Khamenei Shakes Up Iran’s Military With AM-Iran-US, Bjt
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ A former Revolutionary Guards minister was installed as Iran’s new navy commander Tuesday amid a major shakeup in the military.
The transfer of Ali Saleh Shamkhani to the regular forces underlined the unity of the Islamic republic’s defense forces, said Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei, who is commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces, appointed Shamkhani on Monday to replace Rear Adm. Mohammad-Hussein Malekzadegan.
Shamkhani, 34, was an urban guerrilla during the 1979 Islamic revolution and commanded several successful military operations during the eight-year war with Iraq. Shamkhani was made a rear admiral.
At a ceremony in Tehran, Khamenei told Shamkhani he was promoted because of his ″valuable services and great endeavors in the scenes of war and victorious missions, and the sensitive duties in the Islamic Republic Guards Corps.″ An account of the ceremony was carried on the official Islamic Republic News Agency, which was monitored in Cyprus.
Malekzadegan commanded the Iranian navy for the last three years of the war with Iraq before fighting was halted in August 1988 when a United Nations- sponsored cease-fire took effect. During his tenure, several key Iranian warships were sunk or damaged in battles with the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.
Tehran Radio, announcing the move Monday, quoted Khamenei as praising the ″great strides″ made by the 14,500-man navy under Malekzadegan.
It gave no reason for his abrupt dismissal, but several ranking officers in the navy were arrested earlier this year for spying for the CIA.
They and other alleged CIA agents are scheduled to make public confessions Saturday, the 10th anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979.
Iraq said two Iranian gunboats fired on an Iraqi tug last week in the Persian Gulf, killing a crewman. Malekzadegan, who was conducting naval exercises in the waterway at the time, denied the incident occurred.
IRNA said Tuesday that Malekzadegan has been appointed an adviser to Khamenei, a move seen as a demotion.
He is the highest-ranking officer to lose his post in the shakeup launched by Khamenei, the key ally of President Hashemi Rafsanjani, amid a major rearmament program following the cease-fire.
Khamenei made major changes in September in the command of the 350,000- member Revolutionary Guards Corps under Mohsen Rezaie, who has been the force’s military chief since 1982.
He also appointed Hassan Firouzabadi, 38, deputy chief of the armed forces headquarters, as army chief of staff Sept. 28 and named Brig. Gen. Ali Shahbazi chief of the joint staff of the armed forces.
The shuffle followed the merger this year of the Revolutionary Guards ministry and the Defense Ministry, which oversees Iran’s regular forces, to streamline the chain of command.
Shamkhani was named Revolutionary Guards Minister in 1988 in a major shakeup following a series of military defeats in the closing stages of the war. He replaced Mohsen Rafiqdoust, Rafsanjani’s brother-in-law.
Shamkani lost that position in August when Iran’s new president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, announced his government and appointed Akbar Torkan as minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics.
Torkan is a close Rafsanjani aide and formerly headed of the Defense Industries Organization that built up Iran’s military industry during the war.
The Revolutionary Guards and the regular army, air force and navy remain separate entities, despite earlier moves to merge them.
Khamenei opposes such a merger, while Rafsanjani has tried to eliminate the parallel chains of command that hampered military operations during the war.
Rafsanjani was named acting commander-in-chief in June 1988 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to upgrade Iran’s battered forces. He relinquished the post in August following his election. Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini, took over.
Political and military rivalry between the regular forces and the Guards Corps were heightened by lack of coordination between the two forces. These were significant factors in Iran’s battlefield defeats in early 1988 that led to Tehran unconditionally accepting the U.N. Security Council’s cease-fire resolution.
It was not clear whether the military shake-up was linked to political feuding between Rafsanjani, leader of Iran’s so-called pragmatists, and revolutionary radicals led by former Interior Minister Ali Akbar Mohtashemi.
Western analysts believe that although Rafsanjani has emerged as the most powerful political figure in Iran, he faces potential challenges from the radicals.
They oppose his moves to restore relations with the West to end Iran’s isolation following Khomeini’s death June 3.