile urban areas, constituted a dangerous situation for civilian authorities precisely because the armed forces could have stepped in. Both the IRGC and the regular military played critical roles during the August 1994 popular uprising in Qazvin. The refusal of the Qazvin garrison's IRGC commander to put down the rioting was endorsed by senior officers from both the regular army and the IRGC. Tehran airlifted a special rapid-deployment security force to quell the disturbances, which they did rather brutally.
Not long afterwards, a letter written by four senior officers representing the ground forces, the IRGC, the air force and the paratroop/special forces was sent to the political leaders. It called upon them not to rely on the armed forces to quell popular manifestations of discontent.22 The letter expressed the officers' deep concern over the "growing political, economic and social chaos in Iran."23 Almost a month later, a respected former gendarmerie general, Azizollah Amir Rahimi, warned the clerics that the continuation of their rule would lead to the "total annihilation of Iran and Islam." Furthermore, he called upon the Rafsanjani government to step down and organize free elections.24
While the government may have been alarmed by the reluctance of the armed forces to crush domestic discontent, it did not show it, moving swiftly to ensure that the Basij would act as an internal security force. In terms of size and commitment to the revolution, the Basij is theoretically formidable. There were 300,000 full-time members, with another 1 million part-timers in reserve.25 The organization's budget was reportedly increased dramatically over the course of the mid-1990s.26 Its members were provided with greater benefits and privileges, to ensure their continued loyalty to the Islamic Republic.
In spite of severe socioeconomic and political problems in the first half of the 1990s, the armed forces never directly intervened in the political process, no doubt to the considerable relief of the ruling clerics. Under the circumstances, it was highly unlikely that the military ever thought of intervening to overthrow the political system. Senior officers probably sensed that any hasty actions would add to the country's political difficulties. Moreover, most probably realized that they had neither the political nor the administrative expertise — not to mention the technical economic skills — to put Iran on the road to stability. Indeed, it was left to the existing civilian political system to find a way out.
Growth of IRGC Economic Power
In 1988, Rafsanjani invited the IRGC to engage in civilian construction projects to repair the damage wrought by the eight-year war with Iraq. Rafsanjani argued that the IRGC had developed substantial engineering capacity during the war and could contribute to rebuilding the country, while also generating revenue to partially finance its military expenses.27 During Rafsanjani's presidency, many government contracts were awarded to the IRGC's engineering firm, Gharargah Sazandegi Khatam-ol-Anbia (GHORB), which grew into a giant conglomerate employing 25,000 engineers and 2,500 IRGC members in various capacities. This included individuals with little or no economic credentials save a predatory determination to enrich themselves. Though Rafsanjani theoretically wanted to make a deal with the savvy bazaari commercial sector to create a relatively open economy that would promote postwar reconstruction, his decision to involve the IRGC set the stage for the institution to begin moving into various sectors of the Iranian economy.
THE THIRD REPUBLIC: 1997-2005
In May 1997, Iranians elected a little-known cleric, Mohammed Khatami, to the presidency. Citizens and foreign observers alike had expected the conservative candidate, Majlis speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, to win the election hands down. Instead, the underdog Khatami won 70 per cent of the 29 million votes cast. Khatami's victory was facilitated by a desire for change. Khatami had promised to change Iran peacefully; he called for limiting the influence of various power centers, institutionalizing the rule of law, and ending Iran's regional and international isolation.28
On the surface, the military played no role in the election. Nevertheless, disturbing signs of politicization of the armed forces, particularly within the IRGC, were apparent. In the face of a ban on the involvement of the armed forces in politics, Pasdaran chief Mohsen Rezai, along with senior IRGC officers, sided with the conservative candidate. Inasmuch as the conservatives viewed the rise of reform-oriented moderates as paving the way for deviation from the revolution's true path, this frightened senior IRGC leaders because of their extensive socioeconomic stake in the system. This political partisanship by the IRGC led to criticism of the force in the pro-Khatami press.
As the political situation in Iran took a direction that was less and less to its liking, the IRGC became more politicized. In an effort ostensibly designed to sooth people's fears, Rezai stated that the IRGC should refrain from involvement in politics and from taking sides. Nonetheless, he felt compelled to issue a warning: "(But) if domestic political issues end up as threats against the Islamic Revolution, in that case the Basij and revolutionary forces will also carry out their task within the framework of the law."29 Did Rezai mean that if the political situation between reformers and hard-liners worsened, the IRGC would step into the political arena? Would that not constitute partisan involvement on the side of conservative elements? Or did he mean that the IRGC would move to re-establish law and order, if there were a danger of political violence in the urban centers?
