Mohammad Ali Jafari

Mohammad Ali Jafari is the former commander“Iran Changes Revolutionary Guards commander: TV,” Reuters, September 1, 2007, http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/09/01/us-iran-guards-idUSBLA16539820070901. of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s primary instrument for defending the Islamic Republic against internal and external threats. He was appointed in 2007.Greg Bruno, Jayshree Bajoria, and Jonathan Masters, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 14, 2013, http://www.cfr.org/iran/irans-revolutionary-guards/p14324. The IRGC exerts influence in both Iranian politics and the economy.Rick Gladstone, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Replaces Head of Revolutionary Guards,” New York Times, April 22, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/world/middleeast/iran-revolutionary-guards-leader.html. Under Jafari, the IRGC aided Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil warIan Black, “Iran Confirms It Has Forces in Syria and Will Take Military Action If Pushed,” Guardian (London), September 16, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/16/iran-middleeast. and fought alongside Shiite militias against ISIS in Iraq.Farnaz Fassihi, “Iran Deploys Revolutionary Guard Forces to Fight Militants in Iraq, Iranian Security Sources Say,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/iran-deploys-forces-to-fight-al-qaeda-inspired-militants-in-iraq-iranian-security-sources-1402592470. In April 2019, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei removed Jafari from the post of IRGC commander and appointed his replacement, Hossein Salami.“Supreme Leader Appoints New IRGC Commander,” Islamic Republic News Agency, April 21, 2019, accessed June 13, 2019, http://www.irna.ir/en/News/83286568.

Jafari reportedly views Iran’s “internal enemy” as a larger threat than its “external enemy.”Muhammad Sahimi, “A Hardliner’s Hardliner,” PBS Frontline, January 21, 2010, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/01/a-hardliners-hardliner.html. The U.S. and EU accuse him of overseeing the brutal suppression of protesters in Iran“Fact Sheet: New Executive Order Targeting Iranian Officials Responsible For Or Complicit In Serious Human Rights Abuses,” U.S. Department of Treasury, September 29, 2010, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg877.aspx. and Syria.“Council Decision 2013/255/CFSP of 31 May 2013 Concerning Restrictive Measures against Syria,” Official Journal of the European Union, June 1, 2013, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32013D0255&qid=1414783825631&from=EN. When he directed the IRGC’s Center for Strategy in 2005,Michael Connell, “Iran’s Military Doctrine,” U.S. Institute for Peace, accessed February 22, 2015, http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/irans-military-doctrine. Jafari introduced the mosaic defense, a plan that seeks to disrupt an invading enemy’s supply lines by placing IRGC units around Iran’s mountainous border regions.Michael Connell, “Iran’s Military Doctrine,” U.S. Institute for Peace, accessed February 22, 2015, http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/irans-military-doctrine. Jafari also divided the IRGC command structure between 31 Iranian provinces to give local commanders more control and make it more difficult for an invader to target the IRGC’s command structure.Michael Connell, “Iran’s Military Doctrine,” U.S. Institute for Peace, accessed February 22, 2015, http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/irans-military-doctrine. Jafari later praised Hezbollah’s tactics against Israel in their 2006 war as an example of non-traditional urban warfare.Muhammad Sahimi, “A Hardliner’s Hardliner,” PBS Frontline, January 21, 2010, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/01/a-hardliners-hardliner.html.

Jafari believes in Iran’s military superiority and has been a vocal critic of the West. Jafari has boasted that Iran will send its enemies “to the depths of the sea.”Nazila Fathi, “Iran Escalates Military Rhetoric,” New York Times, August 5, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/05/world/africa/05iht-05iran.15003614.html. He believes the ultimate goal of Iran’s Islamic Revolution is to create an Islamic civilization and that the IRGC will carry out this goal.Thomas Erdbrink, “Iranian General Says Saudi Arabia Will Soon Be Toppled,” New York Times, April 27, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/world/middleeast/iranian-general-says-saudia-arabia-will-soon-be-toppled.html?ref=world. In January 2014 amid ongoing negotiations on the Iranian nuclear deal, Jafari told Iranian-owned Fars News Agency that then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “must know that direct battle with the US is the biggest dream of pious and revolutionary people across the world. Your threats offer our revolutionary people the best opportunity.”“IRGC Commander: Iran to Give Crushing Response to Enemy’s Aggression,” Fars News Agency, January 26, 2014, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13921106000769.

