Alliance For democracy In Iran

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Shahanshah Aryameher


Iranian Freedom Fighters UNITE

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who Are Iran's Revolutionary Guards? November 15, 2007 The Wall Street Journal Amir Taheri

The scene is a board meeting of Bank Sepah, Iran's second-largest financial institution, in Tehran. The directors are waiting for the sardar (literally "head-owner") to arrive. But the sardar is in a changing room, shedding his uniform for a civilian suit. The man in question is Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the new commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which owns and controls the bank. Most Americans already know more about the IRGC than they'd like to.
In September the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a nonbinding resolution urging President Bush to label the IRGC a terrorist group. He did so a month later and has since implemented harsh new sanctions targeting the business interests of the IRGC. As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the press recently, "It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC." Still, there is much about this organization that is misunderstood. The IRGC is a unique beast. It is an army answerable to no one but the "Supreme Leader" of the Islamic Revolution,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is also a business conglomerate that controls over 500 companies active in a wide range of industries -- from nuclear power to banking, life insurance to holiday resorts and shopping centers. By most estimates, the IRGC is Iran's third-largest corporation -- after the National Iranian Oil Company and the Imam Reza Endowment in the "holy" city of Mashhad, northeast of Tehran. The Islamic Republic established by the Ayatollah Khomeini after the ouster of the Shah in 1979, is often labeled a "mullahrchy" -- a theocracy dominated by the Shiite clergy. The truth, however, is that a majority of Shiite clerics never converted to Khomeinism and did not endorse the Islamic Republic. In the past few years, especially since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005, those mullahs who converted to Khomeinism have lost
some of their power and privileges. Today, the IRGC is the dominant force within the ruling establishment in Tehran. It is not a monolith, and to label all of it a "terrorist" organization as the Bush administration has done, may make it difficult to strike deals with parts of it when, and if, the opportunity arises. A thorough analysis of the IRGC must take into account a number of facts. First, the IRGC is not a revolutionary army in the sense that the ALN was in Algeria or the Vietcong in Vietnam. Those were born during revolutionary wars in which they became key players. The IRGC was created after the Khomeinist revolution had succeeded. This fact is of crucial importance. Those who joined the IRGC came from all sorts of backgrounds. The majority were opportunists. By joining the IRGC, they could not only obtain revolutionary credentials, often on fictitious grounds, but would also secure well-paying jobs, at a time that economic collapse made jobs rare. Joining the IRGC enabled many who had cooperated with the ancien regime to rewrite their CVs and obtain "revolutionary virginity." Membership of the IRGC ensured access to rare goods and services, from color TVs to more decent housing. As the years went by, IRGC membership provided a fast track to social, political and economic success. Today, half of President Ahmadinejad's cabinet ministers are members of the IRGC, as is the president himself. IRGC members hold nearly a third of seats in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis), the ersatz parliament created in 1979. Twenty of Iran's 30 provinces have governors from the IRGC. IRGC members have also started capturing key posts in the diplomatic service. Today, for the first time, the Islamic Republic's ambassadors in such important places as the United Nations in New York and embassies in a dozen Western capitals are members of the IRGC. But it is as an economic power that the IRGC weighs so heavily on Iranian politics. In 2004, a Tehran University study estimated the annual turnover of IRGC businesses at $12 billion with total net profits of $1.9 billion. The privatization package prepared by President Ahmadinejad