When Rouhani took office in 2013, the Supreme Leader of Iran – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – became aware that sanctions imposed on the country were reaching a critical stage. It became imperative for action to be taken and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was sent to participate in talks with the then-US Secretary of State John Kerry.
It was at this time that the public became aware of the struggle between the two camps in Iran. The 2015 nuclear deal that followed made the situation worse. Rouhani believes that the economic crisis in Iran (as well as some of the many other crises) can be remedied with strong foreign investment. When the nuclear deal was being negotiated, he said that the sanctions have to be removed “so that investment can come and the problems of the environment, employment, industry and drinkable water are resolved”.
He realised that the Iranian regime needs to get rid of its revolutionary and aggressive policies and to work on diplomacy and interaction with countries it has problems with.
On the other hand, the IRGC sees this way forward as a huge threat to its survival. For one, if tensions with the West are calmed, the IRGC will no longer be relevant and would lost its purpose. Also, the IRGC controls a large part of the Iranian company via the shipping, banking, mining, telecommunications, oil and gas, power, construction and transportation sectors (among others). If the country welcomed foreign investment, foreign companies would majorly undermine the IRGC’s role in the economy.
Last month, a long-term contract was signed between French energy giant Total and the government of Iran. The contract will involve an initial $1 billion investment, reaching $5 billion later. It will somewhat displace the IRGC from an area it has controlled.
More investments like this will further displace the IRGC and make it even more irrelevant. The IRGC wants Rouhani to stop in his quest for better international investment, but Rouhani realises that it is the only way for him to move. Hence the increasing tensions between President Rouhani and the IRGC.