In April 2019, Khamenei removed Jafari from the post of commander of the Revolutionary Guards. There was no reason specified for the removal of Jafari in the official press release issued by the IRGC. Khamenei replaced Jafari with Brigadier General Hossein Salami, whom he promoted and appointed as IRGC chief.Rick Gladstone, “Iran's Supreme Leader Replaces Head of Revolutionary Guards,” New York Times, April 22, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/world/middleeast/iran-revolutionary-guards-leader.html. Khamenei reassigned Jafari to the position of director of the Hazrat-e Baqiatollah Social and Cultural Base, where he will aid “the second step of the revolution,” according to Khamenei.“IRGC commander leaves sooner than expected,” Al-Monitor, April 22, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/04/iran-irgc-new-commander-jafari-salami-khamenei-trump.html. In the weeks prior to this announcement, U.S. President Donald Trump classified the IRCG as a foreign terrorist organization, and therein imposed economic and travel sanctions on members and affiliated groups.“Statement from the President on the Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” The White House, April 8, 2019, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-designation-islamic-revolutionary-guard-corps-foreign-terrorist-organization/. Ahead of the U.S. designation of the IRGC, Jafari promised retaliation if the U.S. government followed through. Media analysts speculated that Jafari made Iran look weak when the United States moved forward with the designation, possibly spurring the change in leadership of the IRGC.Amir Toumaj, Twitter post, April 21, 2019, 11:50 a.m., https://twitter.com/AmirToumaj/status/1119991697545601024; “IRGC commander leaves sooner than expected,” Al-Monitor, April 22, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/04/iran-irgc-new-commander-jafari-salami-khamenei-trump.html.

On February 11, 2022, Radio Farda released leaked audio of Jafari and his deputy for construction and economic affairs, Sadegh Zolghadrnia, discussing corruption investigations within the IRGC and Tehran’s municipality under then-Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. The undated audio likely occurred before Jafari was replaced in 2019. In the recording, Zolghadrnia says that Qalibaf had offered him a fake contract with the IRGC to cover up an 80 trillion-rial shortfall discovered during an audit of the IRGC’s Cooperative Foundation. Zolghadrnia allegedly refused the offer. In the recording, Zolghadrnia suggests IRGC intelligence head Hossein Taeb had lobbied for Qalibaf’s offer. Zolghadrnia also reveals Jamal Aberoumand, a deputy to Qalibaf who also served on the board of the Cooperative Foundation, had asked him to remove some passages from an audit regarding the missing funds. On February 12, the IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency confirmed the authenticity of the recording. On February 13, an IRGC spokesman acknowledged “mismanagement” and a “violation” had occurred in a company affiliated with the Cooperative Foundation.“Radio Farda Exposé On IRGC Corruption, Infighting Raises Ire Of Iranian Authorities,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 18, 2022, https://www.rferl.org/a/farda-leaked-conversation-corruption-irgc/31710316.html.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
Type(s) of Organization:
Military, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Islamist, Khomeinist, Shiite, state actor
Position(s):
Director, Hazrat-e Baqiatollah Social and Cultural Base; former commander of the IRGC

The IRGC is an Iranian government agency tasked with defending the regime against internal and external threats. The IRGC uses secret police methods against its opponents within Iran, and terrorist tactics against its enemies abroad.

  • Designations
  • Rhetoric

United States

  • June 16, 2010

    The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Mohammad Ali Jafari” as a Specially Designated National under its Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferations Sanctions program.“Fact Sheet: U.S. Treasury Department Targets Iran’s Nuclear and Missile Programs,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, June 16, 2010, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg747.aspx.

    September 29, 2010

    The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Mohammad Ali Jafari” under Executive Order 13553 targeting Iranian officials responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses.“Fact Sheet: New Executive Order Targeting Iranian Officials Responsible For Or Complicit in Serious Human Rights Abuses,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 29, 2010, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg877.aspx.

European Union

United Kingdom

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