On April 21st, 2019, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic regime, appointed Major General Hossein Salami to be the new commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The IRGC’s previous commander, Mohammad Ali (Aziz) Jafari, had headed them for 12 years.
Hossein Salami was born in 1960, in the city of Golpayegan. In 1979, he began studying mechanical engineering at the Iran University of Science and Technology. This was the same year as the Khomeiniist takeover of Iran, and Salami soon became a member of the Revolutionary Committees.
There is a well-known photo of him, with a group of other Islamist revolutionaries, punching and abusing a woman who had worked as a maid in one of the Shah’s palaces. In this image, Salami seems to be holding a weapon in his hand. Blood can be seen dripping from the woman’s face.
Salami officially joined the Revolutionary Guards in 1980. He fought in Kurdistan during the Iran-Iraq war. During that time, the Islamic regime severely suppressed and massacred the Kurds. Salami was later deployed to the war’s southern front line, and became commander of the Karbala 25th Division, then the Imam Hossein 14th Division, and finally, commander of the Noah Headquarters.
Salami headed the IRGC University of Command and Staff, their military academy, between 1992 and 1997. He then became the operations deputy of the IRGC Joint Staff. From 2005 to October 2009, he was commander of the IRGC Air Force, and since then, he served as the IRGC deputy commander.
There are five points worth noting in regard to Salami’s appointment:
1.This personnel change was unexpected, Major General Jafari was expected to maintain command of the IRGC until next year.
- Salami was appointed at a time when major changes are being made to the structure and command of the armed forces.
3.These changes can be seen as a response to US actions against the Islamic regime. Salami is one of the most outspoken opponents of the US and Israel, tending to issue some of the harshest threats against them. He has repeatedly discussed the destruction of Israel, and an eventual confrontation of Iran with the United States. Salami’s appointment can thus send a message to the United States that “The regime is not going to retreat.”
- In contrast to his speeches against the United States and Israel, Salami is silent when it comes to Iranian domestic politics. So far, he has not criticized Hassan Rouhani’s government. His appointment, therefore, can be perceived as attempting to show an intra-regime united front.
- Salami’s management style is different from that of Major General Jafari, but he is not likely to make many changes to the Revolutionary Guards’ activities. As he had already been deputy commander of the IRGC for 10 years, Salami has had a significant role in the force’s internal affairs. The message being sent now is that the IRGC will continue the same course, just under a different manager.
Salami’s management style is different from that of Major General Jafari, but he is not likely to make many changes to the Revolutionary Guards’ activities. As he had already been deputy commander of the IRGC for 10 years, Salami has had a significant role in the force’s internal affairs. The message being sent now is that the IRGC will continue the same course, just under a different manager.
Hossein Salami’s appointment can also be seen as the end of the era of the first generation of IRGC generals. Of the first-generation IRGC commanders, only Qassem Soleimani is still serving.
Below are five excerpts from Salami’s lectures and talks over the past year that illustrate his worldview and positions, particularly with regard to regional Middle East issues, as well as the United States and her allies.
February 3, 2019, “Special News Conversation on IRIB Channel 2”
“[The area of] All Zionist urban centers is as broad as that of our two operations of Fath’ol-mobin and Bayt ol-moqaddas [during Iran-Iraq War], and we warn them that you are approaching your death. If the Zionists, by mistake or error, make a move that ignites the flame of war, they must be sure that this war will be their doom. The Zionists should not rely on the Americans, because they will have been destroyed by the time the Americans come to their help. They should indeed look for cemeteries outside the occupied Palestine, because there will be no room for them in that land. When Zionists see that the strategy for eliminating them has gone into effect, they will resort to diversionary tactics to bring about a balance. If Europe and others pursue our missile disarmament based on a conspiracy, we will have to push for a strategic jump. I recommend that no one should demand to talk about or negotiate on Iran’s missile capabilities, which is one of our deterrent measures, because this will force us to change our deterrent policy equations. We have no technical limit on increased range, high precision, desired destructive power and missile propulsion, and it is only our strategies that determine the priorities of our country’s missile development. Our missile strategy is not a fixed issue, and our considerations change based on the behavior of the actors. Americans want to compensate for the instrumental weaknesses they have with the expansion of radical terrorism. To curb the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they created radical terrorism in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. They wanted to create instability in the region and break the back of the resistance front; and if they had succeeded in that, they would have been focusing their efforts on Iran. Europe should be grateful for our presence in the region and the counterterrorism strategy of our country. If Iran were not a pioneer in the fight against ISIS, terrorism would overwhelm Europe, and there would be widespread terrorist operations in European countries. While Europe is indebted to Iran, I wonder why they are asking for reduction of Iran’s regional influence?! The subject of jihad is expanding in the belief system of the peoples of the region, and this belief can never be restrained. The geography of the beliefs, politics, military and power of us, the jihadi forces and the resistance front, are connected to each other, and a strong territory has been created. Wherever the enemy wants to act, large armies close rank in front of him, and the capacities of the Islamic countries have been built up to eliminate the enemies. The strategic acumen of the United States has come to an end, and they cannot use the power instruments of that country to serve their interests. We cannot talk about some aspects of our country’s very devastating and destructive power, but our enemies must know that all our power is by no means what we shown in defensive achievements exhibitions. The power of the Islamic Republic of Iran is extremely frightening.”
