Tehran, Iran, Sep. 04 – Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, Iran’s former
police chief and defeated presidential contender, was on Sunday appointed
as the new Mayor of Tehran.
Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Qalibaf
commanded the Air Force of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps
(IRGC) until his appointment as commander of the para-military
police, the State Security Forces (SSF), in 2000.
The decision by the Tehran city council
to appoint Qalibaf as Tehran’s mayor
follows weeks of bitter jockeying and behind-the-scene power struggle among
different factions of the ultra-conservative camp.
Independent analysts in the Iranian capital believe the appointment of the
43-year-old former Revolutionary Guards brigadier general was ordered by Iran’s Supreme
Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Qalibaf has always been a loyal protégé of Khamenei and his new high-profile post may have been a
reward from the Supreme Leader to the man who acted as a political fall guy
for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
during the June presidential elections.
Many analysts, with hindsight, believe the candidacy of Qalibaf
and three other fellow IRGC commanders was part of a complex political manoeuvring by Khamenei to
deflect attacks by the Rafsanjani camp on his favourite
candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
while the massive organisations under his
control, such as the Revolutionary Guards and the paramilitary Bassij, worked behind the scenes to have Ahmadinejad elected.
Qalibaf ran a modern presidential campaign,
swapping military fatigues for Italian suits. But in the end, his new looks
could not conceal the true character of the radical Islamist who has spent
almost his entire career in the Revolutionary Guards. In July 1999, he and
23 other Revolutionary Guards commanders wrote a letter to former President
Mohammad Khatami, urging him to “use every
available means” to put down a nationwide protest movement led by
pro-democracy students or “they would take matters into their own hands”.
In another open letter in 1997, Qalibaf and 32
other top Revolutionary Guards commanders praised Mohsen
Rezai for his “services to Islam and Imam Khomeini”
after he quit the ayatollahs’ ideological army to take up a top executive
post under former President and strongman Ayatollah Ali Akbar
On his orders the paramilitary police force routinely conducted raids on
homes for the purposes of confiscating satellite dishes, a rather
common-yet-prohibited household item. Many in the population reported that,
under Qalibaf, SSF units beat up and arrested
anyone thought to be actively campaigning for lasting change in society. A
number of student activists had also “disappeared” during this time, though
there have been reports and it is widely believed that they were arrested
and locked away or worse.