is likely to increase the IRGC's economic clout. Almost all of the public-sector companies marked for privatization -- at a total value of $18 billion -- are likely to end up in the hands of the IRGC and its individual commanders. The crown jewel of the IRGC's business empire is the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, which has cost the nation over $10 billion so far. This is part of a broader scheme of arms purchases and manufacture, which in total accounts for almost 11% of the annual national budget. The IRGC also controls the lucrative business of "exporting the revolution" estimated to be worth $1.2 billion a year. It finances branches of the Hezbollah movement in at least 20 countries, including some in Europe, and provides money, arms and training for radical groups with leftist backgrounds. In recent years, it has emerged as a major backer of the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas and both Shiite and Sunni armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The vehicle through which the IRGC "exports" revolution is a special unit known as The Quds (Jerusalem) Force. This consists of 15,000 highly trained men and women specializing in "martyrdom operations," a code word for guerrilla war, armed insurgency and terrorism. The Islamic Republic has invested some $20 billion in Lebanon since 1983. In most cases, the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah is nominally in control. However, a closer examination reveals that in most cases the Lebanese companies are fronts for Iranian concerns controlled by the IRGC. The IRGC is divided into five commands, each of which has a direct line to the Ayatollah Khamenei. To minimize the risk of coup d'etat, IRGC's senior officers are not allowed to engage in "sustained communication" with one another on "sensitive subjects." Of the five commands in question, two could be regarded as "terrorist" according to the U.S. State Department's definition that, needless to say, is rejected by the Islamic Republic. One command is in charge of the already mentioned Quds Corps, which is waging indirect war against U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apart from Hezbollah and Hamas, it also runs a number of radical groups across the globe. The second command ensures internal repression. It operates through several auxiliary forces, including the notorious Karbala, Ashura and Al Zahra (an all female unit) brigades, which are charged with crushing popular revolt. Many Iranians see these as instruments of terror. As a parallel to the regular army, the IRGC has its ground forces, navy and air force. It also controls the so-called Basij Mustadafin (mobilization of the dispossessed), a fanatical, semi-voluntary force of 90,000 full-time fighters that could be built up to 11 million according to its commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi. The IRGC's own strength stands at 125,000 men. Its officers' corps, including those in retirement, numbers around 55,000 and is as divided on domestic and foreign policies as the rest of society. Some IRGC former commanders who did not share the Islamic Republic's goals have already defected to the U.S. Hundreds of others have gone into low-profile exile, mostly as businessmen in the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Turkey. An unknown number were purged because they refused to kill anti-regime demonstrators in Iranian cities. Many prominent IRGC commanders may be regarded as businessmen first and military leaders second. Usually, they have a brother or a cousin in Europe or Canada to look after their business interests and keep a channel open to small and big "satans" in case the regime falls. A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory. These concerns persuaded Ayatollah Khamenei to announce a Defense Planning Commission last year, controlled by his office. A blanket labeling of the IRGC as "terrorist," as opposed to targeting elements of it that terrorize the Iranian people and others in the region and beyond, could prove counterproductive. It may, in fact, unite a fractious force that could splinter into more manageable parts given the right incentives. Inside Iran, the IRGC is known as pasdaran (vigilantes) and inspires a mixture of intense hatred and grudging admiration. While many Iranians see it as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime.

