11.27.2013

IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS VERSUS THE AYATOLLAH

The Ayatollah and his generals (Khamenei.ir)  
The Islamic government may lack cohesion, adding concern to the inevitability of its nuclear goals.

By R James Towe  james@sollicitus.us

Iran's Foreign Ministry released a statement through the FARS News Agency on Tuesday disputing White House details of the interim nuclear agreement reached in Geneva with the so-called P5+1. 

The objections appear subtle, if not only to be obtuse toward the West. The Iranian statement focuses on the 'voluntary' nature of the agreement. It also declares Iran's natural right to nuclear energy. 

Openly contradicting the United States over the contents of Geneva may signal that no real, tangible results will come from the interim agreement. The remarks could also be for internal consumption to placate hardliners. 

Iran's public posture of a stoic supreme leader coupled with a war mongering Revolutionary Guards has succeeded in striking fear into its Gulf neighbors, to the point of cooperation with Israel.  A new area of concern is the unity within the regime following gestures to the West by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The additional and more disturbing possibility exists that the
Iran's domestically built Safir 6 vehicle (Wiki Commons)
Ayatollah is not the final word, as the government structure suggests. I had maintained that the Revolutionary Guards' continued harsh rhetoric was nothing else; a calculation to make the regime appear volatile and fearless.

Although the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, was appointed directly by the Ayatollah Khamenei, the influence and power of the Guards is challenging to contain because of the military aspect of the organization and its sense of independence dating to the 1979 revolution.

Consider the widely used motto of 'Death to America', a favorite of the Revolutionary Guards. Despite the Geneva talks and President Rouhani's overtures, the Basij Militia, subordinate to the Guards, chanted the motto during a recent speech by the supreme leader as he welcomed talks with the West.

It is unlikely that there is an opportunity for a verifiable, successful nuclear agreement with Iran regardless of whether public defiance of the P5+1 is genuine or an internal mechanism to quell hardliners. 

Understanding the amount of independence wielded by the Revolutionary Guards is crucial to determining if Iran is indeed an irrational actor. Then again, this was an issue that should have been concluded long ago if the West had been serious about preventing a nuclear Iran.