Hossein Salami, deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MORTEZA NIKOUBAZL)
Iran’s regime appointed Hossein Salami the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Sunday, a decision that is being closely watched across Iran, the region and the world. To signal the support for the decision to remove the former IRGC commander Mohammed Ali Jafari and bring in Salami, the press in Iran is rushing to praise the new leader.
Abroad, Salami is seen as “hardline” and “fiery,” a fierce critic of the US, Israel and Europe, a man of threats and bragging who is known to frequently boast about the power of Iran and the IRGC to destroy Israel and other countries. At home, the regime – particularly Ayatollah Khamenei – wants people to know he has the full support of the country.
This comes amid a growing scandal within the IRGC that has led to several high profile replacements. It also comes after the Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had feigned resignation in February in order to cement his own power. In short, the Iranian government is illustrating that it is not a monolith and that it knows it faces major challenges abroad and at home. Recent flooding has deeply harmed Iran domestically, while abroad Iran is seeking to put on a powerful face with meetings in Iraq, Syria and Turkey and hosting Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
On Iran’s Tasnim news, the new IRGC commander received five of the top stories. There were stories about the IRGC getting around US sanctions, praise for the Salami appointment as a “message to our enemies,” congratulations from various provinces, a review of the IRGC’s activities, photos of the IRGC with the supreme leader and a review of the history of the IRGC. Fars News has an article about Salami and the international role of the IRGC, and state news agency IRNA had articles about the constitutional role of the IRGC and the president congratulating Salami on his appointment. Zarif had already congratulated Salami on Sunday.
The picture that is emerging is that in the wake of the US designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, the Iranian regime wants to show off just how influential and important the IRGC is in Iran. It also wants to show it has near total backing across the regime and throughout the country. The need to show this indicates that the regime is not entirely sure of itself, because if the IRGC was as strong as they make it appear, then there would be no need to boast and burnish its image. The idea is to give Salami a boost as he comes into office. So far, it appears to be working.
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