DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has replaced the chief commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, state TV reported on Sunday, days after the United States designated the group a foreign terrorist organization.
The TV station did not give a reason for the change when it announced the appointment of Brigadier General Hossein Salami to the position.
“The Supreme Leader has appointed Salami as the new commander-in-chief of the Guards, who will replace Mohammad Ali Jafari,” it said. Jafari had held the post since September 2007.
President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Guards a terrorist organization, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on U.S. forces. The designation took effect on April 15.
The Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Tehran has warned that it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kms (1,242 miles), putting Israel and U.S. military bases in the region within reach.
Salami, born in 1960, said in January that Iran’s strategy was to wipe “the Zionist regime” (Israel) off the political map, Iran’s state TV reported.
“We announce that if Israel takes any action to wage a war against us, it will definitely lead to its own elimination,” Salami said after an Israeli attack on Iranian targets in Syria in January, Iranian media reported.
Israel sees Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs as a threat to its existence. Iran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes only.
Israel, which Islamic Iran refuses to recognize, backed Trump’s move in May to quit a 2015 international deal on Iran’s nuclear program and welcomed Washington’s reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, William Maclean