Khatami and the IRGC
President Khatami's political, socioeconomic, cultural, and foreign-policy agenda represented a threat to both the ideological and corporate interests of the IRGC. It also endangered the IRGC conception of national security and its global orientation. Khatami used the IRGC expressions of hostility to criticize what he perceived as a dangerous process of politicization. On September 15, 1997, for example, he exhorted the country's armed forces to stay out of politics. A few days later, Rezai stepped down from his post as a result of pressure from the supreme leader, who presumably wished to avoid a potentially destructive tug of war between hard-liners and reformers.
Yet, on two separate occasions, the new commander of the IRGC, General Rahim Safavi, issued some strongly worded comments against the policies of President Khatami. In April 1998, at a meeting of IRGC navy commanders held in the holy city of Qom, Safavi was quoted as saying that the Islamic Republic should "cut off the heads" or "tongues" of its opponents. The meeting was supposed to be off the record. However, a journalist from the state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) leaked its contents. This generated a storm of controversy in various political circles throughout the country. Some even feared that Safavi's confidential statements were not merely symbolic of the IRGC's deep politicization, but indicated that hard-liners in the organization were considering active intervention to reverse the reform tide.30 A week later, the chief of staff at the time, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi — a controversial figure given to uttering bizarre statements — rushed to Safavi's defense, arguing that the latter's views had been "distorted."
Safavi himself countered that the opposition had taken his confidential statements concerning the threat to national security posed by Khatami's policies out of context. Safavi gave a lengthy interview to the IRGC's magazine, Payam-e-Enqelab (Message of the Revolution), in which he emphatically stated that it was the business of the IRGC to pay particular attention to all threats to the national security of the Islamic Republic, no matter where they may come from. As Safavi pointed out, the IRGC focused its attention on "ensuring and safeguarding security and confronting the counter-revolution and internal threats."31
Safavi criticized the cultural aspects of Khatami's policies, drawing sharp differences between the agendas of the reformists and the conservatives. Safavi believed that threats to Iran's Islamic culture would come from opening up to the West in an indiscriminate manner, as envisioned by Khatami supporters. This, he argued, would constitute a serious threat to "our national security"32 because many Westerners believed that the Islamic Republic could only be overthrown by changing its cultural mores.
Safavi was not one to shy away from controversy. In early June 1998, he made additional inflammatory remarks in front of 2,000 Basij students:
The nation must be vigilant. A third current (jaryan-e-sevom) is lying in wait and is trying to pit forces loyal to the revolution against each other. This third current, which is sponsored by foreigners, intends to destroy the foundations of religion in this country…. The IRGC is keeping this third current under observation and will not allow soiled hands to steal the Islamic revolution from the Iranian nation.33
These comments created a stir in Iran, not only among the pragmatists/moderates who were the intended target, but also among leftists and the ruling circles. The pragmatists called upon the government to dismiss Safavi. Commentators suggested that the general change his military uniform for civilian attire, arguing that this would enable him to enter the political arena. Khamenei was profoundly disturbed by Safavi's verbal onslaught, not because he supported the reformist policies of Khatami and his circle, but because of his deep fear of over-politicization of the armed forces. Khamenei called upon Safavi to desist from making any more political statements. The IRGC leadership issued its own warning that attacks on its commander should be halted.
In 1999, student protests roiled the country, prompting yet another crisis in civil-military relations. On July 19, 1999, the daily Jomhuri-ye-Islami leaked a letter that senior officers of the IRGC had handed to President Khatami. The letter blamed Khatami and his policies for encouraging dissent in Iran and for not being decisive in dealing with disorder:
If you do not make a revolutionary decision and if you do not fulfill your Islamic and national mission today, tomorrow will be far too late. It is unimaginable how irretrievable the situation will become. In the end, we would like to express our utmost respect for your excellency and to declare that our patience has run out. We cannot tolerate this situation any longer if it is not dealt with.34
The signatories constituted a who's who of the top echelon of the IRGC at the time: Aziz Jaafari, commander of the ground forces of the IRGC; Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a well-known pilot and commander of the IRGC Air Force; and Qassem Soleimani, a hero of the Iran-Iraq War and commander of the IRGC's Quds Force. He is currently Iran's best-known commander and chief architect of its military operations in Iraq and Syria, supporting the governments in Baghdad and Damascus against Sunni extremists.
