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A Hardliner's Hardliner

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

21 Jan 2010 18:3330 Comments
jafaripromoted.jpgA Hardliner's Hardliner: General Mohammad Ali Jafari

[ profile ] In the spring of 2005, President Mohammad Khatami's second term was coming to an end. Since he could not run a third time, the reformists turned to former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi for the June 17 election. When he turned them down, reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi decided to enter the ring.

Karroubi conducted a strong campaign and was running second to former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the early stages of vote counting. Yet on June 18, he was declared to have finished in third place behind both Rafsanjani and a relatively unknown, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since none of the candidates had managed to get more than 50 percent of the vote, the election proceeded to a runoff, from which Karroubi was disqualified.

IRGC moves into politics

Incredulous, Karroubi wrote an angry open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denouncing his son Mojtaba Khamanei, top commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Basij militia for intervening on behalf of Ahmadinejad and accusing them of rigging the vote. He specifically pointed to the IRGC's use of money from eskeleh [meaning they controlled the machinery at Iran's major ports], smuggled goods, and the sugar business reportedly controlled by arch-hardliner Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi.

In addition to Karroubi's claims, it is also widely believed that Khamenei told the IRGC and the Basij commanders to order members of their families to vote for Ahmadinejad, and to take as many friends and relatives as they could with them to the polls.

IRGC consolidates power

As president, Ahmadinejad swiftly initiated an extensive purge of the bureaucracy and appointed his allies in the IRGC to key positions. The appointments indicated the extent of his IRGC network. Comments from Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, then the IRGC's top commander, and others were revealing. Safavi declared Ahmadinejad "a child of the Sepaah" -- the IRGC. His deputy, Brigadier General Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, said that Ahmadinejad's election "was not an accident. It was the result of two years of complex, multifaceted planning." Even Khamenei was reportedly surprised by the breadth of Ahmadinejed's network.

Ahmadinejad's election in 2005 formalized what was already widely acknowledged: that the IRGC wielded great behind-the-scenes power and was seeking to install one of its own at the helm of the government. To demonstrate their strength and influence, the IRGC had already threatened Khatami after the July 9, 1999, student uprising at the University of Tehran dormitories (see below). In May 2004, they humiliated him by closing down Tehran's new international airport after Khatami had formally opened it. It was widely rumored that Khamenei had told Rafsanjani that if he had been elected, the IRGC would have staged a coup to prevent him from taking office, and possibly assassinated him.

Halfway through Ahmadinejad's term, Khamenei made extensive changes in the top command of the IRGC. On September 1, 2007, he replaced General Rahim Safavi with a relatively unknown IRGC commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, whom he had just promoted to Major General. In turn, General Jafari replaced many of the IRGC commanders. As one of his first acts, he decentralized the IRGC's decision-making process by creating 31 local command centers. He declared that he was taking the step to better prepare the IRGC for the "internal enemy," a greater danger, he said, than the "external enemy."

Events since the rigged June 12 election further revealed the extent to which Ahmadinejad and Khamenei rely on the IRGC and the IRGC-controlled Basij militia to maintain power. When huge demonstrations broke out after the election, the IRGC tried to quell the protesters by using brute force, in part by deploying the Basij, its intelligent unit, and plainclothes agents belonging to a special brigade under the command of the IRGC's intelligence directorate. Since Mohammad Khatami's landslide victory in May 1997 revealed the extent of the hardliners' unpopularity, plainclothes agents have been increasingly used as a blunt tool to keep people in check.

The June 12 election and its aftermath also turned the spotlight on General Jafari, an IRGC commander who gave new meaning to the term "hardliner." He has taken an extremely tough line against the reformists, accusing them of links to foreign governments and concocting plots to overthrow the Islamic Republic through a "velvet revolution." He has repeatedly called for the arrest and prosecution of reformist leaders.


ahmadi+jafari.jpgMohammad Ali Jafari, whose nickname is Aziz, was born on September 1, 1957. Like Saeed Mortazavi, the notorious former Tehran Prosecutor General, Mohammad Khatami, and Israel's former President Moshe Katsaf, he is from Yazd in central Iran. He was born into a family so impoverished that he had difficulty attending elementary and high school. Against the odds, he was accepted to Tehran University School of Architecture in 1977. Khatami's father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khatami, and several other wealthy residents of Yazd pitched in to help Jafari pursue his studies there.

During the Revolution's early stages in 1978, he was active in the demonstrations against Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and was arrested and imprisoned. When he was released after the Revolution, he helped found the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in his college at Tehran University, and represented it in the Council at the university-wide level. On November 4, 1979, when the university students who called themselves Muslim Students Following Imam's Line overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Jafari represented his MSA division among those students and participated in the takeover. Alireza Afshar, who is now an IRGC Brigadier General, was the other MSA representative from Jafari's school. Neither was prominent among the
student leadership and remained unnoticed.

'The Imposed War'

On November 26, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the formation of the Basij militia. Jafari immediately joined and initially went to work in its cultural unit. Later he joined the intelligence unit of the IRGC and was dispatched to Kurdistan province in western Iran. In June 1981, he was transferred to the military wing of the IRGC and fought in the Iran-Iraq war.

Views of his wartime track record are mixed. A source in Tehran -- a retired IRGC officer and a college friend of the author -- said that some believe that General Jafari has a distinguished wartime record. Others don't. According to this source, many who hold a negative view of Jafari negatively are among the IRGC commanders who fought bravely in the Iran-Iraq war, but left the Guard in disgust as they saw the force become increasingly politicized and used as an instrument of repression.