Iran's poor excuse for democracy stifles all who advocate for change : 11/14/2007

The Islamic Republic of Iran is master of the double standard. For instance, the regime believes it has the right to establish political groups in other countries, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council and a number of groups in Afghanistan. It openly supports Hamas to the tune of millions of dollars - another example of this general modus operandi. So, by logical extension, the Islamic Republic asserts that opponents of a government have the right to create an armed organization, and foreign governments have the right to supply these opponents with money, weapons and training. Yet within its own borders, the Iranian government has stifled all dissent. It has shuttered all opposition media outlets. It does not tolerate any independent organizations, even trade unions. If teachers demand back pay, they are dismissed, jailed or exiled. The regime will not accept even non-violent protest. In order to crush opposition groups with impunity, it brands peaceful, legal activism "soft subversion" or a "velvet revolution."
Iran claims to be a democracy. But in free countries, where the rule of law is respected, political parties vie for control of parliament or the executive branch by means of elections. The Islamic Republic accepts no electoral rivals; any independent party that aims to gain political power is declared illegitimate. What are groups expected to do when they gather? Answer: Extol revered religious figures or lament their own demise. In truth, the Islamic Republic of Iran rules through quotas, both literal and figurative. Important political jobs are open only to clerics, starting with the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and extending through his appointments to the Guardian Council, the head of the judiciary and the intelligence minister. The Assembly of Experts, which chooses the supreme leader, is composed entirely of clerics. University admissions, too, are decided by factors other than academic excellence. Slots are set aside for the family members of martyrs and members of the Basij, the volunteer militia that enforces clerical rule. Those jobs, educational perks and privileges translate into riches for those loyal to the regime. For example, many big infrastructure projects are awarded to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most powerful wing of the military. As a result, a segment of the corps has emerged as a new economic class whose financial activity and growing wealth are unknown and unaccountable. For those who oppose the Islamic Republic, there are reverse quotas of a sort, which ensure the regime's survival. The Bahais, declared heretics for their religious faith, cannot attend universities. Professors who support democracy and defend human rights, such as Abdulkarim Soroush, Mohsen Kadivar and Hadi Semati, are banned from teaching. Question clerical rule and you might be denied the right to travel abroad or to publish books. In addition, a number of activists recently have been beaten in the streets and publicly humiliated.
The regime seems to have a quota for its jails too. A number of opponents must always be imprisoned so that activists will not succumb to the delusion that they are free to engage in political activity. Many are already locked away - including three students from Amir Kabir University sentenced last month. Prison sentences hang over the heads of others like the sword of Damocles. And then there are the individuals who must be taken back to jail from time to time, such as Mansour Osanloo, the Tehran bus drivers union leader; Mahmoud Dordkeshan, a political activist; and journalists such as Said Matinpur and Emaddedin Baghi. Matinpur and Jalil Qanilu, both activists for the Azerbaijani ethnic minority, have been held in solitary confinement for about five years with no family visits or access to lawyers. I was in Tehran's infamous Evin prison from 2000 to 2006. I know what prolonged solidarity confinement can do to a person, and I know the sound of torture. I survived my ordeal in part because global civil society mobilized and pressed for my release. As I write, the Iranian regime is invoking the threat of a U.S. military attack - which is very real - and using that as an excuse for a major crackdown on dissidents. No regime has the right to inflict such indignities on its own people. Those who are not in jail have a moral duty to raise their voices against the detention of all political prisoners. The Islamic Republic may try to dismiss international condemnation as illegitimate foreign interference or an affront to national sovereignty - but human rights are universal, and we must persevere until all prisoners of conscience are free.

