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Military Mutiny in Iran?

A statement in support of the Iranian people and signed by a number of officers and commanders of the Iranian army was released on December 10.

by
Afshin Ellian

Bio

December 12, 2009 - 2:19 pm

Leading commentators and diplomats have been pondering for quite some time why the Iranian leader is not prepared to act against the revolution in a major way. The “China model” could be applied, a brutal, fast, and extremely violent strike against the opposition. According to conventional wisdom, tyrants will use all means to eliminate their opponents. So why haven’t the mullahs adopted Chinese methods?

Tanks and soldiers

Applied to the Islamic Republic of Iran, it means the following:

  • At a given time (e.g., around three o’clock in the morning) soldiers would raid the cities and arrest everybody suspected of even the slightest “green” revolutionary inclination.
  • All communications with the outside world would be temporarily shut down.
  • People would wake up with a statement by the leader proclaiming the definitive end of all demonstrations. Then thousands would be executed.

Speed and brutality are the key aspects of the China model. Why does Khamenei not activate this model?

This summer he did consider this, before he became ill. He even gave carte blanche for the arrest of opposition leader Mousavi. But Khamenei has subsequently stopped its implementation. Why? Because he had been told that this would provoke an explosion that would likely engulf him and his regime.

Revolutionary Guards

At the time, I also heard another reason, which, if true, would be the main reason. There are serious doubts about the military itself. The army and parts of the Revolutionary Guards (abbreviated as RG) would, under those circumstances, choose the side of the opposition and the people. The military power of Khamenei would be broken. This, however, was speculation without proof.

Now there is evidence to support it. On December 10, a statement signed by a number of officers and commanders of the Iranian army was released. The regular army of Iran had not been involved in the suppression of the population. The statement was signed by:

  • Pilots and personnel of the aviation division of the regular army (Havanirooz)
  • Commanders and personnel of the 31th artillery division of Isfahan of the regular army
  • Pilots and airmen of the regular army
  • Teachers of the Shaid Satari University of the regular air force
  • Officers and staff of the logistics training unit the regular army
  • Professors and lecturers of the Imam Ali University for officers of the regular army
  • Officers, staff, and commanders of the chief of staff of the regular army

What did these soldiers write?

In summary, they wrote: Together we fought in the war with our brothers in the Revolutionary Guards in order to defend the country, the people, and the honor of the nation. They also emphasize that “the value of the land means the value of the Iranian nation.” This is very interesting. 

Value of the nation.

Not abstract concepts such as Iran or Islam, but the value of the nation determines the value of the land. Therefore, the weapons of the army and RG are to be used to protect the nation: “When we fought together, we could never suspect that parts of the RG would ever use its weapons against the people.”

The last section of this brief but powerful statement will surely immortalize these brave officers: “The army is a haven for the nation and will never want to suppress the people at the request of politicians. We shall remain true to our promise not to intervene in politics. But we cannot remain silent when our fellow citizens are oppressed by tyranny.”

They go on: “Therefore, we warn the Guards who have betrayed the martyrs (from the war between Iran and Iraq) and who decided to attack the lives, the property and the honor of the citizens. We seriously warn them that if they do not leave their chosen path, they will be confronted with our tough response. The military is a haven for the nation. And we will defend the peace-loving Iranian nation against any aggression.”

Very clear language. This declaration was distributed by several human rights sites such as Iran Press News and Amir Kabir and Gooya.

I have spoken with several sources inside and outside of Iran. The statement is real. If Khamenei orders the arrest of the officers, resistance will spread like wildfire in all barracks of the regular army.

It is ironic that once again the officers of the regular air force join the people against the regime. Thirty years ago the officers of the regular air force also joined the people. After a few weeks the regime of the Shah was overthrown. The American and European diplomats need to warn Khamenei in a louder and clearer way about the consequences of his way of governing the nation. Especially now that Khamenei’s power also further erodes in the regular army.

This article first appeared in the Dutch magazine Elsevier on December 12, 2009.

Afshin Ellian is a professor of law at Leiden University.
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