On the evening of December 25, 1985, Iran launched Operation Karbala 4, aimed at capturing the port city of Basra in southern Iraq and linking up with the forces that had already occupied Fao Peninsula. The attack was launched in the winter to take advantage of heavy rains, which hindered the Iraqi's far superior armor and air defenses. The Karbala 4 battle did not last long, however, as the Iraqi defenses pummeled the Iranian forces.

Despite its failure, Iran continued the attacks and mobilized the IRGC's most experienced officers for the next battle. At midnight on January 9, 1986, Operation Karbala 5 was launched as what was to be the "final offensive." Iranian forces were very successful in the first three weeks of the operation, but were ultimately repelled when Saddam Hussein resorted to chemical weapons and heavy bombing. By March, Iraq had lost more than 40,000 troops, 700 tanks, and 80 aircraft -- most shot down with the missiles supplied by the U.S. and Israel in what was later known as the Iran-Contra scandal.

On the Iranian side, 60,000 troops were killed, including a quarter of the most experienced IRGC officers. Karbala 5 was the last major offensive by Iran's armed forces.

Jafari was the commander of the war headquarters for the western front, and then the commander of the Najaf Brigade. He was also commander of the Ashura Battalion, deputy commander of the Shushtar Division in Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran, and commander of the Qods Garrison.

As an important IRGC commander in the southern front, Jafari is believed to have played a key role in both the Karbala 4 and Karbala 5 operations. He was reportedly badly wounded in both operations; the second injury kept him from returning to the war zone. He was then appointed the deputy chief of operations for the IRGC, and then deputy commander of its ground forces.

Jafari was reportedly an innovative tactician able to design "out of the box" operations. In 2006, the online daily Rooz quoted Major General Gholam Ali Rashid, until recently acting deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, as saying, "In the first few years of the Iran-Iraq war, it was Mr. Aziz Jafari that designed the first surprise operation of the IRGC, without paying attention to classical warfare." Rooz also quoted Major General (retired) Mohsen Rezaei, IRGC top commander between 1981 and 1997 and now Secretary-General of the Expediency Council, as saying, "General Jafari was the most precise commander during the war."

Jafari returned to Tehran University and earned an M.S. degree in architecture in 1992. Through 1993, he also studied at the War University of the IRGC and completed course work specializing in military command. After completing his degree at the War University, he taught there for a time.

The Vienna Murders

As described in a previous article, an assassination campaign in the 1980s and early 1990s targeted many opponents of the Islamic Republic, including those who lived abroad. One victim of the campaign was Dr. Abdulrahman Ghassemlou, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) from 1973 to 1989. He was invited to Vienna to negotiate with representatives of the Iranian government. On July 13, 1989, Ghassemlou and several of his aides -- Abdollah Ghaderi, Fadal Mala, and Mamoud Rassoul -- met with Iran's representatives in a Vienna apartment. The government's delegation was led by Mohammad Jafari Sahraroudi, and included Amir Bozorgnia and Kurdistan's provincial governor, Mostafa Ajoudi.

Ghassemlou and his aides were shot and killed in the apartment. The murders were actually reported to the police by the Iranian delegation, who denied any responsibility and were released after giving their statements. The Austrian police later described them as the probable culprits, by which point they had been expelled from the country.

It has been reported that Mohammad Jafari Sahraroudi was in fact a pseudonym for Mohammad Ali Jafari. If this is true, as the head of the delegation, he had a direct role in the murder of Ghassemlou. But I find the report to be suspect -- it is doubtful that the IRGC would risk an experienced, valuable officer like Jafari for an operation that could be carried out by a low-ranking officer or agent.

Military Background

By 1992, Jafari had risen to the rank of brigadier general. He was appointed commander of the ground forces of the IRGC in 1992, a post he held for 13 years. When Khatami was elected president in May 1997, he had good relations with General Jafari; Khatami even visited the IRGC's ground force military bases.

After Khatami's election, Major General Mohsen Rezaei left the IRGC after serving as its top commander for 16 years. Many IRGC commanders were not happy about his departure, which they saw as resulting from political pressure. Thirty-three of them, including Jafari, issued a statement praising Rezaei for his military services to the nation. Aside from that, Jafari had a reputation for being a professional soldier and uninterested in politics.

The July 1999 uprising at the dormitories of the University of Tehran shook the foundations of the Islamic Republic. The uprising began when popular leftist daily Salaam was banned after it had published a series of reports on attempts by conservatives to restrict the press. The students who protested the ban were attacked by the Basij militia and plainclothes agents. The attacks ignited several days of fierce demonstrations.

After Tehran was finally calm again, 29 top IRGC commanders, including Jafari, wrote a letter to Khatami threatening him if he did not end his reformist policies. It read, in part,

Your Excellency, Mr. Khatami, look at the international media and radio broadcasts. Does the sound of their merriment not reach your ear? Dear Mr. President, if you do not make a revolutionary decision today, and fail to fulfill your Islamic and national duties, tomorrow will be too late and the damage will be more irreversible than can be imagined.... With all due respect, we inform you that our patience is at an end, and we do not think it is possible to tolerate any more.

This is General Jafari's first known political intervention.

Another kind of architect

749412164.jpgIn addition to being the top commander of the IRGC ground forces between 1992 and 2005, Jafari also directly commanded the Sarallah Garrison in Tehran, which was responsible for the capital's security. Forces from the garrison quashed the July 1999 uprising and arrested many of the reformist leaders after the rigged presidential election of 2005.

