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BorderWatch:Iran
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New Face of Iranian Revolutionary Guards
Does the Leadership Change Foretell a New Direction for the IRGC?
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 09/03/2007 1:59 PM ET
Newly appointed head of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards force, General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, speaks during a press conference in Tehran, 03 September 2007.
AFP/Getty
Newly appointed head of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards force, General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, speaks during a press conference in Tehran, 03 September 2007.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei unexpectedly appointed a new commander for the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) this weekend, promoting Mohammad Ali Jafari to replace Yahya Rahim Safavi.

"Regarding your valuable experience and shining background at different times, and varied responsibilities in the Guards, I appoint you (Jafari) ... as the commander-in-chief of this revolutionary service organization," Khamenei said.

Leadership changes are nothing unusual in Iran, though the IRGC, which is a separate apparatus from the traditional military, usually remains unaffected by personnel overhauls. Safavi had shown remarkable longevity, serving ten years as commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard.

Safavi gave his long appointment as the reason for the sudden change, telling the Iranian television channel, IRTV1, "Appointments made by His Eminence are usually for no longer than 10 years... Such movements are natural."

Khamenei gave no reason for the order, though it comes soon after the US announced it would be designating the Revolutionary Guard a "terrorist organization" for its meddling in Lebanon and Iraq, a move that could lead to a crackdown on the organization's financial holdings.

However, anyone looking at the changeover as a certain indication that Iran intends a new direction in its IRGC operations will be likely disappointed.

Jafari commanded IRGC ground forces for 13 years, after establishing his reputation as an renowned field commander during the Iran-Iraq war. Jafari takes over leadership of the Revolutionary Guards after serving two years as Safavi's second-in-command at the IRGC's Strategic Center.

Promoting an underling with no reputation for unconventional views--Jafari is even rumored to be a favorite of the Ayatollah--indicates a plan for policy continuity, rather than any signal for change.

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