The United States sees developments in Iran as part of the rising influence of the Revolutionary Guard.
17 February 2010 Iranian Decisions Increasingly Being Made by Revolutionary Guard, February 17, 2010
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s observation that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is supplanting the country’s political leadership reflects an assessment by U.S. officials that the IRGC is increasing its responsibility well beyond Iran’s security sector.
The IRGC is influencing the country’s decisions on the brutal suppression of Iran’s political opposition and on President Obama’s offers of engagement, U.S. officials say.
In a series of interviews February 16 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Clinton said the Obama administration remains open to engagement with Iran to discuss Iranian nuclear activities and other areas of disagreement, but the U.S. offer has not been reciprocated. The international community is now discussing economic sanctions as a means of pressuring Iran to abide by its nuclear nonproliferation commitments, and Clinton said those sanctions would likely target the increasingly powerful IRGC.
“We see the ground shifting” inside Iran, Clinton told Bloomberg News. “Increasingly, the Revolutionary Guard seems to be filling the space that should be held under the Iranian system by either the clerical or the political leadership.” Revolutionary Guard leaders have been assuming greater responsibility “not just in the security sector and not just for the nuclear program, but in the economic and political arenas as well,” she said.
As a result, “the general conclusion is that there is something happening so that the political and the clerical leadership don’t seem to be able to make the decisions,” she said.
The Iranian people have seen the increased use of IRGC-controlled militia groups to suppress political opposition. Iranians have also been subjected to harsh judgments and “the passage of a law which makes it criminal and subject to the death penalty to, quote, ‘wage war against God,’ which basically gives total discretion to the security people to arrest, detain and even execute anyone,” Clinton said.
Speaking to the BBC, she said it is “very clear” that the IRGC “are in the lead on this repression,” and do not appear to be “accountable to anyone.”
“The clerical leadership, the political elected leadership, seem to be ceding ground to the Revolutionary Guard. And we believe that the sanctions we’re working on with the international community should be targeted at the Revolutionary Guard, particularly at their commercial interests, which are expanding dramatically,” Clinton said.
On February 10, the Obama administration unilaterally targeted the IRGC by imposing sanctions against one of its corporate entities, Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, and its commander, Rostam Qasemi, who is also a general in the IRGC.
The internal developments in Iran add to existing international concerns over Iran’s nuclear intentions, with many fearing the onset of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. In its collective approach to Iran, the international community has a choice, Clinton said.
“We can either just give in to the trends inside Iran, which I don’t think bode well for world peace and nonproliferation; we can ignore them, which has the same effect; [or] we can try to influence them, which is what we are trying to do,” she said.
She told the Voice of America that the Obama administration’s outreach to Iran will continue. “We’re never going to close the door. We’re not going to remove the outstretched hand,” she said.
But just as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States agreed to pursue engagement with Iran, they also agreed to the use of pressure and sanctions if engagement is unsuccessful.
“Now, we think that time has arrived and we’re going to the [U.N.] Security Council,” she said. As the international community moves toward sanctions, “we want to send a clear message that it’s not about the Iranian people; this is about the Revolutionary Guard.”
She told Al Arabiya that the focus is on individuals, institutions and businesses connected to the IRGC.
While many do not want to see sanctions levied against Iran, many in Iran do not want to see the end of their democracy, she said. “They don’t want to see the rise of an unelected body or a nonclerical body, namely the Revolutionary Guard, assuming all of this power.”
There is still an opportunity to try to convince Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons, but Iran’s leaders need to choose to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions and the rules established by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and they need to reassure their neighbors that they are not seeking nuclear weapons, Clinton said.