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Coup-d'État? The Iranian Election in Five Acts


27 May 2010 20:0214 Comments

Was Iran's June 12, 2009, presidential election a coup d'etat? A former state media journalist investigates and presents this analysis in five acts. More on Reza Valizadeh here.

Act Two: Islamic Distillations

jafaripromoted.jpgThe Basij didn't get a single shot off. Yes, it was equipped with all sorts of military paraphernalia. It received special military training too. But it never pulled the trigger, ever; the Guards neither. This, despite what the "man in the shadows" had commanded: "Start the fight before they do" -- in the more familiar American idiom, "Take the fight to the enemy."

Nobody pulled a gun. But the years of the 9th government of the Islamic Republic of Iran were replete with exchanges of accusations and threats with the United States and Israel. No war, but the constant talk of it allowed the Basij and the Guards to be turned into heavily militarized organizations. They expanded swiftly even as their gun barrels remained cold -- though election protesters claim that they came ablaze in the days after the June 2009 polling. They claim that the Basij fired, and the Guards too. That is something beyond this discussion.

The focus here is the covert arming and expansion of the Basij and the Guards. Only with such knowledge we can see their roles in the election and its aftermath. Act One of this history mentioned the build-up of the Basij in passing. In this part, I offer a detailed account of the evolution that took place among the Basij and other military and security organizations after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005. While perhaps not a direct route to our goal of finding the "magic ballot boxes," it is a necessary diversion.

A Commanding Presence

Ahmadinejad's opponents believe that he first gained the presidency by supporting, interfering with, and manipulating the Basij, and eventually, the Guards. The 9th government sped the Basij's evolutionary course, changed its cultural, social, and political missions, and turned it into a military machine. It broke with history and prioritized the strengthening and expansion of the Basij's Al Zahra and Ashura military units, initially as a defensive measure in the face of external threats.

By some accounts, Major General Yahya Rahim Saffavi, the Basij commander at the time, did not agree with the changes, but reluctantly agreed to them on the basis of Western threats. Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Aziz Jafari, in charge of training, expanding, and equipping Basij units, ultimately became the central figure.

Rumors of war with the West, even nuclear attacks, spread daily. The military preparations seemed completely natural. The Al Zahra and Ashura units received semimobile and heavy weapons after September 2005.

On September 11, 2006, a significant development took place. Rahim Saffavi was removed from command of the Guards, and Aziz Jafari, just promoted to major general, was installed in his place. Many in the Guards believe that Rahim Saffavi was ousted against his wishes, but the regime-controlled media simply attributed his replacement to the expiration of his ten-year term.

Aziz Jafari took the Guards' helm while keeping command of the Basij. For the first time since the 1979 Revolution, a single person was in charge of both military organizations. The Basij was strengthened with 600 new Iman Hossein units within the year. By 2008, the budget for the Basij had doubled. In 2009, an additional $45 million credit was extended to it by the presidential office of Strategic Planning and Control.

In less than a year, in July 2008, General Aziz Jafari restructured the Guards to create 31 provincial divisions. One division per province, except Tehran, which had two -- one for the province, called Sepah-e Seyyed-Olshohada (Martyrs' Martyr Division), and one specifically for Metropolitan Tehran, the Sepah-e Mohammad, Rasoul-ol Allah (Mohammad, the Messenger's Division). Each division was assigned a holy cleric as a representative of the Supreme Leader, with ranking equal to that division's commander.

hossein-taeb-1.jpgAnother fighting force was also devised, the Sepah-e Sieberi (Cyber Army). According to its founders, this unit monitors the net for suspicious acts and confronts "cyber agitators" and espionage threats.

The July 2008 changes extended to the Basij. Hojatoleslam Hossein Taeb (pictured in turban) was picked by General Aziz Jafari to be Basij commander, although he had been fired from his post as deputy to the minister of intelligence, Ali Fallahian, because of his extremism and violent behavior.

The Russian Security-Intelligence Doctrine

Steadily, the Basij's mission of safeguarding against potential external threats grew to include internal insurgencies. Groups from the Basiji were hand-picked to receive special training for handling street riots. From these, an even more select group received special security training.

