There are two deciding factors in whether the Green Revolution will reverse the travesty of the Islamic Revolution of 1979: the emotion of the Revolutionary Guards personnel that are the regime’s last line of defense, and the people’s willingness to march onto the government buildings that the regime operates from. For the most part, the demonstrations have been limited to public squares and universities. There have been reports of protesters overtaking police stations and attacking Basiji outposts, but if they march closer to government offices, forcing the regime’s leaders to flee or fill the streets with blood, what will the Revolutionary Guards do? Will they be able to hold their ranks together and massacre innocents who look like their sons and daughters for the sake of a regime that has brought nothing but misery and isolation to them?
This elite security force consists of some highly devoted operatives who have engaged in terrorism and torture again and again, yet there are also those who joined for the job security and benefits it provides when most are in despair because of the dire economic situation. Others surely have joined and have had a change of heart since being exposed to the inner workings of the brutality machine known as the state security forces. However, there will remain a portion who are attracted to that very brutality.
Should the Iranian regime launch a Tiananmen Square redux, there will undoubtedly be major defections from the Revolutionary Guards, but will there be enough discord to allow for forces to dissolve and for the masses to overwhelm their attackers? It doesn’t take many evil people with weapons to create an impenetrable wall of gunfire, especially if they shoot from inside and on top of buildings and behind large barricades, but cracks are starting to show in the regime that may prove fatal.
Recognizing that the local Basiji, Ansar Hezbollah, police, and army cannot be counted upon to stop the masses in Tehran, Ayatollah Khamenei has reportedly put the Revolutionary Guards in charge of security for the capital city. One member of the security forces was asked by the Los Angeles Times how he’d react to such orders. He said that he and many others at his base supported the demonstrators and stated, “I would never do it. … I would never fire on any of these people myself.”
There are believable rumors on Twitter, the main battleground in the information war right now, that local police have been seen arresting violent Basiji members — and some of the militiamen even laying down their arms. Others are fearfully covering their faces so they can’t be identified.
Faced with such potential disobedience, the regime is looking outside of the country for support. There have been consistent reports of protesters being attacked by Arabic-speaking thugs, possibly men connected to Muqtada al-Sadr and Iran’s “Special Groups” in Iraq or foreign terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas. “President” Ahmadinejad is said to be consulting with Russian advisors about how to handle the situation, a clear sign of insecurity in the normally self-assured tyrant.
His insecurity is warranted. Iranians are taking note of the fact that the presence of local police, Basiji militiamen, and Ansar Hezbollah thugs that attacked them when the demonstrations first began has dramatically decreased, which they are interpreting as a sign of fear. I’ve received accounts from Iranians that the local police are being seen smiling and acting friendly overall with the demonstrators, while not conversing with the Basiji militia. One report even claimed that a police station was overtaken in Tajrish after the commander ordered his men to stand down. Another account described how the army special forces acted to protect the demonstrators from the Basiji and they privately expressed their disdain for the vicious militia.
There may have even been an attempt to launch a coup by top security officers. Sixteen top Revolutionary Guards officers were arrested after holding secret meetings with senior army officers about betraying the regime. This occurred in the beginning of the unrest and so it is safe to say that this anti-government sentiment has increased as the crackdown has become harsher and more violent.
The regime’s political leadership is plagued with infighting as well. Michael Ledeen points out that over two dozen former prominent members of the regime are now in prison. Former presidents Khatami, Bani-Sadr, and Rafsanjani are putting severe pressure on Supreme Leader Khamenei, who is suffering from public criticism he has never had to face before. Khatami is planning his own demonstration over the weekend and the son of the shah, Reza Pahlavi, has also been sending messages to Iran advocating nationwide, peaceful resistance to overthrow the regime. It’s almost as if the democratic contest for the next leader of Iran has already begun.
The Iranians sending me news, photos, and videos, most of which have been posted at WorldThreats.com, are certain that the death toll is now in the hundreds and that tens of thousands have been injured. The crowds are growing and the uprising is now nationwide. The increased pace of beatings, shootings, stabbings, and torture is a sign that the regime is growing desperate. Hundreds of mobile prisons have reportedly been dispatched that can be used to detain and torture people for up to ten days. Tear gas is being used indiscriminately, including in hospitals, resulting in the deaths of babies. The regime’s thugs are raiding and destroying student dorms one by one and are entering private homes looking for satellite dishes and any other means of transmitting information. I’ve been informed that four female students were killed by axe-wielding agents on Thursday and that the government is secretly burying their victims without their families present.
These acts are causing the protests and reprisals to grow, not dissipate. Several Basiji bases have been lit on fire and recent raids on homes and dorms in Kermanshah provoked the protesters into setting an Ansar Hezbollah base ablaze.
But the two questions remain: How will the Revolutionary Guards act when they are inevitably told to massacre their fellow countrymen in a desperate bid to save the power of failed mullahs. And will the Iranian people march forward towards danger in the hopes of emptying the government’s offices?
We will probably know the answers to these questions in the coming days. And with those answers, the future of Iran and the Middle East will be decided.