Iran: How the Dissidents View the New Rhetoric

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The declarations of the Iranian president concerning Israel during the Islamic Conference, which he reiterated in a meeting with the Pasdaran in the East of Iran, have not stirred up the only Westerners.[1] Among the Iranians, important factions of the opposition condemned firmly these positions calling for erasing Israel and denying the Holocaust as a myth and thus « cleaning up » the horrendous face of the Nazism. These positions are not considered as a kind of passing effusion of temper and much less as a paltry internal propaganda. Far from it, says M. Mohammad Mohadessine, speaking on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),[2] – an organisation opposed to Tehran:« The discourse of Mr. Ahmadinejad about Israel is part of an overall policy adopted by the Iranian regime, as a foreign policy. Its second aspect consists in pursuing the creation of a world Islamic regime and the obtention of atomic weapons ».

According to the NCRI spokesman, some days after his accession to power, Mahmoud Ahmadinajad declared: “the waves of a new Islamic revolution will soon overwhelm the whole world”. The discourse of the Iranian President has been since focused upon three topics:

  • The constitution of an Islamic empire and the appliance of al Shari’a (Islamic law).
  • The destruction of Israel and the transfer of its population to Europe and the USA.
  • The steady pursuance of a nuclear armament program.

A “heavy” briefing

Is it then a steadfast strategy of deliberate provocation?

In the view of the Iranian dissidence, there is no doubt that it is so. To make the point, they see no difference whatever between President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader and highest authority. The comments of the former have to be understood as those of the entire regime, Khameinei included. In this context, the dissidents consider that there is no ground to the claim that the Iranian President was only expressing personal views. This is at least what a briefing initially destined to the high spheres indicates:

“Prior to the travel of the President of the Iranian Republic to Arabia, his advisers have prepared, under the guidance of the Supreme leader, a speech about Israel and the Jews. Dr. Ahmadinejad himself has submitted the text of his speech to the attention of the Supreme leader who corrected and approved it”.

According to the briefing, “these stances will have negative and positive consequences for us. Among the Islamic nations, Iran will become the flag bearer and the defender of the Muslims and our way will be eased in Iraq. Inside Iran, it will strength the morale of the Bassidj militia members and the revolutionaries. Moreover, theses stances will reinforce the ranks of our troops. The fundamentalist forces will be encouraged. Indubitably, the Western countries will not stay indifferent and they will condemn us inside the UNO. Besides, they will certainly create more problems to hamper our nuclear program”.

“The experience of the revolution”, says the briefing “shows that if we stay steadily beholding to our principles, refusing to yield to the pressure, they will fall back at the end. A good example is that of the Imam Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The whole world churned up against us; they withdrew their ambassadors from Iran and were almost on the verge of breaking up all relations. Yet, they have been forced to send back their ambassadors, lowering their heads. Of course, we enjoy today a better situation, due to the problems of the Americans in Iraq, which lessens their ability to focus on the Islamic Republic”.

Strategy

According to the NCRI spokesman, “the domination of Iraq is the instrumental strategy of the Mullahs intended to pave the way to the control of the Islamic world”. It is an old dream represented by the slogan of the 8 years’ long Iraq-Iran war, claiming that “the conquest of Jerusalem must be achieved via Kerbela (Iraq)”.

The most important deployment of the Qods Force is currently in Iraq. This country represents an opportunity for Tehran to “conquer” (i.e. to gain influence in) the rest of the Islamic world. The most important generals of the Revolution Guardians and thousands of Pasdaran are concentrated on Iraq. Their objective is to create a puppet Islamic republic in this country. For that purpose, Tehran has consecrated billions of dollars. Thousands of Mullahs have been already sent to Iraq with a mission of influencing the future events. Besides, Iran is recruiting : many agents are on its payroll since the fall of Saddam. The commanders of the Qods force are moving freely through Iraq. Many institutions of vital importance for the Iraqi government have been infiltrated as Tehran is trying to control them, Ministry of Interior included. Iranian sources of dissidence, which used to be well informed in Iraq where they have been allowed to maintain their headquarters prior to April 2003 invasion, say numerous unknown prisons and torture rooms are kept secret by Tehran in Iraq. The people detained in those prisons oppose the creation of an Islamist regime in this country.

