Sunday, December 27, 2009

History of the IRGC

Top-notch Iran expert Ali Ansari has a new article on how the IRGC's history set the stage for its crucial role in Ahmadinejad's electoral coup. I was struck by this part, among others:
"In fact, to cut costs, the Basij, who were themselves incorporated into the IRGC command structure, were instructed to make their money from fines on people breaking sumptuary laws. It soon became apparent that basijis were becoming dependent on this income and, by extension, on a regular supply of misguided and 'corrupted' individuals. If everyone became a 'good Muslim' overnight, who on earth would they fine? The trick was to constantly change the rules, at times relaxing them until a sufficient quota of women painted their nails, for instance, before abruptly tightening them up. This cycle became as regular as the seasons in Iran, and the butt of many jokes, more so because the authorities pretended that this annual scam was prompted by religious adherence.

"The Guards themselves became involved in similar schemes to do with satellite dishes, which were periodically outlawed because of the access they allowed to corrupting influences from the outside world. The Guards, however, took matters to another level entirely. It was widely suspected that they were involved in the illegal importation and even production of satellite dishes, which they would then sell, seize and resell. Similar suspicions abounded about the distribution of drugs, in particular opium, the traditional leisure drug of choice in Iran."

An important take-away point is that Iran's Islamic Republic has not been a stagnant polity, and that the events we're seeing today are the result of multiple developments within it.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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