The IRGC was disdainful of Khatami's ideological platform; however, his calls for administrative and bureaucratic reforms to eliminate corruption and nepotism from various government organizations could not be viewed with anything but alarm by the IRGC. By the time Khatami was elected to the presidency, the IRGC's commercial and economic enterprises had developed extensively. The appointment of Mohsen Rafiqdoust, a former minister for the IRGC, as head of the Bonyad-e-Mostazafin (Foundation of the Oppressed) — a charitable organization that looked after the needs of the poor but also managed a large economic corporation — fostered close links between the two organizations. This enabled the IRGC to expand its economic activities beyond the defense industry into shipping, commerce, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, banking and cross-border trade.
Irrespective of who controlled the institutions, Khatami was very worried by the potential politicization of the armed forces. Clearly, an overt military involvement in the political process would make a mockery of Khatami's plans for the establishment of the rule of law. In the president's own words:
Our armed forces should refrain from political tendencies and preferences and instead engage in the daily improvement of their scientific, organizational, and operational capabilities. This has been the case up to now and will remain so, with the blessings of God, in the future.35
In the final analysis, however, it was unlikely that the senior echelons of the regular armed forces perceived Khatami as a threat to their corporate interests or to Iran's national security. Khatami was unlikely to reduce the budget or fringe benefits of the armed forces, despite his many calls for economic reforms. In fact, members of the regular armed forces receive pitiful salaries. The regular army was so overstaffed and underpaid, that it welcomed the $16,000 from those who chose to avoid the draft. Khatami did not control the military purse strings; he was not capable of treading on or of promoting the army's corporate interests in any major way.
THE FOURTH REPUBLIC: 2005-13
In 2005, an unkempt man of the people, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mayor of Tehran but almost unknown outside Iran, won the presidential elections. Despite irregularities in the first round, the results showed a clear rejection of the reformists by a large segment of the population known as the mostazafin, the dispossessed. Under Mohammed Khatami's two presidencies (1997-2005), the upper and middle classes prospered. However, inflation eroded the economic well being of the poor, and Khatami's intellectual lectures on the necessity of a dialogue of civilizations did not put food on the table. An alliance between the poor and the conservatives coincided with a return to hardline Islam, resulting in the election of a populist.36
In 2005, the Pasdaran high command threw its support behind Ahmadinejad, who had fought as a Basij during the Iran-Iraq War.37 There were, however, unverified reports that many members of the rank and file as well as junior officers were in sympathy with or had voted for the reformist side. I recall meeting a former IRGC officer in Tehran in 1994, a well-educated man who had also trained members of the Basij. To my amazement, during a private conversation, he "confessed" to admiring philosopher Karl Popper's works on the open society and its enemies and declared himself to be a Popperian. I do not believe that many of his peers had heard of Karl Popper, or would have been able to express themselves as articulately as he did, but it would not be far-fetched to assume that many within the junior and middle ranks of the IRGC officer corps had reformist tendencies.
Ahmadinejad moved to consolidate the role of the IRGC within the political and economic sectors. He put high-ranking Pasdaran members in important ministerial and ambassadorial posts in his administration.38 This was a complete departure from previous presidents — both conservatives and reformists — who went to great lengths to keep the military out of the political realm.39 Under Ahmadinejad's presidency, more than one-third of the Majlis were IRGC members, while the organization itself was now thought to control nearly 30 per cent of Iran's economy through its oil, gas, real estate, and construction subsidiaries. Ahmadinejad enhanced the IRGC's parasitic role in the economy by doling out huge sums, in U.S. dollar contracts to the institution, which became an economic giant, authorized to import goods for sale on the domestic market without paying duties.40
In order to reinforce his position further, Ahmadinejad created a joint working group in November 2008 to coordinate domestic security with foreign and defense policies. This seemed wasteful, as there were bodies already dealing with such matters in depth, most notably the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). Left unsaid was the possibility that this so-called Joint Working Group was set up to bypass the SNSC, which Ahmadinejad and his cronies were not able to dominate and to ensure that the Ahmadinejad coalition would win the coming presidential elections of May 2009.
Iran saw its first major unrest in 30 years in the summer of 2009, when the reformist opposition raised accusations that the re-election victory of the incumbent Ahmadinejad was rigged. Pent-up resentment brought millions out in protests over the next months. The "Green Movement" had major demands: it wanted Ahmadinejad's re-election overturned, reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi installed as president, greater social freedoms, and an end to the security forces' tight oppression. These fell largely inside the framework of the existing system (nezam); the movement's leaders stressed that they were not aiming to bring it down.
