Iran’s Qods Force And Modern Proxy Wars

South Front

25.07.2019

Iran’s Qods Force And Modern Proxy Wars

Based on the analysis prepared by Dennis M. Nilsen, PhD exclusively for SouthFront

The Qods Force is the irregular warfare unit of Iran’s Corps of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Eslami).  Created during the Holy Defense to augment the capabilities of the Sepah to include irregular warfare, it has since become one of the chief means of expanding Iranian ‘soft power’ within the Middle East and throughout the world.  Carrying the Persian name for Jerusalem, it is emblematic of the eschatological significance of the Islamic Republic’s regional military strategy.  More has come to light about this secretive organization since its inception, but precious little of its organization, personnel, weaponry and operations is known, and comes to light only in the wake of its suspected activities.

The close of the Holy Defense in 1988 saw the completion of the first chapter of the history of the Islamic Republic – conventional war.  The peace which followed left the new government intact but the population war-weary; the government needed to turn its attention to rebuilding the infrastructure and bringing orderliness to the disrupted lives of its people. The armed forces – both the Artesh and the Sepah – though rich with battle experience, had been worn down and desperately need this peace.

If this war taught the Iranian leadership anything, the lesson was: prevent another conventional attack by pushing the frontier for possible conflict as far as possible from the border.  To safeguard the home of the Revolution – which Khomeini and his followers viewed, and still view, as the only legitimate Islamic government, and the one which is meant to prepare the way for the return of the Mahdi – a sizeable buffer had to be constructed to allow for its endurance.  While Iran had not been defeated in the Holy Defense, it had been severely wounded by Saddam’s army with Western backing. At end of the war, Iran was in shortage in key resources and finance. The war clearly exposed the weaknesses of both the Iranian economy and the armed forces. The mujtahid rulers needed to create and perfect a national defense based upon self-reliance in order to turn Iran into a fortress for Islam from which calls for Islamic unity in the face of Zionist and Western imperialist influence could issue.  Having survived this baptism of fire intact, and with geopolitics still centered around the bipolar contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, the time for such a reconstruction appeared optimal.

The Sepah was created immediately after the Revolution in order to counter threats from armed opposition groups inside Iran such as the MKO (the Mojahedin-e Khalq or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran) and to protect the ideological integrity of the new political system. Originally a paramilitary formation, during the Holy Defense it necessarily took on a military character while shouldering with the Artesh the burden of fighting.  During the war, in addition to the many conventional battles fought against the Iraqis, the Iranians also deployed special forces to the front line in the mountainous terrain of the north, and behind the lines to support the Kurdish struggle in northern Iraq against Saddam Hussein regime. To mirror this unit within the Artesh, the Sepah created the Qods Force to engage in all aspects of irregular warfare. Thus, the role of Quds force in the establishment of Hezbollah’s Islamic Resistance (al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya) in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War was inevitable; following this it was used to support the operations of the Hezbe Wahdat Shia mujahedin in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.

By supporting Hezbollah and the Hezbe Wahdat, Iran was able to counter, respectively, the American/Zionist coalition and the Soviets, thereby keeping these two groups from threatening the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic.  When Khomeini died in 1989 and was succeeded by Ali Khamenei, who oversaw the transition from a war to a peace economy, Qods was able, along with its parent Sepah, to maintain its level of funding and even to increase its relative importance within the military strategy of Iran.

Having discussed the ideological and strategic origins and purposes of the Qods Force, let us look at its structure and methods of warfare.  Apart from its three senior commanders, no names can be attributed to either its leadership or the remainder of the force.  Major General Pasdar Qassem Soleimani, presently the most well-known Iranian soldier, has commanded the Qods Force since 1997, and his two deputies are Brigadier General Pasdar Ismail Qaani and Brigadier General Pasdar Ahmad Sabouri.  Because all members of Qods are taken from the larger Sepah, one can presume that it retains the same rank structure as its parent, although it is impossible to verify or deny this.  Similarly, although the size of the Qods Force can be approximated, its small-level tactical organization can only be guessed at based upon the arrangement of other comparable military units.  As indicated previously, Qods has two missions: advising and training of foreign military and police, and clandestine operations.  Teams of men for either type of mission may be formed ad hoc out of the service pools of each of the eight directorates suspected to exist.  According to the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, Qods is divided into the following eight directorates:

  • Iraq
  • Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen (Persian Gulf)
  • Israel, Lebanon, Jordan (Middle East)
  • Afghanistan, Pakistan, India
  • Turkey
  • Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldovia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia (former-Soviet Union)
  • Central and Western Europe and the United States and Canada
  • North Africa

Further, US military intelligence suggests that Qods is divided into several branches of specialization:

  • Intelligence
  • Finance
  • Politics
  • Sabotage
  • Special operations

Because however its operations are unconventional, there is no reason to think that the Qods Force has an organization remarkably different from other secret services.  For its clandestine operations, something approaching a commando team of varying size (anywhere from 5 to 15 men led by one or two officers) seems reasonable.  Also, there could be organic, permanent units of Qods assigned to each directorate, each with a different operational specialty, and these would invariably be combined-arms units but with the component men varying depending upon what needs to be accomplished.  For the advisory and training missions, arguably what constitutes the greatest percentage of Qods assignments, one can imagine an officer/NCO structure corresponding to the level of the ranks needing training; e.g. so many officers of such a rank to train their peers or lower ranking officers, and likewise so many NCOs to train their peers or enlisted men.  As a side note, it has been suggested that Qods trains most of its clients in either the Sudan or in Iran itself.

For all of these missions, the officer/NCO ratio is necessarily higher than in the rest of the Sepah.  For this reason, it can be argued that officers and NCOs comprise a large majority of the Qods Force personnel, seeing that enlisted men would not be used to train or advise their superiors.

Where does the Qods Force carry out its clandestine operations?  From reasonable conjecture regarding the structure, the reach of Qods is world-wide.  It has been suspected of involvement in South America (e.g. in supporting the government of Venezuela), of continuing to intervene in Afghanistan against the American presence, of constituting a permanent training and advisory role to the Islamic Resistance of Hezbollah, of supporting the Syrian government since the conflict of 2011, and most of all of involvement in Iraq since 2003. Since 2008, the Qods Force has been given control of all military operations in Iraq, and it formed and currently oversees the three primary Shi’ite paramilitary organizations which work in conjunction with the Iraqi military: Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) with 10,000 members, Kata’ib Hizb Allah (“Brigades of the Party of God”) with 30,000+ members, and the Saraya al-Salam (“Peace Companies”) with anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 members.  This theatre of operations, provided indirectly to Qods by the Americans, gives the most continual experience to its members through the training and directing of these militias.  In the theatre of the Persian Gulf, the recent attacks against oil tankers bear the mark of what Qods is capable of, but the Iranian Government has consistently denied responsibility.  Conversely, American and Israeli special forces possess the capability to carry out such false-flag attacks and their histories give plenty of examples.  Currently, the most important missions which Qods directly or in which it participates are:

  • Missile shipments to Hezbollah
  • Arming and directing of Shi’ite militias in Iraq
  • Support of Syrian Government
  • Support of Houthis

As to types of weapons, the Qods Force probably uses the same species as other special forces (e.g. United States Green Berets, Russian Spetsnaz, British SAS), that is:

  • Handguns (e.g. PC-9 ZOAF)
  • submachine guns (e.g. MPT-9, KL-7.62mm)
  • heavy machine guns (e.g. MGA3)
  • portable MANPADs (e.g. Soheil)
  • rocket-propelled grenade launcher (e.g. Raad, RPG-29)
  • anti-tank weapons (e.g. Saeghe 1/2)
  • portable mortars (e.g. 37mm Marsh mortar)
  • plastic explosives (e.g. C4, Semtex)

The use of heavy equipment does not correspond to its missions.

