A court in Iran’s Isfahan Province announced today that Gholam Hossein Karbaschi, a senior reformist politician, will be prosecuted for questioning the Islamic Republic’s policies and actions in the Syrian conflict. The move came after Karbaschi criticized the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) for sending combatants and weapons to Syria under the pretext of “defending shrines.” He is charged with insulting those “martyred” in Syria. “We also want the restoration of peace in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and all these regions - where the oppressed are defended and the Shiites are empowered," Karbaschi said during a campaign rally in support of President Hassan Rouhani. "But is this achieved only through giving money, purchasing weapons and killing and beating?” the former mayor of Tehran continued: “Let us use the power of diplomacy to resolve regional issues.”
Ahmed Khesrow Wafa, the prosecutor general of Isfahan Province, told Mizan News Agency that a case was being prepared against Karbaschi and he would be soon summoned to the court.
While Iran’s Foreign Ministry defended the use of diplomacy to resolve international challenges, it backed the I.R.G.C.’s military role in regional conflicts. “When the talk is about blind terrorism which pays no value to human life, I think that the language of force may be the response to their cowardly actions,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Monday.
The hardline media also reacted angrily to Karbaschi’s remarks. Kayhan, whose editor is appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, wrote that “Karbaschi’s statements in Isfahan are a direct attack against the core of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy.”
Comment: Karbaschi’s public denunciation of Iran’s military role in Syria may be just election sloganeering, but it shows the growing disenchantment of the Iranian public with the regime’s involvement in regional conflict. His Syria comments received a big applause from the crowd.
Last week, another video circulating on Iranian social media showed a university student strongly criticizing the I.R.G.C.’s costly military engagements abroad at the expense of domestic priorities. “Mr. Hassan Abbasi: Your theory is the theory of terror and horror and exporting arms and war. Your theory is supporting dictator and murderous Bashar al-Assad,” the student said to applause from the audience at the Azarbaijan Shahid Madani University. Abbasi – who is the head of an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) think tank called Center for Borderless Security Doctrinal Analysis – was a guest speaker at the university in Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. “Yes, your theory is playing with national and religious emotions of the people, and defending non-existent shrines in Homs and Idlib. What shrines are there?”
The Iranian regime has zero tolerance policy toward Iranians criticizing the I.R.G.C.’s role in Syria and across the region. Security and intelligence agents have arrested many Iranian Sunnis recently in Khuzestan and Sistan and Baluchestan Provinces after they have questioned the I.R.G.C.’s sectarian agenda in regional wars. But the latest videos indicate that many Iranians have run out of patience and are risking their lives to counter the Iranian leaders’ narrative that the I.R.G.C. fights in Syria and Iraq in order to preserve Iran’s national security. An opinion survey published last November showed that support for the Iranian regime’s involvement in the Syrian war had declined from 90 percent in 2014 to 24 percent in late 2016.
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