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Should IRGC be worried by latest Iran army promotion?

The appointment of a new deputy head of the army may represent more than a simple promotion for Ahmad Reza Pourdastan.
Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in the capital Tehran. / AFP / CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI        (Photo credit should read CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shuffled the country’s military leadership on Nov. 19, appointing Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan deputy commander of the army, or Artesh. Pourdastan had previously led the army’s ground forces. His new appointment is significant in part because Pourdastan is one of the rare senior army commanders who has not been shy about directly engaging in Iran's political and ideological battles, and in part because of the possible intentions behind Khamenei's move.

In Iran, the army consists of regular ground, air and naval forces, which, together with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the police force, represents the country's total armed forces. The three are jointly headed by the General Staff, which reports to Khamenei as commander in chief. The well-known paramilitary Basij is part of the IRGC. The army, as Iran’s regular military, is supposed to work side by side with the IRGC, which was founded in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution and tasked specifically with “safeguarding the revolution.” In practice, however, the IRGC and the army have repeatedly clashed, most famously during the 1980-88 war with Iraq. In recent years, Khamenei has built up the IRGC as his power base and made it into one of the most formidable military organizations in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the army and the police have remained somewhat less ideological and more professional.

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