In terms of size, the active personnel of Qods has been estimated to be anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000, although the most common number given is 15,000.  Globalsecurity.org asserts that in 2008, the Iranian Supreme National Security Council authorized an increase in the size of the group to 15,000, but this cannot be presently confirmed.  By comparison, the Russian Spetsnaz has a strength of roughly 5,000, the United States Green Berets 7,000, the British SAS 400 to 600.

Moving to consider its place in the Iranian political ideology of Twelve Shiism, Qods Force bears great eschatological significance.  A fact which receives barely any coverage in the Western press, the founding of the Islamic Republic was clearly stated by Ayatollah Khomeini to coincide with the approach of the end of the world.  As Twelver Shias, Khomeini and his successors are convinced that the maintenance of velayat-e faqih is critical to the return of the Twelfth Imam, Mohammad al-Mahdi.  The eschatology of the Jafari School of Jurisprudence (the official legal teaching in Iran, named after the Sixth Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq) names Jerusalem as central to the return of the Mahdi and to the establishment of Islamic government throughout the world; i.e. the golden age of Islamic rule as promised by the Prophet Mohammed. According to Sunni and Shia prophecies, the army foreordained to conquer Jerusalem is to be comprised of mostly people from the region of Iran with Iranians having a great and important role in the event. Thus, the naming of the special operations subset of the Sepah after the Persian name for the Holy City of Jerusalem should show the rest of the world just how important to the Iranians is the maintenance of their system of government by all means possible.  Currently, the use of Qods to engage in asymmetrical warfare against the American-Israeli alliance is the best means to ensure this end.  Presently, Qods can be seen as forming a ‘shield-forward’ for the Islamic Republic from a strategic point of view; this gives eschatological importance to their continued support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and to their great commitment in men and material to ensure the continuance of the Syrian government. They believe that when Imam Mahdi returns, Zionism, which Shia regard as one of the main tools in the struggle between Good and Evil, will be defeated in the final great battle for Jerusalem. Therefore they are approaching as close as possible to Israel, serving at the front line. They have succeeded in giving Iran a reasonable amount of protection, if at the expense of their allies who are physically closer to Israel.  The American Navy remains a threat in the Persian Gulf, but the wider Sepah, to whose vigilance this theatre is committed, are confident they can close the Strait of Hormuz if necessary.  The strategic balance is currently in favor of Iran and they have thus fulfilled what they believe to be their role in preparing for the Mahdi’s return.

Of those who believe in the eschatological purpose of the Islamic Republic, the Qods Force is unquestionably the vanguard of the coming march on Jerusalem, and the Western press ignores this to their own peril and the continued ignorance of their audiences.

From military and political standpoints, Qods has been very effective.  Iranian strategy has, since the 1979 Revolution, been to keep the American-Israeli alliance and its proxies at bay.  As stated previously, due to Iran’s inability to wage a full-scale war against both countries, the use of unconventional warfare has made the Qods Force come into prominence within Iran’s national defensive strategy.  Through both its advisory/training roles and its clandestine operations, Qods is used to prevent Iran’s two chief enemies from realizing strategic objectives in the Middle East and Persian Gulf and to make their continued presence within Iran’s immediate zone of security as costly and unpleasant as possible.

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The Saker interviews Aram Mirzaei on Iran

The Saker

June 13, 2019

The Saker interviews Aram Mirzaei on Iran

[This interview was made for the Unz Review]

Introduction by the Saker:

For a while now we have been lucky enough to have a wonderful Iranian member of the Saker community writing analyses for the Saker Blog: Aram Mirzaei has brought a wealth of expertise and priceless insights into Iran and everything Iran-related. Clearly, after the DPRK, Syria and Venezuela – Iran is now the target of Trump’s ignorant hubris and threats and it is therefore extremely important to debunk of AngloZionist propaganda about Iran and its role and actions in the Middle-East. This interview with Aram Mirzaei is just the first step of a major effort by the Saker community to report more often about Iran. Expect much more in the near future. In the meantime, I will let Aram introduce himself and then reply to my questions.

The Saker

——-

My name is Aram Mirzaei, I’m 30 years old and live somewhere in Europe. Originally, I hail from western Iran, a place that is deeply rooted in my heart. Ever since my teenage years, I’ve had a passion for history and politics, a trait I inherited from my mother who was an Iranian revolutionary. Naturally, this passion made me choose to study political science all the way up to my Master’s degree. Having supported my country against foreign threats my entire adult life, I became an activist for the Resistance Axis when the Syrian War broke out in 2011 and have combined my passion for writing and politics, to contribute to the propaganda fight that runs in parallel with the fighting on the ground. Thus, I have endulged myself in anything related to Iran, in an effort to have a complete understanding of the land that I was born in and where my forefathers once dwelled in. Aside from these interests, I also love philosophy, sociology, religion, football (soccer) and trading, with a specific focus on crypto currencies.

The Saker: Please explain what an “Islamic Republic” is and how it is different from any other republic? What makes the Iranian political system unique? How democratic (vs theocratic) is it? Do you consider Iran to be a democratic country (in the sense that the will of the people is the highest, sovereign, authority)?

Aram Mirzaei: These are very relevant questions as this issue is something most outsiders have a hard time understanding. Growing up in the West, I myself had a hard time understanding this system until I read Imam Khomeini’s manifesto: Islamic Governance – rule of the jurisprudence.  Here, Khomeini offers a very unique viewpoint and insight into his ideas of a modern Islamic form of government. Khomeini views the Western democratic system as a foreign way of governance, not suited for Muslim countries, while he also correctly identifies the deep flaws within the contemporary Islamic forms of governance, that they are outdated monarchies prone to corruption and decadence.

Simply put, Khomeini offers a compromise between Western Democracy and Islamic Sharia law. To understand this form of government, one must understand the background of Shia Islamic scholarship and the theological debate regarding Islamic government. As many already know, modern Twelver Shia faith rest on the pillar of the Occultation, the belief that the messianic figure, also known as Mahdi, who in Shia theology is the last (Twelfth) infallible male descendant (Imam) of the prophet Mohammad, was born but disappeared, and will one day return and fill the world with justice and peace. In this time of post-Occultation the theory of Velayat-e Faqih (Rule of the Jurisprudence), holds that Islam shall give a Faqih (Islamic jurist) custodianship over the people, in the absence of the Hidden Imam.

The doctrine of Velayat-e Faqih has been an issue that has divided the Shia Islamic scholars between the ideas of a so called Limited Guardianship and an Absolute Guardianship of the jurisprudence. Traditionally, Limited Guardianship has been the dominant interpretation where Mujtahids (Islamic scholars) have left secular power to the monarchs while the Ulema’s (clerical class) role has been limited to non-litigious affairs. This interpretation holds that the Ulema should only assume an advisory role to the monarch who is responsible for the task of protecting the country. For centuries, especially during the time of the Safavid Shahs, Iran was ruled this way, with the Ulema assuming an advisory role in the royal court of the Shahs. Only during the Pahlavi dynasty of the 20th century did this begin to change as Reza Shah Pahlavi, initiated radical secular changes to the Iranian society as a whole.

The idea of Absolute Guardianship hails from the belief that collective affairs fall under the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist. Before Khomeini, there had been a few scholars arguing for Absolute Guardianship, yet none of them gained the amount of influence as Khomeini did. He presented the concept as necessary to protect and preserve Islam during the Occultation of the Imam. According to Khomeini, a society should be governed by those who are the most knowledgeable about Islamic law, this is his main argument in what an Islamic Government actually is. In his manifesto, Khomeini argues that monarchy is un-Islamic. In a true Islamic state, those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia, as well as having intelligence and administrative ability. Thus the monarchy becomes redundant in such a governing system, paving the way for a Republic to take its place instead. Specifically Khomeini argued that the un-Islamic government “though it may be made up of elected representatives does not truly belong to the people” in the case of Muslim countries.

Where Shia Mujtahids have tended to remain outside the active political sphere, Khomeini argues that leading Mujtahids also have inherited the Prophet’s political authority by explicating several ahadiths of the Shia Imams. An example is his analysis of a saying attributed to the first Imam, Ali who in addressing a judge said:

The seat you are occupying is filled by someone who is a prophet, the legatee of a prophet, or else a sinful wretch.”