Why Iran is Dying for a Fight : Tuesday, November 13, 2007 -Online Spengler

Iran's demographic catastrophe in the making, I have long argued, impels Tehran to stake its claim for regional empire quickly, while it still has the manpower to do so. Now one of the world's most attentive students of the global South, Prof Philip Jenkins, has taken notice of Iran's population bust and come to a conclusion diametrically opposite to mine. Writing in the November 9 New Republic, he opines, "there's a good chance that [Iran's] declining fertility rates will usher in a new era of stability - an Iran that is bourgeois, secular, less like Children of Men's bombed-out Britain and more like ... Denmark". It pains me to take Prof Jenkins to the woodshed - I gave his last book a glowing review [1] - but it does not seem to have occurred to him that things which make peace inevitable in the long run may propel countries into war in the short run. The textbook example (if we had a competent textbook) would be France in 1914, which sought a quick war because its falling birth rate ensured that it could not beat Germany unless it did so immediately (more on this below). Republican France was not afflicted by the apocalyptic visions of Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, but led the rush to war just the same. Population decline eventually leads to stability, but not necessarily by a direct path. Some years ago a Danish politician proposed to replace the Defense Ministry with a telephone answering machine with the message: "We surrender." Unlike Denmark, whose raiders terrorized Europe during the Dark Ages, Iran is not yet dead. I am reminded of Heinrich Heine's verse about a jilted lover:
Die Maedchen fluestern sich ins Ohr: "Der Stieg wohl aus dem Grab empor." Nein, nein, ihr lieben Jungfrauelein: Der legt sich erst ins Grab hinein. (The pretty girls passed by and quipped: "He must have risen from his crypt!" Not yet, I'd tell the girls, if queried: He first will die, and then be buried.)
Before Iran is buried, it will have occasion to command the undivided attention of the West. The rulers of the Persian pocket-empire know better than Jenkins that today's soldiers will become pensioners a generation hence, turning a belligerent and ambitious country into an impoverished , geriatric ruin. They believe that Iran has a last opportunity for greatness, on which they will stake their last dinar. I summarized the evidence in a series of essays in this space, including The demographics of radical Islam (Aug 23, 2005) and The demographics of radical Islam (Sept 13, 2005). As Jenkins reports, Iran's fertility rate has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of 2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5. In other words, Iran presently has a bulge of military-age men as cannon-fodder. In a generation it will not be able to fill the ranks. What does this imply? "The connection between fertility rates and political stability is still not fully understood," Jenkins writes, "mostly because the human race has never, in its entire history, reproduced at below-replacement levels." But Jenkins has not a word to say about the sources of Iran's extremely low birth rate, much lower, in fact, than that of most of Western Europe. Iran's extremely low birth rate resembles the Ukraine or Belarus more than it does Denmark. One explanation is demoralization and degradation, including prostitution on an alarming scale (see Jihadis and whores, Nov 21, 2006), Nov 21, 2006). That might explain why Iran's birthrate is closest to that of the Eastern European countries that lose the most females to human trafficking. Birth rates as such are not the question. The question is: why is the human race reproducing at below-replacement levels in the first place? Along with Phillip Longman and others, I contend that the decline of religious faith lies at the root of the problem. Without the hope of eternal life, humankind cannot abide its earthly existence, and ceases to propagate. Iran's demographic implosion implies the erosion of the faith of traditional society. Jenkins is quite right that the sort of despair that causes depopulation often leads to depression and inactivity. Most of the 6,700 languages now spoken will become extinct not with a bang, but a whimper. But that is not always the case. Hitler was decidedly pessimistic about the future of the Aryan race. He wrote in Mein Kampf, "Aryan races ˇ­ create cultures which originally bear all the inner characteristics of their nature, however, the conquerors transgress against the principle of blood purity ˇ­ they begin to mix with the subjugated inhabitants and thus end their own existence; for the fall of man in paradise has always been followed by his expulsion." In his own time, Hitler believed that the Aryan race stood at the edge of extinction, due to interbreeding and poisoning of blood through syphilis, and might be saved only by early and extreme action which, however, only would postpone the inevitable Goetterdaemmerung. The French example, though, is the most convincing, because the issue of declining population growth rates was openly debated as a strategic risk to France immediately before the First World War. As historian Judith Wishnia observes, fear about the falling French birth rate in the face of German demographic dynamism worsened the crisis that led to the First World War. Politicians, clergy, the literati and the army exhorted the French to have more children in the strategic interests of the nation. [2] Between 1870, when Germany humiliated Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War, and 1914, the population of the German Empire nearly doubled, while the French population was almost unchanged. In 1870, the two countries could field roughly the same number of soldiers; by 1913, Germany had nearly double the available manpower. Just prior to the outbreak of general war in August 1914, France had called up 80% of its military age men in the most comprehensive mobilization in history. Only by keeping nearly all its available manpower in uniform could France field enough soldiers to match the German army in the field. With a much larger population, Germany had only half its military-age men under arms. The economic strain upon France of maintaining such a high degree of mobilization was insupportable. France either had to go to war quickly, or lose its only opportunity to revenge itself upon Germany for the loss of territory and the humiliation of 1870. No single country, to be sure bears the guilt for the outbreak of this war, but there is considerable evidence that France used all its influence to bring Russia into the war. The French ambassador to Russia, Maurice Paleologue, persuaded a skeptical Czar Nicholas II that war was likely and that he need to prepare for it. Paleologue's memoirs are available online in English translation, and I have cited some of the relevant passages in another location. French bellicosity in 1914 refutes the political scientist's canard that democracies do not start wars. But it is true that democracy makes it harder for even the most bloodthirsty government to begin a war. France saw no alternative to war, except resignation to unending mediocrity, as it ceased to breed soldiers. All the less should we expect Iran's theocratic dictatorship to give up its nuclear ambitions and its territorial designs on its neighbors in the face of demographic crisis. Notes [1] A new Jerusalem in sub-Saharan Africa [2] See "Natalisme et nationalisme pendant la premiere guerre mondiale," by Judith Wishnia Vingtieme Siecle. Revue d'histoire, No 45 (Jan-Mar 1995), pp 30-39

MUHAMMAD El Baradei could make the differ ence between war and peace later this week, with his latest report on Iran's nuclear program.

