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The Militarized Death of the Republic


20 Feb 2010 18:5727 Comments

This was first published by Tehran Bureau on July 6, 2009.

The momentous June presidential election in Iran and its bloody aftermath will probably be remembered as a turning point in the life of this strange republic. The true face of the state, so meticulously hidden beneath a confusing veneer of "Islamic democracy," surfaced in its true form -- something conveniently forgotten after eight years of reformist rule under Ahmadinejad's predecessor, Khatami.

The aftermath of the June 12 election dealt a major blow to the hope for a realignment of Islam and a representative state. In lieu of any form of a hybrid Islamic Republic, a militarized regime has emerged in earnest -- a regime that had been taking shape since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his mark in the 2005 elections. This regime is now embodied in a coalition of actors including Ahmadinejad, supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC).

The question is not whether this is some form of indigenous Islamic democracy, but instead: What is the role and influence of the clergy? In other words, is Iran still a clerical state, and if not, what is the nature of clerical power in this process, this metamorphosis to a militaristic state?

The Islamic Republic has been in a state of metamorphosis over the past four years. In fact, the state was never purely clerical, as the West has assumed. The war with Iraq during the 1980's changed and twisted it at its onset. Symbolically, the post-revolution clergy carried rifles when leading Friday prayers. The emergence of a military/security clergyman rather than a purely religious figure was intensified when clerics were dispatched to the war fronts, and became ideological commissars of the new regime. They inspired soldiers with recitations of the pain and sufferings of the martyred Shi'a imams. In the meantime, they spied on officers and tried to convert them to the new politicized Islam. But what happened was that the clergy converted to a military-security ethos -- rather than the other way around.

Clerics such as Khamenei, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Hassan Lahooti were among the first clerics put in charge of military personnel and commissioned by Ayatollah Khomeini to create the IRGC, a security apparatus designed to run parallel to the state's army, navy and air force. Khamenei quickly learned where the center of the state's gravity rested, and consequently, never left the security forces. Today Khamenei is the consummate security-military cleric. As the commander in chief, Khamenei probably knows more about military and security issues than about traditional Figh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Shi'ite narratives. A militaristic state, vested in a clerical robe, and aided and abetted by uncountable Basij militia, extends its reach to all corners of society.

The state readily adorns its Islamic trappings whenever the need arises. Clad in burial shroud, scores of Qum seminary students are always ready to parade around vigilantly in order to demonstrate their readiness to fend off the enemies of Islam, while underscoring their belief in the sanctity of the regime at the same time.

The June election and the ensuing violence served the purpose of bringing the regime's oppressive character to light, and obscuring any claims to a democratic republic. By conducting more than twenty national elections in the past thirty years, the Islamic republic trained people in the ways of democracy. The June demonstrations were squarely a national call for more democracy, preceded by months of real campaigning and six televised debates. To have curtailed the process would benefit neither the citizens of Iran nor their governing institutions, but it was bound to happen. In all likelihood the new militarized regime will find no benefit in continuing the democracy game and will, begin to transform Iranian leadership based almost exclusively upon traditional forms of hereditary faux-republicanism -- similar to the Arab and North Korean models.

The gloves-off nature of this exposed Islamic republic is evidenced by Ahmadinejad's declaration in late June that "Communism, liberalism and democracy are all dead; it is high time for [the rise of an] Islamic State." What he did not spell out was that the Islamic State wears boots, and parades in military fatigue.

© 2009 Tehran Bureau - distributed by Agence Global

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"To the romantic this is a tragedy, but to a detached observer it is just another romantic tantalization in the line of many in the twentieth century which was doomed to fail from its inception."

It was not doomed to fail, it has been an experiment by Iranians for Iranians and at the end of the day, this is the Iranians who grew and became taller right after the election, 12 JUNE 09.

We(Iranians) are still learning and there is a lot to learn till reaching a steady-state in this social-political experiment. We are still in the transient state and we don't know when it's gonna reach the steady-state that we dream of everyday.

