Khamenei Replaces Army Commanders as Defense Budget Tightens
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered on Sunday replacing three senior Iranian army officials after budget challenges arose. The decree was released during a meeting that joined re-elected President Hassan Rouhani and top army commanders.
In sweeping change, Khamenei sacked deputy army commander Brigadier General Reza Pourdastan, only a year after he was appointed to his post.
Pourdastan was replaced with Brigadier General Mohammad Hossein Dadras, moving him up the hierarchy after serving as deputy commander of ground forces.
Kamenei’s decrees also appointed Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi in charge of the Navy, replacing the former long-serving Navy commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari.
Well- informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the move came after army commanders were disgruntled by the newly announced budget for the armed forces, days before its submission to the Shura (parliament).
According to those sources, the defense share was slashed in order to pressure the military institution to abandon its air force fleets in favor of the Revolutionary Guard, which is a parallel army in Iran which answers to Khamenei exclusively.
On Monday, Rouhani held consultations with senior military leaders to persuade them to accept the new budget and promised them to update and develop the army's capabilities.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shares with the national army ballistic missiles, defense systems, cruise missiles and marines. But the national military enjoys the privilege of controlling the national air force, including warplanes, rocket launchers and combat helicopters.
Sources said that economic pressures may push the Iranian army to abandon the air force, and become a pawn to Revolutionary Guards policy, giving the latter leverage should clashes between the two forces arise.
Rouhani met with army commanders, in the presence of Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri and Khamenei's representative in the army.
In a statement published at the government’s official website, Rouhani promised to modernize the Iranian army capacities.
"The armed forces must be nonpartisan," Rohani said.