After some hesitation, the response of Iran's ruling establishment was brutal. The IRGC and the Basij cracked down, opening fire on marchers and launching a wave of arrests. Dozens were killed and many more were jailed and tortured. The movement's political leadership was put under house arrest. Khamenei defended the election results and criminalized protesters for conspiring with Western sponsors to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Khamenei applauded the IRGC for defending the sysrem from what he referred to as foreign-sponsored movements. Some officers within the military establishment, particularly from the IRGC, shared this view. Statements from the ideological indoctrination department of the armed forces and from their Cultural and Propaganda Office suggested that the Green Movement was part of a "soft" war waged by Western powers either to promote a "color revolution" like those that had toppled other governments or to promote a coup d'état. 41
Iran's deteriorating economy under the mercurial policies of Ahmadinejad led many people to believe that Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man who should have won the presidential elections, would have improved the economy and promoted foreign investment. If this had been Mousavi's aim, and he had solid economic credentials, no wonder the IRGC high command had felt threatened by the possibility of a Mousavi presidency that would have sought to curtail the IRGC's vast economic infrastructure and moved to restore diplomatic and commercial relations with the outside world. The growth of the IRGC political power and the expansion of its tentacles within the economy contributed to the rise in its unpopularity among the people, in general, and the business community specifically. The business sector was incensed by the competitive advantages that the IRGC had over them: low-cost or virtually free labor, the awarding of multiple no-bid commercial contracts, and its unsavory reputation for using mafia-style intimidation of would-be economic rivals.
The crushing of the Green Movement reinforced the IRGC's view that it had a political role to play in safeguarding the system. The conception that the IRGC is a political force, one rejected by the reformists, has been reiterated many times during the evolution of the Islamic Republic. In 1997, former IRGC commander and then-member of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezai, thundered, "In the Imam's Ayatollah Khomeini's will, basijis and guards have been forbidden from becoming members of political groups, but nothing has been said to prevent them from becoming involved in political affairs emphasis added."42 In a wide-ranging interview in 2012, Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, head of the IRGC Political Bureau, rejected the perception that the IRGC had increasingly overstepped its mandate by expanding its political roles. Quoting Article 150 of the IRI Constitution, Javani highlighted that the IRGC was created to safeguard the revolution and its achievements; nowhere does Article 150 "… explicitly state that the IRGC is a purely military institution."43 Javani's views were not isolated; rather they were part of a general conception of civil-military relations promoted by the IRGC and elements within the political system. Many sources alleged that a number of officers were not happy with the bloody events that transpired following the "re-election" of Ahmadinejad. Reportedly, a senior IRGC officer, General Ali Fazli, was arrested for refusing to obey orders to shoot demonstrators, and the security forces arrested 36 military officers who had planned to attend a Friday prayer sermon by former president Hashemi-Rafsanjani wearing their uniforms as signs of protest.44
The penchant of IRGC officers for making politically sensitive comments continued unabated, even as relations between Ahmadinejad and the IRGC soured.45 In 2011, Hossein Hamdani, commander of the Mohammad Rasullallah Division, warned of the seeming entrenchment of the "deviant current" in Iranian politics, indicating that the IRGC would remain ever watchful. In February 2013, barely three months before the crucial presidential election of May 2013, the supreme leader's representative to the IRGC, Hojjatolislam Ali Saeidi, reiterated the view that "political activity" was one of the key duties of this revolutionary institution. However, he added, mystifyingly, the IRGC's political activity did not mean that the corps was "interfering" in the political process.
It is important to understand what Iranian officials mean by the concept that the IRGC engages in political activity but does not interfere in the political process. First, the IRGC is a political force defending the system, but it cannot follow factions or political groups. Second, IRGC personnel must be politically aware; otherwise, how can they defend the Islamic revolution? Third, the IRGC must be aware of and remain vigilant against the various political currents (Saeedi identifies 15) that could constitute a danger to the system. Fourth, political activity is a task of the IRGC but not of the Artesh. Fifth, Iran is facing danger on several fronts: the threats of conventional war and of political, socioeconomic and cultural subversion. The IRGC must be politically aware and militarily and ideologically mobilized to thwart these threats.46 In the West this "ideological" conception of civil-military relations is difficult to fathom, but it is regarded as normal within a revolutionary or authoritarian system that seeks to protect the existing structure from the armed forces or other threats with a layer of ideologically committed security and military forces.
