On April 22, in two separate announcements, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran removed the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohammad-Ali Jafari, and appointed Hossein Salami, Jafari’s subordinate, at the head of the newly designated terrorist organization. During the shuffle, Salami was promoted to a Major General.
Many observers and analysts speculated on the reason behind the change in command a week after the IRGC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the Trump Administration.
The change at the top of Iran’s Guards indicates a strategic failure for the regime.
Contrary to IRGC commanders before him who were appointed to important positions, including military advisors to the Supreme Leader, Jafari was appointed as the head of the Baqiyatollah al-Azam Cultural and Social Base; A position that has nothing do with the IRGC’s key operations and is clearly a marginal and insignificant post.
In his decree, Khamenei cited the former IRGC commander’s desire “to engage in cultural grounds and the soft war”, aka, the regime’s suppression of internet activists and its social media fake news campaigns.
It is clear the terrorist label has more than ruffled feathers inside the Guards and such a significant change in the terrorist organization shows that the US’s “maximum pressure” campaign has taken its toll.
This becomes more evident when we consider that two years ago, Khamenei issued a decree and extended Jafari’s term in office for another three years. This means that the former IRGC commander was intended to stay in power for another year.
Mohammad Ali Jafari, who was the Commander in Chief of the IRGC for the last 12 years, was the embodiment of the regime’s strategy in the past years.
Based on this strategy, the IRGC was tasked with protecting the system known as the Islamic Republic of Iran. The responsibility of border security was given to the Iranian army so the IRGC could focus on cracking down on dissent at home and carrying out terrorist activities abroad.
Structural changes were made throughout Iran, including the creation of the provincial Guards and changes in the IRGC affiliated Basij forces enabling easier crack down and suppression in Iran while at the same time, allowing the Guards to engage in asymmetric wars.
Apparently, Jafari was experienced in these fronts.
Now after the designation, it seems that Jafari, the champion of Khamenei’s strategy, has lost his stamina to continue to command the Guards. His removal suggests the end of Khamenei’s previous approach.
With Salami’s appointment, Khamenei has shown that he intends to use propaganda and words as his current tactic within the structure of the IRGC. This seems to be the only game that Salami knows how to play.
The 59-year-old Hossein Salami is known for his controversial remarks.
Two months ago, he addressed the Europeans and said that if they were looking to disarm Iran’s missile program, “we will have to make a strategic leap”.
Last fall, he also threatened Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and said that If they crossed Iran’s red lines, “we will surely cross yours.”