Khomeini reasons that the term judges must refer to trained fuqaha (jurists) as they are “by definition learned in matters pertaining to the function of judge” , and since trained jurists are neither sinful wretches nor prophets, by process of elimination “we deduce from the tradition quoted above that the fuqaha are the legatees.” He explains that legatees of the prophet have the same power to command Muslims as the Prophet Muhammad and (in Shia belief) the Imams. Thus, the saying, `The seat you are occupying is filled by someone who is a prophet, the legatee of a prophet, or else a sinful wretch,` demonstrates that Islamic jurists have the power to rule Muslims.

According to the constitution of Iran, an Islamic republic is defined as a state ruled by the Fuqaha. In accordance with Qur’an and on the basis of two principles of the trusteeship and the permanent Imamate (bloodline of the Prophet), it is counted as a function of the jurists. Also it is explained that only the jurists that are upright, pious and committed experts on Islam are entitled to rule . Also those who are informed of the demands of the times and known as God-fearing, brave and qualified for leadership. In addition they must hold the religious office of Marja (the highest rank in the Shia clerical establishment) and be permitted to deliver independent judgments on general principles (fatwas). The Marja has only the right to rule the Islamic Republic for as long as the Twelfth and final Imam remains in Occultation.

In this sense, the Islamic Republic of Iran is unique in comparison to other so called “Islamic Republics” such as Pakistan and Afghanistan as they are governed by secular constitutions and are only Islamic Republics by name rather than in practice.
In both theory and practice, the Velayat-e Faqih differs radically from any other form of government, both Western and Eastern models.

Whether or not this system can be considered “democratic” is really a subjective matter. I personally dont like the contemporary opinions on what constitutes a democracy as they are very much formed and dictated by Western ideas and standards. The generally accepted tools of measurement on democracy in the world follow liberal democratic criteria formulated by liberal thinkers and scholars. This narrows down countries into liberal democracies, so called true democracies and non-liberal democracies, also known as “flawed democracies” in their world view.

As I mentioned earlier, the Islamic Republic is a compromise between Western democracy and Islamic theocracy, which makes it hard to compare to the western notion on what constitutes a democracy, and since there aren’t any other Islamic Republics to compare it to, it makes it even more difficult to measure how democratic it is. But let’s begin by stating the obvious, the Islamic Republic is a republic, which means that the state belongs to the people and not a ruler. The Supreme Leader, or Rahbar Enghelab (Revolutionary Leader) is not a monarch and the title is not hereditary.

Lawmakers are directly elected by the people, as is the President as well. The Iranian elections are considered not “free and fair” by western standards due to the vetting process by the unelected Guardian council, but this is where the theocratic nature of the Islamic Republic becomes prevalent, as the vetting process is important for the elimination of anti-Islamic elements in the government. Another point of confusion is the role of the Supreme Leader, a role that many outsiders have misunderstood. The truth is that while the President rules the government and politics of the country, the Supreme Leader’s role is one of oversight. Think of the Supreme Leader as the U.S Supreme Court, where the Supreme Leader has a duty to uphold the Islamic Republic’s core values, much like the Supreme Court in the U.S upholds the constitution.

The Supreme Leader is chosen by the elected institution called the Assembly of Experts, which is tasked with overseeing the performance and activities of the Supreme Leader. The Assembly of Experts also has the power to impeach a Supreme Leader if needed, thus not even the Supreme Leader is untouchable. The Supreme Leader in turn then elects the members of the Guardian Council who are responsible for the vetting I mentioned above. So you can see that the Islamic Republic is a system filled with checks and balances between elected and unelected institutions.

The Saker: Wikipedia (hardly a trustworthy source) has this picture of the Iranian government structure: 

 

Is it correct?

Aram Mirzaei: I would say that this depiction of the Iranian government structure is not exactly inaccurate, but it also fails to offer a comprehensive picture of the checks and balance system that plays a huge part in Iranian politics. This depiction focuses a lot on who is elected and who is not, instead of focusing on the different branches of government and their roles. Let me explain: The Supreme Leader as mentioned above is a superintendent, who oversees the Executive and Judiciary branch, while he also acts as commander of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic. The Supreme Leader in turn is appointed by the directly elected Assembly of Experts which is made up of 88 Mujtahids, and as I mentioned before, the Assembly of Experts has the power to remove him if necessary.

The Parliament and the President are directly elected by the people. While the President chooses his cabinet, the Parliament is responsible with electing 6 out of 12 members of the powerful Guardian Council, these 6 members are nominated by the Head of the Judiciary, who in turn is appointed by the Supreme Leader. These 6 members are non-clerical jurists while the other 6 members appointed by the Supreme Leader are faqihs.

The Guardian Council, acts as an upper consultative assembly. It is charged with interpreting the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, supervising elections of, and approving of candidates to, the Assembly of Experts, the President and the Parliament. Any laws made by the parliament must be approved by the Guardian Council.

The Expediency council is an advisory assembly set up in 1988 to act as an intermediary between the Parliament and Guardian Council whenever conflicts occur. It is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader.

The Saker: The western media always loves to think in terms of “hardliners” and “liberals” in each country they don’t control. To what degree are these categories applicable to Iran?

Aram Mirzaei: The terms as you say, is a way for the Western media to simplify the different categories of political movements in Iran. I would rather say that a better way of dividing the political spectrum in Iran is to say that there are Reformists and Conservatives. While the term “conservative” is difficult to apply on Iranian society, the existence of a conservative movement, or as they prefer to be called, Principalists, is a reality. The Iranian political spectrum can somewhat loosely be defined as a division between the Islamic left (Reformists) and the Islamic right (Principalists).

The Iranian Principalist bloc of today emerged as a response to the rising power of the reformist movement, headed by known figures such as former Iranian President and cleric Mohammad Khatami and to some extent former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the richest people in the country.   Iranian principalism however dates further back in history. It roots back to the early 20th century with the constitutional revolution, which demonstrated the power of the clerical class as the Qajar dynasty was disposed by Reza Khan (later Reza Shah Pahlavi), a man who clashed many times with the clergy.  The Shah had initiated a set of reforms aimed at modernizing the country. Along with this modernization effort the Women’s Awakening movement gained strength. This movement sought the elimination of the traditional Iranian chador from Iranian society. This movement was backed by the Shah who sought inspiration from western clothing for his society. The religious establishment were fiercely opposed to this and organized protests against obligatory Western dressing in Mashhad, resulting in the Shah ordering his soldiers to shoot at the crowds protesting.

The policies of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the son and successor of Reza Shah Pahlavi, further sowed division between the clergy and the royal court. The young Shah’s role in the 1953 coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister Dr Mohammad Mossadeq, the failed “white revolution” which only served to further accelerate his unpopularity. Once more the clergy assumed the position of anti-imperialists in the Iranian political spectrum, arguing that the Shah was a dictator put in place by a non-Muslim Western power, the United States. As witnessed several times before, the clergy and the powerful merchant class, the Bazariis played a crucial role in forming the Iranian political landscape, this was also the case in 1979 when the clergy and the merchants came together to overthrow the monarchy.

The Islamic revolution in Iran brought about a total change to the political landscape of Iran as Iranian politics was now contained within an Islamic framework, free from foreign meddling, imperialism and dependency.  This is the platform which the modern Principalist movement still use in their political campaigns.

Principalism focuses on broad conservative principles: loyalty to Islam and the Revolution, obedience to the Supreme Leader, and devotion to the principle of Velayat-e Faqih.

This set of principles implicitly endorses the status quo and the current power structure. It is also a response to the reformist parties’ emphasis on change: free elections, freedom of the press and assembly and individual rights, and, implicitly, curbs on the almost unlimited power of the Supreme Leader, and limits on the authority of the Guardian Council to disqualify candidates for elective office.