That year, Jafari was appointed chief of the Center for Strategic Studies of the IRGC. He
directed the Center to carry out research into the so-called colored revolutions that had taken place in the former Soviet sphere: Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution of 1989, Georgia's Rose Revolution of 2003; Ukraine's Orange Revolution of 2004, and Krygyzstan's Tulip Revolution of 2005. A similar uprising had taken place in Serbia in
2000. The Islamic Republic was worried that the West might trigger a similar revolution in Iran, a threat brought home by regional events in early 2005: Lebanon's Cedar Revolution that lasted from February through April and the Blue Revolution in Kuwait during March, which saw large demonstrations in support of women's suffrage.

Jafari accused the United States of pursuing a policy of soft regime-change toward Iran after failing to overthrow the Islamic Republic through more traditional, aggressive means -- a theme now being repeated by the hardliners. He argued that the most important danger to the Islamic Republic was posed by the "internal enemy," referring to the reform movement. The studies led the IRGC to establish the Al-Zahra and Ashura Brigades, which serve as anti-riot units within the organizational structure of the Basij force.

It was also Jafari who led the successful effort to have the IRGC adopt asymmetrical warfare as its core strategy. In a classical symmetrical warfare scenario, Iran's armed
forces would be easily defeated by the United States. Therefore, Iran had to look for tactics and strategies that could inflict the maximum damage on the enemy without having to fight a direct war, including fighting beyond Iran's borders. Three days after he was appointed the top IRGC commander on September 1, 2007, Jafari said,

Given the enemy's numerical or technological superiority, the IRGC would use asymmetrical warfare capabilities, such as those used by Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel in Lebanon. Iranian strategy would also reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Former top IRGC commander Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who was succeeded by Jafari, said in a September 2007 interview,

At a time when we feel the threats of extra-regional powers, such as that of the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran, we have revised the structure of Iran's armed forces.... We have designed arms and equipments suitable for extra-regional warfare. We have named this strategy of comprehensive defense the Alavi battle
and asymmetrical warfare.

The IRGC has assumed responsibility for defending the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz employing such tactics.

On January 11, 2007, U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate in Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan and arrested five of its staff. Among several officials who escaped the raid was Mohammad Jafari, deputy to Ali Larijani, who was then Secretary-General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator. It is widely believed that the U.S. forces mistakenly thought that it was General Jafari who was at the consulate and staged the raid in order to capture him.

Ayatollah Khamenei appointed General Jafari to be the top commander of the IRGC on September 1, 2007. Though General Rahim Safavi had implied that he wanted to resign, most analysts believe that he was removed from the post because he was not tough enough. Jafari himself said that after 10 years in the top command position, Rahim Safavi no longer possessed the necessary energy.

General Jafari's appointment as the top IRGC commander generated concern in the West. He was compared to General David Petraeus of the U.S. Army, then in charge of forces in Iraq and now the head of the Central Command, overseeing U.S. forces in the Middle East. A Pentagon adviser described Jafari as "the Iranian Petraeus. He has studied counter-insurgency warfare." CIA and Pentagon analysts were reportedly fearful that Jafari's views were reflected among other senior appointments made by Ahmadinejad.

As soon as he assumed the top IRGC post, General Jafari focused on the "internal enemy" by reorganizing the IRGC. He took two major initiatives: Merging the Basij into the IRGC, making it one of the IRGC's five branches, along with its ground, air, and naval forces, plus the Qods Force, whose mission is beyond national borders.

The second initiative was decentralizing the command structure of the IRGC by creating 31 local command centers, 29 in provincial capitals and two in Tehran. This is now known as the Mosaic Doctrine. The idea is to give flexibility to IRGC commanders to better handle riots and demonstrations, but also to enable the IRGC to better survive a surgical attack by the United States or Israel aimed at decapitating its command structure.

The net effect of the initiatives has been to increase the IRGC's power of the IRGC for intervening in the political process. In many smaller cities and towns, the local IRGC commander is the most powerful man, while the commander of the provincial command centers are more powerful than the governor-general.

Since the reorganization of the IRGC, the "internal threat" has been the dominant theme of the speeches that Jafari has been giving. After he merged the Basij with the IRGC, he declared that both organizations shared the same goal: "guarding achievements of the Revolution." Making clear what that entailed, he said, "For now the main responsibility of the IRGC is to counter internal threats."

In a press conference three days after he was appointed the IRGC top commander, he said that, "The IRGC's responsibilities necessitate a special and flexible force able to counter different types of threats."

Since the rigged election of June 12, Jafari has harshly criticized the reformists and leaders of the Green Movement. On September 2, he quoted Mohammad Ali Abtahi, Khatami's vice president for parliamentary affairs, then in jail, as "confessing" that the reformist leaders had planned to weaken the Velaayat-e Faghih, the backbone of Iran's political system. Jafari claimed that Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, the leftist cleric had stated the previous winter, "We should do our utmost to bring down the Supreme Leader. He must recognize that this is not a country that he can lead in any direction that he wants. Khatami and his group now have a lot of experience."

Jafari added that Abtahi had "confessed" that Khatami, Mousavi's campaign manager, Abolfazl Fateh, and Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani had said that "winning this election is very different from those in the past. The Principlist camp and the Supreme Leader would not be able to keep their heads up, and this would mean finishing the job." In Jafari's analysis of the "confession", it "implies greatly weakening the Velaayat-e Faghih, or a political system without it. The protests after the elections had been well-planned."

Jafari then continued, "Moreover, Mr. Khatami said in February 2009 that if in elections Ahmadinejad is brought down, the Supreme Leader will, for all practical purposes, be eliminated. If the reformists take over the executive branch, the Supreme Leader will not have much credibility and power in the society. The Principlists' fall will mean the end of power for the Leader and [therefore] we must control the Supreme Leader by defeating the Principlists."

