As the Iranian calendar year draws to a close (it ends on March 20th), the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have made fresh announcement about its readiness to deal with all “threats,” a reference analysts believe indicates the force’s concerns about riots and demonstrations because of the growing economic woes of the public.
While inspecting para-military Basij and Guard forces in the province of Kerman, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, the commander of the IRGC said, “The defense strategy of the Guards is comprehensive and complete. We have identified all the policies and strategies of the enemy and have drawn up defense plans for them. Our power on the ground, air and water is sufficient for all threats.”
Jaafari announced that the Basij and Guard forces were now present in “all populated areas” and added, “The Islamic revolution shall pass through its third phase with the new drop offs and progress with justice will be the core of this new phase.”
“Our ground units today are completely connected in depth and organization with Basij militia, Imam Hossein brigades are set up in ‘all populated areas’ to raise their battle and defense readiness and are prepared for combat and defense missions. They constitute hundreds of battle foot brigades created for ground defense missions,” he continued. “The Guards’ professional ground units have completed the Basij combat units for a ground war. Still, we will not stop at the current levels,” he said.
This readiness and connectivity between the Basij and the Guards is announced after last year’s joint exercises in a region called “the resistance village” on IRGC lands. A new command called Imam Hadi has been created to coordinate the command of these forces which are led by IRGC general Ali Fazli, who also holds the post of deputy Basij commander. These units played a key role in the 2009 crackdown of protestors and demonstrations following the disputed presidential election. IRGC’s Sobh Sadegh publication had announced earlier the creation of special 45-day military andsecurity training for the Imam Hossein and Imam Ali brigades.
The various military and security Basij brigades that operate under the Ashoora, al-Zahra, Imam Hossein, Karbala, Zolfaqar and more recently the Beyt al-Moghadas units have been tasked with dealing with city riots as the country’s economic crisis deepens. These latest statements indicate that Guard leaders may be rounding these brigades under a central command.
Prior to this, Abdollah Araghi, the former IRGC commander of Tehran’s Rasool Allah force which was active in the 2009 crackdown of protestors, had said, “The Basij militiamen are pulled into the Basij force with emphasis on military activities. They will be organized under the Ashoora, al-Zahra, Karbala, Zolfaqar and Imam Hossein brigades.”
The deputy commander of IRGC’s ground forces also indicated the specialty of the Imam Hossein brigade to be security focused. “The best trained Basij forces that have a military attitude have been identified and will be used in the Imam Hossein brigades to be used when necessary,” he said.
These remarks come at a time when senior leaders of the Islamic regime ranging from ayatollah Khamenei himself to various IRGC commanders appointed by him, and even some government leaders, have expressed concern about possible public unrest because of economic problems.
Speaking in June/July of last year, Khamenei told a group of judiciary officials, “The main target of the arrogant powers in imposing international sanctions are the Iranian people so that they will ultimately get frustrated and distance themselves from the Islamic regime.”
Guards General Yadollah Javani also called the economic sanctions against Iran to be “economic war” and said its aim was to create social unrest, riots and to threaten the national security of the country as efforts to make Iran capitulate.”
After his name was put on the UN sanctions list, Javani said the purpose of the economic sanctions was to exert pressure on the people and added, “We are at the last stop and this is the enemy’s last shot. We must pass through this phase successfully and should not retreat and surrender. Surrender would mean a retreat from the ideals of the Islamic revolution.”
Another appointee of ayatollah Khamenei to the IRGC, Ali Saeedi echoed these words and said, “We have managed to deal with the most difficult conditions. Today the situation is different from the past. The country needs specific plans. The current war is an economic war but some people still do not believe that the enemy pursues to overthrow the regime through this war.” In that particular talk, Saeedi also criticized Ahmadinejad for his implementation of the 2nd phase of the subsidies program and called for greater assistance to the lowest income social groups as a way to prevent social unrest in the coming year.
Generally the concern of Iranian officials regarding social unrest began about two and a half years ago. This has been reflected in speeches, IRGC bulletins, and even measures announced by ruling circles in Iran.