Iranian media is focused on fighting the floods that have swamped the country in recent weeks. A key part of the battle is being undertaken by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which were designated a terrorist organization by the US this week. The IRGC wants to show that not only is it not involved in terrorism, it has saved Iran from a natural disaster.
IRGC ground forces commander Mohammed Pakpour, who threatened to give the US a “slap in the face” in 2017, is now trying to slap the water back from Khuzestan province in Iran’s south. He visited the flood-drenched areas in Ahwaz and said the IRGC was fighting to defend the “dear people” of the area. This is an area where a large Arab minority lives. The IRGC commander sought to emphasize that Khuzestan has in the past played a role in the “holy defense” of the country, a reference to the war in the 1980s against Iraq.
The floods are a huge disaster for Iran and an embarrassment as the country’s regular disaster relief cannot handle them. Instead, the need to send the IRGC has shown how fragile the state of affairs is. In English media, Iran seeks to tamp down the story about the floods, primarily only reporting the disaster in Farsi. For instance, in English on PressTV, the IRGC says it will teach enemies an “unforgettable lesson.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with the IRGC and put a photo on Twitter, noting that the IRGC will defend the land of Iran.
But at home the real message of having the IRGC fight floods is to show the people that the IRGC is relevant. After criticism by Iranians that the IRGC is wasting resources abroad and fighting in Syria and Iraq, the IRGC is trying to come home. It understands that any challenges to the regime will come from inside the country, and that it wants people to remember it helped stop the flooding. Whether or not its training has entailed how to stop floods – as opposed to fighting wars – will be seen on the ground.