Referring to the presidential election in May 1997 that was won by Khatami by a landslide, General Jafari quoted Behzad Nabavi, a leading reformist who is still in jail, as supposedly saying, "We must try to make Ahmadinejad the candidate of the Supreme Leader that, if defeated, the Supreme Leader would also be defeated. We did this once in May 1997 that was a heavy blow [to the Supreme Leader] and [he] had a hard time recovering from it. Now, we must deliver the final blow to the Supreme Leader. In order to limit the power [of the Supreme Leader and the hardliners] and make it responsive [to the people] [we] must begin from the top of the power [structure, namely, from the Supreme Leader]."

In another press conference on January 11, 2010, Jafari said, "the root cause of what happened in the election and over the past eight months" lies in the differences between "two fundamentally different views, one Islamic, and the other one materialistic." He is, of course right about the existence of two polarized views, except that one supports dictatorship in the name of Islam, while the other advocates establishment of a democratic system and supremacy of the rule of law. He also declared that, "forgiving the rioters, particularly the Ashura day rioters, is not practical, and even if some officials want to forgive them, people will not allow them." Of course, it was the forces under his own command that killed many people, injured many more, and arrested several thousands.

Such positions have made Jafari the toughest hardliner among the hardliners. Men like Jafari who fought for years in the Iran-Iraq war and saw tens of thousands of troops killed and hundreds of thousands injured -- many for life -- have no hesitation in using force against the Green Movement. This is why the Movement must refrain from violence. If the fate of the Green Movement is to be decided by the amount of blood that can be spilled, men like General Jafari will win the confrontation.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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It is always a pleasure and privilige to read a new article by Muhammad Sahimi. He gives an uniqe insight i Iran today, and frame it in a historical pespective. Thanks a lot from Sweden.

Martin / January 22, 2010 1:54 AM

Amazing how much FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) can be created out of the profile of a rather insignificant figure!

30 years may be a long time, but some of us vividly remember the 80s. I need to explain a few historical facts:

The war between Iraq and Iran was a war that should have never happened and when started should have been won in a matter weeks by Iran. Saddam would have never dared attack Iran, if Iran's armed forced were not demoralized. Saddam was well aware of the total superiority of the Iranian forces.

Iran's forces were demoralized because their top officers were executed at the hands of the same liars, who had first offered them amnesty and better positions in the Islamic Republic.

Khomini and his regime welcomed the war as "God's gift", knowing that the regime was on shaky grounds and would fall if not propped by the unifying influence of an external enemy.

At the time the IRGC and the Bassij were no match for the mechanized army of Saddam and it is a fabricated lie by the regime that they saved Iran. Iranian Armed Forces (Army, Air Force and Navy) managed to repel Saddam forces from Iran's territory after more than a year of defensive and offensive operations, performed by a properly trained armed forces.

For the rest of the 8 years of war, the role of the Armed Forces was gradually diminished and the IRGC was strengthened by the regime, with a mission to reach Jerusalem (Qods) through Karbella (Iraq Shiite holly city).

It was in those years that I.R. cronies like Jafari carved a niche for themselves by ever finding innovative ways to create MARTYRS for the Islamic Republic. Their accomplishments included using boys to clear mine fields. Sending boys to front to fight Iraqi tanks and fortified bunkers, armed with a plastic key to heaven and a rifle.

Jaffari and the like are COWARDS and war criminals. They have no power to stand up to a determined nation risen up to demand its rights.

Khamenei, Jafari and the rest of these criminals are fully aware that they no longer command an army ready to die for their ideals. All they have are demoralized paid mercenaries, ready to drop their arms and surrender at the first sight of a determined opposition; as we all witnessed during ASHURA protests.

Maziar Irani (@maziari) / January 22, 2010 4:30 AM

Let us not forget that people in positions of power in any system of government or economic activity have the greatest stake in their continuation and are thus least likely to accept, let alone participate in, their reformation; moreover, if one believes what has been written about the SL, his family and IRGC commanders (and the Rafsanjanis, admittedly, as well), they collectively are sitting on tens of billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains embezzled from the Iranian treasury & oil fields, giving them no incentive whatsoever to acquiesce to calls for democratization.

The supreme irony that surely is lost on no one is for Jafari to proclaim widely and often that he and the other kleptocrats among the IRGC command and the current regime are pious, ascetic Muslims protecting a virtuous, non-materialistic form of Islam and the, by contrast, "poor as church mice" common people in the Green Movement are materialistic, Godless hedonists who seek to bar their countrymen and women from practicing their faith in any form.

No, sir, it may wash among your support base in the rural illiterates that things are as you say, but the babes you and your ilk among the moneyed IRI "elite" raised to young adulthood see through your cynical attempts to cloak your base criminality in clerical robes by association with Mullahs who also have their hands in the nation's "till," just as the children of the Soviet apparatchiks saw that in contradiction of state propaganda, some Soviets were a lot more "equal" than others.

Did the IRI plant the seeds of its own demise by not completely prohibiting from its inception the study of anything but the Qoran at all levels of education, as well as prohibiting travel abroad and any other form of contact with the outside world? The North Korean "hermit kingdom" or Cambodian Khmer Rouge model would seem closer in spirit and realization to the current SL's aspirations, than the Chinese model the regime seem to be following most closely with the exception of the nuclear program.

One thing you have to give Mr. Ahmadinejad, though, is how bold and direct he is in speech when addressing the West - particularly a recent remark he is reported to have uttered, that if Iran desired nuclear weapons and was going to pursue them, he would be brave enough to tell you (the West)!

The question the West must be losing sleep over is, how far does the seeming analogy of Mr. Ahmadinejad to the plain-spoken American president Truman, the former men's clothing store salesman and only head of government to launch nuclear weapons against another nation, go from here?

