Saturday 24 February 2018

'Military dictators' in Iran face new US curbs

Martin Fletcher in Tehran

IRAN is becoming a military dictatorship, Hillary Clinton said yesterday, as the US prepared fresh sanctions against the Islamic republic that would specifically target the Revolutionary Guard.

"We see that the Government in Iran, the Supreme Leader, the President, the parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship," the US Secretary of State told students in Qatar during a tour of the Middle East aimed at increasing pressure on the Islamic republic to end its nuclear programme. "The civilian leadership is either preoccupied with its internal domestic political situation or ceding ground to the Revolutionary Guard."

Analysts agreed, saying that the regime increasingly relied on the guard's military muscle to stay in power since last June's disputed presidential election. In return, the guard had been allowed to increase greatly its economic and political power.

Empire

Ali Ansari, Professor of Iranian History at St Andrews University, said the guard needed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad as figureheads, and to control other conservatives alarmed by its rise.

Mrs Clinton said that the US was seeking international support for a new set of UN sanctions "particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard".

The 120,000-strong force was created in 1979 to protect the Islamic Revolution -- a remit that it has used relentlessly to expand its empire. It controls Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and it runs great swaths of the construction, energy, banking, shipping, mining and manufacturing sectors, along with much of the country's black market, including illicit alcohol.

It mobilised all of its resources to secure Mr Ahmadinejad's dubious victories in 2005 and 2009 and has been rewarded with huge government contracts that have enriched its leaders.

Last September it bought a 51 per cent share of the national telecommunications business after its only rival was disqualified. Former guard commanders account for half of Mr Ahmadinejad's Cabinet.

Britain, France and the US attacked Iran's human rights record during a four-yearly review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Peter Gooderham, Britain's Ambassador, accused Iran of mass arrests of protesters, the rape and torture of detainees, coerced confessions and show trials.

Jean-Baptiste Mattei, the French Ambassador, said that the regime had unleashed "bloody repression against their own people". Michael Posner, US Assistant-Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights, condemned the "violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian civilians".

Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran's representative, insisted that "Iranian society is a successful model of brotherly and amicable coexistence".(©The Times London)

Irish Independent

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