The Principalists include dozens of small cliques and political organizations each centred around a limited number of politicians, activists, clerics, and members of parliament and state institutions.

The conservatism of these groups varies too. They fall generally into four categories:

  • Traditional conservatives may stand firm on social issues, such as Islamic dress for women and bans on gender mixing. But they are more open to possible reconciliation with centrist reformers, albeit with many caveats.
  • Another group of new conservatives cares less about social issues, but they are closely aligned with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military-security nexus whose influence has grown markedly in recent years.
  • A third conservative wing is closely allied to the bazaar merchants, importers, and shopkeepers.
  • A fourth branch, championed by former Ahmadinejad supporters, is populist in temperament and intent.

In their drive for unity, almost all the conservative politicians now label themselves “Osul-garayan”, or “Principalists.”

The reformist era of Iran is generally accepted to have occurred between the years 1997-2005, during President Khatami’s two terms in office.

Khatami and his allies were the remnants of the Islamic left faction, hardliners who from 1979 to 1989 were the driving force behind many of the Islamic Republic’s signature policies. Domestically this included violently eliminating the political opposition to the Islamic Republic, enforcing strict Islamic morality through revolutionary committees and nationalizing Iran’s economy. They were behind the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran and were instrumental to the founding of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the first decade of the newly found Islamic Republic they had been strongly backed by the Vali-e Faqih or Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and governed through the Executive under then Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi (1981-1989).

Between 1988 to 1991, with the end Iran-Iraq War, the fall of the Soviet Union and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, political stabilization of the state through social change, the Islamic left’s fortunes rapidly declined. Firstly the end of the war put an end to the state of emergency under which the Islamic left exercised their influence. Secondly, the collapse of the Soviet Union delegitimized the statist economy which had been used to govern the Iranian economy in the first decade of the Islamic Republic. Thirdly, the passing of Ayatollah Khomeini, the staunch backer of the Islamic left was a huge blow to their political power.

Their rivals, the Islamic right faction, capitalized on this by selecting their own Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the new Supreme Leader and Rafsanjani as president, eliminating the Premiership from the constitution, veto-ing Islamic left election candidates through the Guardian Council, purging them from unelected state institutions, and more. Having been eliminated from the system, the Islamic left entered a period of retreat in which it reassessed its place in the Islamic Republic. They emerged from this process “reformed”, the namesake of their faction.

After having lost their standing in the Islamic Republic’s powerful non-elected institutions, the newly formed Reformists under Mohammad Khatami regained political power by appealing to Iran’s restless segments of society yearning for change, and channel popular frustration through elected institutions.

In an interview with the Rah-e No newspaper in 1998, Reformist theoretician Saeed Hajjarian characterized this strategy for achieving their goals as “pressure from below, negotiations from above.” The barren political landscape in Iran during the 1997 presidential election, including the lackluster Islamic right candidate Nateq Nouri, and the tacit support of Rafsanjani who by this time had distanced himself from Khamenei and the Islamic right, resulted in a landslide victory for Khatami.

The initial shock of Khatami’s electoral victory did not faze the Islamic right who rallied under the banner of “preserving the principles of the revolution”, thus rebranding themselves as the Principalists.

The reformists won the Majlis elections of 2000, and Khatami was re-elected in 2001, the Principalists however were able to effectively block them through institutional obstructionism. In the 2004 Majlis elections, many prominent Reformist politicians were deemed unfit to stand for office by the powerful Guardian Council, an appointed and constitutionally-mandated 12-member council that wields considerable power and influence in the Islamic Republic. This strategy crippled the pillars of Reformist theoretician Hajjarians strategy of “negotiating from above”, by excluding them from political institutions.

While the first incarnation of Hajjarian’s “pressure from below, negotiations from above” had failed, it was reinvented by the 2009 election campaign and its aftermath. By conducting an electrifying electoral campaign and using social media, Reformists would use the deep discontent that had built up during Ahmadinejad’s four years in office among certain segments of the population, and bring “pressure from below” by mobilizing this group onto the streets.

This gave Reformists a new weapon to wield against Principalists in case of perceived electoral irregularities, using popular pressure to overturn the election results, elect Mousavi as president and thus restore their ability to “negotiate from above”.

On June 12th, they used this weapon when the election results were announced in favor of the incumbent Ahmadinejad. While there were no actual evidence that proves electoral fraud, the widespread perception among certain segments of the Iranian population took to the streets en masse. This was made possible through the heavy use of social media by the Reformists. The Green movement, once more gave birth to Hajjarians “pressure from below, negotiations from above”.

It did however not take long until the “pressure from below” resulted in severe consequences for the Reformists as their movement most resembles the color revolutions of former Soviet bloc countries such as Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. In color revolutions one faction within a regime creates “pressure from below” by mobilizing popular energy and channelling it into “negotiating from above” and improves its own position in the regime, usually in the context of allegations of electoral fraud. While this strategy was successful up to a point in the semi-authoritarian former Soviet bloc, in Iran the Principalist faction and IRGC rapidly mobilized to crush the uprising. Through the act of applying popular pressure on the IRI, the Reformists had crossed a ‘red-line’ and from this point were effectively purged from the system, once again destroying their ability to “negotiate from above”.

The Saker: It is often said that the IRGC and the Basij are the Iranian “hardliners”.  Is that true?  What is their real political influence?

Aram Mirzaei: Well, it is true that the IRGC and the Basij are connected to the so called “hardliners” or rather the conservative bloc. This is because The Pasdaran was from its inception an ideologically driven force that recruited heavily from the faithful supporters of the revolution’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In Iran, it is known even today that the most devout and faithful supporters of the Islamic Republic are those that join the IRGC and the Basij volunteer forces. Furthermore, most of the conservative bloc’s candidates for parliament and the presidency are former IRGC members and veterans of the Iran-Iraq war. As the veteran commander of the IRGC once said: “Unlike the army […] the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is in charge of safeguarding the revolution and its gains […]. we in the Revolutionary Guards give primary importance to the ideological and political dimensions more than the military ones.

For a deeper insight into the IRGC, I would recommend you read my extensive article on the IRGC and the Basij here.

The Saker: In the West, the IRGC and, especially, the Quds force are considered as evil “terrorists”.  How are they seen in Iran?

Aram Mirzaei: It really depends on who you’re asking. There are those that would answer that the IRGC are the saviours of the Islamic Republic, especially considering their role in defending the country against Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1980. On the other hand, there are also those who despise the IRGC and the Basij due to their staunch loyalty to the Islamic Republic and their efforts to eradicate deviant elements of the daily political life. After all, the Islamic Republic made great efforts during the 1980’s to eliminate all opposing movements aiming at establishing alternative systems in Iran, such as communists, liberals and separatists. Needless to say, the IRGC and the Basij are very unpopular among most Iranian ex-pats and Sunni minorities such as Kurds and Baluchis, as both of these ethnic groups have relatively large separatist sentiments among their populations.

The Saker: what are the various political forces/currents/movements in Iran today?  Can you please list them, the main people who represent these forces, and what they political views/goals are?

Aram Mirzaei: As mentioned above, the current divide in the Iranian political spectrum is between the Reformists and the Principalists. There are however a lot of fringe movements both inside and outside the country, with different goals and views. These range from islamists, to separatists, to monarchists and “liberals”.

I’ve written before about the different separatist groups in Iran and their foreign backers. Mostly these can be found among the Sunni minorities of Western and Eastern Iran, but also among the Arab minority in Khuzestan who are fuelled and backed by the Gulf states in their anti-Iranian campaigns.

Furthermore, there are terrorist groups such as the so called “People’s Mujahideen” (MEK), lead by Maryam Rajavi, the wife of the late Massoud Rajavi. The MEK is said to be driven by some mix of Islamic and Socialist ideology, something that they themselves deny. The U.S government claims that their ideology is a mix of Marxism, Islamism and feminism, but no one can really know for sure. What however can be said for certain is that the MEK’s main aim is to overthrow the Islamic Republic, despite having helped overthrowing the U.S backed Pahlavi regime and ever since the early days of the revolution. They have ever since changed many of their stances in pursuit of ideological opportunism, such examples include the shift in their anti-Zionist position to becoming “allies of Israel”.

