The Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily
February 3, 2001
Analysis. From GIS Station Tehran, and other sources. Iran, in many respects is once again drifting toward chaos, much as it was in 1978, but now due to worsening of political and economic problems.
Centrifugal forces make political solution inside impossible. A military solution, domestically and internationally is not acceptable, but the role and support of the Iranian Armed Forces in any transformation of the country or resolution of the crisis, is vital. Without the support of the Armed Forces, no Iranian government can stay in power or come to power given the current realities.
GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily and the monthly journal Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, have consistently highlighted the explosive situation in Iran, but few in the US Administration paid adequate attention to this key strategic country, located between the two energy zones, with a large, young population with significant strategic resources, and a great and regionally influential cultural identity. Iran is clearly on the threshold of great change.
The Islamic Republic of Iran - that is, the state structure and leadership adopted following the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 ---- is beset with many political, social and economic problems and does not have answers to them. President Mohammad Khatami that has been in the office far more than three years has not been able to take any positive action to solve ever-increasing problems of the country. He lacks power and courage and has been too subservient of the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and too dedicated to the preservation of the system of Islamic government. And reformist's members of the Sixth Majlis (parliament) are too timid to challenge radicals to pass some reform bills. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani are now clearly in charge of all key government activities, and are masters of domestic and international relations. They have, in a modem sense, transformed Iran into a "gunpowder state", reliant on directing and support of international terrorism and building weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to achieve influence in regional and global affairs and to be able to project their radical goals onto other Islamic countries.
There is ample evidence to show that concepts of modernization and economic development hold littleappeal to the Iranian clerical leadership and they do not understand the present reality of the world.
History shows that:
- When a majority of the population of a country is comprised of youth who are extremely frustrated and unhappy,
- When the economic situation is worsening day by day,
- When government is pervasively corrupt and despotic and unable to take action for real reform,
then that country will explode. We see these symptoms in Iran today. The question, then" is when, and in what form, the "explosion" will take place?
Since there are many different voices and active centrifugal forces, chaos and possibly civil war could easily prevail, and the danger of disintegration will rise, specially when that country's Government causes dissatisfaction inside and creates enemies outside. We need only to look back at the period of the Iran-Iraq War and subsequent Iraqi invasion of Kuwait to understand that Iraqi motivation at that time was focused on the prospect of breaking up the Iranian "empire", which comprises of numerous different nationalities, religions, linguistic and cultural communities.
The present Iranian clerical Government is trying, unsuccessfully, to follow a policy of toughness, with repressive measures inside the country, and dialogue outside. There is concern among elements of the Iranian opposition inside Iran and abroad that many in the US policymaking community have not been able to understand the anatomy of the Iranian Islamic system, failing to grasp the fact that President Khatami is acting chiefly, as public relation man of the clerical Administration rather than a reformist president. His policy of wavering and vacillation neither works inside or outside of Iran.
Inside Iran, there is significant disaffection among the people, the tribal areas, within the military and even to a remarkably high level in the Islamic Republic's own guardians, the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran).
Due to the mistrust of the ruling theocrats, there have been several changes even purge in the Army and the Revolutionary Guard high commands in last few months.
Iranians specially the military have been always proud of their strong cultural identity and history, but the ruling clerics have been completely undermining cultural tradition, and teachings of history and the image of ancient historical and national heroes such as Cyrus the Great and others.
As well, the Iranian Armed Forces are not happy with their leaders' arms procurement policies and lack of strategic perception. They are not happy with what they perceive as inferior Russian military technology. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster under the Soviets and the 2000 loss of the Russian nuclear attack submarine Kursk had a bad impact on Iranian military attitude toward Russian technology, especially bearing in mind the fact that the Iranian Navy now relies on Russian Kilo- submarines (SSKs) for its major punch.
