Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Things may not be as they seem

Or there may be a lot of wishful thinking going on among the opposition to Iran's power elite. The writer of the first piece is Ali Ansari, the author of A Crisis of Authority: Iran's Presidential Election of 2009.

Moral crisis threatens Iran's Revolutionary Guards
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was founded with the principal aim of protecting the achievements of the Islamic revolution in a military and ideological sense. Forged in the heat of revolution and defined by the Iran-Iraq war, the elite corps was intended to be a breeding ground for the new Islamic man who would take the revolution forward and maintain its purity.

Originally it eschewed the standard hierarchical ranks of the traditional military, instead promoting an austere, egalitarian ethos. But the IRGC soon fell short of the lofty ideals it had set for itself as it grew to become one of Iran's most powerful – and wealthy – institutions…

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made great play of the fact that he has come to sweep away the corruption and rampant materialism of the recent past, restoring the original revolutionary austerity of Iran – and also of the guards. Yet in practice he has only increased the corruption while removing any semblance of accountability. The guards have long been involved in business, but under Ahmadinejad they have moved from being beneficiaries to taking a controlling share. This has made many of the more senior officers rich. Not so much those lower down the ranks, however, who see the moral basis of the guards being eroded by material greed. In sum, for many guardsmen, they have become the establishment they grew up to despise. They pride themselves on being the guardians of the Islamic revolution. But the question that many are asking today is: whose revolution and which Islam?…

Ahmadinejad has moved to retire guardsmen, many with years of experience, and replace them with cadres of young, ideologically committed and loyal recruits. Empowered and imbued with an almost immature enthusiasm for confrontation, these new recruits are simply accentuating the existing tensions, as the old guard, bloodied by war and professionalised by experience, look on with disdain at the naivety of their successors.

Former elite officers reveal tensions in Iran regime
A remarkable series of interviews with former members of the Iran's Revolutionary Guard today offer a rare insight into one of the world's most oppressive regimes.

The four men, who have fled Iran and are in hiding in Turkey and Thailand, speak out in a documentary produced by Guardian Films and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

In testimony provided by the men... the film reveals:

• Deep divisions within the Revolutionary Guard, the powerful military organisation at the heart of the Iranian state, which have widened since last year's repression of the so-called green opposition…

• A ruling elite so unsettled by the uprising that it had a plane on standby ready to fly the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to Syria at a moment's notice…

Another former guard accuses the government of filling the ranks of the guards with young men from the countryside willing to carry out brutal assaults which more senior officers would not countenance. "The majority of these recruits ... have no idea of right or wrong," he says. The regime "hands them weapons and these young people come into the streets and commit acts of murder"...

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