Since the Revolution, the MEK has also engaged in a lot of terrorist attacks, having killed an estimated 16 000 Iranians over the years. Key figures of the Islamic Republic have also been targeted such as Army Commander Ali Sayad Shirazi, Asadollah Lajevardi, director of Iran’s prison system, former President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, former Prime Minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar and former Chief of Justice Mohammad Beheshti. In 1981, they failed to assassinate Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei but left him permanently disfigured, losing use of his right arm. Recent assassinations include targeting Iranian Nuclear scientists at the behest of Zionist orders.

Ever since their failed invasion of Iran in 1988, the MEK has remained in exile in Iraq and nowadays in Albania where they continue to operate against the Islamic Republic.

Other fringe groups are also the Communists, which used to be the second largest movement during the revolution after the Islamists. The Communists had a lot of members and mobilized themselves during the early days of the revolution, offering an alternative to the Islamic Republic. I don’t think I need to explain what the Communists were seeking to establish, but they failed mainly due to their own shortcomings rather than the animosity they faced from the Islamists. Yes, it is true that the Islamic Republic went to lengths to eradicate these Communist movements, but their greatest enemy was their own division where the largest parties split into several splinter factions due to internal disagreement between Maoists and Stalinists. The Communists were mostly destroyed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, along with most other Communist movements across the world and remain today a very small group of ex-pats who pose little to no threat to the Islamic Republic.

Lastly, there are the Monarchists. They mostly went into exile during the revolution, opting to pack up their wealth and moving to the U.S along with the Royal family. They continue to support the so called “heir” to the throne, Reza Cyrus Pahlavi, the son of the late Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to re-establish the monarchy, albeit with some minor “changes” to it. In their own words, they aim to establish a constitutional monarchy where the Shah is supposed to remain only a figurehead much like the European monarchies. Ironically, this is the same promise his father made to Iran before reneging on his promises and ruling the country with an iron fist. The Monarchists often align themselves with the MEK in their attempts to discredit the Islamic Republic, and often jump at any chance to do so. Just take a quick look at Twitter if you don’t believe me!

The Saker: Islam can come in very conservative and in very progressive “modes”.  It seems to me that thinkers like Ali Shariati or even Sayyid Qutb would represent a more progressive version of Islam, especially in social, economic and political terms.  Is this correct?  Who are the main thinkers, besides Ayatollah Khomeini, who influenced the Islamic Revolution and who are the most influential thinkers in Iran today?

Aram Mirzaei: I would argue that Shariati was a Socialist Muslim thinker who tried to blend Shiism with a revolutionary fervour. He referred to his ideas as Red Shiism in contrast to what he perceived as black Shiism, the same kind that was prevalent during the Safavid Shahs and the Qajar dynasty. Black Shiism in this sense can be compared to the Limited Guardianship of the Jurisprudence as explained above. Shariati played a much larger role in the Islamic Revolution and the formation of the Islamic Republic than he is credited for. He suggested that the role of government was to guide society in the best possible manner rather than manage it in the best possible way. He believed that the most learned members of the Ulema should play a leadership role in guiding society because they best understand how to administer an Islamic value system based on the teachings of the Prophets of God and the 12 Shia Twelver Imams. He also argued that the role of the Ulema was to guide society in accordance with Islamic values to advance human beings towards reaching their highest potential—not to provide the hedonistic desires of individuals as in the West.

At the same time Shariati was very critical of the contemporary Ulema and defended the Marxists. “Our mosques, the revolutionary left and our preachers,” he declared, “work for the benefit of the deprived people and against the lavish and lush… Our clerics who teach jurisprudence and issue fatwas are right-wingers, capitalist, and conservative; simply our fiqh is at the service of capitalism.” Despite this criticism of the Ulema, even today, many in the Islamic Republic, such as Khamenei praise Shariati for his influences.

Another main influencer of the Islamic Revolution was the late Ayatollah Beheshti who served as Chief of Justice before his assassination in 1981. Beheshti was known to be the second in command of the Revolution, after Ayatollah Khomeini, and had it not been for his early death, he would most likely have been the one who succeeded him as Supreme Leader. Beheshti is also known to have been a mentor figure for several prominent politicians in the Islamic Republic, such as current President Hassan Rouhani, former President Mohammad Khatami, Ali Akbar Velayati, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Ali Fallahian, and Mostafa Pourmohammadi. Following the Revolution, he was part of the original Council of Revolution and played an important role in the formation of the Islamic Republic’s economy, promoting cooperative companies known as Ta’avoni. Instead of competition, in Ta’avoni companies there is no mediation between producer and consumer. He also asserted that in such as companies, rights belong to humans rather than stocks.

The Saker: Tehran is the political capital of Iran.  Qom is often considered the spiritual capital of Iran.  Is that so?  If so, how much influence/power does Qom have as compared to Tehran?

Aram Mirzaei: Yes, this is true, but one must also remember that the Mujtahids, both the ones in the Assembly of Experts and the ones in the Guardian Council, including the office of Supreme Leader are all educated in Qom. Thus Qom holds a significant influence over Tehran’s policies. One should not see these two cities as rivals as Qom mostly provides Tehran religious legitimacy. In this sense Qom holds a lot of power over Tehran as a centre of religious learning, offering guidance to Tehran’s policies. This was however not always the case as Qom stood as a major rival to Tehran during the pre-revolutionary times. Ayatollah Khomeini for example led his opposition to the Monarchy from Qom where his seminars played a major role in mobilizing the Ulema to unite under his banner.

The Saker: Which are the officially “protected” religions of Iran and what is their status today?  Would you say that these religions enjoy all the freedoms they need?  What is the state’s view of these non-Islamic religions?

Aram Mirzaei: Iran is home to many different religions and faiths, all of which have a long history in Iran. Iran is home to almost 300 000 Armenian Christians of the Armenian Apostolic Church and 20 000 Assyrian Christians, some 10 000 Jews and some 60 000 Zoroastrians.

The officially recognized religions in Iran, aside from Islam of course, include Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. These religious minorities are protected by law and constitution, thus they are also entitled to hold parliamentary seats and have the right to exercise their faiths. Two seats are reserved for Christians in parliament, the largest minority faith, while Jews and Zoroastrians are allocated one seat each.

Christianity in Iran dates back to the early years of the faith, pre-dating Islam. During the era of the two great Persian Empires, Armenia used to be an important part of Iran, as such it has always been a minority religion relative to the majority state religions (Zoroastrianism before the Islamic conquest, Sunni Islam in the Middle Ages and Shia Islam in modern times), though it had a much larger representation in the past than it does today. Currently there are at least 600 churches in the country, mostly found in northwestern Iran and the Tehran region.

Jews have lived in Iran since the ancient times of the Persian Empires, and used to number about 50 000 citizens in Iran, many of which have today emigrated to Israel. Still some 10 000 Jews remain in Iran today and enjoy the same freedoms as Christians and Zoroastrians do. Ayatollah Khomeini even met with the Jewish community upon his return from exile in Paris, when heads of the community arranged to meet him in Qom. At one point he said:

“In the holy Quran, Moses, salutations upon him and all his kin, has been mentioned more than any other prophet. Prophet Moses was a mere shepherd when he stood up to the might of pharaoh and destroyed him. Moses, the Speaker-to-Allah, represented pharaoh’s slaves, the downtrodden, the mostazafeen (oppressed) of his time.”

At the end of the discussion Khomeini declared, “We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless, bloodsucking Zionists” and issued a fatwa decreeing that the Jews were to be protected.

Zoroastrianism is the native religion of Iran and was the state religion of the two Persian Empires long before Islam was introduced. Even today, Zoroastrianism plays an important part in modern Iranian culture, as can be seen with the continued celebrations of the Iranian new year Nowruz. Low birth rates have affected the Zoroastrian community in Iran as their numbers have been on the decline for some time now. In 2013, they did however make headlines when Sepanta Niknam was elected to the city council of Yazd (a major stronghold of the Zoroastrian community) and became the first Zoroastrian councillor in Iran.