Ashoora / January 22, 2010 4:48 AM

Where to start? In order:

The IRGC endorsed Dr. Ahmadinejad in 2005. By that, you claim the 2005 election was rigged? (You should know that in the US, there is a determined level of social pressure among members of the US military to vote Republican.)

What is the "IRBC"? Is this a typo for "IRGC"?

What is so nefarious about a successful, well tuned political organization, the likes built up for and employed by Dr. Ahmadinejad in 2005? (Compare to the present efforts being made for US candidate Sarah Palin.)

Again, you declare that in 2007, Sarlashkar Jafari's practical employment of of the Mosaic Doctrine was a "step to better prepare the IRGC for the 'internal enemy," yet later on in this article you somewhat contradict this claim by pointing out its true intent: as a means of assymetric warfare to be directed against an invasion by an overwhelming conventional military force. You should know this perfectly well by now- I've already pointed out your mistake once before- so I can only conclude this is a deliberate mistruth. One more time: the Mosaic Doctrine is military doctrine- not a law enforcement doctrine- as you continue to falsely claim.

You state the IRGC used "brute force" to quell the post-June election demonstrations. But you utterly fail to mention the fact that the majority of Iran's law enforcement, anti-riot efforts were carried out by NAJA (the Islamic Republic of Iran Police Force), and that NAJA is not an element of the IRGC organization.

Why do you have the Imposed War in quotes? Are you trying to distance yourself from the conventional use of the term? If so, why? (Is your old MEK self showing itself here?)

How did winter potentially hinder Iraq's air defenses during Op. Karbala 4? By this do you mean Iraq's tactical air power?

You have the dates off by a full year for the Karbala battles. Op. Karbala 4 began on Dec, 25, 1986, and Op. Karbala started on Jan. 8, 1987.

The missile supplies provided by Iran-Contra were, by far, composed of maintenance parts. There are claims of 18 HAWK SAMs being supplied, but even if this were to be true and there was a 100% deployment and kill scored, it is mathematically impossible to claim that the majority of 80 Iraq Air Force planes shot down by these missile additions. What's more, the majority of these particular victories over the IrAF were not SAM kills.

How could Jafari be a Brigade commander, and then a Battalion commander? Doesn't make sense- that would represent a major demotion.

As you say, the unfounded rumors of Jafari's participation in the Vienna murders is doubtful (I would say preposterous). So why even mention it?

To be more precise, the student unrest in 1999 was put down mostly by elements of Ansar Hezbollah.

You mention Jafari's command of the "Sarallah Garrison" being "responsible for the capital's security". What about NAJA? What about the Seyed-ol-Shohada Corps?

Again, you incorrectly apply the decentralized nature of the Mosaic Doctrine to Iran's law enforcement efforts- i.e. anti-riot ops. Look at all the photos of anti-riot ops. since June 2009. The vast majority are carried out by NAJA, and not the Ashura units of the Basij. The Basidji role is supplemental to NAJA (a non-IRGC entity).

Regarding your continuous use of "rigged" for the June 2009 election: why is it Professor Ali Ansari, who put out a "preliminary report" on the election results via the Chatham House, and promised a "fuller report" seven months ago, has failed to do so, and it's now reported that Chatham House has no such follow-up report in the making? Lack of tangible evidence- Y'think?

And your conclusion- that IRGC Sarlashkar Jafari will somehow reverse the less-lethal force policy of NAJA (a non-IRGC entity), based upon his record as a genuine Iranian war hero- well, Muhammad, we'll just see about that come 22 Bahman- shall we?

(sorry for the extra-long comment)

Pirouz / January 22, 2010 6:54 AM

It seems that by 2005, Kerroubi had managed to connect up the dots and illuminate a new,toxic trend in iranian politics. Around that time I remember a few articles in the British press profiling the activities of speedboat smugglers between Dubai and Iran. The focus was on the plucky, daring nature of these forays; no mention was made of the IRGC. Now ,it is plain that large-scale cigarette-smuggling for instance is a gov,t sanctioned operation, organised by the IRGC and is as profitable for them as it is for the Neapolitan Mafia.In the past, there was never a hint in Western reports that this was hardly smuggling but something else.Naively, many thought Islamic militants would never be motivated by the merely monetary.

Pirooz / January 22, 2010 8:03 AM

"Given the enemy's numerical or technological superiority, the IRGC would use asymmetrical warfare capabilities, such as those used by Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel in Lebanon."

Given the fact that any confrontation with U.S. and Israel will be from the air and the sea, the use of asymmetrical warfare such as the one conducted by Hezb is pure fantasy and reflective of jafari’s shallow thinking. Iran's Air Force will be wiped out in 2 days and her entire naval force in half a day. Iran will be turned into a parking lot and her leadership targeted.

Iran can fight her asymmetric warfare as a reaction but by then the damage sustained by Iran will be beyond Iran's imagination. Again, a reflection of regime's insensitivity to Iranian people's welfare.

Just the thought that these CLOWNS are under the impression they can withstand a direct Israeli U.S. aerial and naval bombardment of Iran is heart breaking.

"If the fate of the Green Movement is to be decided by the amount of blood that can be spilled, men like General Jafari will win the confrontation."

Another false statement designed to scare the public. The people of Iran are on the rise. The people of Iran are the mightiest power in that country. The people of Iran will have the last word and insignificant flies like Jafari will be looking for holes to hide in just as the world witnessed it in Iraq.

Iran will be free and no amount of exaggerated lies can deter this courageous nation. God bless the Iranian people facing tyranny.

God bless the united States, my home. God bless Persia, the country these barbarians took away from me.

