A military dictatorship in Iran?

1467348349_3e36e49241What if  two-thirds of President Obama’s cabinet came from the same white militia movement in Idaho?

That seems to be the situation in Iran. Yesterday I wrote that Iran’s rulers were in no danger as long as the military and police remained loyal to the government. Today, the New York Times has an op-ed by two scholars who argue that the Iranian military has actually seized control of  the government.

The mullahs may appear to be in control, but power effectively rests with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, of which Ahmadinejad was a former officer, according to Danielle Pletka and Ali Alfoneh at the American Enterprise Institute. Like Hitler’s SS, the IRGC functions as both an elite military force and as a politically reliable army that the regime can use for sensitive tasks like training terrorists and suppressing dissent.

I knew that the IRGC owned large parts of the Iranian economy, but I never realized that 14 of the 21 cabinet officers appointed by Ahmadinejad are veterans of the Revolutionary Guards.

What’s happening in Iran sounds like what happened in Russia, where hopes that Communism would fade into democracy withered as Putin and cronies from the KGB took power.And Putin is no improvement over the Communists, as the Chechens and Georgians discovered. If Russia seems less of a threat internationally, it’s because Russia is weaker, and not because the Kremlin discovered peace and love.

This worries me. A lot. The Shiitev clerics who took power in the 1979 revolution were dangerous, but they could also be relied upon to do stupid things, like prolonging an eight-year war with Iraq, and stifling the economy. As the IRGC gains more power, I suspect the will be more flexible, perhaps allowing enough democracy and dissent to let Iran’s young people to blow off steam, yet still keep an iron grip on power. But they will be even more determined to make Iran the supreme power in the Middle East, where the world gets its oil. They will continue to develop nuclear weapons, because that will give them influence. They will wage an undeclared war against Israel and sponsor Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In other words, instead of an Iran ruled by fanatical clerics, we will have an Iran ruled by fanatical storm troopers. That’s scary.

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10 Responses to A military dictatorship in Iran?

  1. libtree09 says:

    Maybe. The Islamic revolution can rise again and it doesn’t seem everyone is going along with the program. What will the regular army do?

    • Michael Peck says:

      The Iranian army was purged after the fall of the Shah, which meant that a lot of the professional officers were executed or jailed. Nice way to ensure political reliability, except that when Iraq attacked in 1980, the mullahs had to resort to using children in human wave attacks in the Iran-Iraq war.

      I’m sure the regime is keeping a close watch on the regular military. But I expect the Revolutionary Guards and Basiji will be used to quell domestic disturbances. If regular army units are deployed, you know the mullahs are worried.

  2. Brian In NYC says:

    How about we actually wait to see what happens before forecasting doom and gloom.

    • Michael Peck says:

      I’m doomy and gloomy because I see no prospect for genuine regime change in Iran. If the government falls, it will almost certainly be replaced by another religious-nationalist faction who will build nukes and suppress human rights. As I said before, either an outside force like the U.S. removes the regime, or the regime and the security forces fall apart from within. Neither is likely.

      You’re right that anything can happen.Who would have expected mass protests in Tehran? But in the meantime, the U.S. has to have a policy toward Iran. For now, we would be foolish to assume that there will be a substantive change in government.

      • libtree09 says:

        Yes Obama came to the same conclusion about any substantive changes in Iraq and came under a bit of fire for it. From what I have been reading the Mullahs will remain strong. There seems to be a sense that the crisis might be among the Mullahs themselves and if the Supreme Ayatollah has to step aside in some fashion how do you think this will affect Ahmadinejah?
        I feel like I’m on a crash course in Iranian politics. It seems to me that the conflict is over his military dictatorship and control of much of the economy. However I can’t figure out who actually wields the that power. If Khanenei steps aside wouldn’t the new mullah control all that Ahmadinejah has set up? Rarely do we see a truly Machiavellian situation play out as it might have five hundred years ago. Curse me for saying this but even a small dose of democracy can really flourish. Slowly but surely.

      • Brian In NYC says:

        I don’t see what you hope to achieve by ginning up emotions with talk of Hitler or the SS. Now is the time for us of the West to hold our tongues and let things unfold, and that is our policy right now. There is no immediate threat to us or Israel right now coming from Iran. The current situation in Iran is to our advantage. Your “axis of evil” rhetoric only serves the hard liners in Iran right now.

      • Michael Peck says:

        I’ve never used the phrase “axis of evil”, and I’m not accusing Iran of being Nazi Germany. But the Revolutionary Guards are analogous to the Nazi SS. They’re both highly politicized military army that operate their own economic empires. It’s not a moral judgment. Just an analogy.

        Iran does threaten U.S. interests and Israel, through a nuclear weapons program, threats to Persian Gulf oil nations, and sponsoring terrorists (or insurgents – choose your word) like Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shiite militias. Don’t exaggerate the problem, but don’t minimize it either.

      • Brian In NYC says:

        “Don’t exaggerate the problem, but don’t minimize it either.”

        Exactly, Iran is years away from having a nuke, so bringing that issue into what’s going on on the streets of Tehran right now serve no good purpose.

  3. layla says:

    Michael, I’ve read on some of the blogs I follow that there are Hamas members in Iran, helping the IRGC do some of the thuggery that the police and even some military are increasingly unwilling to perpetrate on their fellow citizens. Think there’s any truth to that?

  4. georgerumens says:

    THE COMPLEXITY…1) Khomenei’s big speech on Friday illustrated that he was more of a softy than we thought. He seemed genuinely concerned that the dissenters may have a cause. 2) Twitter reported that the crowd chanting through his speech were mostly over 50, and bussed-in from outlying towns where the president is popular. 3) The supposed hardliners in Iran are weaker than we suppose. They desperately need friends, but, like a three-year-old, act pugnaciously. 4)A determined charm-offensive from the West will kick away the old foundational argument that The West is to blame.5) Iran is ripe for slow change, brought about by a better educated generation. More honey and less vinegar from The West would help. The best idea is to emphasis our friendship with Iran, and our respect for the people and the culture, and ignore the initial anger.

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