FILE PHOTO: Iranian youths sit under a large picture of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (L), and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a park in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA
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BEIRUT: Determined to protect a dominant security role and vast economic interests, Iran's Revolutionary Guards military force is quietly backing a hardliner in May 19 presidential polls, with an eye towards a bigger prize: the succession of the supreme leader.The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the Basij, a volunteer militia under the Guards' command, are taking steps to promote the candidacy of his main rival, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi.Whether or not Rouhani wins a second term, the bigger prize is controlling who will succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose power far exceeds that of the elected president.The arrests prompted parliamentarian Mahmoud Sadeghi to write a letter to the head of the Guards asking the group not to interfere in the upcoming presidential election.Among the group were the head of the Guards, the head of the Basij, and Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the branch of the Guards responsible for operations outside of Iran's borders, including in Iraq and Syria.
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