August 8, 2013 | Quoted by Jay Solomon, The Wall Street Journal

Iran’s Leader Reduces Posts of Military Elite

Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, moved to significantly reduce the presence of the country's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Tehran's next government—a trend U.S. and European officials cautiously take as a hopeful sign for international efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. Rouhani's cabinet appointments in recent days have marked a sharp reversal from a nearly decadelong trend in which IRGC personnel increasingly have dominated many branches of Iran's government, and their companies have taken over key industries in the national economy.

The IRGC is the country's most powerful military, economic and security force, and has led the decision-making on Tehran's role in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian territories, according to Iranian and Arab officials. Its nation-wide paramilitary organization, the Basij, was the lead force in the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 2009.

Most Iran analysts believe Mr. Khamenei vetted the new president's cabinet selections. And they think the 74-year-old Supreme Leader recognizes that experienced technocrats and diplomats may be the only government officials who can stabilize Tehran's finances.

“This tells me that Khamenei is concerned about the growing strength of the IRGC and is actually trying to counteract it,” said Ali Alfoneh, an expert on the IRGC at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank. “He wants to counterbalance it.”

If the IRGC has so far emerged as a possible loser in Iran's political shift, Mr. Rafsanjani may be the biggest winner.

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Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Sanctions