General Seyyed Reza Hosseini, a former commander of the Committee for Protection of the Regime, left Iran a few years back. (1) He now goes by his birth name, Mohammad Reza Madhi. He says, "A group of fourteen security and intelligence commanders were selected to receive intensive security training. The trainers were top Russian experts. Later on, a handful from this group played important roles in the electoral coup and the suppression that followed: Mohammad Ali Aziz Jafari, commander of the Guards, and Hossein Taeb, commander of the Basij, were two prominent members of this latter group."

During the year before the most recent presidential election, the Basij conducted several street maneuvers, under rubrics such as "Devotees of Guardianship," practicing responses to various attacks and street riots and training in first aid operations. These exercises were carried out to measure the fighting capabilities and coordination of the Basij's military units. They were instigated by the student riots of July 9, 1999, when dormitories were attacked by plainclothes security agents and the Basij. From then on, in times of crisis, all police stations in the city have been placed under the purview of local Basij Resistance Units. The Army too, carried out maneuvers in Tehran, called "Security and Tranquility," with the aim of enhancing civilian security awareness, protection of vital sites, and civil defense.

Petroleum-based Guards

The Basij, which was once known as Basij-e Mostazafan, literally the Assembly of the Oppressed, before Ayatollah Khomeini's death, was renamed the Basij Resistance Force and steadily became more militarized each day. Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps became more involved in economic affairs.

During this time, Ahmadinejad beat the drum of nuclear face-off and confrontation with Israel. Discussion of a possible U.S. or Israeli attack filled the media, while the U.N. Security Council passed sanction resolutions on a regular basis. Of course, the sanctions led to the departure of foreign companies, strengthening the Guards by giving them the opportunity to take over petroleum and other profitable projects. As the Guards' reach expanded, with transit pipelines and ports falling under their control, its new business operations became a dilemma for the rest of the world. Foreign powers needed the energy, but the Guards controlled the spigot.

The government used "security concerns" to justify not opening projects to bidding. More sanctions helped the financial cartel of the Guards thrive more. The projects awarded to Khatam, the Guards' contracting subsidiary, grew from $7 billion to $20 billion once Aziz Jafari took command.

Yet, the man on the fifth floor of Reformist headquarters, mentioned in Act One, was only concerned with oil income being distributed to the poor and provincial families as part of presidential trips. He considered it one of the three factors that could cost Reformists the election. He had only recognized one side of the coin.

A Prescription for More Boots

Military and security forces in Iran include more than the Guards and the Basij. What was going on with the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Ministry of Intelligence, and the police forces?

The traditionally organized military services didn't go through major changes, with one exception: The Guards, with the support of the Supreme Leader's office, took over the Military Intelligence Protection Organization. That gave it control and use of the armed forces for special situations, leading to several confrontations between high- and middle-ranking commanders by mid-2008. The Ministry of Intelligence, which had little affinity with the 9th government, was left virtually unaltered.

On the other hand, the federal police -- formally, the Might of Discipline -- experienced changes starting from the top. General Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam became the new field marshal. He has been accused of receiving nepotistic favors from his brother-in-law, Ahmadinejad. Before this latest appointment, he was deputy commander of the Basij Resistance Force, and in cooperation with the rest of the Basij, played a central role in Ahmadinejad's victory in the 2005 presidential campaign.

General Ahmad Reza Raddan of the Guards was appointed head of the Greater Tehran police force. He formerly served in the provincial police forces of Khorasan and Sistan-Baluchesten, where he is remembered for his exceptional brutality.

The four years of Ahmadinejad's first term also brought the Civil Security Enhancements projects, framed as tackling hoodlums and hooligans, enforcement of Islamic garb, inspection of women's boutiques and men's barbers, photo studios, singles' houses, and confiscation of satellite dishes. Special units organized displays of those arrested in southern Tehran. They were paraded in different neighborhoods, had ablution pots hung around their necks, were beaten, dragged down the streets, stomped on. The regime's media outlets proudly broadcast these scenes.

In parallel, guidance patrols confronted and often arrested people on the slightest pretenses: if a woman's overall uniform was a bit tight, head cover had slipped back a bit, length of sleeve too short, or pants legs too flared. By the end, even the height of boot cuffs was being measured.

Doctrinal Capital of the 9th Government

Was there a single source for the shift toward confrontation? Was it due only to the predilections of Ahmadinejad and his military cronies, those who had declared that "our problem is not youth's hair" and "citizens are free to dress as they wish"?

