AFP – January 5, 2010
The Revolutionary Guard Corps has "gained primacy" in Iran since the 2009 presidential election, fueling fears there that the country is becoming militarized, a Pentagon-sponsored study said Tuesday.
The study by the RAND Corporation also urged US policymakers to take "great care" in their statements regarding Iran in order not to give the leadership a pretext to divert attention from domestic troubles, like the economy.
The disputed election was "a watershed event" in the Islamic republic's history "that has altered elite relationships and solidified the position of the Islamist right and the Revolutionary Guards in Iranian politics," it said.
In the decade after the 1979 revolution, the clerics had the most power, but in the 1990s, new patronage networks not accountable to the state dominated the economy, even if the clerics kept "considerable political influence," it said.
"During the past decade, however, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has gained primacy, using the increased Iranian emphasis on security issues as a political and economic lever," according to Rand, a think tank.
The "election further empowered the Revolutionary Guards and has fueled reformist and even conservative fears of a creeping militarization of Iranian politics and society," said Alireza Nader, a study co-author.
It urged policymakers to watch the following trends: whether the Revolutionary Guard will continue to grow in power or decline; the relationship between those who overthrew the shah and the post-revolutionary leaders; and political jockeying to find out will become the next supreme leader.
It said those three trends have all been affected by the election which gave hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term in power.
The study urged US policymakers to "take great care to couch their communications with and about Iran in ways that are nuanced and take into consideration how their statements might be perceived in Tehran and by whom."
A focus on US or foreign policy "is often a convenient way for the regime to draw attention from bread-and-butter domestic issues that are problematic in Iran, such as the economy," the study said.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had her mind on the Revolutionary Guard.
"We have begun discussions with our partners and like-minded nations about pressure and sanctions," said Clinton.
"Our goal is to pressure the Iranian government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements without contributing to the suffering of ordinary (Iranians) who deserve better than what they are currently receiving" she said.
US negotiators, along with their European, Russian and Chinese counterparts, are trying to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program, which the West fears masks a drive to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies the charge.
Last updated 07/01/2010