THE FIFTH REPUBLIC: 2013-PRESENT
In May 2013, Iranians, weary of Ahmadinejad, went to the polls and elected the reformist Hassan Rouhani. There was none of the euphoria exhibited during the election of Mohammad Khatami years before. Many were cynical about prospects for reform after the brutal suppression of the 2009 Green Movement. However, anybody was better than Ahmadinejad or other hardline conservatives in the minds of many Iranian voters. The fear of the IRGC's rising political and economic influence led students, the middle class and popular reformists like Mohammad Khatami to join together with conservative mullahs and "centrists" like the fabulously rich and corrupt politician Hashemi-Rafsanjani to push back against the perceived militarization of Iranian politics. Between his election in 2013 and re-election in May 2017, Rouhani's tenure as president has been anything but stable on either the domestic or foreign front. The IRI is closer to a rupture in civil-military relations than at any other time in its history.
Hassan Rouhani is no political maverick or neophyte. His concern for the pressures on the legitimacy of the system are little known outside of Iran, but he has strongly expressed them since the early 2000s, when he was secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. In an extensive two-part article in the daily Iran in November and December 2000, he wrote,
Our Islamic system is confronted with a variety of domestic and international challenges, both ideological and practical in different arenas such as cultural, economical (sic), legal and other social fronts. But the most crucial challenge faced ... is the question of legitimacy."47 (emphasis added)
The IRI's legitimacy was under assault on various fronts at the time of Rouhani's election to the presidency. The government came into office in summer 2013 but did not get off to an auspicious start. Concerned by the increased politicization of the IRGC, Rouhani told an assembly of the force's senior commanders, "The IRGC is above and beyond political currents, not beside them or within them."48 In December 2013, the IRGC launched its first major assault on the Rouhani government. Though no specific measures to curtail the IRGC's burgeoning economic empire had yet been taken, its senior officers feared this was a government "infected by Western doctrine."49
Foreign and security policy initiatives caused tensions in civil-military relations. The new government made an effort to promote détente in its relations with the outside world, including the negotiation of a deal to end the impasse over Iran's alleged nuclear-weapons project. IRGC commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, was incensed by comments made by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that Iran had better negotiate because it faced a serious military threat from the United States, which could easily destroy Iran's defensive capabilities. Jaafari's displeasure was understandable; after all, the Iranian high command had regularly extolled the virtues and accomplishments of Iran's military technology and deterrence posture. Jaafari could not resist cutting Zarif down to size: "We consider him an experienced diplomat, but he has no experience in the military field."50
Tensions in civil-military relations were also heightened by differences concerning the trajectory of Iran's complex economic problems. Rouhani's mandate was to fix Iran's moribund economy. He also knew that many structural problems were due not only to the pressure of outside sanctions, but also to the imbalances caused by the IRGC's control of key sectors of the economy,51 including the black market. During his first term, Rouhani himself referred to corruption as a "national-security threat."52 Decades ago, the revolutionaries used to deride the Pahlavis and the top elite as the corrupt "Hundred Families." Things have not changed; most Iranians are very familiar with the "aghazadehs" (the children of very important people in the regime), who flaunt their conspicuous wealth shamelessly in northern Tehran's ritzy quarters, such as Darband and Velenjak.
A reduction of the illicit economy would loosen the shackles on growth, curb rampant corruption and reduce the concentration of commercial resources, financial assets and infrastructure construction in the hands of a privileged few whose wealth has become a profound source of embarrassment for the Islamic Republic and a strain on its legitimacy. Economic reforms were a key project of the new president, whose attachment to their implementation was also motivated by the prospect of reintegrating Iran into the global economy — if agreement could be reached on Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
Rouhani sought to diminish the power of the IRGC by replacing the war veterans who had gained posts under Ahmadinejad with accomplished civilian and technocratic officials. He made sure they held the oil, finance, energy, industry and transportation portfolios, among other positions. The government put pressure on the IRGC to shrink its sprawling business empire and arrested senior members whose corruption was too brazen to ignore. The IRGC was ordered to restructure some holding companies and transfer ownership of others back to the state.
