Iranian hardliners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are “gaining authority” in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal, Reuters reported on Monday.
“Khamenei’s allies control the bulk of financial resources as well as the judiciary, the security forces, public broadcasters and the Guardian Council which vets laws and election candidates,” the news agency wrote.
According to many experts, parliamentary elections earlier this year solidified the hold of hardliners over Iran’s political institutions.
“Iran’s political system allows elections for president and parliament, but gives a hardline watchdog body power to veto laws and decide which candidates may stand,” Reuters explained.
Khamenei’s support derives from the “the loyal support of 150,000 Revolutionary Guardsmen and their Basij henchmen,” senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Karim Sadjadpour told Reuters, referring to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The IRGC is estimated to control a sixth of Iran’s economy. One Iranian executive told Reuters last July that “boosting the economy [via the nuclear deal] will increase the IRGC’s influence over politics and the economy because it will strengthen the hardline establishment.”
Emanuele Ottolenghi and Saeed Ghasseminejad of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies similarly predicted in May 2015 that the groups most likely to be strengthened by the nuclear deal were businesses controlled by Khamenei and the IRGC.
Shortly after the deal was reached last July, Lee Smith, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, observed that it was “a huge victory for the regime’s hardliners.”
In addition to its increasing financial and political clout, the IRGC has been behind a growing crackdown on civil rights. In November of last year, The New York Times reported that anti-Americanism had increased and individual liberties were being curtailed even further since the announcement of the deal. A number of Iranian journalists, activists, and cultural figures were arrested by IRGC forces at the time.
The IRGC also supports terror groups and militias throughout the world through its Qods Force, which is commanded by Gen. Qassem Suleimani. While Suleimani has been implicated for his support of terror and sanctioned by United Nations Security Council, the international community has failed to enforce the sanctions against him.
[Photo: Mehr News ]