My only hope is that, we (Iranians)start to learn from our experiences and others and value our existence and rich culture and be the creative we have always been.

Amin Mir / July 6, 2009 3:20 PM

I rather depends if you look at the short term or longer term!

I see this as "The death of the Islamic Republic".

The Islamic Republic is Dead! Long Live The Republic!

Farhad / July 6, 2009 3:34 PM

the Ahmadinejads will self implode soon

Charles / July 6, 2009 3:56 PM

Farhad, this could turn out into a long term goal for the coup regime. They have oil that they can sell to keep the engines of the regime running for decades to come.

Ali / July 6, 2009 4:29 PM

It is hard finding any semblance of democratic ideals in the "Perfect" examples of Islam practiced by Mohammad and the Arab Khalifs forcing islam across the globe from the beginning 1300+ years ago. Good job with the expose'.

Anthony / July 6, 2009 7:36 PM

Everytime I read an article on your website, I get depressed because it is usually a hopeless one . Look at what Iranians and non-Iranians have been doing inside and to some extent outside of Iran since June 12th. This is the begining of the movement towards some sort of reform or democracy. We are dealing with an extremely brutal and militant regime which is also extremely backward thinking as a result of its islamic views which is not the true islam. Please give us some encouragment by being more positive. Every article ends with a dooms day scenario for Iran. There is not enough coverage across the media and my source has been Huffington Post, various blogs, etc. and none of them paint such a picture as your articles do. Besides, the people of Iran need, I think, a much stronger leader than Moussavi who has been part of this regime since 1979. If you go back and review some of the comments left by other readers on some of your articles, you will see what I mean. Thank you.

Minoo / July 6, 2009 10:19 PM

As an American with an opinion (dont mean to meddle as the supreme one might say) its your future.

Or is it? I think what happened with the IRGC was a good thing. He laid all his cookies out on the table for all to see. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the IRGC seems to be saying "All Iranians listen up, because I am in charge of this country".

Now if you really want a Republic for Iranians that can share ideas and advance what seems to be a very nice and good people into a better, happier, and fairer way of life, you'll have to be willing to do whatever is necessary. No Matter what "necessary" is.

Either that, or you have to shut up and do what he tells you. Those seem to be your choices based on his attitude and new position. The Iranian people must decide and be faithful to whatever commitment they choose in order to be successful.

Maybe thats too simple for most but It seems like thats whats on the table to me. Whenever i have doubt about the US Govt (regularly on most position) I try and take a look to this guy for advice.

Thomas Jefferson. He was probably the smartest man we've ever had for President in this country. I wish I could have known him. Here are a couple statements that not only Americans should be allowed to live by but all people no matter what Nation

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Thomas Jefferson

So, looks like the choice the Iranian people will make now will determine their future as it should. All Iranians who believe in liberty should remember Neda, she died for what she believed was important not just for herself but for all Iranians especially your aunts,your sisters and your Mothers.

Michael / July 6, 2009 11:25 PM

You're right in some ways. The culture of leadership in Iran has 'gone military'. However, it's an old story, and its a simple one: the people who are prepared to be the most violent, get to promote their world view and make the rules, at least for a time. To rationalize Iran's struggle in terms such as 'Islamic democracy', 'Islamic republic', 'Islamic state' is entertaining, intellectually interesting, but far from what is actually happening. We have an oppressed people, whose will has and continues to be hijacked by one or more despots, be they Clerics, Guard leaders or so-called politicians. The amazing thing is not which philosophy or blind belief 'wins' over the other one, but that Iranians, like all to many other people fall into the same trap, over and over again. Violence, and the snuffing out of human discourse, dissent, and intolerance are the culprits here. They are all doing it. The clerics bring their rifles to prayer, leaders strut around in military fatigues, and the tactics of control are those of an 'occupying' army. And, maybe that's it - Iran has been occupied by a self-styled military elite, drawn from its own people, who will hold on to power and privilege at any cost.

