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Why Iran-US confrontation may intensify under new IRGC commander

A sharp-tongued commander taking the helm of Iran's most powerful military force has been interpreted by many as a signal that Tehran is bracing for more tensions, including a possible military conflict with the United States.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, speaks to journalists during a conference on the approaching 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in the capital Tehran on December 29, 2018. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran replaced the commander of its powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) less than two weeks after the United States designated it a "foreign terrorist organization." Given the wider global agenda advanced by the new IRGC commander, the replacement is a clear signal from Tehran that bowing to Washington's pressure is not an option.

On April 22, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Hossein Salami as the IRGC's new chief, ending Mohammad Ali Jafari's tenure of over a decade. In his recent record, Khamenei has not kept senior officials in key positions past an extended second five-year term, which he is constitutionally authorized to decide. As such, the CEO of the state broadcaster, the head of the judiciary and the chief of staff for the armed forces had to bid farewell after serving their formal tenures. Jafari's expected departure, therefore, had been a matter of broad debate and speculation over the last two years. Still, he held the post beyond the 10-year period, only to be replaced by Salami, who was serving as the IRGC's deputy commander. Salami steadily moved up the ranks in the military after starting duty during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), a background that normally facilitates upward mobility in the Islamic Republic.

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