January 28, 2019, National Conference on Defense Architecture-Security of the Islamic System in 1404 Horizon Perspective, held at the Supreme National Defense University of Iran:
“Our strategy is to eradicate Israel from the political geography of the world, and it seems that Israel itself is approaching this end with the mischief that it is doing. We declare that if Israel does something to begin a new war, this war is surely going to be the war that leads to its disappearance, and the occupied territories will be liberated, and even the Israelis in the occupied Palestine will not have a cemetery to bury their dead.”
November 22, 2018, International Congress on the Protection of the Oppressed People of Yemen in Tehran:
“What is happening today in the Muslim world is due to the calamities and disasters that arose from the convergence of American, British, Zionist, and Al Saud regime policies one hundred years ago, and this is the geometry of disaster in the Islamic world. Today, the jihadist groups in the Islamic world have tipped the balance in their favor in the field of conflict. The jihadist groups have been awakened in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan; strong slaps and historic failures were inflicted on the United States; the structure of resistance was formed in the Muslim World; in Lebanon the powerful Hezbollah was formed and imposed countless failures on the Zionists; Palestinian groups were armed to such a degree that they made the Israeli cabinet dissolve. In these years, Americans learned that they can be defeated by Muslims, but they were not chastened. Yemen is besieged by the Al Saud regime and, with the support of the United States, it kills the oppressed people of Yemen; they have closed the borders and besieged [Yemen] and still claim that Iran sends missiles to Yemen? How can you blame Iran? Suppose that Iran supports the nation of Yemen politically and spiritually. Is this the reason why you surround the oppressed people of Yemen and massacre them? America and Al Saud should know that history is recording their disgraceful performance. Know that Yemen will become a swamp for the Saudi regime and the US policies, and the United States and the Saudi regime will be defeated in front of the whole world. The logic of resistance is growing. The Yemeni people are awake and we support them. The Iranian nation defeated the US and blew the spirit of resistance to the body of the Islamic Ummah. The American way is to confront the nations, and these days it manifests itself in the words of the president of the United States who called the people of Iran terrorist.”
October 5, 2018, Exercise of Authority by the Basijis of Isfahan:
“Never has the US been so weak as today. Has all the investment in the Middle East had the smallest success for the United States? Why is Iraq not in their grip, and why have their dreams in Syria not been realized? The United States failed to secure the Zionist regime’s security and save Saudi Arabia from the swamp. America does not learn lessons from her repeated failures in history; and if it continues its policies, by the decree of the Supreme Leader we will soon impose another major defeat on the United States. The Islamic world is gradually recovering its majesty. The Zionist regime does not have any elements of a state and government. It is not up to the level to threaten us. Hezbollah is enough to defeat it. I declare to the prime minister of the Zionist regime to practice swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, because soon he will have no way to escape but the sea.”
April 26, 2018, Conference of Presidents of Courts and Prosecutors of the Nation, in Sari:
“The Islamic Republic has great power on land, sea and air. Today we have identified the vital interests of our enemies, have great ability to defend and attack, and demonstrated our strength through a number of military experiments. In Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen we have our enemies – who are trying to build up power – under control. Today the enemy is scattered and the Iranian government is powerful. If we did not chase the enemy in Iraq and Syria and create powerbases there, all their focus would be on our land now. We have the upper hand, because we have discovered the enemy’s points of concern, and can set fire to any of their bases whenever we desire. The Islamic Republic of Iran has threatened the survival of Israel and greatly reduced the distance between Israel’s life and death. And when you see that they shoot four missiles at the base (in Syria) where our forces are present, that is their weakest response. The leaders of Israel know that if the Golan Heights are seized and their forces start to retreat, the domino-like process of the flight of their forces will start. The priority of Americans in the sphere of domestic and foreign policies is Israel. That is while exactly along the borders of the occupied zone there are various children of the Islamic Ummah with anti-Zionist ideals who seek to eliminate this [Zionist] regime. The Guards have called upon the Iranian government officials to speak with authority. We have even advised our government officials to announce Iran’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and the NPT so that we can resume our nuclear activities without any restrictions. In that case, Europeans and Americans will go crazy. They are very concerned that we can become powerful, and then they will have to take our authority at face value.”