Sohrab / January 22, 2010 8:21 AM

Maziar Irani:

Regardless of how one may think of IRGC, Jafari, and others, your account of the war does not stand up to scrutiny. My youngest brother fought in the war in the army. Two counsins who were trained and officers of the imperial army fought in the war and one was a major figure in the armored division. All of them spent years in Khuzestan and Kurdestan. None was at that time, or currently is, an IRI supporter. And, aside from all of these, there were just too many reporting by credible foreign reporters.

All said that the regular army's role was a supporting one. The bulk of the fighting was done by the IRGC. The air force did play a significant role in the first few weeks, but its role quickly diminished, simply because they ran out of spare parts.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 22, 2010 9:17 AM


Please do not comment again,

HD / January 22, 2010 10:46 AM


1. If you want to act as the chief of propaganda for the Pentagon war machine, Israel, your "blessed" nation, and the destruction that they can bring about, be my guest. But, you are simply clueless, in my opinion.

2. Since you seem to really want violence, blood, and fire, why don't you go there and fight?

3. Yes, Iran will be democratic, but that will not have anything to do with your rants here.

3. "exaggerated lies"? What are you talking about? Spell it out, so that the reader can understand what and whom you are talking about.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 22, 2010 8:03 PM

Muhammad, how can you possibly characterize the role of Iran's air force during the Imposed War as quickly diminishing after the first few weeks?

A month into the war, the IRIAF successfully attacked Iraq's nuclear site, a full eight months before the Israeli strike.

Two months into the war, the IRIAF launched tactical air strikes effectively destroying most of Iraq's navy.

The IRIAF continued to launch effective tactical air strikes against Iraq well into the second year of the war, and in more limited operations for the duration of the war.

There were a number of F-14 Tomcat aces, with kills stretching throughout the duration of the war.

Just look at these air-to-air victory databases compiled for the Iranian air force during the Imposed War:


Quite impressive!

Yes, Iran's air force faced many challenges, including spare parts shortages as well as a shortage of adequately trained service personnel. But just look at the records, and study the now available literature, and you'll see that the old and tired mantra of an Iranian air force completely grounded after the first few weeks is pure poppycock, not the least of which is attributable to US military chauvinism.

Don't believe the hype.

Pirouz / January 22, 2010 8:48 PM

Maziar, your description of the Imposed War is both partial and erroneous. You are unaware of some of the setbacks inflicted upon the regular army, in defensive and offensive operations, as well as the IRGC strategy of denying aspects of the Iraqi armor advantage by deploying itself in built-up urban defenses. Denying the IRGC and Basij contribution in liberating occupied Iran cannot be taken seriously by students of history or true patriots of Iran.

Also, you seem to be completely unaware of the true use of the IRGC, the Basij and the regular army, in offensive operations aimed at removing Saddam Hussein, a leader that had Iran been successful in removing during the Imposed War, would not have been able to directly contribute to over a million more war and sanction related deaths and destruction in the region.

We have the US, USSR, France, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to "thank" for that, in ganging up on Iran, so that it was unable to realize its goal of removing this very dangerous man from power.

Pirouz / January 22, 2010 9:13 PM

I did not mean to diminish the role of Iran's air force. What I meant to say was that it had a decisive role in the war only up to the time that it had enough spare parts. After that it did not have a decisive role. Yes, bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor was important, but did not have any effect on the outcome of the war. But, Iraqi air force would bombg Iranian cities without practically no challange from Iran air force.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 22, 2010 10:32 PM

"1. If you want to act as the chief of propaganda for the Pentagon war machine, Israel, your "blessed" nation, and the destruction that they can bring about, be my guest. But, you are simply clueless, in my opinion."

Mr. Sahimi, you do not want to look into my background. It will embarrass you. However, please explain to me how an asymmetric war is fought in the air and sea against Israel (Air) or U.S. (Air+sea). I will be all ears. Please educate me. I advise you to call Jafari and seek his help on this matter before your response.

"2. Since you seem to really want violence, blood, and fire, why don't you go there and fight?"

Freedom is not free. I would and I am qualified, but your mullahs would not allow me. I will not take back one word as far as the outcome of the confrontation is concerned. If you think that is propaganda, all I can say is you are up for a rude awakening.

"3. Yes, Iran will be democratic, but that will not have anything to do with your rants here."

No rants, just facts. We proved it in Iraq and can easily prove it in Iran, short of boots on the ground.

3. "exaggerated lies"? What are you talking about? Spell it out, so that the reader can understand what and whom you are talking about.

I would like to leave that to your readers, the sons of Persia. I have no doubt they know where the truth lies when it comes to the potential of their own people vs. a third rate military force of thugs equipped with 4th rate weapon systems.


God bless the united States, my home. God bless Persia, the country these barbarians took away from me.

Sohrab / January 22, 2010 11:55 PM

Prof. Sahimi, you seem to know quite a bit about inter-workings of IRI and their personalities. I do not know how reliable your knowledge is, but I would like to know of your opinion on a couple of questions if you care to comment:

(1) Those in charge of iran seem to consider iran as their personal belonging and run the country's affairs more like Mafia than a government. The byproduct of this is extracting raw resources from the country by mulla oligarchy and pocketing the profits into their bank accounts, spending on unholy international thuggery, buying junks from russia/china, or import of everything and anything leading to massive failure of iranian industries and thus high employment. This is evidenced by extreme unemployment amongst college graduates and technicians (carpenters, ironworkers, steel mill, sugar, rice, tea, clothing, ...) as well as reports such as what was recently reported that permits were issued for northern thousand-year-old trees to be cut for timber to be sold by few mulla-zadehs. Do you agree?

