The Wall Street Journal reports: Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, moved to significantly reduce the presence of the country’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Tehran’s next government — a trend U.S. and European officials cautiously take as a hopeful sign for international efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
Mr. Rouhani’s cabinet appointments in recent days have marked a sharp reversal from a nearly decadelong trend in which IRGC personnel increasingly have dominated many branches of Iran’s government, and their companies have taken over key industries in the national economy.
The IRGC is the country’s most powerful military, economic and security force, and has led the decision-making on Tehran’s role in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian territories, according to Iranian and Arab officials. Its nation-wide paramilitary organization, the Basij, was the lead force in the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 2009.
About half of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s last 18-person cabinet consisted of IRGC personnel, either active officers or recently retired ones. Estimates are that Mr. Rouhani has selected three, according to Western officials and Iran experts.
Mr. Rouhani has stressed since winning Iran’s presidential election in July that his primary focus will be on revitalizing Iran’s crisis-hit economy and rolling back a U.S.-led sanctions campaign on Tehran that has cut the government’s oil revenues by more than half.
At least 10 of Mr. Rouhani’s cabinet appointments are technocrats and economic planners with ties to Iran’s former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who sought to promote international trade while in office during the 1990s. [Continue reading…]