Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah
Six days after the Israeli attack on Gaza, Tehran’s Mohammad Rasoolollah Revolutionary Guard Division declared its readiness to confront Israel. This is the very same division that was tasked with crushing the Green Movement protests against the rigged presidential election of 2009 in Tehran.
In its statement, the Tehran Division condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza and said that “the Basijis (i.e., militiamen) and combatants” of the force were “ready to rush to the assistance of the Muslim people of Palestine and Lebanon.”
The statement also condemned the “reticence of the international community and claimants of human rights” over Israel’s attacks and said the dispatch of forces by the Guards Division depended on the “orders of the leader of Muslims (ayatollah Khamenei).”
This statement was announced a day after remarks by the chief of Iran’s armed forces command who had said that it had predicted the Israeli attack on Gaza beforehand.
General Hassan Firuzabadi had said, “One or two months ago I had predicted that the Israeli threats against Iran would not materialize because of their inability” to carry them out but added, “these claims would eventually result in the Zionist attack on Gaza.” He continued, “We must support the people of Gaza. They are Muslims and their blood is shed unjustly.”
A day before Firuzabadi’s remarks, the head of Iran’s parliament, the Majlis had called on Islamic countries to provide weapons to Palestinians. Speaking during a public session of the legislature, Ali Larijani asked, “When the United States and the West provide Zionists (i.e., Israel) with weapons, why do the committed Islamic states not provide the Palestinian nation with their weaponry needs?” He continued, “Any attack by the Zionist regime on Palestine is an attack on the Islamic umma (i.e., nation) which will provide military assistance to Palestine in response.”
Iran’s deputy Majlis chief also spoke on the issue on the same day and stressed on the role of the armed forces of the Islamic republic of Iran in the clashes between Gaza and Israel. Mohammad Hossein Abutorabi said, “The power of the armed forces of Iran has emerged in Gaza and has put the Zionist regime down.” He added, “The world does not doubt that the grounding of the American war machine in Iraq was the accomplishment of our armed forces and it does not doubt that the Islamic resistance arm has been coached by this ideology.”
I Will Be Direct
These remarks are significant because normally the military involvement of Iran’s armed forces in the region, and particularly in Palestine and Israel, are denied by the official authorities of the Islamic regime who have been asserting that the support Iran provides to countries such as Lebanon and Palestinians is moral and not military. The first time such a change took place was on February 3, 2012 when he denied Iran’s involvement in the bloody demonstrations in Bahrain, but added, “I categorically say that we intervened in the anti Israeli issue and its result was the victory of the 33 day and 22 day wars. Front now on we shall be behind any nation, any groups that battles the Zionist regime and shall support them and have no qualms about announcing this.”
The 33 and 22 day wars that Khamenei refers to are the two separate military battles between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah in 2006 and the Palestinian groups’ battles with Israel in Gaza in the latter part of 2009 and early 2009.
Israel and the West names Iran as the principal founders of Lebanese Hezbollah and say it is the largest arms supplier and funds provider to this groups and other Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Former Allies, Current Enemies
The announcement of the Revolutionary Guards that it was prepared to send a force to Palestine comes at a time when Western intelligence agencies accuse the Guards of training Lebanese and Palestinian guerilla fighters.
Except for an incident in June/July 1982, a number of commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards led by Ahmad Motevaselian who was the commander of the 27 Mohammad Rasoolollah Division, tried to enter Lebanon and provided assistance to this country in its war with Israel but have disappeared since then. Conflicting reports have emerged about their death by Lebanese Phalange groups or Israeli forces, or even that they are still alive.
The Tehran Mohammad Rasoolollah Revolutionary Guard division that issued a statement announcing its readiness to provide a force to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the successor of the 27 Mohammad Rasoolollah Division from the Iran-Iraq war days whose commanders disappeared in Lebanon.
Ayatollah Khamenei, who the Revolutionary Guard statement said must issue the order for the dispatch of a force to the area, has till now not commented on the clashes.
Israel has been threatening to bombard Iran’s nuclear facilities for a while now to which Iranian officials have responded by saying they would completely destroy Israel.
During the monarchy of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran prior to the 1979 revolution, Iran was an ally of Israel in the region. The Islamic republic does not recognize the state of Israel.