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This handout photo provided by Irans Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official website via SEPAH News on February 7, 2019 shows the new "Dezful" missile during its inauguration ceremony at an undisclosed location.(Photo by: SEPAH NEWS/IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS WEBSITE/AFP)
Who is the IRGC's new commander, Maj.-Gen. Hossein Salami?
Despite US sanctions placed on Iran meant to pressure Tehran over its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program, Tehran is continuing to improve its missile arsenal.
With tensions high between Israel and Iran, the general who has vowed to “cleanse the planet from the filth” of the United States and Israel has been appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as commander of the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Brig.-Gen. Hossein Salami was promoted to Major General on Sunday and will replace Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari, who has headed the military force since 2007 and was demoted to the post of commander of the Hazrat-e Baqiatollah Social and Cultural Base, a cultural and educational division of the force.

“Considering Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari’s statement on the necessity of change in IRGC’s (top) command... and given your valuable experience and competence in fulfilling high-level management and various responsibilities in the revolutionary, Jihadi and popular institution of the IRGC, I promote you to the rank of Major General and appoint you as the top commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps,” Khamenei, quoted by Iran’s Fars News, as saying to Salami.

The 59 year-old general, like most members of the IRGC is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war and rose through the ranks of the organization, including serving as the former commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force.

The IDF has labeled Iran and the growing Shia belt from Tehran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as the number one threat to the Jewish State and Israel’s northern front as the top concern for war.

Despite US sanctions placed on Iran meant to pressure Tehran over its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program, Tehran is continuing to improve its missile arsenal.

And Salami’s promotion could see an even greater focus on this program, Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington-based think tank told The Jerusalem Post.

“Salami’s past experience leading the IRGC aerospace force is sure to feature in future rhetoric and policy by the IRGC on missiles,” he said, adding that “in Syria, the IRGC is helping increase building missile factories and depots, as well as using the cover of the war to help improve Lebanese Hezbollah’s rocket and missile force.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah – from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria – stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State.

While the Jewish State has remained relatively tight-lipped on the IDF’s actions in Syria and beyond as part of the military’s war-between-wars, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that anyone who puts Israeli citizens at risk “is in much greater danger.”

Salami, who until now was Jafari’s deputy, has frequently vowed to destroy Israel and the United States, saying in response to a question about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria that Tehran’s “strategy is to erase Israel from the global political map. And it seems that, considering the evil that Israel is doing, it is bringing itself closer to that.”

The shake up in the IRGC, which also saw the head of the IRGC’s protection services and security replaced, comes shortly after the Trump administration designated the group as a terror organization.

And Salami who is already subject to secondary sanctions will very likely not change Tehran’s regional policies, Taleblu told the Post.

“If anything, the demotion of Jafari and the promotion of Salami are designed to accentuate the broad array of threats America and its allies like Israel have long been facing from Iran. It’s most likely that this will be an instance of bureaucratic change to support strategic stasis.”

According to Taleblu, he’s been instrumental in “adding rhetorical fuel to the IRGC’s fire for years” which will only increase as he steps into his role.

“While hardline Iranian military officials seldom shy away from inflammatory rhetoric, Salami’s statements have always been the most offensive and lethal. And among the military elite he has usually been among the fastest to respond to threats with threats,” Taleblu told The Jerusalem Post.

“It remains to be seen what influence he will have on the battlefield, if any, but Salami is well equipped to carry out Iran’s war of words while Iran engages in strategic patience on the nuclear file and bunkers down in Syria.”
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