The Saker: is there a big generational gap in Iran, especially in terms of politics?  How would you compare the views/goals/beliefs of young Iranians vs the older generation?

Aram Mirzaei: There is a debate today on whether or not there is a big generational gap in Iran. I would definitely argue that there is, as the difference between the older, revolutionary generation and the modern youth in Iran is pretty prevalent. Let us not forget that the Revolutionary generation grew up in much harsher conditions, in a very backward Iran that lacked infrastructure, education and many of the freedoms that the younger generation enjoy today. Furthermore, they never experienced the eight year long war with Iraq, thus they don’t remember the sacrifices that the Revolutionary generation had to make in order to save this country. Another point that should be made is the introduction of modern technologies in Iran. This has given the younger generation access to Western culture and influences, something that is much more of a threat to the Islamic Republic’s survival than any U.S threat of military action in my opinion. Ayatollah Khamenei often speaks about what he calls cultural warfare, or rather poisoning of the mind. I tend to agree with his analysis as many young people in Iran today have taken much of the decadent Western influences at heart and yearn for the Western lifestyle, something that I have witnessed myself whenever I’ve returned back to Iran. Comparing the Revolutionary generation, where politics played a major role in everyone’s lives, with the post-revolutionary generation who remains rather apolitical and care much less about the political lives of their parents, I can clearly see a pattern where passive Western values have gained a foothold in the minds of the younger generation. Whenever I’m in Iran, I often notice that the older generation often partake in political discussions whereas the younger generations prefer to occupy themselves with trivial matters.

The state does recognize this and for this reason it has done its utmost to counter this terrible influence, hence why social media outlets such as Youtube and Facebook are from time to time banned in Iran. This lack of interests in politics has also dumbed down the youth in Iran who often fail to see that the suffering economy and hardships in the country are mostly to be blamed on U.S sanctions and economic terrorism by the Zionist Empire. Rather many tend to believe in the MEK’s Twitter lies that all of Iran’s money is going to fighting “freedom loving rebels” in Syria and “terrorizing the peaceful nation of Israel”, hence why the rioters and protesters earlier this year directed a lot of their chants against Syria and Palestine in an effort to vent their frustration towards rising prices on commodity and fuel instead of actually seeing the correlation between Washington’s reintroduction of sanctions and the failing economy of the Islamic Republic.

 

Nasrallah: Resistance Axis and Arab & Muslim Peoples will Never Forsake Palestine

The Saker

June 13, 2019

Speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday, May 31, 2019, on the occasion of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Day.
Transcript:
I seek refuge with God against the stoned devil. In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds, and prayers and salutations be upon our Master and Prophet, the Seal of Prophets, Abul Qasim Mohammad b. Abdallah, and on his pure and noble family, his chosen and faithful companions, as well as all the Prophets and Messengers. Dear brothers and sisters, dear participants in this honorable protest, peace be upon you and God’s mercy and His blessings.I welcome you warmly for this celebration that is dear to us, and I thank you all for this massive participation, to commemorate this celebration full of jihad (effort towards God), faith, humanity, ethics, which stems from our religion, our doctrine, our belief, our struggle, our present, our future and our destiny, and our honor, our pride, our freedom and our holy places.

God the Almighty and the Exalted said in his Holy Book: In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. “O ye who believe! fear Allah and (always) say righteous and truthful words. That He may make your conduct whole and sound and forgive you your sins: he that obeys Allah and His Apostle has already attained the highest Achievement.” (Quran, 33, 70-71) I ask God the Almighty to make us utter words of truth, (especially) during these sensitive, difficult and decisive times for our future.
Today, 40 years have passed since Imam Khomeini, may his soul be sanctified, declared the International Day of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), the occasion (we celebrate every last Friday of Ramadan). Imam announced and called for this day in 1979. And for 40 years, the enemies of Al-Quds have placed their hopes in the disappearance, neglect or oblivion of this day with the passage of time, because in their eyes, such is the nature of people. But year after year, we have seen the importance bestowed upon this day by the peoples of the world and of the (Islamic) Community grow larger and larger, the occasion becoming ever more grandiose, despite attempts to present it as an Iranian day, give it a sectarian appearance, and describe it as a day (celebrated only by) Shiites.But the sincerity of Imam Khomeini, may his noble soul be sanctified, and the purity of his intentions, were stronger than all these conspiracies and all these shenanigans, as well as the sincerity and honesty of all those who have walked this path (of resistance) that will lead to the Liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), which will return (to Muslims) with the Grace of God, managed to overcome every blockade. And that’s why we see (such huge demonstrations) today, this very day, but in reality (this celebration is such a success that) soon, this will be the week of Al-Quds (and not just the day).

Yesterday afternoon and last night there were rallies in many cities and many countries, and today as well, (there are celebrations) in our region, the Middle East —or Western Asia as Imam Ali Khamenei calls it—, in African countries, either in North Africa or the rest of the African continent, in Indonesia, Malaysia, in several European countries, in some cities of America, Australia and Latin America. (Many) peoples, currents of thought, various religious and political groups, and a huge & massive participation. And there will be people who will celebrate this occasion tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, especially in certain European countries, because of the authorization they get to demonstrate in public squares or streets during their weekend. Thank God, (the celebration) of this Al-Quds Day is becoming increasingly important and increasingly massive. It is something quite natural and predictable.

Today, the summary of my speech (is this).

I / I will say two words about the event (we celebrate).II / The main part (of my speech) will concern Palestine and the Deal of the Century, our collective responsibility in this regard and our assessment of the current situation.

III / From there, I’ll talk —because the issues are related— about all that is said now or has been said in recent weeks, about a US war against Iran, which has become less likely in recent days.

IV / I will also comment on the recent Arab summit held in the holy city of Mecca.

V / And I will conclude my remarks with a Lebanese issue concerning the delimitation of (Lebanon’s land and sea) borders (with occupied Palestine), but there is a very sensitive and related issue in which the border demarcation is exploited to pressure the Lebanese, a sensitive issue (directly) involving the Resistance (Hezbollah) and Israel, and I will talk about it, because if I do not do it tonight, in a few days… Because this issue is beginning to spread behind particular scenes, and will soon be discussed in the media, and we will then have to respond. It is preferable to state now our position of principle, after which anyone who wants to write a comment about it could do so at will. We will state our position in this new hotspot (Hezbollah precision missile factories in Lebanon).

I / Regarding the Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, today, we saw large protests in several countries. But the first thing we have to mention is the huge popular demonstrations in Iran, which brought together millions of people. In previous years, we didn’t mention it at length, because it was regarded as something quite normal (for Iran). This year, we’ll mention it somewhat, because the world needs (to know)… I saw that the Arab media, including those who support and help the Resistance Axis, failed to show the true extent of (the participation of the Iranian people to the event). I followed the Iranian media and television, and I could see cities (blackened with people), a large number of cities in which there were huge demonstrations.

This is a message to whom? Why do I dwell upon it? Iran, about which Trump pretends that every Friday, there are (major) protests against the regime of the Islamic Republic, that the Iranian people is rising against the State and the government, that Iran is in the process of collapse, and that Iran will soon contact him (to beg for mercy)… (But Trump) will wait for a very long time (if he hopes to see such a thing). It is true that the Iranians were busy reciting the invocations of Al Jawchan al-Kabir and Abu Hamzeh al Thumali (specific to Ramadan, and extremely long), but Trump had to wait (for an Iranian response) until the end (of their long) prostrations. This is a message to whom? To all those who are betting on seeing this noble people eventually flinch, weaken, become discouraged, change his course, etc., etc., etc. And this people is not commemorating the victory of the Islamic Revolution or defending the Islamic regime in Iran, things that concern (directly) all Iranians. This people was demonstrating for the occasion of (the International Day of) Al-Quds (Jerusalem), for the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim cause, that is to say, for a foreign policy matter.