Where did these confrontational ideas come from? Inside or outside Iran? The office of the Supreme Leader? Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi? A club of political heavyweights like Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and Gholam-Hossein Elham? In fact, we must look to a source that is comparatively obscure, to many entirely unknown. It is called the Doctrinal Analysis Center -- Security without Borders. (2) It is a place that, by a couple of degrees of separation, connects us to the "man in the shadows."

mk81ea.jpgFounded in 2001 by Dr. Hassan Abbasi, (3) it is known as the "slogan foundry" of the fundamentalists and the 9th government. Its Reality Think Tank and Cultural Enhancement Think Tank specialize in coining slogans and other forms of political language. It distills domestic and imported concepts -- such as velvet revolution, soft overthrow, and resilient confrontation -- into labels for use against opponents.

Dr. Hassan Abbasi, its director, is a Tehran-born university professor, 44 years old. He received his Ph.D. in Great Britain in national security and strategic science. He has published 31 books on strategic studies.

The Center's website is innocuous and incomplete, as if still under construction. There are no links for its staff, mission, or goals. In short, its Internet presence does nothing to suggest the true extent of its influence on policy.

The Center was born from one word: strategy. A private think tank, its mission is to develop the Islamic Republic's doctrine for countering internal and foreign threats in the coming century -- in effect, a strategic expansion plan for Iran.

Why is such a think tank necessary when there is a constitutional system that enables such planning to be conducted within the government? Although the Center is not forthcoming, one figure close to it explains, "A nation's legal system is not conducive to decision making in face of all problems." Those in power are interested in doctrinal research carried out within "pre-legal", "infra-legal" and "exo-legal" frameworks.

According to a brief entry in the Farsi Wikipedia, the Center declares that it has three primary goals:

1- Examining the veracity of historical theories in three realms: Iranian (national history of Iran), Islamic (general religious history and the history of Shiism), and international (histories of peoples and nations).

2- Extrapolating the lessons of history over the next 25-, 50-, 75-, and 100-year periods.

3- Defining Security without Borders: How to understand globalism -- culturally, politically, economically, militarily, and socially -- in a context of "truth" and "falsehood." (2.2)

The "Long Arm" Doctrine

Ehsan Soltani, a former intelligence officer at The Guards, who left Iran like his one-time commander, General Reza Hosseini, says that those who run the Center work, or have worked, at either or both the Intelligence Ministry and the Guards. They hire some of the most promising university students for special projects. As any think tank might, they then sell their research products to the government.

Another of its notable theoreticians is Hassan Rahim-poor-as-ghandi, a member of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution during President Mohammad Khatami's first term. He has published four theological volumes and more than ten political-religious articles. He and Abbasi support Ahmadinejad in all of their speeches and call the Reformists "minions of foreign powers."

Soltani says that the Islamic Republic's belligerent policies, foreign and domestic, are conceived at the Center. One doctrine in particular, named "Long Arm," calls for Iran to maintain a "first strike," offensive, and aggressive political posture toward the West, rather than a defensive or reactive one.

"Long Arm" has been distilled into slogans with which Ahmadinejad has become closely associated, such as Holocaust denial and the eradication of Israel. The doctrine has also manifested in practical support for the Qods Army in Yemen, the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the administration of President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

The similarities between Abbasi's theories of soft rule and asymmetrical initiatives and the physical plans for asymmetrical formations and guerrilla warfare in the Islamic Republic's military organizations are not coincidental.

Civil Security Enhancement and police confrontations of citizens are internal by-products of the same distillation. In essence, this is a doctrine that favors "prevention instead of cure." To avoid facing cultural, political, and other types of aggression, they have to be prevented. There is no other option on this path but to choose proactive, offensive, and aggressive postures.

This doctrine's source is based not in practical considerations or even political inclinations, but in religious tenets. Every theory, every foreign or domestic policy that the Center conceives is mined from the Qu'ran, the Nahj'olbalaq-e (a collection of sermons, letters, pronouncements, and myths about Ali, the first Shia Imam), or other Islamic tomes.

Not all the mining efforts are carried out within the Center's confines. There are two primary sources for the doctrines' religious bona fides. The first is the Mahdaviat Research Center, (4) also known as the Bright Future Organization, in Alley No. 25, off Qom's Saffayieh Avenue. Ehsan Soltani is one of many who accuse it of close association with hojatieh, or messianic groups.

