Senior Iran army commander criticizes IRGC

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A senior commander of the Iranian army implicitly criticized the political and economic activities of the country’s parallel military force – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – in a now-deleted interview with the official IRNA news agency.

IRNA published and later deleted an interview with the deputy coordinator of the Iranian army Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari on Sunday. IRNA did not offer an explanation for why it deleted the interview.

Parts of the interview have been shared on social media.

“It is not in the interest of the armed forces to get involved in the economy,” said Sayyari in the interview. This remark can be considered as criticism directed at the IRGC given that the military force controls large parts of the Iranian economy.

The army does not get involved in politics and the economy, he said, stating: “Does this mean we do not understand politics? No, we understand politics well, we analyze well, but we do not get into politics. Politicization is harmful for the armed forces.”

Sayyari also criticized Iran’s state media for displaying favoritism toward the IRGC and lessening the army’s role in the eight-year-long war with Iraq (1980-1988).

Sayyari joined the army in 1974, before the Islamic Revolution, and fought in the war against Iraq.

He headed the Iranian army’s navy force for over a decade before being appointed as the deputy coordinator of the army in 2017 by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Amongst supporters of the Islamic Republic, the army is generally considered to be responsible for “defending the country” while the IRGC’s duty is to “defend the system.”

The IRGC is more powerful, better equipped and has a larger budget than the army.

The IRGC is also heavily present in the economic sector, dictates foreign policy, has a strong propaganda arm, and controls the Basij militia and security forces that the regime deploys to suppress protests during times of unrest.

Some analysts liken the rivalry between the army and the IRGC to the rivalry between the different political factions of the Islamic Republic – namely the conservatives and the reformists – arguing that both military forces ultimately serve the regime and the Supreme Leader.

Maj. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, commander in chief of Iran’s army, had previously defended the IRGC’s presence in the country’s economic sector.

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