The Iranians demonstrated by the millions, while fasting, and for hours, and I saw on the television screens that all the officials of the Islamic Republic, the Presidents (of the Republic, of Parliament, etc.) and the other leading officials participated in the demonstrations. And I saw that at the protest of Qom (spiritual heart of Iranian Shiism), many of the main religious authorities in Qom participated, despite their advanced age. They were both great in their authority, and great by their age —80, 85, 90 years—, they came up with the crowd and expressed this position (unwavering commitment to the complete liberation of Palestine and to Israel’s disappearance). Anyway, this is a message addressed primarily to the United States, secondly to all governments in the region, and thirdly to anyone who follows the events, has hopes (for or against Iran and Palestine) or merely waits (to see what will happen, without taking sides).
Similarly, as for last year, we have to mention the scale of the huge demonstrations in Yemen, in Sanaa and in several Yemeni cities, this massive popular presence, and the eloquent and fiery speeches of the leaders in Yemen regarding Palestine, Al-Quds (Jerusalem), the struggle against Israel and the United States… Anyway, the Yemeni people, through his (massive) presence in the streets, as well as his (exploits) on the battlefield and in the fighting (against the Saudi-US coalition) —I’ll come back to this point in my speech to make it more clear—, has established himself strongly in the regional equation and all the struggles of the region.What happened in other countries of the world (should also be mentioned), as it becomes increasingly widespread and massive. We have a long list (of countries where protests commemorated Al-Quds Day): in Palestine and Gaza in particular, naturally, —there were martyrs in Al-Quds (Jerusalem)—, in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Nigeria, Ghana, Malaysia, Indonesia, Belgium, the United States themselves, Russia, Oman, Tunisia, Algeria, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal… That’s the list of countries identified by our young (Hezbollah members) for us (so far). Of course, tomorrow, things will be clearer.

I should also mention the popular demonstrations that took place last night in Bahrain, in the hamlets, villages and cities of Bahrain, and also today, and their slogan was “No to the Deal of the Century, and in the direction of Al-Quds (to liberate it).” Despite the fact that, unfortunately, the first operational step (of the Deal of the Century) must be launched from Bahrain (at the end of June 2019), the scholars of Bahrain took to the streets, as well as the people and political forces, to confirm that everything that happens on their territory (normalization with Israel) is illegitimate, and that Bahrain, its people, its scholars, its political forces, its present and its past are innocent of this abandonment (of Palestine), this submission and the servility of the Government of Bahrain towards the US administration. […]

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“Any amount counts, because a little money here and there, it’s like drops of water that can become rivers, seas or oceans…” Hassan Nasrallah

Iranians Mark 30th Anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s Passing Away

By Staff, Agencies

Iranians and devotees in other countries are marking 30 years since the departure of Imam Rouhollah Khomeini, the admired founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Mourners from all walks of life are expected to converge on Imam Khomeini’s Mausoleum in southern Tehran on Tuesday to pay homage to the architect of the Islamic Revolution and renew allegiance to the ideals of the 1979 Revolution.

Also on the occasion, Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei is due to deliver a speech at the event at a time between 17:30 and 20:00 Beirut time.

Some 50 foreign correspondents and 300 Iranian reporters will be covering the event.

Grand Ayatollah Imam Rouhollah Mousavi Khomeini passed away on June 3, 1989 at the age of 87.

He contributed many years of his life to standing up to the US-backed Pahlavi dynasty, and eventually paved the way for its downfall in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

During the pre-Revolution era, Imam Khomeini spent more than 15 years in exile for his opposition to the last monarch, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, mostly for his association with Western imperialists.

He was not allowed to return to Iran during Pahlavi’s reign, and only came back home on February 1, 1979 after the monarch finally gave into angry popular demonstrations and fled the country. The tyrannical Pahlavi regime fully collapsed 10 days later on February 11.

The mourning ceremonies precede the anniversary of demonstrations of June 5, 1963, which is remembered in Iran as a prelude to the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

Prior to the Revolution, Imam Khomeni was arrested in 1963 after he made a historic speech in the holy city of Qom, where he lambasted the “capitulation law” granting immunity to Americans on Iranian soil.

Later that year, people took to the streets to protest the political leader’s arrest. Taken by surprise by the massive public demonstrations of support, the Pahlavi regime’s forces launched a bloody crackdown on people to quell the protests.

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Imam Khamenei Labels Negotiation with US as ‘Total Loss’

By Staff, Agencies

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei ruled out the possibility of talks between Tehran and Washington, saying such negotiations will be “fruitless”, “harmful”, and “a total loss”.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will absolutely not sit for talks with America … because first, it bears no fruit and second, it is harmful,” Imam Khamenei said in a meeting with a number of university professors, elites and researchers in Tehran on Wednesday.

Imam Khamenei referred to negotiation as a tactic used by Americans to complement their strategy of pressure. “This is actually not negotiation; it’s rather a means for picking the fruits of pressure.”

The only way to counter this trick, His Eminence said, is to utilize the means of pressure available for use against Americans. “If they are used properly, the Americans will either stop or decrease pressures.”

However, Imam Khamenei further warned against being deceived by the US plot, saying that the Islamic Republic must use the leverage at its disposal to counter the US’ pressures; otherwise, being deceived into negotiation would be a “total loss”.

Imam Khamenei said Iran’s leverage is not military unlike what the anti-Iran propaganda says, even though that option is not off the table in case of necessity.

His Eminence referred to the recent decision by the Supreme National Security Council to reduce some of Iran’s commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal with the world, and described it as one of the means that Iran can use against the US’ pressures.

“The leverage Iran has used for now is the recent SNSC decision, but we won’t remain at this level forever, and in the next phase, if necessary, we’ll use other means of pressure,” Imam Khamenei warned.

Back on May 8, 2019, on the anniversary of the US’ withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran said that it will halt implementing some terms of the nuclear deal until parties to the deal other than US take action to mitigate the negative impacts of US decision in May 2018 to withdraw from the agreement.

The Islamic Republic considers that other parties to the JCPOA, particularly the E3 – France, Britain, and Germany – have failed so far to compensate for the US withdrawal and help Iran reap the economic dividends of the 2015 nuclear deal.

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Sayyed Nasrallah Warns US of Resistance Axis’ Response : Blacklisting IRGC Epitome of Insolence, Foolishness

 

Zeinab Essa

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered on Thursday a speech in which he tackled various internal and regional files, particularly recent US move of blacklisting the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps [IRGC].

Addressing tens of thousands of Hezbollah commemorating the Wounded Fighter Day, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed the importance of this day and that of IRGC celebrated Tuesday.

“We learned from the Abbas [PBUH] how to stand firm, courageous and dignified without hesitation, fear or anxiety despite being alone,” His Eminence said.

He further addressed the wounded resistance men by saying: You must be proud that your current leader, Imam Khamenei, belongs to you and proud to be a wounded leader.”

In parallel, His  Eminence highlighted that “today in Palestine, thousands of Palestinians go into an open hunger strike due to the inhumane actions by the “Israeli” prison service.”

In response to the US administration’s hegemony in the region, Sayyed Nasrallah sent a sounding message: “The enemy doesn’t dare to attack us not because of your red lines but because of our red blood and wounds.”

“The American administration is terrorist ,” he said, noting that “The American terrorists do not have the right to come to Lebanon and show that they are the ones who are giving us stability.”

According to His Eminence, “The achievements that have been made in Lebanon are not from the blessings of America. We were killed, wounded and massacred in our villages and cities through “Israel’s” aggression and the US support, weapons and cover. Our peace, security and achievements were made by our people, martyrs and wounded.”

“America is a state of terror, an administration of terror that has a terrorist culture. We stand in face of the American terrorism that committed Hiroshima and Nakazagi massacre,” he added.

