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Iranian elites criticise Revolutionary Guards' regional policy

Opposition reformists in Iran have criticised the regional policy adopted by the Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Political and Media Green Movement Network made its comments in a statement published on a local website, claiming that the "first step to reform the political edifice in Iran would be to reform its foreign policy.

The statement pointed out that it is obvious to all Iranians that their country is passing through a crisis in the region and in the wider world. This, claims the elite network, is rooted in the incompetence and corruption suffered by the Islamic Republic.

"This regime was born out of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and it was the outcome of the dedication and sacrifices of many Iranians for the sake of achieving national and historic demands such as independence, freedom, justice and progress." However, it is claimed, in recent years all of these sacrifices have been lost for the sake of a power game. "The opportunists exploited the trust of the Iranian people and brought the country to this phase of havoc."

Whereas other countries try to find new friends in an increasingly cohesive world, the opposition movement says, the Revolutionary Guards are involved in a dangerous game in confrontation with Saudi Arabia through providing political, economic, media and military support to the Houthis in Yemen, which is, rightly or wrongly, Saudi Arabia's back yard.

"Furthermore, full support has been given to the Ba'thist regime of Bashar Al-Assad," the network says, "and there is a large number of Iranian military forces on the front line against the Syrian opposition but Iran has been unable achieve anything tangible." Is such an expensive intervention in Syria serving Iranian interests, it wonders. The obvious Iranian presence in Iraq and the support provided to specific Shia groups in the war against Daesh have caused internal ethnic and religious conflicts and led to the spread of hostile positions toward Iran among the Iraqi people, the critics note. "So much so," in fact, "that such hostility has even appeared among the Shia."

Similar unconditional support given to the Shia opposition in Bahrain makes up the four most conspicuous examples of moves made by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in their obvious interference in Iran's foreign policy. "Such interference takes place by means of providing ideological and strategic analyses and studies, which have played a significant role in 'legitimising' the moves made by the corps."

The opposition Green Movement mentions the reasons provided for confronting 'Sunni Wahhabism' that seeks to exterminate the Shia; about defending the strategic depth of Iranian national security; about defending Shia shrines and tombs; and about confronting Western plots by means of expanding Iran's regional influence. This has been especially noticeable after conceding Iran's nuclear programme. More importantly, it says, there is talk about defending the existence of the Iranian revolution and preventing the decline of its impact and influence in the future.

"All of the interference in Iranian foreign policy lacks convincing foundations in the diplomatic realm," argues the network. "Hence, in order to bestow a degree of legitimacy, the Revolutionary Guards have resorted to a big domestic media campaign which claims that 'Iran is the most secure country in the region' and that 'Iran is the island of stability in the rough regional sea', so that Iranians are unwilling to criticise the regime in case the situation in Iran ends up like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen."

The critics point out that the people of Iran are unhappy that the national budget is being "squandered" on maintaining influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon at a time when citizens have to make tough economic choices. No one, they claim, approves of this use of vital funds to pay Afghani and Iraqi mercenaries, who everyone knows are in Syria solely because Iran is paying them to be there.

Pointing out that similar efforts have been made in the past, the movement recalled the expansionist policy of the former Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, whose policy promoted the theory that Iran was the regional policeman. "At the time, the Shah sent Iranian troops to the Zafar region within the Sultanate of Oman, but what we need today is a transparent policy based on rationalism and not on intervention in the foreign affairs of regional states."

The network called for foreign affairs to be removed from the hands of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, which has been behaving like a state within the state. "If the officers in the corps have concerns about foreign issues," it insists, "they should report them to Iran's Supreme Council of National Security, which in turn can convey them to the relevant officials and the foreign ministry, which deals with these issues."

Observers within Iran are suggesting that the elites' statement expresses concerns that are commonly-held on the street in Iran. "Such fears," they told Arabi21, "are in the open following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's recent speech about Saudi Arabia." His words, they added, amount to a "declaration of war" against the Saudis.

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