Almost any Iranian can outline rite major problems facing Iranian society today:
- Gross violations of human rite continue;
- Pro-democracy students are serving long term prisons and are tortured;
- Many opposition personalities have peen incarcerated and tortured;
- More than 30 newspapers and periodicals have been closed down, and their editors and writers jailed;
- There are 10-million unemployed;
- Every year 1,400,000 new workers enter the work market and the government can only provide 400,000 jobs leaving 800,000 to be add to the unemployed;
- Every year 1,300,000 students are ready to register in universities and there are only 400,000 places for them, leaving 900,000 un-admitted;
Iran's economy is totally controlled by bonyads foundations), run by senior clerics, their sons, relative, and bazaar merchants who are working with clerics. And the nation's principal wealth, its oil income, is mismanaged and dedicated to the support, in sophisticated ways, of terrorist groups worldwide;
In the past several months protests and riots, because of lack of freedom, repression, and the worsening economic situation, have erupted in 10 cities and have teen subdued harshly. Students of universities are in the forefront of these protests.
The Iranian military has always been seen as a patriotic force rather than the instrument of a particular government, as demonstrated by the fact that the late Shah refused to use the Armed Forces to fire on Iranian citizens during the protests of 1978-79, and the fact that the Armed Forces for their own part did net attempt to intervene as a political arbiter on behalf of the Shah.
The Armed Forces understand their historical mission. Since the 6th century BCE, when Cyrus the Great united the Medes and the Persians and established the Persian Empire, the independence of the country has always been based on Persian culture and Persian Army.
Since the 1978-1979 revolution, the military has been out of line of authority and been watching the Revolutionary Guard, and especially the Basijis who have been the instruments of repression of the clerics who rode to power on the back of the uprising brought about by the students.
The clerical Administration has recently been relying more on the Basijis rather than the Revolutionary Guards, and planning to give more arms and power to them. Army officers - young colonels and generals, many Guard officers - are nervous and concerned about the general situation of Iran. In the case of confrontation between the people and some segment of the Guards or Basijis and/or the infiltration of some foreign-supported elements, the military will not hesitate to enter the scene to remove clerical rulers who are becoming source of disunity in Iran.
There are some indications that the military may, with disaffected Revolutionary Guards, in the name of nation, for preservation of unity and integrity of Iran act to prevent destruction of the country. There are many Iranians inside and outside of the country who believe that majority of the Guard also could join the military in support of a pro-democracy movement in Iran. Reliable sources tell GIS, the Armed Forces leadership is aware of the fact that although a military coup would not be supported domestically and internationally, it is dear that the military is, as it has always teen, a decisive factor in Iranian politics.
Military sources also told GIS that the Armed Forces leadership is aware of the difficulty of the military running government, quite apart from the matter of international acceptance of military governments, and is conscious of the difficulties facing the Pakistani military Government. However, the military leaders are aware that they could support a civil political leadership to pave the way for a truly elective government. Indeed, most civil opposition leaders know that the support and blessing of the Armed Forces is vital.
There are many credible personalities among the different opposition groups inside and outside of Iran who can and will be able to play an important role to end the present impasse. One of those who enjoys the respect of many senior military leaders is Washington DC based exile leader Dr. Assad Homayoun, President of the Azadegan Foundation, a nationalist organization.
He is a strategic thinker, and has written many papers on strategic matters of Iran and other countries. He is an opposition leader who has not been tainted with foreign money, and can talk to the US Congress and power centers.
Dr. Homayoun, a few years ago, issued two statements, in full pages of the Washington Times, explaining the political situation of Iran and necessity for the restoration of democracy in Iran. The first statement was signed by 100 and the second by 71 US generals and admirals emphasized that for peace in the region and preservation of integrity of Iran, the removal of the clerics tern power was imperative.
In his last statement, he criticized the strongly militant Islamic-marxist Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) stationed in Iraq. Homayoun has extensive connections in Iran, US and elsewhere. The Iranian military and the Revolutionary Guard know him and have almost uniquely among Iranian opposition leaders, remained aloof from scandal and taint. He has always supported the military and even praised the sacrifices of the Revolutionary Guard in defending Iran against the Iraqi invasion.