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Iran’s Supreme Leader appoints new chief of Revolutionary Guards

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei; May 9, 2018. (SalamPix/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has appointed a new chief commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), just days after the United States designated the paramilitary force as a foreign terrorist organization.

Iranian state media reported on April 21 that Khamenei appointed General Hossein Salami as the new head of the IRGC, replacing Mohammad Ali Jafari, who had been in charge for more than 11 years.

Salami, 59, had been serving as a deputy commander in the IRGC. State media gave no reason for Khamenei’s decision to replace the IRGC commander.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on April 8 designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization in an unprecedented move that drew Iranian condemnation.

Tehran responded by designating the U.S. military’s Central Command as a terrorist organization.

The estimated 100,000-strong IRGC is a branch of the military that also plays a major role in Iran’s economy.

It is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs and runs its own intelligence operations.

The IRGC has been involved in enforcing Islamic codes and crushing dissent at home, experts say, while taking part in covert operations, arms smuggling, and other efforts aimed at expanding Iran’s influence abroad. It answers directly to Khamenei.

The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole.