I’ve received many questions about the recent explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base near Khorramabad (near the Iraqi border) that reportedly killed nearly twenty Guardsmen and, according to some accounts, destroyed several new Shehab missiles. The regime described it as an accident, but even the Washington Post’s Thomas Erdbrink, who often shows a touching tendency to accept the official version of events, had his doubts: “It was unclear whether the incident…was an accident or the result of terrorism or sabotage.” He was right to wonder; there have been three such events at the Imam Ali Base in the last several months, and while there are lots of accidents in Iran, it is most unlikely that repeated explosions are all accidental.
The base is a training center for high-level Iranian officers and experienced foreign fighters. According to a reliable Iranian source, the foreigners were being trained in the use of roadside bombs, the so-called IEDs that account for most American and other NATO casualties in Afghanistan. Those were apparently ignited, along with jet fuel, and killed 19 Iranian officers and badly burnt another 14, most of whom are in critical condition. No figures are available for the foreigners, although some of them were certainly killed or wounded.
The base was attacked by two men on motorcycles, who first killed two security guards and then launched rockets over the walls into the base. There were indeed four missiles at the site, but they were short-range missile with a range of 200-250 kilometers, not the latest generation of intermediate-range Shehabs.
The latest deaths bring the number of RG casualties in the last 26 days to 102, which gives you a sense of the intensity of the internal war against the Iranian regime. Earlier in the month, armed gunmen attacked police in Kurdestan, killing five and wounding four others.
Meanwhile, Iranian workers and merchants were also challenging the regime, with workers walking off the job in the south and the operators of the gold bazaars locking up their shops all over the country, nominally in protest against the new 3% value added tax, but actually against the regime’s increasingly centralized control over the national economy. Negotiations to end the shutdown broke down early this week, as it became evident that the regime was determined to crush the traditional merchant class. Indeed, the Iranian currency becomes weaker by the day, which has the dual effect of ruining the traders and smugglers who have long been the source of merchandise for the bazaars, and further empowering the Revolutionary Guards who have abundant quantities of hard currency from their (legal and illegal) oil business.
In addition to pauperizing the merchant class, the regime is striking at other middle-class sectors by rationing gasoline and ending subsidies for such staples as cooking oil, sugar, and rice. The subsidies will be replaced by aid — in the form of coupons — for the staples, which will be given to supporters and withheld from opponents. In this manner, the Iranian economy will increasingly resemble that of North Korea, albeit with a very wealthy state and elite, living the good life financed by oil revenues.
These measures – some of which have been announced, while others will emerge in coming weeks – will further enrage most Iranians, who are already alienated from the regime. The ranks of the enragés include many senior clerics, and in recent weeks the regime has assaulted their mosques, beaten and arrested their followers and even family members, and shut down their websites and Facebook pages. The regime’s critics are not going quietly. The Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, for example, who is a member of the Assembly of Experts that chooses the supreme leader, has recently challenged Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s legitimacy, saying that “the only duties of someone selected by the Assembly of Experts are ‘…to coordinate the efforts of the three branches of government and to prevent the violation of citizens’ rights by the three branches.’ This bold claim means that the supreme leader’s powers are much more limited than is currently the case. Dastgheib asserts, ‘This person…has no right to interfere in the affairs of the people.'”
Other senior clerics have taken similar positions, and Khamenei is traveling today to the holy city of Qom, where he will meet with many of them in an attempt to shore up his waning legitimacy. Matters have gone too far, too many people have been killed, tortured, and humiliated to expect the Qom clerical establishment to fully embrace Khamenei. Remarkably, at least some of these men of the turban are prepared for martyrdom rather than accept Khamenei’s tyranny. I doubt we will see a mass rejection of Khamenei in Qom, however, and in all likelihood many will support the supreme leader, and those who reject him will face harsh treatment when the leader returns to the capital.
Thus the vice of oppression tightens more forcefully on all levels of Iranian society, as the regime uses the only method that can keep Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in power: the iron fist, combined with foreign adventure (about which more in my next blog).
Can it last? The regime would surely fall in short order if its opponents received a modicum of real support from the West, but no such support seems to be forthcoming from the feckless men and women who mistakenly fancy themselves to be real leaders, and who one day will have earned a shameful page in the history of this period.
And so the agony of Iran continues, until the inevitable explosion of righteous wrath finally destroys this evil regime.