(2) The religion that these gangsters practice is very different from what we were taught in school. Compound this with what Khomeini said when he compared nationalism to paganism. I have come to conclusion that these people neither have nationalism nor really believe in religion deep inside (certainly not like what we were taught in school). Thus their recitations of verses and pretense of nationalism they are really playing with weaknesses of the masses, or in other words, are fooling people consciously , thru fake nationalism and religion that they do not believe in, to maintain power and control of wealth. There is a letter on the internet signed by most of these gangs (khamenei, rafsanjani, ...) from Rafsanjani's autobio written to late Hoveida complaining about condition of prisons then and looting of country's resources for buying arms, etc. then, something that the same people are doing in far more extreme levels now that they are in charge. How can anyone who truly believes in god and religion can imprison, torture, rape, and kill, and for what end? That is why I believe that these people really believe in none of what they claim to endear; i.e. they are nationless religionless gangsters without any morality whatsoever. Do you believe these people's pretenses are sincere or just a show?

Thank You!

Shaban / January 23, 2010 2:13 AM

Sohrab, you sound more frightening than Ahmadinejadists.
In fact, you're only two sides of the same coin.

Pedestrian / January 23, 2010 2:19 AM


Your background should embarrass you, not me! But, from your "macho" attitude I can guess what kind of background you may have. I know your kind!

1. I now believe even more firmly that you are clueless, because you do not know what asymmetric war is, whatever your "distinguished" background may be. I suppose you know better than the Pentagon advisor who commented about what Jafari's appointment meant! Yup! Your background will embarrass him as well!

I suggest you take a look at the 2006 war in Lebanon, the present war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, etc., and read what General William Fallon said about the Lebanon war!

I also suggest that you read the account of the conversation between Dick Cheney and the Joint Chiefs in 2007 about the plans for attacking Iran, and what stopped them!! Then, you might begin to get some clues about asymmetrical war, although I highly doubt it.

2. What does "not allowing" mean in this context? "My mullahs" will welcome you! What do you want? A royal greetings at the airport, because you want to go there to fight "my mullahs?" For God's sake, you want to go there to fight. So, the fight starts at your point of entry, wherever that may be! So, you are free to go! See, how clueless you are!

3. The only thing "you" proved in Iraq was that an imperial power, after not succeeding to fool the UN Security Council, can act as an outlaw and stage an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that had not posed any threat to the power, be responsible for the murder of as many as 1 million people, displace another 5 million Iraqi, orphan a million babies, destroy the infrastructure, and in the process bring to power the Shiite allies of "my mullahs", and bankrupt the US nation. Yup! I admit it! you did prove it, all right!

With all due respect - and I do mean respect; I have nothing against whoever you are - you are way way way out of your league if you believe that your absurd, devoid-of-substance, macho slogans get you anywhere in any meaningful debate.

Come back with substance. Do not get agitated, no matter how "distinguished" your background may be. Otherwise, I won't respond.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 23, 2010 3:00 AM


Excellent analysis of the facts and the historical record.

Samuel / January 23, 2010 4:07 AM


1. I agree. My next article, to be posted in the next few days, is on the financial empire of the IRGC.

2. Many are pretenders, but some sincerely believe in what they profess - regardless of how we view their thinking.

Among those who really believe in what they say, their thinking depends on how they view Islam. There are currently three schools of thoughts among the clerics in Iran (and, more generally, elsewhere);

(i) The tranditionalists ("sonnati garaayaan")

(ii) The fundamentalists ("bonyaad garaayan" or, because they are ashamed of it, "osool garaayan")

(iii) The modernists ("degar andishaan")

The first group includes such people as Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, Rafsanjani, Sadegh Lartijani, Shahroudi, and several others in the Assembly of Experts.

The second group - currently holding power together with IRGC - includes Jannati, Mesbah Yazdi, Mohammad Yazdi, Nouri Hamadani, Ahmad Khatami, Ejehei, and their disciples. Ayatollah Khamenei is between (i) and (ii), leaning towards the 2nd group. This is a dangerous group.

The third group includes younger clerics, including Dr. Mohsen Kadivar, Hadi Ghabel, Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari (before he was ordered not to wear a cleric's robe). People, such as the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, Yousef Sanei, Asadollah Bayat, and Jalaloddin Taheri are between (i) and (iii).

Muhammad Sahimi / January 23, 2010 6:03 AM

Well put, Shaban.

Zed / January 23, 2010 6:05 AM

@ Pirouz and Sohrab

You demonstrate how extremists in the US (neocon) and IR (ultracons) have much in common: the end justifies the means.

I double what someone said above, You are 2 sides of the same coin. God help the rest of us caught in your neverending war. :((

Ahvaz / January 23, 2010 7:15 AM

Ahvaz, you (like many others) have misinterpreted my commenting for a form of political advocacy. It is not intended as such. (Unless of course you consider comments detached from any sort of calls for outright subversion a form of political advocacy in itself- which is absurd.)

Look over the comments again. Do you see any political cause being advocated? All of those comments refer specifically to various historical and military inaccuracies, as well as flawed elements of analysis it is my perspective to have found in Dr. Sahimi's article.

Nothing more.

Pirouz / January 23, 2010 9:58 AM

Mr. Sahimi, with all due respect the only one agitated is you. My background makes me very proud , I assure you.I am pleased you know my kind, I know yours.

Here is what I mentioned initially,

"Iran can fight her asymmetric warfare as a reaction, but by then the damage sustained by Iran will be beyond Iran's imagination."

I back my statement 100%.

I am still waiting for your response to my question,

"please explain to me how an asymmetric war is fought in the air and sea against Israel (Air) or U.S. (Air+sea)...... Please educate me. I advise you to call Jafari and seek his help on this matter before your response."

