If revolt comes in Iran, the regime has many advantages and one big Achilles heel


by FG

Stonewall Jackson's troops would walk 20 miles a day, many of them without shoes, to get at the enemy.  Military psychologists agree on what makes troops fight hard or badly.  Abstract war goals (fighting for freedom, for one's country, for an ideology) play little part when one gets down to battle.  What really counts is a soldier's ties to close comrades and his need for their respect. No one wants to be the first to run, or to leave buddies down.  The reverse is equally true: it's damn hard to fight under officers you despise, especially for a cause you scorn.

Rulers are most likely to enjoy stability when they have the tacit consent of their people.  The wisest know that such consent is conditional in nature.  Hence, they avoid deeply unpopular decisions or even worse, a whole series of them.  Otherwise political legitimacy is lost for good, as happened in Syria and Iran.  Now such regimes rest on force alone--a hard thing to retain in the long run.   However, the biggest catch is that their huge edge in expensive military equipment is useful only to the degree they can rely on human beings who come from the people being oppressed.

Nazi officers--even those in the SS--complained of growing morale problems among the troops when forced to machine gun hundreds of men, women and children, even babies, and despite the fact that a large number of those victims were Jews, who the troops had been conditioned to to hate.  We know that the top SS man in charge of extermination personally warned Heinrich Himmler that the regime would have to find some other way to eliminate undesired civilians.  So how much worse can such morale problems become when troops are ordered to target their own population, people with whom they can easily identify.

In crushing any rebellion, dictators always starts with incomparable advantages in in manpower, training and and equipment they have no qualms about using.  However they also have a huge Achilles heel that cannot really come into play initially--the huge gap in potential motivation/morale that can comes into play only when the regime has brutalized demonstrators badly enough and long enough to provoke the first defections.  

This is where the mullahs grasped what Green leaders didn't--the key to regime victory is nip things early or "a stitch in time savers nine."  Avoid being caught by surprise.  Fill every street corner with thugs  before things can get out of hand.   It is conveivable that the post-2009 demonstrations might have reached the critical point (defections) had not Green leaders, fearful of any violence,  not assisted the Bad Guys by sending "invitations" to security force thugs in advance and by holding protests at announced intervals so thugs could catch a breath.  When protest acquires momentum, you don't put on the brakes.

The more widely a regime is stretched to counter demonstrations, the more it must use "unreliable" troops instead of thugs without conscience.   Sooner or later, revulsion induces some of those troops to defect in order to protect the people.  If the regime can stop such defections early and as news spreads among the troops, the number of defections can snowball, aided further by the regime's desperate actions.  Eventually the most effective and best trained rebel fighters emerge from the very forces sent to crush them--those who have glimpsed the regime's dirty underside.  In Iran, the very idea of Khamenei's holiness becomes laughable once you've had to sleep with the guy.

In the early stages of military conflict, money buys mercenaries while personal wealth, privilege (and fear) keeps most officers in line.  Not much cash is left for the troops especially as large scale protests wreak havoc on an already battered economy.   So long as things go easy and the militias can handle most troublemakers, troop motivation remains an insignificant factor.  It will matter later.  Yet I think of haunting photographs of confident German troops from the 6th army horsing around in the summer of 1943, swimming in nearby river, their faces smiling as they pose with their arms wrapped around photos of their buddies.  They were headed for Stalingrad (and Siberian gulags later) and had no idea of how their lives would change. 

Hitler enjoyed highly motivated troops who were led by officers they could respect. They were not asked to slaughter fellow Germans(except for certain minorities).  In the springtime of conflict, to put down unarmed protestors is as easy as picking grapes off a vine or France invading Monaco.  Historically the balance of forces in a revolution can shift with frightening speed.  When it does,  those officers who engaged in too many atrocities might stay on a sinking ship but why would anyone else?  Abstract motives (Defend your leader!  Love the Islamic Republic!) look like a joke while the motives that really count in combat have been extinguished by earlier tactics used to compel troops.

Imagine yourself as a professional soldier commanded to enforce mullah rule.  Your officers order you to shoot unarmed protestors,  smash their faces with your rifle butts or protect specialized thugs inflicting such horrors (Basilj, Iranian or Lebanese Hezboolah, Palestinian "volunteers).   The victims (unarmed) resemble your friends, families or acquaintances).   Their only crime is to insist on the same things many of the troops desire. (human rights, democrarcuy, a free press, fair elections, etc.)

To "teach youa lesson" your commanding officer shoots your best friend for not firing on civilians when ordered to do so, or for attemptingh to defect.  Maybe you'll be required to pull the trigger. How long before you defect?   The number of loyal officers is limited and they can't stay awake 24 hours a day. How long can such an army function effectively.