Affirming that “the American move of classifying the IRGC as terrorist  is a precedent that is the epitome of rudeness, insolence and foolishness,” Sayyed Nasrallah denounced the fact that the US continues to create terrorist groups and to designate as terrorist all those who defend their nations, holy sites, dignities, honor, land, security, stability, future and dreams.

“It is the first time that Washington has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization.”

“We stand by the Revolutionary Guard and denounce and the American decision of blacklisting it,” he said, reiterating that America is humiliating an entire nation of billion and a half Muslim for “Israel’s” sake.

On the same issue, the Resistance Leader declared that “US impudence and folly went beyond limits when it branded Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization.”

Praising the fact that “the IRGC has offered great sacrifices to face the US and “Israeli” hegemony in the region,” Sayyed Nasrallah expressed Hezbollah’s support for our IRGC friends.

“The IRGC defended the peoples of the region and offered a large number of martyrs and wounded in defense of the nation,” he added, noting that “Trump’s move towards the IRGC is normal by the Great Satan.”

Undermining Trump’s move as a reaction to his defeat and disappointment, Sayyed Nasrallah underscored that “when the US puts the IRGC on its list of terrorism, this proves that it is strong and not weak.”

“America’s designation of the Revolutionary Guards as terrorist is an indication of our strength, not our weakness, and had we not been influential in the regional equation, they would not have put us on the terror list. If we were weak and incapable of confronting their schemes, they would not have blacklisted us,” His Eminence moved on to say.

He also described the IRGC as a great jihadi institution. “It is normal for it to be aggrieved.”

Moreover, His Eminence highlighted that “our people, some resistance movements and political forces stood in the face of the US scheme and defeated it.”

Commenting on the US move, Sayyed Nasrallah made a clear response: “Until now we as a resistance axis are facing their blacklisting and sanctions with condemnation and managing the situation.”

“The US measures against us will not remain without a response and we will respond at the right time,” he stressed, warning that “our patience does not mean that we do not have strong and fundamental cards in the axis of resistance, but so far we have not reacted.”

In addition, he wondered: “Who says that the Americans’ measures, steps and actions will remain without a response?” announcing that he is speaking on behalf of the entire resistance axis and not only Hezbollah.

“Until now, we are dealing with what the American is doing as reaction to its failures, but this is not a fixed and permanent policy,” The Resistance Leader mentioned, adding once again that “if the American dares to perform some actions and steps, this wouldn’t pass without response by the axis of resistance.”

Sayyed Nasrallah also stated that “When any Resistance faction feels that there is a danger that threatens us, it has the right to respond. Who said that we will settle for condemnation? It is our natural right and ethical, religious and humanitarian duty to confront all those who might threaten our country, resistance and achievements through their measures.”

“Our options are open and when the action needs an appropriate reaction, this response will certainly be present,” he clarified, mentioning that “The field is not empty. This is our past, history, present, reality, resistance and sacrifices.”

Sayyed Nasrallah further unveiled that “choices are open but we will act calmly, with a cool head and at the right time, in all battlefields and arenas.”

Expressing sympathy with the brotherly Iranian people suffering from the floods, he slammed
“Trump, who talks about humanity, and at the same time bans the aid to reach Iranians.”

As His Eminence reiterated Hezbollah’s condemnation for the brutal Saudi aggression on Yemen, Sayyed Nasrallah slammed the fact that “four years have passed since the war on Yemen and no one sees it and there are armies fighting an unarmed and oppressed people.”

“The aggression on Yemen is an American-British-“Israeli” one,” he emphasized, pointing that both “US and Saudi Arabia are doing their utmost in a bid to sow the seeds of discord and division among Muslim nations in the Middle East.”

Confirming that Saudi Crown Prince “Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] has not made any historic victory and we know what the governments of the Gulf countries are suffering because of Saudi Arabia’s hegemony,” Hezbollah Secretary General underscored that “The aggrieved in Yemen are defending themselves so that the governments and peoples of the Gulf countries can have some freedom and dignity in face of a new conqueror.”

“Had MBS won the war, what would have been the fate of the Gulf countries in the face of the Saudi hegemony and arrogance? Had MBS won in the war, he would have forced the Palestinians to sign the deal of the century,”” he asked.

Accusing MBS of helping Washington to liquidate the Palestinian cause so in sake of “Israel”, Sayyed Nasrallah cautioned that “the first to pay the price of MBS’ victory in Yemen if that happened was the Palestinian cause.”

“The steadfastness of the Yemeni people protects the Palestinian cause,” he said, noting that “Trump is insisting on the continuation of the aggression against Yemen.”

On another level, His Eminence condoled the people of the nation on the martyrdom anniversary of Sayyed Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr.

Moving to the internal Lebanese arena, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed “the importance of the current spirit of cooperation among the political forces in addressing the current junctures.”

“We must stress the importance of this spirit regardless of any tensions here or there,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sayyed Nasrallah commented on the “Israeli” elections, saying that “Hezbollah didn’t interfere in the elections. They are the same. Netanyahu will likely form a new right-wing Zionist government.”

He unveiled that “We are before a new stage of unprecedented cooperation between America and “Israel” represented in Netanyahu and Trump. We are before a major juncture related to our territorial border that is linked to our nation and region.”

Undermining the talk of US intent to blacklist Hezbollah allies, His Eminence assured that “There is not a single indication about an intention to blacklist House Speaker Nabih Berri or any other Hezbollah ally.” However, he sensed that there are Lebanese in Washington who are working in this direction. “So far, this remains an intimidation campaign. When the matter reaches our allies, this means that they are targeting all our people.”

“Such move is mere intimidation.”

Urging all sides to remain calm, Sayyed Nasrallah said: “In face of the new developments and after [US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo’s visit to Lebanon, we believe that this US policy will continue, although his visit did not yield any results.”

His Eminence recalled that Pompeo said hours ago that his country “will not remain silent over Hezbollah’s rise in Lebanon and he is seeking to scare and incite the Lebanese.”

Addressing the Lebanese people, Hezbollah Secretary General urged them when they “hear Trump or any “Israeli” official to recall and remember the cities, villages and towns that have been destroyed by the US and “Israeli” interference, that have been devastated by US conspiracies and some Gulf money. Remember the millions of refugees, displaced and afflicted.”

“The interest of the Lebanese lies in cooperation and communication and remaining alert over the US incitement which has destroyed the region around us,” he highlighted.

As His Eminence thanked the resistance’s community for their support, he unveiled that a resistance supporter contacted him saying that he, his wife and son would each sell a kidney and give the cash to the Resistance if its financial situation deteriorated to the extent where that was required.

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Imam Khamenei Comments on the US IRGC Decision: Trump, the Idiots Are Reaching Rock Bottom

By Staff, Agencies

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said the recent decision by the United States to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] a “foreign terrorist organization” is rooted in America’s “rancor” against the force, which has been on the forefront of the fight against Iran’s enemies.

In a meeting with IRGC staff and their family members in the capital, Tehran, on Tuesday, which is IRGC Commemoration Day, Imam Khamenei said the IRGC was on the front-lines of the fight against enemies both inside and outside of Iran.

“The IRGC is the vanguard both on the field confronting the enemy on the [Iranian] borders and even several thousand kilometers away… [in Syria] and on the political battleground facing the enemy,” Imam Khamenei said, adding that the Americans hold a grudge against the force because of that reason.

Trump on Monday released a statement designating the IRGC “a Foreign Terrorist Organization [FTO] under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

Imam Khamenei said such evil will rebound to the evildoer.

“Of course, such malice will lead to nowhere; and, with the their deceit rebounding back to themselves, the Islamic Republic’s enemies — such as Trump and the idiots… in the US government — are reaching rock bottom,” Imam Khamenei said.

Imam Khamenei said 40 years of an all-out pressure campaign against Iran had failed to impede the country’s progress. His Eminence added that such pressure failed to break Iran even when the Islamic Republic was young.

Iran’s power, Imam Khamenei said, comes from the Iranian people’s “perseverance, self-sacrifice, and insight.”

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