The Revolutionary Guards Before and After 2009
“Any action to launch a velvet revolution in Iran will be crushed immediately. If political groups and parties in Iran are realistic they will not move towards planning or implementing such scenarios. Everybody must accept the people’s votes and respect them. Iranian people are Muslims and want Islam and they view the Imam’s line and that of the supreme leader to be the pure path of Mohammad’s Islam and will never deviate from this course.”
These are the final remarks of General Yadoolah Javani, the former head of the political office of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to a reporter of Sobh Sadegh weekly, the official newspaper of the IRGC just 4 days prior to the elections for the 10th president of Iran in June of 2009. The general was speaking to a reporter from the publication that he oversaw.
In that interview, Javani accused reformers who supported Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi of taking steps to “silently overthrow” the regime and stressed that “some reform groups, and particularly the extreme ones, believed that they had to win the presidential elections and come to power through any means. They believe that if they did not return to power, they would remain in the periphery for a long time, perhaps even never return to power.”
The head of the IRGC political office made these remarks at a time when the internal bulletin of the force known as Tahlile Rooz (The Analysis of the Day) was telling its political messengers, who had been sent across the country just before the elections, that Mousavi was winning over Ahmadinejad in most provinces and added that the green color that Mousavi’s supporters had chosen indicated the launching of the velvet revolution. Javani had also warned that the green clothing, scarf, hat, wristband, windshield wipers and antennas that people demonstrated during the 2009 presidential campaign as a sign of solidarity with Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi were more than just ways to create public enthusiasm.
These are words that other IRGC commanders repeated and maneuvered around during the two weeks leading up to the June 12, 2009 elections. These are also the very words that were alarming to three presidential candidates of the time who viewed them as interference of the military in the elections.
Just one day prior to the elections, Mousavi wrote a 4-paragraph letter to ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic regime, in which he wrote that he had received “evidence about the interference of a number of commanders and authorities of the IRGC and the Basij mobilization force in the elections.” He also said that such “interference was not only a violation of the law, but also created division among commanders, officials and the healthy and sincere body of the Basij and the IRGC. Since the extent of such unlawful measures are not known and since some of the staff and observers in the voting precincts are from amongst supporters of specific candidates, it is concerning that people’s votes may be hijacked.”
Ayatollah Khamenei’s response to this letter was a meaningful silence. The election day came and voting took place on June 12. Reports on the number of votes cast to the candidates were broadcast on national radio and television from the ministry of the interior and events took the turn that ayatollah Khamenei had announced in August/September of 2008 when he had met with Ahmadinejad’s cabinet. At that particular meeting a year before the presidential elections and three years into Ahmadinejad’s administration, the leader told the cabinet, “Work as if you have another 5 years to work; In other words assume that you will be the manager for this year plus the following 4 years.”
Demonstrations broke out across Iran and Mousavi issued his first statement and addressing the Iranian nation wrote, “The results that have been announced for the tenth presidential elections are baffling. People who had stayed in long lines to cast their vote were witness to the mix of the voters and know who they have voted to. They look in absolute amazement at the games played by the officials and the national radio and television. More than ever before, they now want to know how and by whom and which officials were the plans for these games made. While strongly protesting these current events and the blatant and gross violations on election day, I warn that I will not surrender to this dangerous set up.”
Two days after the elections, as security, police and para-military forces increasingly battled protestors, Mousavi issued another statement in which he stressed that “Those who after many violations had announced the incredible results of the presidential elections were now striving to finalize those results and start a new period in the country. I have repeatedly spoken of the dangers of unlawful acts during the course of the campaign and elections and have stressed that such measures could result in dictatorship and despotism, and that our nation today can sense this.”
Protests did not die but grew, particularly in Tehran. From the early hours of June 14, IRGC and Basij forces took positions to tackle the protestors. The first nightly attack took place at Tehran University. A number of student sources, including the country’s largest student organization Daftare Tahkim Vahdat said there were a number of deaths which officials denied.
The big march came on June 15 when people poured into the streets of the capital to show their rejection of the announced results of the elections. Clashes erupted and a large number of protestors were killed by the IRGC.
In an interview with state controlled Kayhan newspaper, Abdollah Araghi, the current vice commander of IRGC’s ground forces and the then commander of the Tehran’s Mohammad Rasool Allah force confirmed the crackdown of demonstrators by the IRGC, and said, “The IRGC and the Basij was responsible for the security of the capital between June 15, 2012 and August 16, 2012.” In the interview he also stressed that he personally had given the orders to “directly shoot” at the protestors to his forces through his wireless network.
