TEHERAN, Iran, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Strengthening his hold on power, Iran's new president has appointed hundreds of officers from the country's Revolutionary Guards to senior government positions.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or Sepah as it is called in Farsi, has been the main military force underpinning support for Iran's clerical rulers.
The appointments come as the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, purged hundreds of officials appointed by former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
A former official with close ties to Rafsanjani speaking on condition of anonymity told the Web site Iran Focus, "He (Ahmadinejad) is virtually handing over the bureaucracy to Sepah and the consequences are going to be huge. Anyone seen as a protégé of Hashemi (Rafsanjani) is being booted out without any hesitation."
The revolutionary guards was formed in May 1979 as a paramilitary force loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but was upgraded to a formal military unit which fought alongside the regular army in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
At least 11 ministers in Ahmadinejad's cabinet are former guards senior officers, while an estimated 75 percent of the ministers and deputy ministers in the new government also come from the IRGC.