Two months after he secured a second term, Rouhani said the IRGC had created "a government with a gun," which "scared" the private sector. Rouhani increased the official budget for the IRGC's ballistic missile program and overseas military campaigns in a bid to placate the guards and counter their argument that they need businesses to fund their operations, including in Syria and Iraq. Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the joint chief of staff of the armed forces, who is responsible for the guards and the conventional military, was to oversee the restructuring of the corps' businesses.53
Rouhani knew that diminishing the IRGC clout would be extremely difficult and, in some cases, undesirable given the state's dependence upon the institution in certain key areas of the economy and the defense infrastructure. The IRGC is so entrenched that nothing short of Iran's full integration into the international system — a door closed by the Trump administration with the May 2018 U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA — and massive macroeconomic restructuring will lead it to give up its privileged economic interests.54 The IRGC's commercial activities have given birth to a whole new socioeconomic stratums middle class in its aspirations and materialism.
To the government's consternation but not surprise, in July 2017 the IRGC requested an intensification of its role in the Iranian economy. Indeed, its senior ranks praised the efficient efforts of its various construction activities throughout the country.55 Moreover, Rouhani's government was not adamantly opposed to IRGC involvement in some sectors of the economy, especially the construction and repair of infrastructure in which they had expertise. Following the Trump administration's withdrawal from the JCPOA and the departure of foreign firms from Iran, the IRGC made known its intention to take on more economic and commercial projects.56
Ultimately nothing threatens the stability of civil-military relations than the prospect for mass popular discontent. The role of the armed forces in a society facing popular turmoil, culminating perhaps in a massive social revolution and the overthrow of the existing system, has been the subject of a vast theoretical and political literature from the Leninist seizure of power in Russia in 1917 to the contemporaneous Arab Spring of 2011. The consensus of academics and revolutionaries is that the armed forces' response to social upheaval and paralysis is a critical factor in whether the state survives or succumbs. Iran is not yet in a state of mass popular unrest, but it could get there this year or the next. In this context, Rouhani's government and its bitter rivals were stunned in December 2017 and early January 2018 by the massive, yet amorphous and seemingly spontaneous, demonstrations and riots that broke out in many cities.
The first protest, sparked by a sharp rise in basic food prices, was in Mashhad, a large metropolis in Khorasan and a stronghold of conservatives. The unrest quickly spread across dozens of towns throughout the country. The provincial cities and small towns have suffered heavily from the poor economy; large proportions of young people are unemployed and in despair over the future. Many were incensed that the government had lifted subsidies on basic foodstuffs, while others complained about the high financial and personnel costs of Iran's involvement in the geopolitical problems of the Arab world. Many protestors expressed their disgust at the rise of the nouveaux riches associated with the clerical establishment and the IRGC.57 Some protesters, chanting "Death to the dictator" — meaning Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei — also called for the end of the nearly 40-year-old Islamic Republic.
One of the biggest fears of the security services is the prospect of disgruntled revolutionaries simultaneously seizing a number of smaller towns and thus setting off a chain reaction. The scenario is not far-fetched; in 1982, the town of Amol in Mazanderan province succumbed for a few days to a shadowy nationalist and socialist group called Sarbedaran; other observers associated the event with another group, the wholly nationalist, Babak Khorramdin, named after a historical figure who rose up against the Abbasid dynasty centuries ago. In 1986, the authorities began the first in a series of exercises called "Khandaq" to train the security services in handling urban uprisings or coup attempts by elements of the military. In 2013, Nasser Shabani, deputy commander of the Sarallah base in Tehran, declared that the working assumption of the IRGC was that unrest may arise in smaller cities outside of Tehran due to "livelihood issues and the vulnerability of the working class," but added ominously that the IRGC has experience in dealing with this kind of unrest. Thus, while concern within the regime is evident, there is no panic yet.
MILITARY GOVERNMENT: "A CHILDISH DREAM"
Many years ago, there was a debate in the Islamic Republic of Iran concerning the critical matter of civil-military relations in the relatively young republic. At that time, a headline in an influential newspaper claimed, "A government of military men in Iran is a childish dream." Given the trials and tribulations of civil-military relations in the IRI, the accuracy of this assertion is increasingly in question. The notion of a military government is not that far-fetched anymore, given the dramatic events of recent years.
The political and economic influence of certain elements of the large and bifurcated military has increased in the past decade and half. Tensions at home between the government and elements of the military have also increased. The unstable regional environment and the pressures from other powers have given elements of Iran's military an oversized role in security formulation and execution. Socioeconomic problems contributed to the unexpected protests of December 2017 and January 2018, which alarmed the government and the military establishment.
Should serious disturbances erupt again in 2018 or subsequently, elements of the IRGC may conclude that the Rouhani government is incapable of handling the political and socioeconomic conditions and may force the government out. It is an open question then as to what the regular military, the Artesh, might do. Indeed, Iran might witness the unusual spectacle of two distinct military establishments fighting each other for the levers of power in the state and the soul of the nation.
