The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is dropping the mask.
Until June 12, when the Guard emerged as the critical pillar of the regime in putting down the post-election protest demonstrations, the IRGC remained in the shadows. Intelligence specialists say that there isn’t a lot known about the organization, structure and operational commanders of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), otherwise known as the pasdaran. During my visit to Tehran last month, I spoke to one Iranian expert, a former journalist, who said that there are two things that are very closely shielded in Iran: the organization of the IRGC and the organization of the Office of the Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But now, at least, the Guard is openly acknowledging its role.
It began in the days before the election, when the IRGC’s ideological chief warned that it would crush the reformist-led opposition, which had dressed its campaign in green. “There are many indications that some extremist [i.e., reformist] groups have designed a ‘color’ revolution,” said Yadollah Javani of the IRGC. “Any attempt at a velvet revolution will be nipped in the bud.” Now Javani is back, and he’s sounding uglier, with talk about eye-gouging. Said Javani, who is the IRGC’s “political director”:
“We came up against a deep mischief during this election, a mischief that gave birth to the new divisions. During these events, the eye of the mischief was damaged, but it was not blinded. Now the eye of the mischief must be blinded completely and gouged out, and this can be done by illuminating the events behind the scenes.”
The political director of the IRGC is an important post. Last year, when I visited Iran, I met with a former IRGC political director, M. Hossein Saffar-Haramdi, a close ally of President Ahmadinejad, who is currently the minister of culture and Islamic guidance. (Like many IRGC commanders, he’s been since elevated to a key post in Iran’s government.) As minister of culture, Saffar-Haramdi’s job is to censor or shut down newspapers, oversee the creative arts (including painting, sculpture, film, and music), and ensure that Iran’s women don’t get too uppity. When I asked him then why he shuts down opposition papers, he said blithely:
“Any press activity that would disturb the fabric of society or create some sort of disruption, the law must be applied. “The press is free, as long as it does not start insulting political personalities and religious beliefs.”