Faced with mounting domestic problems and diplomatic isolation to prolong its hold on power the leadership in Tehran is increasingly depending on the military establishment. Highlighting this growing dependence is the “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has held conclaves with the military chiefs on three occasions in less than a month during which signs of the military’s ascendancy within the regime’s power structures have multiplied.
One sign was Khamenei’s decision to ask the newly appointed Chief of Staff General Muhammad Hussein Baqeri to take over the key issues of cooperation with Russia and Turkey over Syria to the exclusion of President Hassan Rouhani and his administration. Baqeri has also launched an ambitious project for the creation of a de facto military alliance with Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan, with Russia as an outsider-supporter, in direct contradiction to Rouhani’s repeatedly asserted hope of accommodation with Western powers.
Another sign was Khamenei’s decision to write a personal letter to General Qassem Soleimani, the man in charge of “exporting the revolution” through his Quds (Jerusalem) Force and the various branches of “Hezbollah” under his command in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
In his letter, Khamenei credits Soleimani with having “destroyed” the alleged Caliphate (Da’esh in Arabic), and gives him the mission to pursue an even more aggressive strategy to extend the “recent victories” to the rest of the region. Once again, Khamenei’s instructions make nonsense of Rouhani’s repeated claims that Iran is seeking an end to tensions with neighboring nations.