After the discovery of such jails and torture rooms lately, it seems that the jailers were on Tehran payroll. Some of them have reportedly fled to Iran.

Moreover, Tehran did everything within its reach to change the results of the recent elections in Iraq. Some operational groups belonging to al Qods Force assassinated numerous democratic and anti-Islamist candidates.

Today, say the Iranian opposition sources, the Mullahs of Tehran are openly talking of “the Iraqi opportunity”, which is “the reason why they feel so confident as to pretend speaking on behalf of the Islamic world and claim the destruction of Israel”.

Two decades have been enough for the Mullahs to make their policy progress. Through its attempts to build up the atomic weapon and to produce long and medium-range missiles, the regime of Tehran is seeking hegemony over the region, according to NCRI. Numerous organizations have been committed to such a task:

  • The Revolution Guards, and particularly the Pasdaran Qods Force.
  • The Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
  • The Headquarters of Islamic Revolution Martyrs’ commemoration.
  • Islamic culture and communication organization.
  • Islamic culture orientation Ministry.

The Pasdaran

If we rely on CSIS and IISS reports,[3] the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) adds some 120,000 additional men to Iran’s forces. Roughly 100,000 are ground forces, including many conscripts. There is a large naval branch, and a small air branch. Estimates of its equipment strength are highly uncertain. Some reports estimate that it has about 470 tanks, 620 APCs, 360 artillery weapons, 40 multiple rocket launchers, and 150 air defense guns. The naval branch has some 20,000 men. This force has bases in the Gulf, many near key shipping channels and some near the Strait of Hormuz. These include facilities at Al-Farsiyah, Halul (an oil platform), Sirri, Abu Musa, Bandaer-e Abbas, Khorramshahr, and Larak.

The IRGC has a complex structure that is both political and military. It has separate organizational elements for its land, naval, and air units, which include both military and paramilitary units. The Basidj and the tribal units of the Pasdaran are subordinated to its land unit command, although the commander of the Basidj often seems to report directly to the commander-in-chief and Minister of the Pasdaran and through him to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution. The IRGC has close ties to the foreign operations branch of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), particularly through the IRGC’s Qods force.[4]

About Qods Force

  • Let us take the example of the Qods Force, which is considered as the main organ of propagating the Iranian model abroad. It has been created in 1990 out of the merging of all the militiamen involved with terrorism and para-military operations. The most experienced Pasdaran have been placed at the head of this special force. Its first commander-in-chief was General Ahmad Vahidi. He declared once that the objective of Qods Force was “the constitution of an international Islamic Army”. It is no less significant that the Mullahs chose the former American embassy in Tehran to host the Headquarters of Qods Force.
  • The Qods Force is constituted of 21.000 Iranian members and dozens of thousands of non-Iranian elements deployed in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and numerous European countries as well, as some representatives of this organization hold actually diplomatic posts thus enjoying the privileges of a status that is not initially theirs. The Qods Force is constituted of 12 sections and numerous organs called “foreign affairs sections”.
  • Qods Force not only takes part directly to “terrorist operations” but it also trains non-Iranian activists in several special camps. Among those activists, there are young people coming from Pakistan, North-Africa, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestinian territories, and even Europe. Each training group is constituted of forty persons.
  • This version is actually very close of the one contained in a CSIS report, which says “IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) elements do seem to run training camps inside Iran for outside "volunteers". Some 400 IRGC seem to be deployed in Lebanon and actively involved in training and arming the Hezbollah, other anti-Israeli groups, and other elements. The IRGC has been responsible for major arms shipments to the Hezbollah, including large numbers of long-range rockets and some Iranian-made UAVs. Iran seems to have sent arms to various Palestinian movements, including some shiploads of arms to the Palestinian Authority”. [5]

Here is a list of some of these training camps:

  • Imam Ali Barracks, which is one of the most important training bases, situated northern Tehran, close to Alborz-kouh Street.
  • Khomeiny training camp, located about Khavaran-Semnan Highway. Numerous Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians and Afghans are conditioned in this camp.
  • Bahonar Base, near Tchalous road.
  • Nahavand Base, westward of Iran. It is located at 40 km from Nahavad city, and hosts Lebanese and Afghan fighters.
  • Beitolmoghadas University in Qom city.
  • Farahzad training center in Tehran.
  • Hezbollah Base at Varamine, southeast of Iran.
  • Dezfoul civil Base, southwest of Iran.
  • Bissetoune Base of Kerman shah, westward.
  • Ghayour Base of Ahwaz, southwest.