The second can also be found in Qom. It is from here that the "man in the shadows" expounded, "Jihad is a door to heaven which God opens to select followers. Jihad is their Godly pious robes, righteous armors, and invincible shields.... Be aware, you're called to fight this tribe, day and night, hidden or exposed, before they get to fight you.... The almighty is witness that no nation has been attacked at home unless by its weakness. But you passed on the responsibility for jihad to others and have not risen in camaraderie, so the enemy has been able to attack you from all directions and taken your towns. The army of this man from the Ghamed tribe could enter Al Anbar, execute Hessan-son of Hessan-e Bekri, and kill all your border patrols. I have heard that many of them had attacked Muslim women and children, looted their jewelry, but not one them was injured and not a single one of them killed."

This amalgam of sermon 27 of the Nahj'olbalaq-e with miscellaneous verses from five chapters of the Qu'ran shapes the religious inspiration of the "Long Arm" doctrine, which has been so pivotal in the development of the bellicose policies of the 9th government.


1- Under the name Seyyed Reza Hosseini, Mohammad Reza Madhi held key intelligence and security positions in Iran. He commanded various Guard units during the Iran-Iraq war. With the Guards' Investigations unit, his mission was to uncover bureaucratic abuses in the intelligence office. He was a counsel to the minister of intelligence in 1991. By private mandate, he was assigned to the investigative experts group at the Supreme Leader's office the same year. In 1992, he was assigned a special joint Committee of Intelligence Ministry and Guards' Intelligence Unit, tasked with the review critical cases to help coordinate the nation's various security and intelligence organizations. He was selected by the Assembly of Experts as a special counsel to its investigations and inspections committee. He is known for his myriads of special assignments with the Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence, such as investigation of internal malfeasance at Guards' Preservation unit. He suggested the creation of an organization to investigate and address the regime's vulnerabilities. Ayatollah Khamenei subsequently approved the creation of such a body, named Bureau 313.

According to Madhi, his mandate covered 38 national cases, one of which was the Chain Murders of the 1990s. He became entangled with the Intelligence unit of the Ministry of Justice while investigating corruption at the ministry and was detained for 45 days. He believes his investigative efforts led Ellias Mohammadi, head of the ministry's Intelligence office, to attempt to frame him. Eventually these machinations, along with health problems due to chemical injuries he sustained during the war with Iraq, caused him to leave the country. The following links, in Farsi, provide more on Madhi and his experiences.

1.1- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50PM369g2mc&feature

1.2- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-yuNH4izsk&feature

1.3- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh7ox8BoJqQ&feature

1.4- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxlyIIMBgts

1.5- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jBH4h9R2SM

1.6- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbH-DVthKq8&feature

2- The first link connects to the Doctrinal Analysis Center's Reality Think Tank and Security without Borders website. The second link is the Farsi Wikipedia entry that describes the Center's goals.

2.1- http://andishkadeh.ir/

2.2- http://fa.wikipedia.org/wiki/اندیشکده-یقین

3- The following links offer a glimpse of Dr. Abbasi's thoughts and rhetorical techniques. Also in Farsi, they are mostly lectures given at schools and addresses to the Guards and the Basij.

3.1- http://youtube.com/watch?v=1LUZQK1g6uo&feature=related

3.2- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEabYnFxpkg&feature=related

3.3- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTmsm8AQJQM&NR=1

3.4- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6PT5vt7blU&feature=related

3.5- http://youtube.com/watch?v=bxplqKzCxI8

3.6- http://tarafdarane-abbasi.persianblog.ir/post/3/

3.7- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYFbQMlTv_U&feature=related

3.8- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TiVGmebIPQ&NR=1

3.9- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_sepMvqNM8&feature=related

4- Links to site related to Mahdaviat Research Center:

4.1- http://www.intizar.ir/

4.2- http://www.porsojoo.com/fa/node/11628

This series by Iranian journalist Reza Valizadeh is a joint project between Tehran Bureau and Tehran Review. To read this article in Farsi, please click here.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau, Tehran Review

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lol. This really is Harry Potter and Friends ... and it even comes in installments too!

I know the work of Hassan Abbasi quite well. He is quite a character, a real brain behind the hardliners strategic planning, but making him out to be the Lord Saruman (read Lord of the Rings) is ridiculous. He's in the same caliber as those planning world domination and destruction in the American Enterprise Institute, AIPAC, etc, etc. (and how much of their perfidy and destructive influence can you discern from their websites anyways? why would the Abbasi think tank be any different?)

