Who’s Who in Iranian Politics
Mohammad Ali Jafari
Mohammad Ali Jafari was born in 1958 in the city of Yazd. He finished high school there and in 1978 he began university studies in architecture, when he also began his political activities. His most important activity during these years was the establishment of the Islamic Association, the Islamic library, and a hiking group in the Department of Architecture. During people’s protests against the Shah, he participated in demonstrations and was arrested and jailed. Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution, he was an active member of the Islamic Association and he served in the Revolutionary Guards Corps' Unit of the Cultural Revolution. He then became a member of the Intelligence Unit of the RGC and was dispatched to Kurdistan Province. Following the closing of universities early in the revolution, he was active in the Cultural Revolution, and at the outset of the Iran-Iraq war he went to the front as a member of the mobilization force. In 1981, he became a member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
As the commander of the operational headquarters of the west and the south, Jafari remained at the war front until the end of the war. Among his responsibilities were the commander of Ashura Brigade, commander of Soosangerd Operations, Deputy Commander of Shushtar and Alghadir Revolutionary Corps, and Commander of West and Qods Headquarters during the war.
Mohammad Ali Jafari, known as "Aziz", received the military rank of Brigadier General following his appointment as the Commander of the IRGC. During the Iran-Iraq war, he was one of the high-ranking commanders of IRGC and a creative element in asymmetrical operations. Following the end of the war, he was the IRGC's Commander of Ground Forces for several years, then the Head of the Strategic Center of IRGC, and later the General Commander of the IRGC. In his recent position, he has also made fundamental changes in the IRGC and while establishing the Provincial IRGC, he has promoted the Air Force and Navy.
After the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Jafari returned to university to continue his studies and attained an MS degree in architecture. Simultaneous with his studies, he was in charge of the operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was the Deputy Commander of IRGC's Ground Forces. In 1992, he became the Commander of the IRGC's Ground Forces and he maintained this position for 13 years, during which in the last five years he was the Commander of Sarallah Headquarters in Tehran. From 2005 until the time when he became IRGC General Commander, he was appointed by the Commander-in-Chief (Ayatollah Khamenei) to establish IRGC's Strategic Center.
Apparently, Jafari had good relations with Seyyed Mohammad Khatami (during his presidency), for, according to some, Khatami visited the IRGC Ground Forces while Jafari was its commander. It seemed that his appointment as the IRGC General Commander, after presiding over the IRGC's Strategic Research Center, would bring deep changes in the military force.
Experts state two reasons for his appointment as the IRGC's General Commander. The first was based on his valuable experiences in asymmetrical and irregular wars, which Jafari has been one of the founders of during the Iran-Iraq war, and also based on growing US threats on military attack against Iran at that time. (And since Jafari did much research to evaluate the positive and negative points of the US in its attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq while he was the IRGC's Commander of Ground Forces, he was suitable for this post.) The results of this research will certainly be helpful for Iran's military forces in case of a US attack against Iran. Brigadier General Gholamali Rashidi, another IRGC Commander, in an interview in 2005, said: “During the first years of the Iran-Iraq war, the first operation which used the principle of surprise attack without considering clear axis of classic wars was planned by Mr. Aziz Jafari." The second reason for his appointment was his record of presence in the IRGC's Strategic Research Center. Jafari, who presided over this center for three years, and in fact has been in charge of research, was undoubtedly aware of the importance of knowledge and expertise in the IRGC's forces.
Mohammad Ali Jafari’s name can be seen in two significant statements of IRGC Commanders: the first statement is the one in which 33 commanders of IRGC faithfully appreciated the efforts made by Mohsen Rezaei, following his dismissal and the appointment of Rahim Safavi.; the second statement is the one which 29 IRGC commanders issued against the government of Khatami; following the 18th of Tir incident, which threatened him that the IRGC would control the situation. After Mohsen Rezaei and Rahim Safavi, Mohammad Ali Jafari became the third IRGC General Commander on Sept. 1st, 2007.
The changes made in the IRGC, following the appointment of Jafari, is outstanding and strategic. Among these fundamental changes are structural changes in provincial corps, strengthening the cyber section of IRGC, which is known as the commanding center of cyber counter-attacks in the internet sphere, the entrance of mobilization forces in the issue of soft threats, taking responsibility for Persian Gulf security and being present in the Gulf of Aden, expansion and strengthening the aerospace forces of IRGC, and expansion of intelligence in the IRGC.
In a statement in response to Israel's threats against Iran, the IRGC General Commander has said: "The US and Israel do not dare attack Iran and our assessment is that these verbal threats will not succeed; if the situation becomes critical, we will certainly close the Strait of Hormuz; our response to the US and Israel is clear; if our country is attacked, nothing will remain of Israel."
In a press conference, he told a foreign reporter: “My assessment is that if international organizations fail to prevent Israel from attacking Iran, it seems impossible that Iran would remain committed to international commitments like the NPT... Of course, this does not mean that Iran is moving towards a nuclear bomb."
