New Head of Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a Former US Hostage Taker

On Saturday 1st of September 2007, Brigadier General Mohhamad Ali Jafari, also knows as Aziz Jafari, was appointed as the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC).

Born in 1957 in the city of Yazd, Jafari had a distinguished background in the IRGC. At the onset of the Iraq-Iran war in 1980, he joined the Baseej (people's militia) and by 1981 he was made into a member of the IRGC. This was a notable promotion for him as many Bassej soldiers found it difficult to break into the ranks of the IRGC, who were considered to be superior to them, both in terms of equipment and authority. He served until the end of the war in West and South of Iran. After the war he went to complete his Masters Degree in Architecture. In 1992, he was made the commander of the IRGC ground forces, a post which he held for 13 years. In 2005 Ayatollah Khamenei put him in charge of the IRGC Centre for Strategic studies.

Until today, there have been a number of debates about the reasons behind Jafari's speedy rise through the ranks of the IRGC. One of the reasons given is that in 1985, Jafari became one of the advocates and designers of classic military tactics, which were used with relative success against Saddam's forces. These include the use of diversionary attacks, and blitzkrieg type assaults. His methods improved the success rate of IRGC, thus winning him a higher rank and more influence within the organization.

However today another important revelation was made about Jafari's past. Farda News, an Iranian news agency based in Tehran, revealed that prior to the outbreak of the war, Jafari was in fact involved in the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran, which took place on 4th of November 1979. This important disclosure is an important explanation for those wishing to know why Jafari rose through the IRGC ranks so quickly after joining as a simple Baseeji soldier. People who took part in the takeover established important contacts with the other hostage takers who later rose through the ranks, as well as government officials who were running the operation.

The appointment of somebody who was involved in taking US hostage, as the commander of a 200,000 strong military force can be interpreted as a provocation in the current cold war between Tehran and Washington. The important question to ask is: how long before such provocations turn into open confrontation? With the massive breakdown in communications and trust between both sides, one could be forgiven for fearing the worst.

Meir Javedanfar is the co-author of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran." He runs Middle East Economic and Political Analysis (Meepas)

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Jafari on the far right with Ayatollah Khamenei (photo: Iran Focus)

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