Major General Mohammad Jafari's comments are some of the sharpest
to be made by a senior official in public since moderate cleric
Hassan Rouhani took office as president in August pledging to
improve Iran's relations with regional countries and the West.
The Rouhani government's diplomatic initiative led to an agreement
with six world powers last month under which Iran is to curb its
disputed nuclear program in return for limited relief from sanctions
that have squeezed its economy.
The interim accord has been widely welcomed by Iranians both at home
and abroad, but hardliners in the country's multi-layered power
structure are irked by the foreign policy shift and warn against the
dangers of getting too close to the West.
"The military, systems and procedures governing the administrative
system of the country are the same as before, (but it) has been
slightly modified and unfortunately infected by Western doctrine,
and a fundamental change must occur," Fars news agency quoted Jafari
saying on Tuesday.
The comments by Jafari — the commander-in-chief of the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — underline the challenging task Rouhani faces in seeking a nuclear deal and improved relations
abroad without provoking a dangerous backlash from powerful
Jafari also chastised Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a
comment he was said to have made indicating Iran was militarily
Zarif was quoted by local media last week as saying the West had
little fear of Iran's military defenses and could destroy them if it
wished, although Zarif has said his statement was skewed and taken
out of context.
"We consider him an experienced diplomat, but he has no experience
in the military field," Fars news agency reported Jafari as saying
on Tuesday, without naming Zarif.
Jafari was answering a question about whether U.S. forces could
destroy Iran's military capability with just a few bombs.
"It's not like that at all. He has no military experience or
expertise," Jafari said during a visit to Tehran's Imam Sadiq
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Jafari also appeared to dismiss recent calls for the powerful force
to stay out of politics, saying its duty was to protect the Islamic
"The main threat to the revolution is in the political arena and the
Guards cannot remain silent in the face of that," he said.
In September, both President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there was no need for the force to be
active in politics.
Critics accuse the IRGC of straying into economic, social and
political spheres in recent years, providing it with overwhelming
influence in how the country is run, a further battle Rouhani will
likely encounter in his promises to improve Iran's economy.
A former nuclear negotiator, his initiatives have so far gained the
endorsement of Khamenei, who has the final say in Iran's foreign and
security policies but who holds a deep distrust of Western countries
and their motives against Iran.
Jafari also indicated Iran would not relent in its support of its
Arab ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran has provided vital military and economy help to Assad in the
Syrian civil war which has helped him reverse gains made by the
"We will do whatever we can and is necessary to protect Syria
because Syria is the front line of the Islamic Revolution," Jafari
"We have announced before that we have specialist forces to transfer
experience and training in Syria who work as advisers and this is
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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