"There are commands from the ruler which are not accepted."
-Sun Tzu, The Art Of War
Following the end of every war, it is expected that a nation's
leadership would use foreign and domestic resources (human and
material) to regain the state's inter national stature while at
the same time rebuilding its economic infrastructure. Six years
after the ceasefire between Iran and Iraq, all reports indicate
that the Iranian government of Hojatol Islam President Hashemi
Rafsanjani has failed to achieve normal levels of domestic recovery
and international status befitting a state of Iran's potential.
Instead, the clerical regime, through gross violation of the basic
human rights of the Iranian people, and the mismanagement of the
economy, has incurred the wrath of the people. The clerical regime's
ill-advised and provocative foreign policy has also isolated Iran
from that sector of the international community which is best
suited to help expedite its recovery process.
The government in Tehran has associated itself with schemes and
movements which are unacceptable not only to its own people but
also to its regional neighbors and the majority of the international
community whose help is essential to Iran's national priorities.
A few important examples of the clerical regime's policies are:
its support for and complicity in state- sponsored terrorism;
its proselytization of revolutionary Islam, and its undermining
of the Middle East peace process by giving moral, political, and
ideological support to radical groups such as the HezbAllah and
Hamas. The persistence of this kind of behavior, which is antithetical
to the Iranian national interest, and the increasing domestic
repression combined with the worsening economic conditions have
caused riots in many cities over the past two years.
There has been spontaneous and violent unrest in the Iranian
cities of Arak, Mashad, Tabriz, Isfahan, Najafabad, and lately
in Qazvin and Zanjan. However, it is not only the civilian population
that has become disenchanted. The Armed Forces - the professional
military as well as some segments of the Pasdaran (Revolutionary
Guards) - have also become dis-affected with the clerics' mishandling
of both the domestic and foreign policies. In written statements
over the past year, several retired and respected Army officers
who sided with the revolution in 1979, have criticized, and on
occasion denounced, the govern-ment and warned the clerics about
the consequences of their dictatorial rule.
In August 1994, a group of active commanders from the Army and
the Revolutionary Guard, in response to an order to deploy their
forces in Qazvin and deal with the civil unrest, issued a statement
declaring that the sworn duty of the Armed Forces was to defend
the integrity of the country, not to suppress the people. Also,
in early September 1994, a former head of the military police
during the early years of the clerics' rule, Brig.-Gen. Azizollah
Amir-Rahimi, issued a proclamation citing the bleak economic situation,
the totalitarian rule of the clerics, and the ever-increasing
violation of basic human rights of the people declared that the
time had come for the clerics to return to the mosques and hand
over power to a government of national salvation.
We believe that this crisis of confidence within the Armed Forces
is a crucial turning point in the politics of Iran. Since the
Anned Forces have always played a decisive role in Iranian politics,
we are dedicating this issue of Focus On Iran to the discussion
of this role and to the mission of the Armed Forces and their
duty to help the Iranian people in their quest to bring peace,
freedom, and security to their land.
Legator Of Identity
since the founding of the Persian Empire 2,500 years ago, the
Army has traditionally been the national symbol of both the political
and popular components of the nation as well as the legator of
the Iranian Identity. The basic link between the people and their
Army through these years is evident in the popular support for
and admiration of the Army on one hand and the fact that only
in rare exceptions has the Army turned on the populace despite,
in some instances, orders to do so from the highest authorities
of the state.
In more recent times, the Armed Forces have been virtually the
only institution representing the national will of Persia (and
later Iran), particularly in the period following the forceful
imposition of Russian and British hegemonic spheres of influence
In 1921, the Army was the source of political change that moved
the nation towards modernization and upward progress. From its
ranks came the strongman Reza Khan, subsequently enthroned in
1925 as Reza Shah, who founded the Pahlavi Dynasty. Reza Shah
was able to overcome the disorder and chaos sweeping across the
unfortunate and nearly dismembered Iran. This represents the dawn
of the modern era in Iran, and Reza Shah dedicated himself to
the rejuvenation of the Persian identity and national
by concentrating on the social and economic modernization designed
to bring Iran to an elevated standing in the international community.