A news item from Syria demonstrates nicely how such things snowball.  You can bet most Syrians are cheering the FSA today: 



more from FG

not assisted the Bad Guys

by vildemose on

not assisted the Bad Guys by sending "invitations" to security force thugs in advance and by holding protests at announced intervals so thugs could catch a breath.  When protest acquires momentum, you don't put on the brakes. "  

I couldn't agree more. Mousavi et al are complicit in deceiving the movement, once again people fell for the lies.

"It is the chain of communicat­ion, not the means of production­, that determines a social process."

-- Robert Anton Wilson


Very good analysis

by divaneh on

Thanks FG for your excellent analysis. I also think any army would collapse if it is asked to confront its own people. That is in fact why in the older times the most loyal army to the king was not from the local people. I wonder if that tactic is still used by unpopular rulers.

I think lack of people confidence and lack of participation from many cities helped the government to amass its forces in Tehran and few other flashpoints and prevent the formation of any crowd. The god news is that they are now even weaker, so one more push may do the job. 


Anahid Hojjati

Great blog dear FG

by Anahid Hojjati on


 Thanks for a well written blog. I liked the whole blog. It made valid arguments. I especially liked this paragraph:"This is where the mullahs grasped what Green leaders didn't--the key to regime victory is nip things early or "a stitch in time savers nine."  Avoid being caught by surprise.  Fill every street corner with thugs  before things can get out of hand.   It is conveivable that the post-2009 demonstrations might have reached the critical point (defections) had not Green leaders, fearful of any violence,  not assisted the Bad Guys by sending "invitations" to security force thugs in advance and by holding protests at announced intervals so thugs could catch a breath.  When protest acquires momentum, you don't put on the brakes. "



dear fg

by shushtari on

wonderful blog......I agree completely.....in fact, I had read that the idiots had khayeneis plane ready to go to syria in december of 2009, because they were fearing that their mullacracy was about to collapse....

I believe they killed ayat. montazeri also, because he was one of the few who had the cojones to call them out

assad will fall next, and then the akhoonds are next....yeepeee 


If Bahrain opts for democracy, Iran's clerics will fume

by FG on


Tens of thousands of people participated in the rally organised
yesterday by the opposition societies, demanding transformation to a
democratic system in which the people are the source of authority. (Source: Enduring America)


Any Bahrain settlement that provided for real democracy would have hefty impact inside and outside the country. 

1. WITHIN BAHRAIN: Full democracy appears the only
solution which can bring permanent peace and reconciliation.  Bahrain's Shia would become full and equal citizens
alongside Sunnis.  The present ruling family could be compensated with a
ceremonial monarchy for giving up political power   A reconciliation
committee would also be needed to heal  poisonous wounds.


Repression guarantees chaos forever as rulers in
Syria, Yemen and Iran are learning.   Bahrain has a chance to avoid it
because the rules halted criminal excesses before they became
too extensive. Democracy may be possible now before delay leads to
further excess, in which case I see a prospect of Lebanon-style

2. IRAN: The mullahs are already sweating the rise of democratic Arab
states and
moderate Islamist movements copying Turkey's model.  
The last thing Iran's clerics is a predominantly Shia state with a
secular democracy.  The latter's influence might be magnetic both inside
Iran and among Shia minorities, distracting the latter from what Iran
proposes for them instead.  For the latter, see Lebanon's Hezbollah and
Iraq's Al Sadr (a big Assad fan).

3. THE SAUDIS: They already fear the Iranian model, its regional
ambitions and its influence on Shia minorities at home.  A democratic
model featuring full equality next door might be contagious by example,
frightening the conservatives.  The sole upside for the Saudis is that
in the
short run,such a model would counter the greater threat Iran poses as it
stirs up Shia minorities in the region, often arming and training
them.  In any case, what
can or will the Saudis do if Bahrain's rulers choose democracy?


In other news:

RAMADAM BOYCOTT?: Iran's police is complaining that up to 50 percent of Iran's people didn't fast for Ramadan.  I'm wondering what percentage of young peope in Tehran and elsewhere even bothers going to the mosque.   Itgoes to show how much vicious clerical rule has tainted religion and especially Islam among its victims.


INTERESTING VIDEO:  On Thursday, Al Jazeera's The Stream grilled Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi, co-hosts of the satirical television program Parazit, which is broadcast to Iran by the U.S.-funded Voice of America. "Can the VOA help Iran's pro-reform movement," The Stream host Imran Garda wanted to know, "or is it peddling Washington's agenda?" Al Jazeera itself is owned by the state of Qatar.