N Michael Ross / July 7, 2009 7:05 PM

Thank you for a very fascinating and enlightening article.

Dave In America / July 7, 2009 9:29 PM

As a complete outsider,it seems as if the protest movement has changed rapidly in its 1 month of existence. It has gone from a post election protest to a protest about the nature of the Iranian state. As it has changed, the stakes for both sides have increased. In a broad sense, its metamorphosis parallels the incremental way both the French and the American revolutions occurred. Initially both started out about taxation and ended up overthrowing the established government.

Richard Kadas / July 10, 2009 6:58 AM

The Actors Have Just Been Fired

May The People Of Iran Find Comfort

In Knowing It Is They

That Will Change History...

Sara R. Anderson / July 12, 2009 11:52 PM

Nice try

This has **** all to do with Diaspora

& everything to do with US tax dollars being used to try and destroy the Iranian people.

The people who are behind this contrivance have no remorse in killing women & children.

The US is a brutal hegamon, whether or not you argree with Khamenei.

The people who brought the world slaughter of innocents in Iraq & Afghanistan will not rest until there is no opposition to total ethnic cleansing in Palestine, and no objections left to a 100% Jewish state.

If you betray yourselves, you lose everything, there will be much worse rape than that in Evin.

AliReza / September 6, 2009 12:59 PM

well put.

David ET / September 7, 2009 6:24 AM

The mullahs will all hang.

They hung Saddam with his Baath party and vaunted modern american/russian equiped Republican Guards, which were 3x the size of the Revolutionary Guards. They overan that regime in 30 days.

The IRI regime is a mirage; its a Star Trek/Twilightzone episode that used technology (propaganda/misinformation: telexes, cables, cassettes) to magnify a core command of 1000 people to rule millions.

It will be undone by technology....every tweet, bit, byte will eventually drown them.

They are scared and will repeat mistakes of the past.

Shah / February 20, 2010 9:03 PM

Like the fight against the communism regimes, this fight is long term.
The election issue is just the first stage. It is like 1956 Hungary after the Russian invasion, only (for Iran) harder.
To lift your spirits please remember what Talleyrand said, which applies here word-for-word: one can do a lot with a bayonet, except sit on it. Do not give up!

As for the government supporters, do you want your country become just another Afghanistan or North Korea, with the multi-millenial Iranian culture scattered by the government to the four winds? Just think about it if you can...

X_escu / February 21, 2010 1:26 AM

Democracy is excellent, but it neither perfect nor natural. It will come, but the coming will be slow and hard, as it was in Europe for hundreds of years. The Iranian people, bless them, are streets ahead of, say, the Arabs in their reaction to an oppressive régime: they are young, sophisticated and modern. What Arab country has websites scrupulously recounting each political prisoner's fate? We need to keep supporting every attempt at freedom and enlightenment, with intelligence and discretion. Yes, the régime is still in power; but there is a spirit of change being born and stirring that will not easily go away. For something concrete to do to help, send USB keys to Project Haystack. Allahu Akbar -- God is not only great, He is just and merciful. Let's remember Montazeri.

Hrothgar / February 21, 2010 1:41 AM

Why the repost? This piece isn't particularly noteworthy. It's been refuted by the analysis of polls and point-by-point counterclaim, as well as the Iran's unfolding position with regards to the nuclear swap deal.

And what is with the vintage photos from the Imposed War? How can a military dictatorship be commanded by a civilian head of state, a civilian president, civilian MPs and an 85% voter turnout of the electorate?

And could you provide an official source in farsi for the quote attributed to Ahmadinejad? President Ahmadinejad's contempt for Western liberalism is well known. But I've never heard of him disavowing the republic. Show me the proof.

