Rouhani and the ‘State That Carries a Rifle’
Rouhani and the ‘State That Carries a Rifle’
One year ago, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif announced his resignation through a tweet on Twitter. The reason behind his resignation was that the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard Corps had not informed him of Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Tehran, leaving him surprised when the latter arrived. Zarif retracted his resignation after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected it. A year has now passed. A few days ago, Rouhani himself threatened to resign if the Revolutionary Guard Corps did not admit its responsibility for the bombing of the Ukranian aircraft that had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.
Those who criticize Iranian policy in the area, especially in Iraq and Lebanon, for forming a shadow government that actually controls state institutions, need to examine the political formula in Iran itself. The shadow government formula, or as Rouhani put it, “The state that carries a rifle” started first in Iran before it was exported. It started two years after the Khomeini revolution in 1979 but took its full form and had its features delineated after an armed force called the Revolutionary Guard Corps came into prominence alongside a group of volunteers known as Basij, a paramilitary organization, who took it upon themselves to form foreign armed forces such as Hezbollah, the Islamic Dawa Party, and the Quds Forces among others.
Under the sponsorship of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, these forces formed the strategy of the government that paralleled the official government represented internationally. With time, this parallel government surpassed the official government and rendered the latter a fragile front for an authoritarian military regime that consumed the state’s capacities and hegemonized decision-making. Rouhani and his government are in conflict, politically and economically, with the deep state ever since he became president. Politically, Rouhani is proud that his government struck the Nuclear Deal with the West and restored its health after chronic international economic sanctions. Still, the more extreme Revolutionary Guard Corps sees this achievement with contempt. Even though the Nuclear Deal did not address Iran’s destabilizing activities in the area, the Revolutionary Guard Corps was not satisfied and continued to provoke the international community and the Iranian government with ballistic missiles that motivated the Trump administration to revoke the Deal. Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement was a blow to Rouhani’s government, and a symptom of his weakness in the Iranian interior and that just like his Minister of Foreign Affairs, he is the last to find out, to be consulted, and to decide. Economically, Rouhani keeps telling his people that half of his country’s economy is in the hands of Revolutionary Guard Corps companies and that the most important of which, Khatam al-Anbiya, a holding company that took over important sectors such as construction, oil, and communications after 80 percent of the public sector was privatized.
In the last few days, the size of the rift between Rouhani and the Revolutionary Guard Corps was made clear during the Ukranian aircraft incident. Many figures resigned from the government, not wanting to stay in a weak government that has no decision-making power. Rouhani demanded that the Revolutionary Guard Corps admit to downing the aircraft. The latter admitted out of fear that Rouhani would resign, which would instigate anger among Iranians against Khamenei at a bad time. Despite this, demonstrations sparked against the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which amplified international rage against Iran.
In reality, by examining the Iranian jurist regime since the revolution, one finds a list of terrorist activities conducted by this regime against its enemies. I do not want to go beyond the allotted space for this article. Still, I will mention the most prominent of them, the killing of more than 300 American and Lebanese military personnel and civilians during the bombing of the US Embassy, the Marines Barracks, and the Kuwaiti bombings in 1983, alone. There have been several criminal acts since, including bombings, aircraft hijacking, assassinations, and organized mafia activity that operates through diplomatic centers and businessmen. The entire world knows that the regime is characterized by its political ideology and not the people in it. It is a terrorist regime and will not change, and despite this, the West tried to appeal to it to limit its insanity, hence the Nuclear Deal. The West, especially Europeans, have only just realized the critical truth that the Deal was signed with a fragile government and not with the government that carries a rifle.
The US administration, with its current hawks, realized this truth. Like Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, said, “Our targets are the actual decision-makers,” including Qasem Soleimani, whose death was like an earthquake that shook the Khomeini Revolution’s entity in an unprecedented way. This earthquake, as the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard Corps put it, is what confused the finger of the officer who pushed the button on the missile by mistake and hit the Ukranian aircraft. The plan to kill Soleimani with an airstrike, footage of which were shared, calmed the hearts of many in Iran and in Arab countries who were victims of his crimes and shook Iran, its Guards and Supreme Leader, and revealed the truth behind the deceptive force that wore terrorism as its mask.
This stage is one of the most sensitive in dealing with this regime. This is what pushed Washington, two days ago, to impose more sanctions on Iranian entities and figures and to affirm that any country that violates these sanctions would be punished. I will not go as far as saying that the Iranian regime is headed towards being overthrown, but the reality is that it is going through its worst days in the interior and exterior.