As Kamal Atatitrk did in Turkey, Reza Shah limited the power
of the clergy who represented obstacles to progress. With all
of its drawbacks, many of the achievements of this period are
acknowledged even by those opposed in principle to the Pahlavi
regime. The Iranian Armed Forces under Reza Shah were transformed
into a modern Army very much aware of its Persian heritage and
identity. (In marked contrast, the present clerical regime, having
chosen non-Persian names and identities for the Navy, Air Force,
and Army units is attempting to de-Persianize the institutions
of the Armed Forces, by putting all units of Armed Forces under
the spying eyes of Nazi-style Islamic ideological bureau. This
runs counter to the historic reality of Iran and the identity
of its people as depicted by Ferdowsi.) The Army was effectively
changed from an ill-equipped, un-coordinated band of soldiers
into a well-disciplined, organized and responsive defensive force.
During and After World War II
During World War 11, while under partial British and Soviet occupation,
the Iranian Army was instru mental in maintaining public order
and safety, guarded against the very real threat of German inspired
sabotage, and provided logistical and security support for the
Allied Lend-Lease supply lines to the Soviet Union from the Persian
Gulf port terminals.
The Soviet occupation of Iran, and the setting up of the separatist
regime in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan, immediately after
World War 11, and the subsequent creation of the puppet regime
in Mahabad was rigorously opposed by the government in Tehran.
Its threat to use its Armed Forces to oust the puppet government,
of the overwhelming superiority of its Soviet backers, was sufficient
incentive for the United Nations, with the unqualified support
of the United States, to back the Iranian demands and force the
Soviets to abandon their occupation of Azerbaijan. Finally in
1946, Iranian forces marched into Tabriz thereby preserving the
territorial integrity of Iran.
In the early 1950s, during the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company, and the premiership of the nationalist leader, Dr.
Mohammed Mossadegh, the Armed Forces were fragmented by three
opposing ideologies. One segment supported Mossadegh, one segment
was completely under the sway of communist ideology and was directed
by the Tudeh party, and the third segment was loyal to the monarchy
and ultimately participated in the coup which toppled the Mossadegh
During the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah, particularly in the late
1960s and 1970s, with the training and material support of the
United States, the Iranian Armed Forces became the most important
fighting force east of the Suez. The Iranian Navy played the role
of a stabilizer for two decades following the British withdrawal
from the Persian Gulf in 1971. Indeed, the Iranian Armed Forces
defended both north and south of Hormoz against Marxist subversion.
On one hand they prevented the fall of Oman, and on the other
hand thwarted Yemeni inspired guerrillas to subvert the Persian
After Revolution, The Purge
The revolution of 1979, resulting in the overthrow of the monarchy
and the ascent to power of the radical clergy, was neither instigated
nor implemented by the Armed Forces. However, a major factor in
the ultimate triumph of the Islamic revolution was the announcement
of the neutrality of the Armed Forces. Once in power, Ayatollah
Khomeini and the Islamic Republic commenced a reign of terror
against the Armed Forces in the name of misguided justice and
retribution. This action resulted in the removal and execution
of a significant portion of the higher echelons of the Armed Forces.
It was believed by the religious authorities that these officers
were not loyal to the revolution, though there was never a question
about their loyalty to the nation. Without doubt, the execution
of the officers were political murders without legal foundation.
This decapitation of the Armed Forces played a significant role
in the initial failure of the Army to prepare for and counter
the Iraqi invasion in 1980.
One is reminded here of the circumstantial similarities with
the Stalinist purge trials against the leadership of the Red Army
in 1937-38 and the subsequent disastrous failure of the Red Army
to counter the German attack (Operation Barbarossa) in 1941. It
is almost as if Stalin's actions served as the prototype for Iran's
current radical revolutionary leadership.