Pirouz / February 21, 2010 9:26 AM


This isn't an issue about civilian versus military rule. This is about a Nazi/Mafia style gang of thugs who wish to maintain power (and the ill-gotten gains from having that power) at all costs, a power which they gained through violence in the first place. I have no doubt that they will continue to use violence against the noble Iranian people so that the few can maintain their privileged positions at the expense of the majority of the people.

Agha Irani / February 22, 2010 1:18 AM

Why is everybody so concerned about this country ?

Angus / February 22, 2010 4:20 PM


Its not some tiny sheikdom or guest-worker state

-#2 largest oil reserves

-#3 Largest Oil Producer

-#1 Army in Mid-East; top 10 in world

-Top 10 $ GDP

-75 Million people

-95+% Literacy

Shah / February 22, 2010 9:38 PM

Angus and Shah,

I would like to supplement Shah's correct answer to Angus's justified question by posting an extract from an interview with the then German Foreign Secretary Joschka Fischer in 2000.

[Excerpts/Quotes from the Interview with the then German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer on the occasion of the state visit of President Chatami in Berlin, given to the broadsheet serious national daily “SZ” / “Süddeutsche Zeitung” – respected for its reporting of international affairs - 13th July, 2000 under the headline]


»[…] The democratic reform process under President Chatami offers a great chance for human rights, democracy, peace and stability in a region which is also for us extremely dangerous. […]

He is supported by the broad majority of the Iranian nation and is facing adversaries who a determined to do anything [against him]. In Iran there is something like a diarchy [ = two power-centres are in rule].
But it would be a decisive mistake not to support the reformers. That is not only a matter of political reason but lies clearly in the interest of Germany. […]

Chatami and the majority of the population behind him do want democracy and thus an Iran that is making use of its POTENTIAL OF A CIVIL SOCIETY and is on this way to become ANCHOR AND MAINSTAY OF STABILITY IN A REGION WHICH IS LACKING IN ANCHORS/MAINSTAYS OF STABILITY.
[As to different views, critical of Chatami:]
Anything else is wishful thinking.

[he criticizes here the hardline Western/American view at that time].


Chatami is clearly organizing policies of opening up.
[…] «

capitalization by the undersigned

[…] = omissions by the undersigned

[xyz] = annotations by the undersigned

translated by the undersigned

SZ, 13.07.2000 -

Publicola / February 23, 2010 12:44 AM


Sorry but you are very wrong.

Iran ranks #29 in GDP $331,800B, we are even behind Saudi Arabia #23 and Turkey #17.

Iran ranks 3rd. in oil reserves 133,300,000,000 barrels after Saudi Arabia #1 and Canada #2.

Iran is #6 in oil production. We are not even in the rank of U.A.E. We never managed to get back to pre revolution production thanks to I.R.'s high tech.

Iran's population is 68,688,433

Iran's female literacy rate is 73%; male literacy rate, 86%. On average 80% of the population.

Military strength, Iran ranks #18 well behind Pakistan #15, Israel #11 and Turkey #10.The core of Iran's military equipments are antique and based on dated technology. Aircrafts, Naval vessels, Tanks , home made missiles to name a few.

I am sorry to disappoint you. I am sure you did not intend to exaggerate the figures however, under the leadership of the Islamic Republic even the present status quo is a miracle.

In the last 31 years Iran has earned close to $800B in oil revenues. That is approximately 8 times greater than the pre revolution Iran or the entire Pahlavi era. In today's Iran an income of T500,000 per month for a family of 4 is considered boarder line of poverty. This is as of last week reflecting an economy of 30% inflation rate and an unemplyment rate of 20%. this number is even higher amongst women at 30%. The collapse of Iran's economy under present circumstances thanks to Ahmadinejad's economic genius is inevitable. Iran's is only a question of time.

Niloofar / February 23, 2010 11:56 AM


+/-10% is not very wrong

The socio. figures are close...sorry didnt take a day off to verify.

