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The US Move On IRGC.

Washington's plan to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will bring to an end a US-Iranian diplomatic dialogue over the future of Iraq. The IRGC controls Iran's expanding nuclear infrastructure and is busy training Shi'ite militias in Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab countries where Shi'ite communities exist.

The 125,000-150,000-strong IRGC was created in the early 1980s and continue to be commanded by supremacists committed to the values and outlook of the theocracy's hardliners. Throughout the 1990s and in the past seven years, the IRGC has been in the lead of suppressing the reform movement in Iran. Since the election June 2005 of Ahmadi-Nejad, who belongs to this institution, the IRGC has expanded into the various sectors of Iran's economy, establishing its own companies with privileged access to contracts in industries such as petroleum, engineering and construction, telecommunications and imported consumer goods.

Through this network, the IRGC has enhanced its patronage power, allowing it to cultivate its constituents. More important, under its auspices, an entire array of entities such as the Defence Industries Organisation, university laboratories and a plethora of companies have provided an impetus for Iran's expanding nuclear efforts. In recent years, many members of the IRGC have entered the political sphere. Apart from President Ahmadi-Nejad, hardline elements within the parliament are among the most prominent IRGC commanders-turned-politicians.

Yet, many members of the reform movement and the democratic opposition are also former IRGC officers, as in the case of many heads of private enterprises which are now classed among the moderates. This makes it difficult for the US to apply sanctions against the IRGC without provoking a backlash from such a combination of elements.

Given the murky and ambiguous nature of IRGC's business enterprises, it is difficult to suggest in a conclusive manner whether a company is really operating on its behalf. As such, the type of information and intelligence needed for targeted sanctions is unlikely to be available. While the economic ramifications of the new policy will probably be in-adequate, its political impact is likely to be considerable.

Past and present IRGC men permeate Iran's security system. The staff of Ali Larijani, Iran's national security adviser and chief nuclear negotiator, is composed mostly of IRGC figures. Iran's policy towards Iraq and Afghanistan is also under the purview of the IRGC.

Gul Becomes Turkey's 11th President; New AKP Govt. Formed: Abdullah Gul was on Aug. 28 elected as Turkey's 11th president of the republic. In his oath-taking speech, he pledged to respect Kemalism and uphold the country's democracy. He ceased being part of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as he became the head of state for all the Turks. The first practicing Muslim to take the seat of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the father of Turkey's secular state whose ideology is based on Kemalism) in eight decades, Gul has the power to veto legislation and official appointments.

In his first move as president on Aug. 29, Gul approved a cabinet made up of people with both Islamist and secular backgrounds. The cabinet was proposed by his ally, AKP leader and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had nominated Gul for the presidential post. Gul's Kemalist opponents have said they will watch him for signs of cronyism at the expense of the presidency's traditional role as a check on government.

After Gul approved the cabinet list, Erdogan said: "We will work for more freedoms and for more economic welfare. We will continue on our path, with a new enthusiasm, with the new blood that we have brought in. We have formed a strong team".

One of the most prominent cabinet members is Ali Babacan, the former economy minister, who takes over the post of foreign minister which was left vacant when Gul won election to the presidency in a voting by the parliament. Babacan, like Gul a prominent economist, played a key role in lifting Turkey out of recession and is an advocate of European Union membership. He was a close associate of Gul in the government campaign to join the EU and retains his title as chief EU membership negotiator. Babacan, who earned a business degree at Northwestern University in the US, acted as steward of economic overhauls which helped Turkey attain an average annual growth of 7%.

Erdogan brought in at least three ministers with no history of involvement in the Islamic movement. They include Mehmet Simsek, a British-educated banker, who resigned from his job with Merrill Lynch to campaign for election from his hometown in south-eastern Turkey. Simsek was made a state minister with responsibility for the Treasury portfolio which Babacan once held.

Ertugrul Gunay, who was made culture and tourism minister, joined the AKP after leaving the Republican People's Party, the leading secular opposition group which helped derail a presidential bid by Gul in the spring. Another newcomer is Zafer Caglayan, who headed the Chamber of Industry in Ankara and is now industry minister.

Bulent Arinc, the former parliament speaker, who is considered strongly religious and less given to compromise, was not included in the cabinet. Arinc, who co-founded the AKP with Erdogan in 2001, drew the ire of secularists earlier this year by calling for the election of a religious president.

In a sign that tension could lie ahead, senior military generals did not attend the Aug. 28 swearing-in ceremony of their new president and commander in chief in parliament. Local news organisations interpreted the absence of the military leaders as a protest against Gul, whose earlier campaign for the post was blocked by the secular opposition, which included the military.

Gul, however, on Aug. 29 attended a graduation ceremony at a military medical academy, and generals stood at attention as he entered. Gul's wife, who wears an Islamic head scarf which is banned on military premises, did not attend.

The Republican Peoples Party and a number of judges and top academics also absented themselves from the swearing-in ceremony - even after the AKP won 47% support in the July 22 parliamentary elections. The new cabinet Gul approved under Erdogan is a classic reformist and business-oriented body. It has made one of its top priorities the economic and social changes necessary to make Turkey an acceptable candidate for EU membership.

Secularists are concerned that the new president, with his Islamist roots, will encourage the appointment of religious leaders to top jobs and divert money to Islamic causes. Such a concern does not square with a government committed to getting the state out of business by privatising the KITs - state companies - and continuing to promote a healthy economic boom and financial stability. It also overlooks the activities of past secular governments.

The extended and ultimately economically disappointing administration of Turgut Ozal saw a massive new mosque-building programme. This was achieved using state funds channelled to religious foundations with whom Ozal's brother Korkut was closely connected. There was no protest then from the military, no outcry from liberal secularists. Indeed the only real criticism of some of the new mosques was on architectural grounds.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Date:Sep 3, 2007
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Previous Article:Iran-US Tension.
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