September 26, 2016 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1269

Khamenei Glorifies IRGC But Does Not Rule Out Adopting Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Standards, Which Harms IRGC, Regarded In The West As A Terror Organization

September 26, 2016 | By Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1269


On September 18, 2016, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered a speech to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers on the occasion of Armed Forces Week in the country. In the speech, Khamenei praised the IRGC, calling it a crucial cornerstone for the revolution regime, the armed forces, the country's economy, and Iranian society. He added that the IRGC is at the forefront of the revolution and protects the country from enemies within and without, and that it is the essence of the progress of the state and the revolution.

Khamenei also rejected claims by President Rohani that the military threat to Iran has been removed thanks to the JCPOA, as well as the call by Expediency Council chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani to follow in the footsteps of Japan and Germany and invest in the economy rather than military buildup, stating that the only ways to remove the military threat were and will be "defensive and military power" and "instillation of fear in the enemy," and that Iran must therefore enhance its military capabilities. According to him, Germany and Japan were forced to disarm and lost their independence. Khamenei said the essence of the state is its independence, culture, and beliefs, and that Iran must not abandon its true nature and obey mistaken and disgraceful Western methods such as Western attitudes towards the shameful issue of homosexuality, which runs contrary to the creation of mankind.

Additionally, Khamenei repeated his warning and instruction to not conduct dialogue with the U.S. He revealed that the Americans "insist [that] we should negotiate with them on issues related to... Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen," and criticized those in Iran - hinting at pragmatic camp leaders Rafsanjani and Rohani - who call for dialogue with the U.S. and believe it is not an enemy. Khamenei determined that talks with America prepare the ground for enemy infiltration and cause Iranian backwardness. He said that American hostility was evident during the years of the revolution and particularly during the nuclear talks, and therefore it should be distrusted and not spoken with.

It should be mentioned that Khamenei's speech comes on the backdrop of a public debate regarding whether Iran will comply with the protocols of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - an international body combating money laundering, thus adopting the Western economic order that requires transparency, and the Western view of the IRGC as a terrorist organization.[1] In his speech Khamenei refrained from addressing this critical issue, which is at the top of the political agenda, and did not speak against the FATF; in fact, according to reports in Iranian media, Iranian banks have begun implementing FATF protocols. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani said on September 14 that the council made a decision on the matter but that it still requires Khamenei's approval.[2]

As in the past, this recurring pattern of action by Khamenei reveals his weakness as a leader. In times of crisis, Khamenei avoids making decisions on critical questions regarding the regime's revolutionary nature in its conflict with the West. Thus, for example, Khamenei approved the JCPOA at every stage but railed against it at every opportunity. Here too, he seems to have approved the implementation of FATF protocols by Iranian banks, who refuse to cooperate with the IRGC, while praising the IRGC in public speeches.

However, unlike the JCPOA, which did not directly harm any Iranian element in a practical sense, in the case of the FATF, the IRGC suffers a direct, crippling blow. It is yet to be seen whether the leadership of the IRGC, which is the source of Khamenei's military and political might, will accept such a blow, which undermines its power and grip on the regime. In a September 22, 2016 interview on channel 2 of Iranian TV, IRGC deputy-commander Hossein Salami made statements implying that Iran might in fact comply with FATF standards. He said: "As for the IRGC, FATF will not affect it in any way, not even a little, because the IRGC is a legal institution and is in full compliance with the legal criteria of Iran. It is a stable, strong and mighty institution, and has already found ways to tolerate the hostility of the largest enemies. It has experience and knows how to conduct itself."   

The following are excerpts from Khamenei's speech, as quoted and paraphrased on his English-language website: [3]

Khamenei's Speech

As Khomeini Said, If The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Did Not Exist, The Country Would Not Exist Either

"Pointing to the significance, value and high status of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, [Khamenei] said: 'The reason why Imam (r.a.) [i.e. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] made that well-known statement - "" - was that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is a blessed tree from whose identity faith [the] revolutionary and jihadi movement blossoms. And preserving the country and the Revolution is dependent on the continuation of these important elements...

 "'After the passage of 37 years from the Islamic Revolution, particularly after the Sacred Defense Era, the truth of the statement that that deep and experienced man - who always relied on God - made about the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has become clearer than ever. It should be said that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is the solid trench of the Revolution... 'Besides ensuring security and attending to matters related to defense, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is influential in other areas as well- such as infrastructure, development, rendering services to underprivileged classes, attending to cultural and artistic matters, and producing revolutionary thoughts. These measures should continue and the public in the country should be informed of them...