The oil figures close as well...reserves is what matters...Schlumberger can revamp the fields in 48 mos. Cartels have locked in consumption; WHENEVR production resumes.

The $GDP # are widely undereported and masked with nonsense exchange rates; the black market is multiples of reported GDP; as well, as petro-barter/transfer pricing on defense with Russia/China/NKorea.

Army # are breathing boots on ground, not "man/net GPS missle tonnes" or some Janes defense "miltary strength/quality" nonsense, written by a pencil neck who never has seen combat.

The USA/NATO cant defeat kids with washing machine buzzer/fertilizer IED bombs in 2 countries for 10 this shock/awe/Hi-Tech Israel, Paki bull doesnt fly. Even Hezbollah '06 war poo-pood Israel military vaunted reputation to ashes.

Also, I didnt mention the banks, bonyads, and other economic entities that are multiples of anything in region, including Turkey/Dubai/Isreal.

I am not a IRI econo booster or aplogist; the IRI is a remake of the planet of the apes with stupid ash-khali mullahs who never ran a fruit stand wasting billions!

I just wanted to point out to Angus that we are not some bail-out Emiriti-patch that hands "make-work" jobs to every Groom!

Shah / February 24, 2010 4:47 AM


By all means. I do agree with you in that respect. However, the Army #s are correct. You use Asymmetric warfare capabilities to counter the arguement.That is comparing apples with oranges.But my intention is not to pretend I am an expert either dear.

I would like you to explain the GDP#s a little bit more detailed please.I am far more interested in monetary policies than military. You mentioned,"the black market is multiples of reported GDP; as well, as petro-barter/transfer pricing on defense with Russia/China/NKorea". Additionally you stated, "I didn't mention the banks, bonyads, and other economic entities that are multiples of anything in the region, including Turkey/Dubai/Isreal." here is my point, our economy is much smaller than Turkey's and our per capita income way smaller than Israel's.I find Dubai too artificial. Finally, the latest central Bank report is reflective of a deeply troubled economy.I thank you and look forward to your response.

Niloofar / February 24, 2010 7:27 AM

as to Iranian army / assessment n(2006):

»"Right now Iran is the most powerful military force in the region, except for the United States of America," Abizaid said Tuesday. Abizaid said he did not count Israel, generally believed to have the most capable military in the Middle East, because it does not fall in his area of operations. "But the mismatch between our military power and their military power is very, very substantial," he added. Nevertheless, he said, Iran should not be underestimated.«

From: NUKEWARS - Iran Favors Asymmetric Strategy In Joust With US
by Jim Mannion
Washington (AFP) Sep 19, 2006

Publicola / February 24, 2010 10:26 PM

The IRGC structure will make it very easy to confiscate these assets when the revolution comes.

A De-Privatization of the Bonyads/IRGC with discounted share distribution compensation to original founders, will produce a brain funnel of all exiles and repatriation of intelectual capital.

This revolution will be based on technology and private equity recapitalization....woe to the clerics with their hyper inflationary currency and abacuss.

The economically illterate mullahs will be penniless, if alive.

Shah / February 28, 2010 3:54 AM

As an avid admirer and supporter of both Frontline and PBS over many many years ... I find this formal liason with Tehran Bureau to be extremely bizarre ... and a woefully stupid and partisan mistake.

Mired in inexplicable and murky roots ... it seems to me to be wholly a product of, or front for ... the 'destabilization-of-Iran' campaign ... and most probably a cut-out of the neoconservative Defense of Democracies.

What next?

A formal PBS liason with the Heritage Foundation and The Tea Party Express as representative Democracy Movements?

You are being utilized as 'useful idiots' for Zionism's sake, neoliberal free market capitalism, and return-to-the-throne Reza Pahlavi lunatics.

Sure the confiscation of Iranian public assets and private equity recapitalization would make a whole lotta people very happy.

Ohm51 / July 2, 2010 6:27 PM