*** The Guard commander killed in a recent explosion was testing an intercontinental missile, Iran reports. //old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20111119/ap_on_re_m...




by FG on

Brainwashing doesn't always work.  I can't believe it's as effective as you say.

Allow for changing times as well.   Recall how many Basilj acted as human mine field clearers during the Iran/Iraq war.  What percentage do you think would blow themselves up for Khamenei these days. In terms of charisma, he's not Khoumeini, is he?   

Again consider Syria where many defectors (also brainwashed) report that at first they actually
believed their bosses claims that the demonstrators they went sent to
crush were inspired by Al Queda.  Obviously it wore off. Why should it
be any different in Iran as the regime insists they continue beating obviously harmless people?

I've also read that a majority of IRCG troops voted for the reformers.  Did they enjoy having their votes stolen? 

Finally would brainwashing insulate the troops who are repeatedly ordered to attack armed demonstrators including Basilj types beating women with clubs?  

Don't IRCG members have families, some of whom must surely give them an earful of complaints about mullah rule?   Don't some have relatives or friends who have demonstrated?  Do they really believe those people to are foreign agents or influenced by such?

Do IRCG members get social time off?  Are they socially ostracized or do they have contact with ordinary young people (contamination) in which case they'd become well acquainted with how the regime is perceived and why.

Do they find themselves shunned by female peers?  Do the latter have any influence on them? 



brainwashing of troops

by religionoutofgovernment on

FG, in Iran we face a special situation of extreme brainwashing of the troops. All troops are brainwashed to some extent to follow orders blindly. But in the case of the IRRI, the troops think God is telling them to kill. Don't you think this is a little different that other historical cases? 


BREAKING NEWS: Iran hit by terrible "plague"

by FG on

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi has said that the Internet, mobile phones, and girl-boy relations are "general plagues" affecting Iran.  (Note: Link is in Farsi)




Gholamreza Shafieizadeh, the Friday Prayer leader in Rasht: "if Iran gets attacked, our Basij will invade the whole of Saudi Arabia within a few hours".

Wow!  The Basij.  They'll put a scare into the Saudis.  And who will defend the mullahs against their own people while those Basilj are absent.


Iran's Inspector General Mostafa Pourmohammadi is concern that the country's "situation is sensitive and alarming", with developments in the Arab world proving the Islamic Republic is in a difficult position.



Kalemeh claims that the price of one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of tomatoes has risen by 500 Toman (about 37 cents) within a week --- they now cost 1700 Tomans (about $1.30).

Jahan-e San'at headlines that there is "not much left" to destroy in domestic agriculture, noting Iran's top six imports are foreign agricultural products.


Another record low for the Iranian rial against the US dollar on Wednesday, as it ended the day at 13400:1.

The currency has fallen steadily over the year and is now 24% weaker than in November 2010.

Source: Enduring America



The fire next time? Get ready.

by FG on

Any uprising must be spontaneous, coming as a surprise to all sides.  Otherwise the regime will be ready. The opposition needs advance planning to assure that when the dam breaks damage spreads quickly as in Syria.

INFILTRATE NOW: Spying on the Basilj, Iranian Hezbollah, the army and IRCG would be very helpful.  Learn regime reactions, intended strategy and tactics, informers, key figures, possible defector, etc.  Are foreigners being used?  Ideally, cells should be used for this purpose for security reasons.

BE DEFECTION READY: As security forces engage in brutality, the opposition must encourage defectors.  Signs held by demonstrators are useful but it would be nice to also have have personal appeals, pre-printed and ready, for distribution to security force members or their homes.  Such leaflets should be created and stored by people who can credibly appear to be regime sympathizers.  What about hiding places/ weapons theft and storage?

SEEK ALLIES NOW: Forming political alliances of convenience NOW between advocates and opponents of democracy and civil rights who share a hatred of mullah rule would be useful.  That would enable military alliance between rival factions, as in Libya, if conflict occurs.  Forming political alliances might even provoke the mullahs in ways that trigger an uprising (Ahmadinejad's followers protest, the Greens join in, then angry workers)  Never forget that Ahmadinejad has many friends in the Basilj and IRCG.  They can be useful if the sxxx hits the fan.



I'm not sure Iran was ripe in 2009.  Times have changed and the cauldron is starting to broil with the regime's unwitting assistance.  Here are some of the factors that are changing.

First, social base of discontent was narrower then. 

Secondly, Khamenei still enjoyed far more respect than now.  Everyone seems to hate that mother, including many former friends.

Thirdly, economic conditions have worsened.  No end in site. Mullahs and IRCG have grabbed most of Iran's wealth and everyone knows it by now.

Fourth, the mullahs were able to call on Ahmadinejad and his supporters for help.   A political alliance is the best way to prevent a repeat.