On Wednesday, December 22, the Iranian regime’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi reported that Mohammad-Tayyeb Sahraei had been appointed as the provincial governor of Kermanshah, western Iran. Since 2007, Sahraei has served the regime as the State Security Forces chief in the provinces of Gilan and Razavi Khorasan and the SSF deputy operation chief, identifying him as a top security agent.
Sahraei was later replaced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Brig. Gen. Bahman Amiri-Moghaddam, whose deputies had already been removed.
Notably, Vahidi himself was previously the first commander of the IRGC Quds Force, responsible for the AMIA bomb attack in Buenos Aires in 1994. The bomb plot resulted in 85 people losing their lives and more than 300 civilians being injured.
Vahidi told reporters, “A new governor was appointed for Kermanshah province. One of two other provincial governors may be changed.” State media has speculated that the mentioned governors are from Sistan & Baluchestan and Khuzestan provinces.
On November 17, the regime president Ebrahim Raisi’s administration appointed a new governor for Kurdistan province, in the west of the country.
The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported, “During Wednesday morning’s cabinet session headed by the president, the provincial governor of Kurdistan received a vote of confidence.”
On November 14, the UK government sanctioned the regime’s new governor Zarei Kousha, among several security and intelligence officials like the ministers of interior affairs and ICT, for their involvement in the violent crackdown on the demonstrations that were ignited by the heinous murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, while she was in police custody.
‘Provincial Governors’ Position in Iran
In its 80th session on October 20, 1998, the Supreme Administrative Council issued a directive about provincial governors’ tasks, the procedures of their appointment and removal from office, and their relations with executive apparatuses.
Directive article 1 declares that provincial governors are the government’s high representatives in their areas, responsible for fulfilling the country’s public policies in various fields via the public budget. They control the Islamic Revolutionary Institutions, Security Forces, Islamic City Councils, Municipalities, and other public organizations.
In that respect, all military forces are under the provincial governors’ command, and they are responsible to the president and cabinet, mainly the interior minister.
Article 2 also mentions that provincial governors are responsible for preserving “order and security.” All security apparatuses are tasked to implement the provincial governors’ security orders and report security-political events to them.
In a nutshell, the provincial governor is the top military-security commander in their province, commanding all governmental apparatuses to preserve “order and security.” These people are almost all IRGC commanders or security officials, whose résumés are inked with atrocities against citizens.
Changes Sign Routine or Turmoil
Iran has been sinking into a sociopolitical turmoil since mid-September. This is the longest uprising that Iran has witnessed in the past four decades, with many people describing the current protests as a revolution. On the streets of Iran, demonstrators can be heard chanting, “No longer call it protests; it has become a revolution.”
Healthy wisdom says that no ruling power welcomes more challenges when it is faced with the “to be or not to be” question. Under the rule of the mullahs, provincial governors—particularly IRGC Brig. Generals—are the absolute regional power and implement the central government’s authority in various fields.
Aside from being removed or resigning, such changes in the government’s regional hierarchy are signs that the street protests have rendered chaos among the authorities. Observers, of course, believe these changes are signaling an unprecedented defection among the loyalists to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Showing a direct link between their involvement in the oppressive operation and preserving their positions, Mazandaran’s provincial governor Mahmoud Hosseinipour stated, in a private meeting two months ago, “Some of the state directors speculated that the regime is a ‘goner’, and they’ve packed their stuff.”
In a speech in mid-November, Raisi said, “Some employees or directors say, ‘we cannot; it is impossible.’ We say, ‘put these guys aside!’ One director doesn’t want… under any excuse, we say, ‘put him in a marginal position’.”
The Iranian government is witnessing a growing wave of objections on behalf of former officials, fueling political rivalries. On December 17, former Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri said, “This horrible status quo and extremely violent behavior and unprecedented insults against demonstrators” stunned “many people who played crucial roles” in the 1979 revolution, Iran-Iraq war, and other developments, “leading them to regret.”
The former State TV & Radio chief Mohammad Sarafraz spoke out on November 1, stating, “In this status, high-ranking officials should choose; they either should continue this oppression and injustice and become [the regime’s] accomplices in such conditions or resign and step back; this is the least act they can do.”
He added, “I did [resign] from Supreme Council for Cyberspace following the cut-off of WhatsApp and Instagram. I concluded that the cons of my membership in such a council are more than its pros.”
Activists have said this is only the tip of the iceberg, and they are predicting more defection among Iranian officials and high-ranking IRGC commanders in the upcoming weeks as the anti-regime activities escalate and become radicalized.