Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), says President Hassan Rohani and the IRGC enjoy "very good relations," based on mutual trust.
Jafari was reacting to a question regarding recent comments by Rohani, who warned against the monopolization of power and the spread of corruption in Iran, saying that corruption is brought about when guns, money, and media are concentrated in one institution.
The comments were widely interpreted as a veiled reference to the IRGC, which, apart from its military activities, is also engaged in economic, political, and media activities.
But Jafari told the official IRNA news agency that Rohani had been asked about his December 8 remarks and that the Iranian president had said that he wasn't talking about the IRGC, but rather he was making come general comments.
Jafari said Rohani has full trust in the IRGC. "The enemies of the establishment and revolution, especially the foreign-based counterrevolutionaries, cannot harm this relationship, which was established since the imposed war [with Iraq]," he said.
Rohani and the IRGC appear to disagree on some issues, including the extent of the IRGC's role in the economy and cultural policies.
Yet IRGC officials have been generally supportive of Rohani's government's nuclear talks with the West. They have, however, warned that Washington cannot be trusted and that Iran does not need ties with the United States.
Speaking at a December 16 event, Jafari warned against those who are trying to decrease opposition against the United States.
Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert with the Washington Institute, says the pragmatic Rohani knows that he shouldn't pull the IRGC's tail, because that would mean challenging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to whom the IRGC answers directly.
Khalaji wrote in January about how Rohani, unlike previous presidents, seems unwilling to directly challenge the influence of the IRGC over "various aspects of Iran's political and economic life."
"Instead, his approach has been to refashion the IRGC's functions through the supreme leader -- who is commander in chief of the entire armed forces -- rather than taking independent initiative. This means convincing Khamenei to improve the economy by adjusting the IRGC's role in politics and business, limiting its influence over the public sector, and weakening its ability to compete with the private sector," Khalaji wrote.
Rohani "has already curbed the IRGC's role in some economic projects, and so far the military leadership has not viewed his actions as a threat," he adds.
In his analysis, Khalaji quotes from an article on the Alef website affiliated with prominent conservative lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli. The article describes Rohani as someone who understands the power relations in the Islamic republic and who is aware that in order to advance his policies, he needs to be constructively engaged with influential institutions.