In another statement, which was seriously criticized, the IRGC Commander mentioned the seriousness of Israel's enmity with Islam and the Islamic Revolution, and considered this regime's threat against Iran an enmity which will, ultimately, lead to physical conflict. He said: “The cancerous tumor, meaning Israel, is fighting against us but the timing of the war is not clear .... This event will finally occur.... Even if prudence and wisdom become the ruling ideas, still this event will happen."
Later, in reaction to various analyses of his statements with regard to war with Israel, Mohammad Ali Jafari said: " Today, considering the situation of the enemies, there is no possibility of launching a war against Iran, and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is always ready to defend the Islamic Revolution and it will not ignore its values in this defense."
Recently, in response to the question about his assessment of the IRGC's presence in Syria, Mohammad Ali Jafari said: “In the past, the Revolutionary Guards had a unit called Islamic Movement which helped the deprived people. But, at the present time, the Qods forces with the objective of supporting the oppressed people, implements this task. This is while in the past, some of the members of this force were present in Lebanon and Syria, but this presence did not and does not mean we have a military presence in these countries.... Of course, we will render our intellectual aid to Syria as long as we can and we are proud to be able to support Syria and share with them our experiences, but as I stated before, our presence does not mean a military presence."
These statements made by the IRGC Commander, which were followed by numerous reactions, were considered to confirm IRGC military intervention in Syria. This is while Commander Jafari has said, “The presence of IRGC personnel in Syria is only to give consultations to them". Associated Press interpreted his statements as the following: The IRGC Commander, while confessing to the presence of “Qods Forces" members in Syria said that Iran helps Syria in economic issues and renders its consultative services. He has also said that Iran's intervention in case of attack against Syria "depends on the conditions".
Mohammad Reza Tabesh, the reformist representative of the parliament, with regard to the statements made by Mohammad Ali Jafari, the IRGC Commander, about Iran's military presence in Syria and also the possibility of Iran-Israel war said: " The IRGC Commander's statements caused led to reaction from the government of Lebanon and such statements will have economic, political and security consequences, worry the people and cause investors to take their investments outside of the country."
Prior to 2012 election of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, while there was talk about the presence of the reformists in this election (which was the first national election after the tumultuous 2009 presidential election), the IRGC Commander in an interview with a domestic news agency talked about the conditions for the return of the reformists, especially Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, and said: " It is natural that those people in the reformist movement who have not crossed the red lines can participate in the political competitions, but the issue of how successful Mr. Khatami will be depends on his positions. " Jafari's statements were interpreted differently, including that they were the conditions set by the IRGC for politicians. He further pointed out: “Mr. Khatami did not pass his test during the election and cooperated with the leaders of the sedition ... If he intends to run, I don't think that people would forgive him."
Mohammad Reza Khatami, a member of the central council of the Participation Front, called the behavior and statements of Mohammad Ali Jafari the "Coup d’état government". The brother of Iran's former president, in a letter to the IRGC Commander, considered his recent statements in the interview with Mehr News Agency contrary to Ayatollah Khomeini’s views with regard to non-intervention of military personnel in politics. In this letter, Mohammad Reza Khatami strongly criticized the condition set by the IRGC Commander for the presence of the reformists and Mohammad Khatami, former president, in the election saying: “Based on the civil laws, religious laws, political norms and interests of the country you are not in a position to draw lines for politicians."
Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, the commander of Tehran unit of IRGC, explicitly criticized the statements made by the IRGC Commander and said that the IRGC must act "beyond parties".
Also, during the past two years while the volume of criticism against the Ahmadinejad government by Principlist forces have increased, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his speech at the Conference on New Strategies to Struggle against the Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Currency, confirmed the existence of illegal borders in the country and reiterated that some institutions and organizations attempt to import goods through such borders, and this should be prevented. Many interpreted these statements as Ahmadinejad's referring to economic activities of the IRGC; for the IRGC is among the serious opponents of the movement known as the “deviation movement” which refers to the close friends of Ahmadinejad, including his top aide Esfandiar Mashaei.
In response to these statements, Mohammad Ali Jafari said that the IRGC, like any other military organization, has military economic interests but no economic trade is done through them. According to him, these people, by such discussions, intend to deviate the attention of the government and other agencies from the main areas where smuggling occurs.
The IRGC Commander is among the 8 people who are on the list of US sanctioned entities, which, according to President Obama, are imposed due to violation of human rights in Iran. Others in this list include Sadegh Mahsooli, the Minister of Welfare of the 10th Government and the Interior Minister of the 9th Government, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, the General Prosecutor and the present spokesman of the Judiciary (and former Intelligence Minister of the 9th Government), Saeed Mortazavi, former Tehran Prosecutor, Heydar Moslehi, the Intelligence Minister of the 10th Government, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, the Defense Minister of the 9th Government and the Interior Minister of the 10th Government, Ahmadreza Radan, Commander of Tehran Police Force, and Hossein Taeb, Intelligence Deputy of the IRGC and commander of Basij Resistance Forces.