IRGC General Looks For A Revolutionary Guard As President
General Esmail Kowsari, the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) officer in charge of Tehran’s security for many years, has welcomed the prospect of an IRGC officer as Iran’s next president given the Guards’ “sense of responsibility” and experience of “psychological warfare.”
As a member of parliament, the Majles, from 2008 to 2016, Kowsari supported the ultraconservative Paydari (Steadfastness) Front and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013). Kowsari oversaw Tehran’s security as an IRGC officer from 1984 to 2000 and again from 2016 to 2020 before being appointed an adviser to the IRGC commander-in-chief, Hossein Salami.
Speaking to Khabar Online, a conservative news website, on Thursday November 19, Kowsari asked why the media questioned IRGC officers’ interest in politics given Iran faced “psychological warfare.” He pointed out that many prominent Guards were political figures before joining the IRGC, often as young activists.
“The media want to talk about the candidacy of IRGC officers,” he said. “But IRGC officers were political figures and activists in the first place. The reason why they put on uniforms was that they wanted to go to the war against Iraq…This shows their sense of responsibility.”
He suggested that the records of IRGC figures over the past 40 years compared well to those of other officials: “They fought in the war and now they serve at remote areas and have very few expectations.”
Kowsari cited former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei, now Secretary of the Expediency Council, who was a university student before the revolution and the IRGC commander-in-chief from 1980 to 1997. “We should compare him to other state officials and see who is more knowledgeable,” he suggested.
A decree by the Islamic Republic’s first Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini forbad military figures from competing for political office. Nonetheless, an IRGC officer and rear admiral Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Secretary (SNSC) ran for President in 2001.
Several other former senior IRGC commanders – including Rezaei, current parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf), and former speaker Ali Larijani – have all stood in presidential and parliamentary elections. Tens of IRGC officers stood in the last three parliamentary elections and now sit in parliament. Last week, the member for Shah-e Babak near Kerman delivered his speech in Majles open session of the Majles wearing his IRGC uniform.
Among former, seconded or former IRGC officers named in the media as potential candidates for June’s presidential election are former defense minister Hossein Dehqan; Saeed Mohammad, head of the IRGC construction arm Khatam-ol Anbia; and Parviz Fattah, head of the Mostazafan Foundation. Dehqan has officially announced his candidacy.
Kowsari told Khabar Online that their candidacies would not infringe the law nor religious decrees as they would resign before the presidential campaign officially began. “And they would certainly resign once elected as president,” he continued. “Those who oppose the candidacy of IRGC officers fear these officers’ popularity.” Kowsari said that the media should not turn voters against IRGC officers. “They should ask themselves who is going to nominate himself in order to serve the people,” he advised.
In January, protests after Iran shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner saw slogans raised against the IRGC, whose missiles had hit the plane, killing all 176 aboard. The IRGC and the Basij militia, which the Guards supervise, were implicated by human rights groups in the suppression of protests in November 2019, in which between 400 and 1500 Iranians died.