"Describing the defensive, infrastructure and cultural measures that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has adopted as outstanding and prominent, [Khamenei] reiterated that such an evaluation of the measures that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has adopted is realistic and impartial. He stressed: 'Even the enemies of the Islamic Republic and the Revolution have made such an evaluation about the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.' [He] stated that preserving the identity of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is an important course of action that requires vigilance and constant identification of detriments, saying: 'Preservation [of the IRGC's identity] does not mean lingering in time. On the contrary, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps should not be satisfied with its achievements in the arena of science, technology and innovation because the enemy is changing its tools and making new achievements. Therefore, its forward movement should not be stopped in any way'...

"[He added:] 'One of the responsibilities of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is ensuring domestic and foreign security. If foreign security does not exist and if the enemy is not confronted outside the borders of the country, domestic security will be undermined as well.'"

"We Should Strengthen The Defensive Power Of The Country On A Daily Basis"

"[Khamenei] stressed that the main requirement for putting an end to military threats is the increasing power of the Armed Forces, adding: 'In recent years, some officials [referring to President Rohani] have sometimes made certain statements implying that the elimination of military threats and the threat to wage a war has been because of such and such courses of action. This is while such statements are not correct because the only element that puts an end to military threats has been and will continue to be defensive and military power, and instillation of fear in the enemy.'

"The Supreme Leader... referred to recent statements saying that the reason behind the progress of some countries is the closedown of their military organizations[4] : 'It is very difficult to believe that those to whom these statements have been attributed have actually said such things. But if such statements have really been made, they are definitely wrong... The countries which have been said to have closed down their military organizations did not do so voluntarily. The reason why their military organizations have been closed is that they were destroyed in world wars and they were not allowed to have military organizations... No wise person puts his defensive force aside. So, we should strengthen the defensive power of the country on a daily basis.'

"[Khamenei] pointed to faith as the main factor in strengthening the defensive capability of the country and added: 'Asymmetric wars work in the same way. In such wars, the other side suffers from lack of faith despite the fact that it has advanced tools and equipment. He reiterated: 'A clear example of an asymmetric war occurred in Iraq. During that war, the popular forces of Iraq - which did not have advanced military equipment but which enjoyed a great degree of faith - managed to free regions which the American soldiers and their allies could not conquer since the beginning of their arrival in Iraq.'"

"Why Should We Abandon Our True Identity And Follow Wrong And [Disgraceful] Western Methods ... Such As Homosexuality[?]"

"The Supreme Leader... touched on the issue of distorting the elements of the Islamic Republic's soft power and said: 'As well as the wrong statements that are made about the defensive power of the country, there are also some wrong notions and distortions about some revolutionary concepts. Such notions and distortions are even more dangerous than those wrong statements.' Khamenei stated that rejecting the concept of independence and considering it as equal to isolation[5] is one of these distortions: 'The purpose of rejecting independence is following the systems that domineering powers have designed. Unfortunately, some people are repeating this notion whether knowingly or unknowingly.' [Khamenei] described 'independence, culture and belief' as the main source of identity for nations and stressed: 'Why should we abandon our true identity and follow wrong and ridiculous [in the Persian the word is 'disgraceful' - MEMRI] western methods?'

"[Khamenei] reiterated that the shameful issue of homosexuality is one of those cases which are to the disadvantage of humanity. He added: 'In global propaganda, they create uproar and tumult in a way that if someone rejects such issues, they will feel isolated. That is why even some western politicians advocate such wrong thoughts in order to win votes. He mentioned: 'The result of rejecting independence which westerners stress is this. Now, should we abandon the divine and enlightened philosophy of Islam and follow such a ridiculous thought?'

"The Supreme Leader... stated that another distortion of the elements of Islamic Republic's soft power is considering idealism as equal to irrationality: 'Idealism is the same as rationality. If a people lose their ideals, they will become empty from the inside, just like the situation that western societies are in today... Ideals are what engender enthusiasm towards progress and movement in nations. The loftier and the more experienced and enlightened these ideals are, the more precise the movement will become.'"