Heroic Defense Against The Iraqi Invasion despite the decimation of the armed-forces professional leadership
and the ineptitude of the political leadership in its handling
of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the heroic action of the combat
including the Revolutionary Guards, ultimately blunted the Iraqi
invasion to the point where a stalemate armistice was declared
in 1988. Once again, the experience of the Red Army in World War
II should be recalled: the principal motivating factor in its
ultimate success against the Nazis was its realization that it
was fighting for the "motherland" Russia and not for
the Stalin's Bolshevik regime.
Similarly, the Iranian combat forces realized that they were
fighting to save the Iranian Nation, not the Ayatollah's political
theocracy. In spite of the mismanagement of the war effort by
the clerical leaders, materiel insufficiencies, and many other
shortcomings, the Armed Forces achieved its strategic goal by
preserving the territorial integrity of Iran.
It is significant that although the Revolutionary Guards originated
as instruments of the regime, they fought shoulder-to-shoulder
with the professional Armed Forces in the defense of their country.
(All indications are that the majority of the Pasdaran now identify
with the people rather than the goals of the regime.)
The current govern-ment of Rafsanjani and the radical clerics
is once more endangering the nation's security without concern
for the harm that it might have on the Armed Forces' ability to
maintain an acceptable level of readiness and morale. This development
is manifested in the government's involvement with international
terrorism and its attempts to foment political instability throughout
Iran's regional and international activities have isolated it
as a "backlash state" and caused the international community
to refrain from helping the Iranian Armed Forces re-equip and
recover from the devastation of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Only
the communist regime in North Korea can be considered a reliable
supplier of weapons, especially the Scud-C intermediate-range
ballistic missile. Even China and Russia have revised their policies
regarding unqualified arms sales to Iran due to its suspected
support of terrorism, its policy of propagating revolutionary
Islam, and its undermining of the Middle East peace process.
Dealing With Saddam.
T he recent meeting of Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati
with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz at the United Nations,
just prior to the October crisis over Iraq's threat to Kuwait,
and recent statements by Rafsanjani on Iraq have raised questions
about Iran's interest and role in Saddam Hussein's activities.
In the October 6, 1994, issue of the daily newspaper, Ettela'al,
published in New York in Farsi, with the financial support of
the Tehran regime, Hojatol-Islam Ataollah Mohajerani, an advisor
to Rafsanjani, is quoted as saying that the meeting between Velayati
and Aziz could lay a new foundation for rapprochement between
Iran and Iraq. Apparently preparations have already been made
for Velayati's visit to Baghdad.
For the Iranian clerics to become the new apologists for Saddam
would result in incalculable harm to Iran and the Armed Forces
by further cementing its pariah status.
It has come to our attention that some senior Iranian government
officials are interested in establishing an anti-Western/anti-U.S.,
anti-Saudi, and anti-peace cooperation regime in the region -
possibly they are moving to establish a "Tehran-Baghdad Axis".
In the same October 6 issue of Euela'at, Mohajerani is further
quoted as saying that both Iran and Iraq were Muslim countries,
both were against the U.S. effort for peace between Israel and
the Arabs, both could coordinate their OPEC policies, and both
needed to have secure borders.
According to Mohajerani, they should therefore work together,
especially in opposition to U.S. influence in the region. This
Iranian-Iraqi cooperation would be antithetical to Iran's national
interests and dangerous to the security of its Armed Forces. It
should be remembered that Iranian casualties were over 400,000
killed and over one-million injured and/or maimed in the eight
years of war with Iraq. It might be good for the immediate political
goals of the regime in Tehran to make an alliance with the other
pariah state of the region, but such an alliance would certainly
not be in the long-term interests of Iran and the Iranian people.