What makes Abbasi powerful is his particular rhetoric: mixing in truths about Western hypocrisy, Israel/Palestine, etc with lies about the state of Iran. It's a very powerful argumentative strategy.

Why does the author try to create a real mythical fantasy out of this? Hassan Abbasi has been talking and spreading his vile rhetoric for at least a decade for the world to see. There is nothing mythical or secret about it.

Houshang / May 27, 2010 11:01 PM

I was going to offer a point-by-point critique of this narrative (as I did to Muhammad's biography of Maj. Gen. Jafari) but realized it wouldn't be worth the effort. The author makes many mistakes, isn't knowledgeable in Iran's military affairs and deliberately makes use of incendiary wordings.

Using Hassan Abassi in this role is sort of like making Charles Krauthammer out to be the super genius guru for the entire United States of America. Absurd. But I will say this: at least Abassi is a genuine Iranian war hero.

Is this the final installment? I certainly hope so, for the time lost reading it has been nothing short of embarrassing.

Pirouz / May 28, 2010 2:37 AM

To the critics of this article and the previous I have one suggestion;
If you claim to have such knowledge of Iranian affairs please enlighten all of us, including the author and write a complete article which meets all journalistic standards you hold other authors to. submit to Tehran Bureau and if all sources are reliable I am sure web master will have no problem publishing them.

If you do not write such an artilce please refrain from critisizing other authors with out reliable sources to back up your rebuttles.

Mehrdad / May 28, 2010 7:22 AM

The author establishes a link between the coup organizers and Russian intelligence solely on the basis of claims made by Mohammad Reza Madhi, a defector.

In February, VOA’s executive director, Steve Redisch, was taken to task by Newsmax.com for the allegedly pro-regime bias of his organization’s Persian News Network (PNN). Part of the Q&A between Newsmax and Redisch concerned Mr. Madhi:

Q: A former top aid to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Mohammad Reza Madhi-Takezand, gave several interviews to reporters in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had sought refuge. PNN reporters proposed interviewing Madhi – either by satellite, or live – but had their request turned down. Why?

A: We’re aware of one interview only. No responsible news organization touched this guy. Once again PNN editors had legitimate concerns about the authenticity of this individual.


Mr. Madhi was first brought to prominence by Maxmilian Wechsler, a "freelance writer" for the Bangkok Post.

The Bangkok Post did not bother to inform its readers that Wechsler was also a naturalized Australian of Czech origin, employed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) in the 70s as a spy to infiltrate leftist labor organizations.

Phillip Deerey, a professor at Victoria University did an expose on Mr. Wechsler using declassified Australian national security archives, accessible at this link:


In his first interview with Wechsler, published on 3rd January, 2010, Madhi called for re-establishing relations with the U.S. and recognizing Israel. He also predicted that:

"I am sure that very soon the Iranian people will take up arms and fight the government. The future for the Iranian people is bright."

Insider Predicts Regime Change, Maxmilian Weschler, Bangkok Post, 03/01/2010

The Iranian embassy in Thailand lambasted the article, alleging that Madhi was an impostor. In response, Madhi published a letter in the Bangkok Post on 10th January, 2010, brushing aside the embassy's invective and asserting:

"I showed all my professional and personnel documents to Mr Wechsler before he agreed to move forward with the interview, and I am prepared to publish all related film, photos and documents to prove I am who I say I am. ... In order to prevent any damage to my country and government I will refrain from revealing any details now."

POSTBAG – Reply to Iranian Embassy, 10/01/2010

But why would Mr. Madhi eagerly anticipate armed civil insurrection against the government and later refrain from "revealing any details" out of concern for damaging the government?

Go figure. All is fair in love and war.

Ali from Tehran / May 28, 2010 7:53 AM

I imagine the theoreticians of Iran are just as likely to come a cropper as their US variants have done on a number of occasions, before how much damage has been done. But it certainly gives an idea of where their thought processes (if you can call them that) come from and where they are going, the trend of future behaviour.So far the series has been informative and I have to revise a few of my assumptions. Looking forward to the rest of the articles, as are the critical commentators I am sure, who have to make an extreme effort read them let alone comment on them.

pirooz / May 28, 2010 9:49 AM


Please do offer us a point-by-point critique of the narrative. For me, an Iranian who's spent the better part of my life abroad, it can be quite difficult to become knowledgeable about the strategies of the Iranian regime.