Qods Force has also numerous big bases all along the Iranian border, which are used as spearheads for activist operations inside neighboring countries. The following are among them:

  • Ramezan Base, which is also called the “First Corps”. Several other big bases depend on Ramezan, such as Fajr or Zafar. This is the very base in charge of interventions in Iraq.
  • Nabi-Akram Base, or “Second Corps”, located at Zahedan. It is in charge of interventions in Pakistan.
  • Hamzeh Base of Oroumieh, or “Third Corps”, which is in charge of operations in Turkey and some European countries.
  • Ansar Base of Machad, or “Fourth Corps”, in charge of interventions in Afghanistan.

Qods Force is also supplied with several other Corps, such as:

  • The Sixth Corps, in charge of operations in the countries of the Gulf.
  • The Seventh Corps, responsible for Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.
  • The Eighth Corps, responsible for Africa.
  • The nine Corps, responsible for Europe and the USA.

The Headquarters of Islamic Revolution Martyrs’ commemoration

This HQ has been created last year (2004) with the purpose of coordinating suicide operations. Its chiefs claim to have 40.000 volunteers.

The volunteers fill up a form, which allows them to choose between several options, particularly:

  • Performing an operation against the Americans and their allies in Iraq.
  • Performing an operation against the Israelis.

The HQ is under the commandment of the Vice-Commander of the Pasdaran Corps, General Bagher Zolghadr. He is currently the vice-Minister of the Interior. The President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, as a former mayor of Tehran has devotedly helped the creation of this center.

What is the solution for this situation?

The NCRI militants emphasize that the Western countries have tried all the courses of action, in vain. The repetition of the failure may be dangerous. There is a strong belief that negotiating with Tehran will lead nowhere, they contend. The only way they see to rid the region and the world of such a government is to give the regime change in Iran a chance.

They stress that the change may be performed by no other party than the Iranians themselves and their resistance. In order to realize the change, the people of Iran expect neither weapons nor money from the West, they say. However, the Iranians require the end of the complaisance policy towards the Mullahs. They think that it is the main obstacle to the change in their country. Therefore, a good policy, in their eyes, has to contain the following elements:

  • To stop all negotiation with Tehran about nuclear projects and Human Rights.
  • To submit the nuclear dossier and the questions of exporting Islamist radicalism and terrorism as well as violations of Human Rights to the UN Security Council, as to allow constraining measures to be taken.
  • The right of the Iranian people to resist has to be recognized and the “terrorist mark” sticking to the Moujahedeen of the Iranian People has to be lifted. This mark, in the Dissidents’ eyes, is the most important guarantee offered by the West to the Mullahs’ regime.

Notes :

[1]. Ahmadinejad on Dec. 14 called the Nazi Holocaust a “myth” and said Europe, the U.S. and Canada should use their own land for a Jewish state. In October, he said Israel “must be wiped off the map,” leading United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to cancel a trip to Iran. On Dec. 8, he prompted another outcry when he said Germany and Austria should host Israel on their soil.

[2]. The National Council of the Resistance was founded in July 1981 to oppose the Islamic Republic in Iran. It includes groups such as the People’s Mujahedeen, the Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian Guerrillas and the Committed Professors of Iran’s Universities and Schools of Higher Education. Its headquarters are at Auvers-sur-Oise, north of Paris.

[3]. See: Iran’s Developing Military Capabilities. Anthony H.Cordesman; Arleigh A. Burke Chair. CSIS. December 8, 2004. Cordesman recognizes however that some of these estimates are several years old.

[4]. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security was established in 1983, and has an extensive network of offices in Iranian embassies. It is often difficult to separate the activities of the IRGC, VEVAK, and Foreign Ministry, and many seem to be integrated operations managed by a ministerial committee called the “Special Operations Council” that includes the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, President, Minister of Intelligence and Security, and other members of the Supreme Council for National Defense.

[5]. Idem.

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