In a recent interview, Guards’ chief Gen. Ali Jafari said that his force is now in charge of dealing with the “deviant current”—the latest lingo used to describe Ahmadinejad, his controversial chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and others in his inner circle. Jafari also indicated that the Guards would help set the conditions for next year’s parliamentary elections as well as future elections.
But Ahmadinejad is unlikely to go down without a fight. He shot back at Jafari by criticizing “illegal” border crossings used by government agencies to smuggle goods in and out of Iran, which is estimated to generate billions of dollars in illicit profits. Ahmadinejad implied that the smugglers were “brothers” with security and intelligence interests. His remarks have been widely interpreted in Iran as referring to the Guards, who are known to operate many jetties, crossings, and ports throughout the country. Jafari subsequently condemned these claims as “deviant.”
Ironically, the Guards played a critical role in Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005 and 2009. Ahmadinejad was once even considered to be among the Guards’ closest allies; he allowed them to amass political and economic power during his presidency. Ahmadinejad publicly suggested that he knows their secrets, as he hinted about smuggling. And he may air more inside information if he feels further threatened.