Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Militarization in Iran

While in the library yesterday, I grabbed a copy of Iran and the Rise of its Neoconservatives: The Politics of Tehran's Silent Revolution, by Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Mahjoob Zweiri. I don't like this as much as Ali Ansari's Iran under Ahmadinejad, but it does pay attention to the growth of military influence in Iranian politics. Here's the key graf:
"Many of the centres of power in Iran evolve around religious, political, economic and military figures. The IRGC and the security forces have emerged as the most independent, and prevail over all other centres of power in Iran. The U.S. military threats against Iran, nuclear confrontation with the West and the invasion of Iraq are among the fundamental causes behind this gain in power. Currently (2007 - BU), a group associated with the IRGC controls the major state-sponsored media. After gaining control of numerous city and town councils in 2003, many former members of the IRGC or its associates managed to enter into the legislative branch in the 2004 elections; the group had also set its sights on gaining control of the executive branch in 2005.

"Prior to taking on a higher political profile, the IRGC had established itself as an economic force in the country, controlling a vast array of financial and economic enterprises. To a large degree the businesses were seen as needed to finance IRGC security programmes. At the same time, the ventures were intended to build the Sepah's independent; in this the Sepah commanders sought to mimic their military counterparts in Pakistan and Turkey. (Sepah = IRGC - BU) In both these countries the army has tended to act as far more than an instrument to protect national interests: the armies have high-profile political roles and often define the respective nations' security interests. Since 1997, the Sepah in Iran has had a growing influence on foreign policy, strategic thinking and the economy. This 'Praetorian Guard' has been a cornerstone of the conservatives' survival and comeback strategy since 1997, and has been substantially rewarded by Khamenei. The IRGC also has a strong presence on the Supreme Council for National Security...

"By far the greatest demonstration of the Revolutionary Guards' political influence occurred in early May 2004, when the military abruptly closed down Tehran's new Imam Khomeini International Airport. In justifying its actions, the Guards' representatives said the fact that a Turkish consortium, TAV, was in charge of operating the airport terminal posed a threat to Iran's 'security and dignity.' Accordingly, the Sepah demanded that the TAV airport deal be voided before the airport reopens. Some observers suspect that an economic motive was behind the Revolutionary Guards' action in the airport row; when TAV won the tender to operate the airport, the losing bidder was reportedly a company with close ties to the Revolutionary Guards."

Before the election, RFE-RL previewed a potential role for the military, while Muhammad Sahimi has more on IRGC politics here. "Neoconservative" in the book's title is not a reference to American neocons, but a term occasionally used for the new generation of Iranian conservatives called in Persian usulgaran, usually translated as "principlists." There is, however, just a bit of parallelism between the two groups, as Ansari in his Ahmadinejad book claims that they were inspired by an "energetic, can-do attitude of the American 'neo-cons,'" as opposed to the ineffectiveness of Iranian leadership.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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