'Not Only Is Negotiating With America Not Beneficial, But It Is Also Harmful'

"Another distortion that [Khamenei] cited was the elimination of the Islamic Republic's distrust of imperialist powers in the world: 'One of the elements of the Islamic Republic's soft power is complete distrust of imperialist powers in the world, which are headed by America in the present time. [He] stressed the necessity of developing this complete distrust of America, adding: 'Unfortunately, some individuals [referring to Rafsanjani and Rohani] are not willing to accept this distrust. Although they mention in words that America is the enemy, but a genuine sense of lack of trust in America does not exist in them... When you have a feeling of enmity and a genuine distrust of the other side, you observe the requirements of this distrust in your negotiations and meetings and you never trust the other side's statements... We have witnessed America's enmity in the course of many years after the Revolution, during the recent nuclear negotiations and in other areas as well.' Citing a historical example, [he] said: 'On the issue of the Constitutional Movement, when the English were trusted and when the people steered towards their embassy, a fatal blow was delivered to us and the result was that the country remained backward for 75 years.'

"Addressing regional countries, [Khamenei] mentioned: 'If you are not vigilant, if you do not understand the plots that American imperialism hatches and if you are deceived by their smiles, it is possible that you too will remain backward for 50 or even 100 years.' [He] stressed: 'Today, if we open the way for negotiations with the Americans and for their temptations in different areas, not only will this prepare the ground for their overt and covert infiltration but it will also eternally prevent the country from achieving the desired progress. And under such circumstances, backwardness will be certain... The Americans insist that we should negotiate with them on issues related to West Asian countries - in particular Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. What is their real goal of asking us to negotiate with them? Their goal is nothing other than preventing the presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region as the main factor in American failures... Reason dictates that we completely distrust those who have shown their enmity in a clear way.'

"Khamenei pointed to the existence of some 'whispers' that the Islamic Republic should negotiate with America on regional matters, stating: 'Not only is negotiating with America not beneficial, but it is also harmful. This has been discussed with the high-ranking officials of the country by presenting cogent reasons and they did not have anything to say in rejecting it... The enemy is doing his best to undermine the security of the country. Therefore, all the military organizations and other organizations affiliated with them should protect this security as an important achievement in today's insecure world.'"

"Some People Wrongly Think That We Have Been Besieged, But We Will Bring All Our Enemies To Their Knees"

"[Khamenei] highlighted the importance of cultural and intellectual security as well as security in people's living environments: 'The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps should play its part in all these areas.' [He] mentioned that all the capabilities of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps pivot around faith and revolutionary and jihadi spirit, adding: 'You should not allow your revolutionary spirit to be undermined through a materialistic outlook and through entrance in the competition of materialism and extravagance.' He also stressed the necessity of education and preserving the bond that new generations in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps have with revolutionary concepts. Describing Basij as a national capacity and expressing his joy at the existence of many activities in that popular organization, Khamenei stated that such activities should be given depth.

"[Khamenei] reiterated that the people of Iran can be role models in global developments: 'If officials and the people can achieve the economy of resistance in the real sense of the word, if they help the country to get rid of the enemy's monetary and financial tricks and if they destroy the value and mastery of the dollar over economic life, they have saved other countries as well as themselves and they will become a role model for them.'

"[Khmanei] said that the reason why the enemies are angry at the people of Iran is the inspirational nature of the Islamic Republic, stating: 'Despite the existence of massive pressures, sanctions and threats, the movement of the people of Iran has become bolder and more transparent every day and the good and auspicious sapling of the Islamic Revolution has become stronger on a daily basis... The Islamic Republic is still in the beginning of its path towards achieving lofty goals and ideals, but even this amount of moving forward and showing independence, resistance and firm determination has conquered the hearts of other nations... If we preserve our motivation, faith and firm determination and if we use our wisdom and intelligence correctly, we will overcome the plots that the enemies hatch in all areas. Some people wrongly think that we have been besieged, but we will bring all our enemies to their knees... I have no worries about the future and I believe that by Allah's favor, the future of the country will be much better than the present time.'"


* A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI's Iran Media Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI.



[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 1249, Post-JCPOA, The IRGC Is The Factor Stopping Iran From Integration Into The Western Economy, May 20, 2016.

[2] Tasnim (Iran), September 14, 2016.

[3], September 18, 2016.

[4] This refers to Rafanjani's August 20, 2016 statement that Germany and Japan developed strong economies after they were banned from having military forces in the wake of World War II.

[5] This alludes to statements made by Pragmatic camp leaders Rafsanjani and Rohani against Iran's political isolation and in favor of engagement with the West.

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