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Tuesday, 30 April 2019 00:00

Iran goes on with its “heroic flexibility” strategy

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By Azer Ahmadbayli 

The huge commercial empire of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), huge (mainly illegal) financial flows through the organization, privileged status in society – President Trump has put all this at risk with his decision dated April 8, designating IRGC as a "foreign terrorist organization".

On April 15, Presidential Decree came into effect. Nearly a week after, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei appointed General Hossein Salami, a senior commander of IRGC, as the new chief of the military elite force, who has replaced one of Iran’s most influential Generals Mohammad Ali Jafari.

It looks rather strange that the Iranian leadership decided to change horses in midstream.

Moreover, Ali Jafari has been separated from the military structure of IRGC and appointed the Head of the organization’s Cultural and Social Headquarters, although on April 9, the day after Trump’s announcement, he was making loud statements.

“We powerfully announce, and we are even ready to provide this information to them, that next year, IRGC will be more powerful than before in its defensive and offensive systems with the grace of God,” he said, according to Tasnim news agency.

It seems that General Jafari had big plans and was not going to leave his post.

Also, shortly after the Trump’s decision on IRGC was announced, General Ali Nasiri, Head of IRGC's counter-intelligence unit, was taken off his post for unknown reasons.

Why are two generals, one of whom was the chief of the all-powerful organization, removed from office immediately after Trump’s decree, and what is happening at the senior level of IRGC?

The Iranian Constitution calls IRGC the main defender of the Islamic revolution. Not the army, but IRGC. Trump's blow hit the most painful point. This is likely to cause controversy, even within the organization itself, about how to proceed.

In 2015, the same dismissed General, Ali Jafari, called the resolution on the Iranian nuclear agreement, which was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council, unacceptable. "Some parts of this document obviously violate the red lines of the Islamic Republic, especially in the field of Iranian military potential. We will never accept it," the General said shortly before the vote in the SC.

When circumstances arise that begin to directly threaten the existence of statehood of the Islamic Republic, the difference between reformists and conservatives begins to fade, and joint decisions are made, even painful, that could ease the threat.

There were similar cases in the history of the Islamic Republic – in 1988, when Tehran realized that resources to continue war with Iraq were running out and it’s time to end it before it’s too late, and in 2015, when international sanctions and isolation of Iran nearly led to the collapse of economy forcing the Iranian leadership to sign the nuclear agreement.


If there is someone, even the most patriotic one, who disagrees with the joint decision for the current moment, he should leave.

Now the threat to the whole state system is again beginning to take shape, and the main reason is the drop in oil exports and, accordingly, the inflow of currency into the country's economy.

In April, Iran’s oil exports are at their lowest level since the beginning of 2019, Reuters reported, referring to data from Refinitiv Eikon and other sources. Earlier, the US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said that more than twenty importers of Iranian oil have completely stopped the purchase.

So, how should Iran proceed, considering the circumstances?

On Wednesday President Rouhani took half a step towards Washington.

He suggested that negotiations with Washington would be possible if it lifts all the pressures, apologizes for its “illegal” actions, and complies with mutual respect. Rouhani also added that reports that Iran had rejected American offers to negotiate are not true.

That is, President of Iran doesn’t exclude for his country to come to terms with US at a time when the decision was taken by the US administration to end waivers to buy Iran’s crude.

The same day, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in his interview in New York that Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States. “I put this offer on the table publicly now. [Let's] exchange them”, he said.

Earlier, Tehran used to refuse similar offers from Washington. It then said, according to the same Zarif, that Iran would be ready to exchange prisoners with the United States if Washington "changes its attitude" to the Islamic Republic.

Zarif also suggested possible cooperation with the United States to bring stability to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Middle East Monitor.


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