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IRAN - Sept 2 - Iran Picks New Leader For Guards.

Ayat Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has appointed a new Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander at a time when the elite military force is under fire from the US over its alleged assistance for insurgent groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. Muhammad-Ali Jafari, the 50-year-old appointee, commanded the guards' land forces for 13 years and headed its strategic centre for the past three years. He is believed not to have had any involvement in the guards' overseas operations arm, the Quds Brigade, which US officials allege has supplied components for powerful roadside bombs to Shi'ite insurgent groups in Iraq. His role as a commander during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and the injuries he suffered won him popularity and respect among the force's rank and file, sources close to the guards said. They said this could be helpful at a time when Iran faces tougher international sanctions and the possibility of an attack by the US or Israel over its nuclear programme and its alleged role in Iraq and Afghanistan. The revolutionary guards are already the subject of UN sanctions, which call on member states to freeze the assets of some commanders and affiliated organisations as part of the international effort to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme. Unlike his predecessor, Yahya Rahim Safavi, Jafari is not on the list of IRGC commanders who are subject to UN sanctions. The US is also considering designating the 120,000 strong force, which is a third of the size of the regular armed forces a "terrorist" group, allowing Washington to target its bases and business operations. Iran's different political groups, including reformists, have condemned such moves and supported the guards. "The guards are part of Iran's armed forces and calling them 'terrorist' is like declaring war on Iran", said one regime insider. "We very much doubt Americans would do it". Regime insiders on Sunday rejected any link between the IRGC appointment and international tensions. One former senior official said it had "no significance in terms of strategy". It was something decided elsewhere, the official said. The constitution gives authority to the supreme leader to appoint and dismiss commanders of the revolutionary guards and the conventional army. Each appointment usually lasts for five years and Khamenei has not usually retained anyone in a post for more than 10 years, the former official said. Safavi, who served as IRGC commander for 10 years, will move to a new role as Khamenei's "assistant and senior adviser".

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Title Annotation:Muhammad-Ali Jafari, 50
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Sep 8, 2007
Words:411
Previous Article:AFGHANISTAN - Sept 5 - Afghan And Coalition Forces Kill More Than 20 Insurgents.
Next Article:IRAN - Sept 4 - Rafsanjani Picked For Top Leadership Role.
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