1 For an insightful discussion of the application of theory to the Iranian case, see Hesam Foruzan, The Military in Post-Revolutionary Iran: The Evolution and Roles of the Revolution Guard (Routledge, 2016), 11-30.
2 Nader Entessar, "The Military and Politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran," in Post-Revolutionary Iran, eds. Hooshang Amirahmadi and Manouchehr Pavin (Westview Press, 1988), 56-74; Rebecca Cann and Constantine Danopoulos, "The Military and Politics in a Theocratic State: Iran as Case Study," Armed Forces and Society 24, no. 2 (Winter 1997): 269-288; and Mohammad Reza-Djalili, "L' armée et la politique: le cas de l'Iran," CEMOTI, No. 27 (1999): 95-113.
3 The studies include Afshon Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam; Religion, Politics, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016); Bayram Sinkaya, "The Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian Politics: Causes and Outcomes of the Shifting Relations between the Revolutionary Guards and the Political Leadership in Post-Revolutionary Iran," PhD Thesis, Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, (February 2011); Ali Alfoneh, "All the Guards Men: Iran's Silent Revolution," World Affairs (September-October 2010), 73-80; and Hesham Foruzan, The Military in Post-Revolutionary Iran: The Evolution and Roles of the Revolutionary Guards (London: Routledge, 2016).
4 Eva Rakel, "The Political Elite in the Islamic Republic of Iran: From Khomeini to Ahmadinejad," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29, no.1 (2009), 105.
5 Gregory Rose, "The Post-Revolutionary Purge of Iran's Armed Forces: A Revisionist Assessment," Iranian Studies 17, nos. 2-3 (Spring-Summer 1984), 153-191.
6 Mark Gasiorowski, "The Nuzhih Plot and Iranian Politics," International Journal of Middle East Studies 34 (2002), 645-666.
7 I will only use the term IRGC throughout this paper.
8 James Dingeman and Richard Juppa, "Iranian Elite: The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps," Marine Corps Gazette, (March 1988), 74.
9 "Interview with Javad Mansouri, First Commander of the IRGC," Iran Press Digest (June 15, 1982), 17-20.
10 Political Office, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, A Glance at Two Years of War (Tehran, n.d.), 33.
11 18th Brumaire in the soon to be discarded revolutionary calendar; hence Marx's famous article, "The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon."
12 Foreign Broadcasting Information Service-South Asia (FBIS-SA), June 15, 1981, I5-I6.
14 For an excellent analysis of civil-military relations during the early war period see Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, Religious Statecraft: The Politics of Islam in Iran (Columbia University Press, 2018), 147-185.
15 Neue Zurcher Zeitung, June, 20-21, 1982, 6.
16 "Rafsanjani kündigt Neordnung des Militärs im Iran an," Nahost Monitor Dienst, (June 6 1988), 1-4.
17 "Hashemi-Rafsanjani Speaks on Future of IRGC," Foreign Broadcasting Information Service-Near East/South Asia (FBIS-NES), October 7, 1988, 50.
18 Ibid. 52-53.
19 Financial Times, June, 28, 1988, 4.
20 FBIS-NES, May 13, 1991, 57.
21 "Revolutionary Guard Accepts New Role," Iran Focus, November 1991, 8.
22 See Rainer Hermann, "Von der Wirtschafts-zur Legitmationskrise: Die Ara Khamenei/Rafsanjani in der Islamischen Republik Iran," Orient 35, no. 4, (1994), 545.
23 Quoted in Rainer Hermann, "Von der Wirtschafts- zur Legitimationskrise," 545.
24 The Independent, September 28, 1994, 11.
25 Hossein Aryan, "Mass Mobilisation: The Rise of Iran's Paramilitary Enforcer," Jane's Intelligence Review (July 2008), 38-42; Saeid Golkar, "Organization of the Oppressed or Organization for Oppressing: Analyzing the Role of the Basij Militia of Iran," Politics, Religion and Ideology 13, no. 4 (2012): 455-471.
26 Andrew Rathmell, "Khamenei Strengthens His Grip," Jane's Intelligence Review (October 1995), 450.
27 Nader Nouri, L'emprise des gardiens de la revolution sur l'economie iranienne paralyse ce pays," Geopolitique, February 13, 2017, http://iranactu.blog.lemonde.fr/2017/02/13/lemprise-des-gardiens-de-la-….
