Tuesday, October 09, 2007

IRGC Changes

When Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i tapped Ali Ja'afari to head the Revolutionary Guard, Bernd Kaussler interpreted it as a prelude to a reassessment of Iranian strategic planning. Ja'afari, however, is already shaking up Iran's internal politics by merging the IRGC with the basiji vigilantes:
"Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said on September 29 that the 'main responsibility' of the corps now is to counter 'internal threats.' He added that the IRGC will confront any threat that might undermine the achievements of the Islamic republic...

"Jafari, who was appointed commander of the IRGC in early September, also said that the all-volunteer Basij militia will fall under the IRGC's command. The Basij has reportedly been involved in a number of attacks on students and intellectuals. Jafari said those forces will adapt to meet current threats. Jafari said the threats against Iran have become increasingly complex, adding that, 'We don't have the right to remain silent.'"

This move continues the centralization of power in Iran in the hands of the regime's leaders, a trend we've seen for several years now, at least as far back as the introduction of a vetting process for local as well as national elections. Now the regime is making clear it plans to move attacking internal dissent from the realm of unofficial hired thugs to an official part of national defense.

What this means from a broader Iranian strategic standpoint is unclear. The Iranian government has frequently linked internal dissent to American and British efforts to undermine the regime. This may be a way of building on that foundation: I read the reference to "complex threats" as suggesting the regime is portraying itself as being victimized by a global conspiracy with tendrils inside the country, which would certainly fit Iran's traditional strategic cast. At the same time, the fact attacking internal dissent is now agenda item number one suggests that the Iranian government is not worried about being deposed in an assault such as the Anglo-British invasion of Iraq, but rather by internal reform movements, perhaps at a time of national crisis.

A final point is that Kaussler's article suggested Ja'afari might place more weight on Iran's capability for asymmetrical warfare. The basiji certainly bring that capability, and the IRGC could now theoretically deploy them to fight an internal guerrilla war against for invaders, or use them in a guerrilla war against American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation for an American air campaign. I sense the ideologically charged vigilantes are ready for such orders. Last spring I spoke with someone who had recently been in Mashhad, and he said he talked to several basiji types who were actually looking forward to the prospect of a war against the United States, which they considered a certainty.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home