[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Monday, 3 September 2007, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
New Iran guards chief appointed
Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari (archive)
Gen Jafari commanded the guards ground forces for 13 years
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has unexpectedly replaced the commander of the elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.

The new chief, Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari, commanded the Revolutionary Guards ground forces for 13 years.

His predecessor, Gen Yahya Rahim Safavi, has been appointed a special military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei.

The decision comes just two weeks after US officials said they might designate the guards a "terrorist" organisation.

Washington has accused the force of helping to destabilise Iraq and Afghanistan by supplying and training insurgents.

The Revolutionary Guards condemned the plan as "worthless resolutions" issued "under baseless pretexts... to damage this holy institution".

'Natural' change

In a decree issued on Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to Gen Jafari's "brilliant background in the armed forces in different stages", state-run media reported.

The 50-year-old reportedly won both popularity and respect among the guards for his role as a commander during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS
Officially the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), or Pasdaran
Formed after 1979 revolution
Loyal to clerics and counter to regular military
Estimated 125,000 troops
Includes ground forces, navy, air force, intelligence and special forces
Also has political influence: dozens of ex-guard sit as MPs
Iran President Ahmadinejad is a former member
Source: Globalsecurity.org

No reason was given for the surprise move, but Iranian officials insisted the change was routine and that Gen Safavi's appointment should be seen as a promotion.

"Appointments made by His Eminence are usually for no longer than 10 years," Gen Safavi told the Iranian television channel, IRTV1. "Such movements are natural."

The Revolutionary Guards force was set up shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution to defend the country's Islamic system, and to provide a counterweight to the regular armed forces.

It has since become the dominant military force in Iran, with past members including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a number of his cabinet ministers.

It is estimated to have 125,000 active members, and boasts its own ground forces, navy and air force. It also controls the paramilitary Basij Resistance Force and the powerful bonyads, or charitable foundations, which run a considerable part of the Iranian economy.

The US has accused the Revolutionary Guards overseas operation arm, the Quds Force, of supplying powerful roadside bombs to Shia militants in Iraq.


SEE ALSO
Iran guards reject US terror list
16 Aug 07 |  Middle East
US 'to blacklist Iranian Guards'
15 Aug 07 |  Middle East
US turns heat up on Iran
15 Aug 07 |  Americas
US concern at 'Iran Afghan arms'
13 Jun 07 |  South Asia
Iran and the US: A new Cold War?
01 Jun 07 |  Middle East
US and Iran in landmark talks
29 May 07 |  Middle East
US 'will keep Iranian detainees'
14 Apr 07 |  Middle East
Timeline: US-Iran ties
28 May 07 |  Middle East



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific