Inside the Iranian Foreign Service

Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (L) greets Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi in this handout picture released by the Emirates News Agency WAM July 9, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • The Iranian Foreign Ministry has been rocked by accusations of personal misconduct by diplomats serving abroad.

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  • The days of the Iranian Foreign Ministry being a bastion for more reform-oriented factions is over. @MRubin1971

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  • The representation and strength of IRGC veterans in the Iranian bureaucracy has accelerated under Pres. Ahmadinejad.

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Editor's Note: FMSO’s Operational Environment Watch provides translated selections and analysis from a diverse range of foreign articles and other media that analysts and expert contributors believe will give military and security experts an added dimension to their critical thinking about the Operational Environment.

Source: "Pesakhha-ye Qashqavi beh Akhrin Vaza’it Diplomat-e Iran dar Brazil, Nahva Guzinesh Diplomatha va Ta’dad Diplomatha-ye Penihandeh Shoda” (“Answers of Qashqavi to the latest status of the Iranian Diplomat in Brazil, How Diplomats are Chosen, and Diplomats who have Defected,”) Khabaronline.com. 8 July 2012.

Michael Rubin: In recent months the Iranian Foreign Ministry has been rocked by accusations of personal misconduct by Iranian diplomats serving abroad. First, in April 2012, Brazilian authorities accused an Iranian diplomat of fondling four young girls in a public swimming pool in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia. Then, in July, German authorities accused an Iranian diplomat stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, of lewd conduct toward a 10-year-old girl.

Against this backdrop, Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi granted an interview to the state news agency Khabar Online, answering a number of questions regarding the specific allegations. While that is the stuff of fleeting headlines, far more interesting to analysts will be his dissection of the personnel within the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its component paramilitary, the Basij, has been growing in Iranian society. The representation and strength of IRGC veterans in the Iranian bureaucracy has accelerated throughout the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the first president of Iran to arise from a military rather than clerical background.

"Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its component paramilitary, the Basij, has been growing in Iranian society." -Michael RubinThe extent of Basiji and war veteran penetration of the Iranian Foreign Ministry will manifest itself in a number of ways. Already the ambassadorships to the countries Iranian leaders consider most important—Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq—go to members of the Qods Force, the IRGC’s elite unit charged with export of revolution. That Basijis and war veterans now penetrate the Foreign Ministry may obviate the traditional wire diagram of ministry decision making in favor of the informal networks of veterans which developed on the frontlines of the eight-year war.

The increasing proportion of Basijis, as well as the vetting procedure which put them in place, also suggests that the days of the Foreign Ministry being a bastion for more reform-oriented factions is over. Indeed, the hardline press has already taken up the theme of countering the “New Yorkers,” the derogatory name for those who have served at the Iranian mission to the United Nations and who have allowed traditional etiquette to subsume pursuit of revolution.

Given the role of the IRGC in terrorist operations (the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Qods Force to be a terrorist entity in 2007), the IRGC’s supplanting of traditional diplomats raises the possibility that Iranian hardliners may once again leverage Iranian diplomatic missions for their purposes, something they have hesitated to do since the immediate aftermath of the Islamic Revolution.

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