I am waiting.

Sohrab / January 23, 2010 2:03 PM

@ Pirouz

Regarding your "where to start?" comments: While it's appropriate to point out errors in a given analysis, I won't bother with most of the errors you allege, since I see no general significance in them. Other claims:

1) Why is it so obvious that the "Mosaic Doctrine" should only be thought of as a "military doctrine" aimed at external enemies and not a "law enforcement doctrine" intended for domestic use? Given the high emphasis the IRGC has placed on countering the "internal enemy" couldn't it have dual use? Even if the IRGC only acknowledges this doctrine as a military one, it doesn't preclude their recognition of it's wider potential, no matter how they want to advertise it for propaganda purposes.

2) Your assertion that "the majority of Iran's law enforcement, anti-riot efforts were carried out by NAJA (the Islamic Republic of Iran Police Force), and that NAJA is not an element of the IRGC organization," apparently meant to minimize IRGC's role in suppressing protests, is highly unconvincing. Though I claim no detailed knowledge of Iran's security apparatus, given how deeply IRGC has involved itself in political, economic and security issues of Iran, it's not far fetched for it to be involved in coordinating and sharing efforts with NAJA or other security agencies. The nominal independence of the various organs of repression is highly suspicious given the utter lack of transparency and IRGC's behavior. But that kind of speculation aside, it's absurd to claim that IRGC was not a major player in suppressing protests, since their subsidiary the Basij clearly was. Do we have a reliable count of how many NAJA vs Basij members were involved in countering protests? Do we know how much of the violent attacks on protesters were by NAJA vs Basij? And then there's the post-arrest treatment of the protesters, many of whom have very likely ended up in secret IRGC-run prisons.

3) You object to calling the 6/09 elections "rigged" by only referring to Ansari and the Chatham House report. Since they haven't stated any reasons for not producing a follow up to their initial report, any speculation in that regard is as valid or baseless as any other. But many find good cause to suspect massive election fraud based on the gross irregularities in gov't conduct during and after the election, as surely must not be news to you.

4) As far as the "imposed war" terminology, I think it's an apt description. It was initially imposed by Saddam's invasion in 1980. Once Iraq pulled back to its borders in 1982 and there was a suing for peace and payment of reparations to Iran, it's not unreasonable to suggest that Iran's regime had a significant role in "imposing" the rest of the death and destruction of that war.

5) And what's with the MEK insinuation about the author? Could you be grasping at some straws way down in the gutter as a silly apologist for repression? "Y'think?"

illusory pirouzi / January 23, 2010 8:03 PM


The more you talk about your favorite subject, the more it becomes obvious to me that you are clueless about asymmetric war, no matter how "distinguished" your background may be in your eyes.

The first elementary principle of an asymmetric war is that attacks through air (or the sea for that matter) are not necessarily responded to by counterattacks through the air. That would be a normal, or symmetric, war.

The second elementary principle of asymmetric warfare is that attacks on a country may be responded to by counterattacks beyond the borders of the attacked country.

That is why I urged you to look at the 2006 Lebanon war, for example. Israel bombed the hell out of Lebanon, but was defeated.

That is also why I urged you to read the leaked conversations between the Joint Chiefs in 2007 and Dick Cheney about attacking Iran. The Joint Chiefs told Cheney that, "while we can start the attacks, and can destroy all the important centers of Iran, what would be the end scenario? We can start the war, but it will be Iran that decides when it will be finished, because they will respond asymmetrically and beyond their borders." That killed the plans, even for warmongers like Cheney and Bush.

Now, try to digest this, do not get agitated (your comments always read like those of an extremely agitated man), and try to have a good weekend. There will be a great NFL game between the Vikings (my team!) and the Saints tomorrow!

God bless good, anti-violence people.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 23, 2010 10:29 PM

Mr. Sahimi,

Your conclusion that the Green Movement must refrain from violence is an important one. The only weapons that back up The Movement are justice and righteousness. Unfortunately, many may die. The Iranian people have no choice but to show the world how corrupt this regime is...and document every goddamn incident on the internet and show the world.

Azad / January 24, 2010 6:53 AM

dear dr sahimi;
thanks again for such a detailed account of the events in iran.i cannot wait for your visit in our area,in washington dc,in march.

fay moghtader / January 24, 2010 9:39 AM

Mr. Sahimi,
Good game.
I am Sorry to see you were FAVREd.

Your response on asymmetric warfare was not very impressive. I think you will do much better on the financial empire of the IRGC. That is more along the line of your field, academic & theoretical.

Good Luck.

Sohrab / January 25, 2010 8:58 AM


Could you write about your background?
You are wrong about the analytical power of Prof. Sahimi. You don't know about the power of Mathematics, Statistics and Probability, Numerical Simulation and so many other field that are the Fields of interest of Prof. Sahimi.

HD / January 25, 2010 7:19 PM

Dr. Sahimi, thanks for the informative and objective article.
BTW, I thought you'd have a more peaceful time here, but then I saw this Shazdeh (Sohrab)! Also please let me know if you don't want me to put the link to your articles from other Iranian sites. I ask for your forgiveness if you are not happy with me having done that.
#best regards

kharmagas / January 26, 2010 3:22 AM

Kharmagas aziz:

You have always been kind to me, which I appreciate greatly. We are all subject to criticism. We should all be criticized objectively, as this is the only way we can improve ourselves and our thoughts. True, sometimes people do not have any objective criticisms but attack (not criticize) anyway, but that is the price we should all pay in order to excercise our freedom of expression. Thanks for give the link to my articles in other sites.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 26, 2010 7:32 PM