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Iran military warns against 'baseless' criticism of Rouhani

The Iranian armed forces’ chief of staff, who reports directly to the supreme leader, has threatened to “confront” conservative Iranian media outlets that target the administration.

The chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces warned conservative media outlets with links to the armed forces against continuing to incite the public or target the administration unfairly. The May 19 comments by hard-line political figure Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, who reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was welcomed by officials from President Hassan Rouhani’s administration.

“This is the demand of the supreme leader … that whoever has sympathy for Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini], the revolution, the supreme leader and the martyrs, join hands and help this administration … to push the country forward,” said Firouzabadi.

He said, “Some of the games of the media result in public incitement,” and asked the media outlets to put their partisan interests aside in order to “build the country and help the administration.” He also asked the management of these media outlets to “prevent news that incites the public [or] weakens the administration.”

“Some news has no value or is divisive, and some are rumors, accusations and are baseless,” Firouzabadi continued. He stressed that he was not trying to determine editorial slants and that “Even media that are in some way connected to the armed forces make mistakes. They do not operate with the policies and aims of the supreme leader. They have to reform their ways; otherwise, we will confront them.”

Firouzabadi did not mention any media outlets by name, but Sobh-e Sadegh is officially linked to the Revolutionary Guard. The editors of the Fars News and Tasnim agencies and Javan newspaper are believed to have links to the Revolutionary Guard. Other hard-line outlets such as Vatan-e Emrooz and 9 Dey have been relentless in their attacks on various ministers and administration officials, at times making dubious claims about the nature of the nuclear agreement. Firouzabadi warned media outlets that the ministers of the country already have enough burdens, and the constant pressure on them from the media works to the detriment of the country.

Majid Ansari, Rouhani’s deputy for parliamentary affairs, said May 20, “I thank Maj. Gen. Firouzabadi for his appropriate and decisive step and statement. He communicated an important and necessary issue, which is needed for the media atmosphere of the country.” He said that administration has many challenges ahead, including inflation, unemployment and investment, and “If there is criticism and if the media has constructive criticism, the media should avoid destruction, accusations, immorality and spreading lies.”

Ansari said that because it was Firouzabadi, as chief of staff of the armed forces, who made these comments, the “national interests require that [media connected to armed forces] observe this issue.”

Hojat al Islam SeyedReza Akrami, the secretary of the President’s Cultural Council, said May 20, “These comments showed that there is no distance between the armed forces and the administration. And if, God forbid, some imagined that it was this way, their imagining it was wrong.” He continued, “Mr. Firouzabadi, in this interview, directly and with clarity emphasized his support for the administration.” Akrami said that this was not the first time that Firouzabadi has expressed his support for Rouhani since the June 2013 presidential elections.