Iran’s revolutionary guards seek to expand power following US election
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Iran’s revolutionary guards seek to expand power following US election

Hardliners aim to use Trump victory to cement their political, economic, and military power home and abroad

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, right, with Brigadier General Ali Fadavi and other commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, following the arrest of US soldiers in the Persian Gulf. (Wikimedia Commons)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, right, with Brigadier General Ali Fadavi and other commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, following the arrest of US soldiers in the Persian Gulf. (Wikimedia Commons)

Iranian hardliners are eyeing the victory of Donald Trump as the next US president as an opportunity to strengthen its political and military power and influence within the Islamic Republic and aboard, said a senior Iranian official.

The election of Donald Trump was a “gift from God to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

Another Iranian official told Reuters that “if Trump adopts a hostile policy towards Iran or scraps the (nuclear) deal, hardliners and particularly the IRGC will benefit from it.”

The IRGC is a branch of Iran’s military whose mission is to secure the country’s “revolutionary” Islamic character at home and export it abroad. It also dominates large sectors of the Iranian economy, due to its proximity to Iran’s clerical leadership.

Trump has variously vowed to “dismantle” and rigorously enforce the year-old nuclear deal.

Iranian officials told Reuters that if Trump takes a hard line towards Iran and reimposes sanctions, the IRGC will be the chief benefactor, as recent deals such as the one with French energy giant Total will instead be given to the IRGC.

An aggressive stance by Trump towards Iran will also strengthen the IRGC politically, as the approach of negotiating with the West championed by the so-called reformist faction led by Hassan Rouhani will be viewed as having failed, validating the IRGC’s belief that there is no place for accommodation and compromise with the western powers led by the US.

This in turn will allow the IRGC to use the weakness of Rouhani and his allies to crack down on its political opponents, as it did in 1999 during the presidency of close Rouhani associate Mohammad Khatami, and again in 2009 following the rigged re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who worked to strengthen the IRGC during his presidency.

Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah flags in front of portraits of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on August 13, 2016, during a commemoration marking the tenth anniversary of the end of the war between Hezbollah and Israel. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)
Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah flags in front of portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on August 13, 2016, during a commemoration marking the 10th anniversary of the end of the war between Hezbollah and Israel. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

An Iranian official also told Reuters that “the IRGC will adopt a more aggressive and tougher approach in the coming months” in terms of its military operations, seeking to strengthen its proxies such as Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shia militias in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, as a means of waging its war for influence over the Middle East with its Sunni rival Saudi Arabia.

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