As demonstrations expanded, IRGC and Basij forces throughout the country battled with protestors and the number of deaths grew, as many civil, political and media activists were arrested and rounded up.
In his fifth statement since the elections, Mousavi wrote, “As I watch the situation, I see a larger purpose in these events than just the imposition of an undesired government on the people. They want to impose a new political life on the country.”
The Second Act of the Coup
In October of 2009, during a “Clerics Countrywide Seminar in the city of Mashhad” a commander Moshafagh accused personalities such as Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami, Mohammad Mousavi Khoeniha and Mir-Hossein Mousavi and reform parties such as the Majmae Rohaniyun Mobarez (Association of Combatant Clerics), Majmae Niruhaye Khate Imam (Association of Forces of the Imam’s Path), Mosharekat (Islamic Iran Participation Front), Mojahedin Enghelab (Organization of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution), Kargozaran (Executives of Construction), Hambasteghi (Islamic Coalition Party), and Mardomsalari (Democracy Front) of planning to overthrow the Islamic republic and striving to subjugate ayatollah Khamenei. He stressed, “With this knowledge, we disrupted their (the reformers) efforts and stopped them.”
In his remarks, he also said that Ahmadinejad was ayatollah Khamenei’s presidential candidate of choice and revealed the creation of a board months before the day of elections to identify and confront the “sedition.”
Prior to him the top IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jaafari had also made similar remarks in August\September 2009. Soon after Moshafagh’s remarks, the head of the IRGC political office Yadollah Javani confirmed the views of the senior IRGC security commander and called them “enlightening.”
The Iran Participation Front, a leading reformist party in Iran whose leadership and many members were arrested in 2009, many of whom remain behind bars till this day, wrote an open letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary and pointing to the remarks of this IRGC security commander as proof of the views of the protestors that an “electoral coup” had taken place by military services under the leadership of the country’s supreme leader.
“The widely published speech of general Moshafagh, a senior commander in the Saralah base, exposed the plans for an electoral coup during the 10th presidential elections which confirms the claims of the leaders of the Green Movement in that the elections were engineered,” Mosharekat’s letter to the head of the judiciary Sadegh Larijani said. It asked the judiciary to investigate this issue as it clarified that not only was a fraud perpetrated during the elections, but a whole process had been engineered to hijack the election prior to the event.
The judiciary did not respond to the party’s letter and request. Instead, the judiciary re-summoned 7 of the leaders of the party to return to prison because of the party’s claims in the letter.
In January 2011 Mohammad Hossein Safar Herandi, the current advisor to the IRGC commander and former state controlled Kayhan newspaper said, “During last year’s sedition which had foreign connections, three thousand individuals had been identified and their work is complete.” He also said that “100 of the principal organizers of the sedition who had been criminals had been sentenced, thus uprooting the whole issue.”
A year later, he confirmed the killing of protestors in addition to the arrest of demonstrators and leaders of the Green Movement by security-military forces as an effort to retake control of the protests and said, “Right from the beginning of the sedition some believed that by arresting a few the issue will be resolved, which was a simplistic perspective because not much depended on the statements of these two (Mousavi and Karoubi) and the whole issue was not under their control.”
In March of 2011, Kayhan newspaper published the speech of Hossein Salami, the vice commander of the IRGC to IRGC and Basij personnel in the northern town of Babol and quoted him as saying, “Domestic seditions had been crushed through a connection with the velayate faghih” (the clerical leader).
These remarks were followed by house arrests of the Green Movement leaders, Mehdi Karoubi, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard. In his talk, Salami implicitly also confirmed the defeat of the efforts to crush the protest and the Green Movement.
A year after his remarks that were dubbed as “bitter reality,” he again confirmed the failure of the IRGC to crush the revolt and said, “The names of seditionists can be announced but those of its creators cannot. Some ask why Mousavi and Karoubi not put up for trial. The reason is that they have supporters whose names I cannot announce.”
And so on the third anniversary of the 2009 electoral coup, the headaches of IRGC commanders who implemented their coup project continues. Just recently, the official publication of the IRGC was forced to retract the remarks of the head of the force’s think tank who had at one time said, “The ashes of the sedition are still hot.”