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Tehran 'purges 4,000 guards'

THE IRANIAN authorities are reported to have sent some 4,000 Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) officers into retirement, writes Safa Haeri.

The unprecedented decision, reported in Jomhuri Eslami newspaper, is being seen as the biggest purge among Iran's 'Praetorian Guard' in the 15 years of the Islamic regime. The Revolutionary Guard numbers up to 350,000 men.

'This is the first time since the victory of the Islamists in Iran that such a staggering number of Revolutionary Guards officers have retired,' said one source with access to the Iranian armed forces. 'It is an indication that the intelligence services might have discovered a plot.'

The purge follows months of unrest in Iran and experts believe it is part of a power struggle between President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who now rules Iran unchallenged. The fact that the news was published in Jomhuri Eslami indicates that the purged officers were followers of President Rafsanjani, as the paper is controlled by the Ayatollah.