El Baradei, the Egyptian director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, must answer a key question: Has Iran complied with the two resolutions passed by the UN Security Council?If his answer is yes, the Security Council could pass a resolution confirming Iran's compliance and initiating talks to build on the positive development. What if Baradei reports that the Islamic Republic is still defying the two resolutions? The council, having fixed a two-month ultimatum, would have to consider tougher measures, even military action. The common assumption in Western political circles is that the Bush administration would like nothing better than a legal cover for military action against Iran - such as a report that clearly says Iran is defying the UN resolutions. That consideration might persuade Baradei to avoid giving a clear answer. He isn't as concerned about Iran's building a nuclear arsenal as American and European leaders, who would have to deal with a dangerous adversary that could use the ultimate weapon against them.
Baradei assumes that, were Iran to do big mischief, the Americans would deal with it regardless of what the IAEA says. And if it doesn't, Baradei can spend his retirement on the lecture circuit bragging about his success in preventing another Middle East war. So the IAEA director may see no reason to anger Iran and risk being targeted by "martyrdom-loving" fanatics by exposing the mullahs' mendacity. But, by refusing to expose the Islamic Republic's violation of the UN resolutions, Baradei would encourage Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his delusion that Tehran has won - and thus need offer no concessions on the nuclear issue.Ahmadi - nejad hammered that point home in his talks in Tehran last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. When Lavrov told the Iranians that they had to do something fast in order to avoid new UN sanctions, the mullahs came back with the claim that Iran expects a "good report" from Baradei. "Why should we do anything when the IAEA admits that we have broken no rules?" Ahmadinejad asked Lavrov, according to sources in Tehran. The nuclear dispute has been transformed into a key issue of Iran's domestic politics. Ahmadinejad claims that his rivals (including two of his predecessors as president, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami) "betrayed the revolution" by agreeing to scale down Iran's nuclear program and suspend uranium enrichment. "The more concessions we give to the Great Satan, the hungrier it becomes for more," Ahmadi - nejad said in a speech last Sunday. "Those who press us to climb down [on the nuclear issue] are traitors whom we shall expose." He further insists that offering any concession would, in itself, amount to an admission of guilt. Those arguments resonate well with the regime's radical base. He says that the Islamic Republic wants to join the club of the seven nations capable of enriching uranium, now that "the world is moving toward massive use of nuclear energy." "There is no reason why we should become dependent on the seven . . . when we have both the natural resources and the technology to satisfy domestic demand and even have some exports."What Ahmadinejad didn't say, but implied, is even more important. He claims that the Islamic Republic should consider offering concessions only if, and when, it has no other choice. For the time being, however, he thinks that the Islamic Republic has won by confusing the issue, dividing the big powers and engaging the IAEA in a cynical tango. "Why should we offer preemptive surrender when the threat of preemptive war against us is nonexistent?" demands Hassan Abbasi, the president's strategic guru.

This brings us back to Baradei's report.

Back in 2002, Baradei's ambiguous reports on Iraq's nuclear program encouraged Saddam Hussein in his defiance of 18 UN resolutions. Had Baradei and his boss at the time, Hans Blix, come out with a clear statement that Iraq didn't possess any WMDs, they might have made it impossible for the US-led coalition to invade Iraq. On the other hand, had they reported that Saddam should take measures to prove that he had dismantled his arsenal of nuclear and other WMDs (and also removed the structures that could rebuild them at short notice), they might have persuaded the despot to take the threat of war seriously and transfer power to a caretaker administration in Baghdad. In either case, a clear position from the UN inspectors might have prevented war. But Baradei and Blix chose the worst option: They equivocated, thus encouraging Saddam in his defiance while leaving America and its allies no option but war to enforce the UN resolutions. Baradei shouldn't repeat the same mistake on Iran.

His report should debunk Ahmadinejad's claims by stating unequivocally that Iran has violated the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty on 32 issues over more than 18 years. He should also expose Ahmadinejad's bogus claim that Iran is enriching uranium as fuel for power stations. Iran has no nuclear power plants and thus has no need of enriched uranium. The only nuclear plant under construction is to be completed by Russians at an unspecified date. But the uranium enriched by Iran at Natanz isn't suitable for that plant, which needs a specific type of fuel - the specifications for which Moscow has refused to give to Tehran.Because nuclear fuel has a lifespan of three to four years, the Natanz uranium can't be intended for any of the 22 nuclear power plants that Ahmadinejad says he wants to build in Iran over the next 25 years. If told that the centrifuges are working to train Iranian scientists, Baradei should know that, at the level of scientific research, Iran already could enrich uranium in 1978.The centrifuges working at Natanz can only be producing ingredients for nuclear warheads. Baradei should tell that truth to the Iranian people and the world at large.

Chavez: ‘Madman’ Bush planning Iran invasion

Venezuela’s Chavez calls Bush ‘madman,’ says U.S. planning to invade Iran

He frequently refers to President Bush as “Mr. Danger,” but Thursday, Venezuela’s grande enchilada, Hugo Chavez, escalated the name-calling. Accusing the United States and Britain of planning to invade Iran, the South American country’s closest Middle East ally, Chavez said Bush “thinks of himself as the owner of the world,” adding, “The guy is a madman.”
The leftist leader, up for re-election in December, also repeated claims that Washington intends to undermine him, too, though he offered no proof of the alleged scheming during a speech to supporters. The two antagonists are feuding, with each country expelling a diplomat in recent days.

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