I surely hope that this isn't the last installment by Mr Valizadeh.

And regardless of the way Hassan Abbasi is portrayed in this article: if all you have to say to Abbasi's defence is that he's a genuine war hero then you have really nothing to come with.

Mr Valizadeh, please keep them coming as me and a lot more Iranians abroad are really enjoying getting a better insight into this murderous regimes dirty strategies.

Best Regards,


Ali / May 28, 2010 5:53 PM

The 2005 election of Ahmadinejad and his "re-election" needs to be viewed in the larger context of America's military-corporate complex long-term objective of controlling the Middle East and Central Asia, where 65% of the world's fossil fuel resources are located.

Valizadeh's writings so far are simply presenting the behind the scenes details of how the power elite of Iran has prepared and responded to this threat.

If an election has to be stolen, or a few imprisoned, or killed, in the larger context it is justified in the eyes of those in power. After all they are essentially working very hard to save their own necks.

Mohammad Alireza / May 28, 2010 7:52 PM

Oil does seem to be a curse for those that have it and it is vital to all economies. I think it was Rumsfeld who I don't usually agree with who said when queried as to whether Iraq was Blood for Oil who said that no matter who has the precious resource, it will be sold to whomever bids the highest and control of the terrain is irrelevant. In Iraqs case the US problem was that were unrestricted oil sales allowed he would have been sitting on a treasure pile that he would have used on military hardware and aggressive actions in the middle east. Removing him would remove this danger and allow a free flow of oil to buyers. The Iraq war was about other things as well such as his undermining of Israel ,Bush Jr himself and the conviction of the Neo-Cons that turning Iraq into a democracy could reshape the middle east favourably for US interests.
Lets say the US would like to see every country with oil be turned into a colony of their military imperialism, wouldn't the cost of such a program outweigh any economic benefit? Doesn't the cost of Iraq show how ridiculous such an objective is?
Although in the future, resources will be central to new conflicts (We haven't seen Water Wars yet) if a more enlightened approach to these issues isn't developed, it is difficult to say we are at this stage now. Most western countries would prefer to buy or trade for what they need rather than take it via invasions but the problems of the arms traders and the huge disparity between consumption in the west and the rest of the world is still there and stoking needless wars.
Iran is part of this landscape but if the coup regime was motivated purely by defensive concerns wouldn't it be better to have their people backing them ahead of a conflict instead of designating an obvious clown as President over their wishes and showing violent contempt for the population. No the coup in Iran has other dimensions, it is an ideologically driven campaign to monopolise power and wealth, expand influence and promote an 'alternative' reality, alternative 'justice' , 'alternative' democracy,'alternative' human rights and 'alternative' science which can be seen in the US and elsewhere also.Otherwise known as Fundamentalism.

pirooz / May 28, 2010 9:47 PM

All right, Ali, I'll take the time (you owe me):

The author contends the Basij received "special military training" we assume related to an alleged election coup. What special training? Which unit(s), where, how many? (There are millions of trained Basij, is it the contention that all received some sort of special training and what kind?)

The IRGC and to an extent the Basij were already militarized before the 9th government. So this is a misleading statement.

The IRGC and Basij "expanded quickly"? How so? Give us the numbers.

The claim is made that "the Basij fired, and the Guards too" on the protesters, but is backed away from. Why?

Covert arming and expansion of the Basij and the Guards? Ridiculous. Every week Iran state media has at least one article on Iran's defense upgrades, many times including the Basij and the Guards. Just last week, there was a pictorial published of student Basij in training, as there are every year. The IRGC is constantly promoting its counter-soft power abilities. There's nothing covert about any of this.

The author claims a military transformation for the Basij, but leaves out the fact that during Jange Tahmili (Iran-Iraq War), on many occasions the Basij were the primary fighting force on the battlefield. Thus, it's applications may have shifted during the course of the past 30 years, but it has always remained a martial entity, in some ways (not all) comparable to the American Army National Guard (ANG). Like the ANG, it was envisioned that the Basij could be used to supplement NAJA in moments of crisis, with specialized training provided for special units of the Basij, the Ashura and Al Zahra.