28 Michael Naufal, "Iran: Khatami joue a quitte or double," Arabies, November 1997, 20-24; and Nairi Nahapetian, "Iran: Nouvelles constantes politiques en gestation," Arabies, March 1998, 20-26.
29 Kar-o-kargar, April 30, 1997, 1.
30 Mobin, May 2, 1998, 5.
31 Akhbar, June 1, 1998, 1.
33 "IRGC's Safavi Urges Vigilance against 'Third Current,'" Islamic Republic News Agency, June 2, 1998.
34 "Iranian Military Warns Khatami," Stratfor Commentary, July 20, 1999, http://www.stratfor.com/MEAF/commentary/c9907201300.htm.
35 "Iran's Khatami on Military Issues, Missiles," Speech by President Khatami, Tehran IRIB Television First Program Network in Persian 1709 Greenwich Meantime, (August 1, 1998).
36 Antoine Sfeir, "Les quatres poles du pouvoir iranien," Etudes 414 (March 2011): 295-306.
37 Ed Blanche, "Pasdaran Power," The Middle East (November 2007): 25-27; and Bernard Hourcade, "The Rise to Power of Iran's "Guardians of the Revolution," Middle East Policy 16, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 58-63.
38 Kazem Alamdari, "The Power Structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran: Transition from Populism to Clientelism, and Militarization of the Government," Third World Quarterly 26, no. 8 (2005): 1297; and Ali Alfoneh, "Le coup d'état rampant des gardiens de la revolution," Outre-Terre 28 (2011): 141-49.
39 Suddeutsche Zeitung, May 17, 2010, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/revolutionswaechter-in-iran-schlagkr…; and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 26, 2009, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/irans-wirtschaft-privilegien-und-….
40 Alexandre Leroi-Ponant, "Iran's New Power Balance," Le Monde Diplomatique, April 2006, https://mondediplo.com/2006/12/04iran.
41 "Military Officer Says Enemies Planned 'Soft Coup d'Etat during Iranian Election," British Broadcasting Corporation – Monitoring Middle East, October 18, 2009.
42 "Iran's Reza'i Views Political Role of IRGC, Basij," Tehran IRNA in Persian, 0754 GMT (December 31, 1997), in FBIS-NES, FTS19971231000292 (December 31, 1997).
43 "The IRGC's Political Chief Talks Syria, the Guards' Role in Iranian Politics, and the Future of the Reformist Faction," Iranpolitik: A Blog on Iranian Politics, September 11, 2012, http://iranpolitik.com/2012/09/11/news/irgc-commander-syria.
44 The Guardian, July 19, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/19/iran-army-officers-arrested.
45 Bernd Kaussler, "Internal Bleeding: Domestic Resistance to Iran's Regime," Jane's Intelligence Review (February 2010), 8-13.
46 "Khamenei's IRGC Rep: 'Political Activities Are among the Duties of the IRGC," Iran Military News, February 14, 2013, http://iranmilitarynews.org/2013/02/14/khameneis-irgc-rep-political-a.
47 "Iran's Political System and the Legitimacy Crisis," Iran, November 18 and December 13, 2000 in Netiran; http://www.netiran.com/Htdocs/Clippings/DPolitics/201213XXDP01.html.
48 "Iran's Rouhani Tells Revolutionary Guards to Stay Out of Politics," Reuters, September 16, 2013, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-politics-guards-idUSBRE9.
49 Cited in Ed Blanche, "Rouhani vs Revolutionary Guards," Middle East (March 2014): 12.
50 Daily Telegraph, December 11, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/105.
51 Mohammad Amin, "Les dix fardeaux de l'economie iranienne," Fondation d'Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient, April 18, 2014.
52 Bijan Khadjehpour, "How Do Iran's Corrupt Networks Operate?" Al-Monitor, February 13, 2018, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/iran-corrupt-networks….
53 Financial Times, September 14, 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/43de1388-9857-11e7-a652-cde3f882dd7b.
54 The Guardian, February 15, 2010, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/feb/15/financial-power-revolutio….
55 Ahmad Majidyar, "I.R.G.C. Asks Rouhani for Larger Role in Iran's Economy," Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2017, http://www.mei.edu/content/io/irgc-asks-rouhani-larger--iran-s.
56 Ahmad Majidyar, "IRGC Seeks to Further Tighten Grip on Iran's Economy as Sanctions Return," Middle East Institute, June 13, 2018.
57 The Guardian , December 30, 2017, and Washington Post, January 3, 2018.