Peace with the Iraqi people is acceptable, but peace with the
unreliable and mercurial Saddam Hussein is not. Any such peace
should be conditional upon Iraq's return of all Iranian POWs (reportedly
numbering over 30,000), the payment of reparations for invading
Iran and the damages it caused during the eight years of imposed
war, and the full acceptance of the Algiers Agreement of 1975
over the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
So it seems evident that the Iranian Armed Forces should send
a message to the clerical leadership that they will not accept
any agreement with Iraq until these demands are met in full, and
without any preconditions or alliances threatening the peace and
stability of the region. While Iran must oppose the disintegration
of Iraq, it must resist dealing with and legitimizing Saddam and
the Ba'ath party.
nternally in Iran, there is great economic and social distress.
The Army has correctly made it clear that it will not act to harm
the populace on behalf of the political goals of the regime. Since
1990 there have been increasing numbers of civil disturbances
and riots throughout the nation due to these economic and social
dislocations. Although these riots have been vigorously suppressed,
this suppression has occurred for the most part without the participation
of the armed force. Moreover, the Armed Forces have not shown
any intention to either cooperate with the regime by supporting
its repressive actions or, conversely, to overthrow it.
There seems to be an implied understanding that the Armed Forces
would remain politically neutral, to the benefit of the Iranian
people in their unhappy situation. It is reasonable to assume
that the people of Iran expect the Armed Forces to protect them
in the event that the paramilitary Bassij (Khameini's Red Guard)
fire upon them.
The severe economic pressure, the harsh social repression, and
the lack of freedom will inevitably force the Iranian people to
take to the streets and demand the overthrow of the increasingly
isolated clergy. Neither the Iranian people nor the free-world
community can tolerate the repressive regime in Tehran.
The international community is sensitive to the reaction of Iran's
Armed Forces, hoping that they will remain favorably disposed
to the plight of their countrymen rather than become the instrument
of the regime's repressive political goals.
The Iranian Armed Forces are committed to Iran and its people,
and not the self-serving clerics. The role of the Armed Forces,
as in the past, will be to insure public safety, to guard the
nation's frontiers, and to provide security for the newly-established
government. But, should the clerics not give in to the popular
will and voluntarily relinquish power to a government of national
unity, the Army's role will become paramount in throwing its active
support behind the people in order to precipitate political change.
A hopeful appraisal can be seen for Iran's future in the statement
issued in August 1994 by a group of key military officers who
informed the clerical leadership that they should not count on
the Armed Forces to support the regime's suppression of the civilian
population. This statement shows that the Iranian Armed Forces
are becoming disaffected with the national leadership.
The Armed Forces know that without a sound foreign policy, national
strategy, and a strong political leadership they will be unable
to fulfill their mission. It seems that even the Pasdaran are
disaffected with the policies of the regime; policies which are
catapulting Iran to the brink of disaster.
According to a secret document published in London's Farsi Kayhan
newspaper on September I, 1994, the Revolutionary Guard is against
participating in domestic suppression. In this letter to Mohsem
Rezai, commander of the Pasdaran, Brigadier General (Pasdar) Gholamreza
lalali, the commander of the Qazvin division, categorically refused
the order to participate in the suppression of the riots in Qazvin
in early August. Only the very top echelons of the Pasdaran high
command remain fully supportive of the clerical regime.
The obvious solution to Iran's self-imposed political problems
is the replacement of the current despotic, inefficient and incapable
regime of the clerics with a civilian, moderate and democratic
government which is responsive to the popular needs, aspirations
and priorities. This new government would alter the current regime's
failed domestic and foreign policies and bring Iran greater hope
for a better future at home and abroad.
The historic mission of the Iranian Armed Forces is to help transfer
power from the despotic clerics to the people. This should be
done as soon as possible because the present ideological path
the regime in Tehran is following has set it on a collision course
with the western countries and the very real possibility of actual
conflict. Such conflict would be extremely dangerous to the integrity
of the Iranian nation.
The transfer of power which we are calling for should take place,
if possible, by peaceful means. If this proves impossible, then
the Armed Forces must act according to the national will: in a
liberal fashion in what could be called a pronunciamiento.
We therefore believe the solution for transferring power from
the current regime to the people rests in the support given by
the Armed Forces for the adherence to democratic processes which
will lead to the establishment of a new representative government.