Major General Saffavi was not the Basij commander. He is a former IRGC commander. The author seems to be confusing the unsuitability of Maj. Gen. Saffavi in countering the threat of a US invasion and soft power projection, with a sense of reluctance. This is misleading (and possibly deliberately so). Maj. Gen. Jafari became the architect of the Mosaic doctrine, an assymetric military approach to countering the American threat(s), which was primarily a change in organization, not equipment.

Al Zahra and Ashura units received semimobile and heavy weapons? First of all, what on earth is a "semimobile" weapon? And heavy weapons? Most of the actual additional training came in the form of baton and shield exercises (and the Al Zahra female units have yet to be deployed in any significant actions). There is actually less of a reliance on tactical heavy weapons in the Mosaic doctrine, so again the author's contention here is highly suspect.

Maj. Gen. Jafari's promotion to commander of the IRGC was well publicized, as were his credentials in assymetric warfare. So the need for a more suitable commander was actually highlighted in the changeover.

There is a grammar problem in the narrative (one of many) concerning Jafari's reorganization efforts, including placing the Basij within the IRGC command structure. It's also misleading to characterize this reorganization into some sort of massive expansion in full-time personnel.

There's a problem of continuity in the narrative, regarding the specialized anti-riot training of specialized Basij formations. There's also a problem of description referring to "security and intelligence" commanders receiving "intensive security training" from Russian experts. Generally, such training is more valuable at the unit level, rather than top command level. But the author doesn't describe the contents of the training, so we're left to speculate.

The Basij and Army exercises the author mentions were not unusual. All such organizations in every country maintain similar states of readiness (many countries even more so, even in the West). It's a strange omission that the author leaves out the exercises of the Seyed-ol-Shohada Corps and IRGC Quick Reaction Force in Tehran. Another strange omission is the formulation of IRGC "order" formations. (It's as if this narrative is composed entirely from instances of hearsay).

There's a mischaracterization (might be grammatical) regarding the role of the Military Intelligence Protection Organization (its persian name would be helpful here). This is not an organization entrusted with Artesh overall command responsibilities...

Ali, I'm sorry, I'm going to break this off right here. Its taking up too much of my time, and too much space in the comments section of Tehran Bureau. I think you get the point.

Pirouz / May 28, 2010 10:04 PM

Mehrdad, our criticism of this article is that it makes up fantasy tales which may be fit for a blog, but not a publication/agency/outlet which claims to be credible.

Our point is that NO on should be writing things of this sort when there is no credible evidence, not that I (or any other critic) should be writing it instead!

I suggest you go back and read what exactly we thought was wrong with the article.

Houshang / May 28, 2010 10:16 PM

Ali@5:53, that's a really good idea. Like the community outside Iran hasn't built enough false fantasies about Iran already, let's have someone else add to the tall tales. That's exactly what is creating this alienation between the inside and outside communities and is furthering the expats from understanding what is going on in Iran: we only rely on myths and tales fabricated by the likes of those we consider "ex-insiders" so we can coax ourselves into believing whatever hasbara they feed us. It is always anti-regime as well, and since we all hate the system, we can encourage our minds even further to believe this rubbish.

Houshang / May 28, 2010 10:25 PM


Your final paragraph actually falls within the context that I outlined. Defending Iran for the power elite means defending fundamentalism and those that don't subscribe to fundamentalism will either be forced to obey and submit or be silenced.

Mohammad Alireza / May 29, 2010 6:48 AM

I am not sure you can easily defend fundamentalism when it conflicts with basic human traits such as bonds of family and friendship. Even in the purest form of Totalitarianism it was impossible to erase these completely. That is why fundamentalists and I consider Soviet Communism one example, have ersatz, impermanent values that can't but fail.Also if the majority don't believe in this false value system how effectively are they going to defend them? It is also important how they are defended.How many can you silence?

pirooz / May 29, 2010 9:39 PM


The points you have made are exactly why the current power elite will eventually fail.

They will also fail because fundamentalism is not based on reality but on a foundation of un-truths, superstitions, and false beliefs which further depend on brainwashing.

Given the level of education in today's Iran this brainwashing has started to erode and therefore the entire system is under threat.

The eyes of ordinary Iranians have opened and no matter the level of brutality and barbarism the truth can no longer be suppressed.

The days of the regime are numbered.

Mohammad Alireza / May 30, 2010 10:11 AM