Fateful Day Ahead


Omid Parsi
by Omid Parsi

We are only one day away from the 31st anniversary of the Fall of the Pahlavi Regime, a day of showdown between the Green Opposition and the IRGC Junta; And quite likely, the most fateful day in the history of the Islamic Republic that will set the tone for the future of the Iranians' struggle to achieve basic civil rights under a rational, if not secular, representative government.

Looking at the facts though (unfortunately from abroad), I fear there is a good chance that it will all turn into a terrible bloodbath...

For starters, the rhetoric from the hardened regime, points to zero tolerance for any expression of dissent, peaceful or not. So far, the regime has failed in quieting the massive opposition by its "lite" application of bloodshed and terror. That tells me they will up the ante this time.

Since its inception, the Clerical regime has thrived by successfully shedding successive layers of "useful idiots" through brute force. There is very little chance now that the most hardened brutes will consider other tactics for their survival.

To make matters worse, the current hardline leaders and their operatives have painted themselves into a corner and it is hard to fathom how they could extricate themselves and save face, even if they decided to do so. Not much foresight here on the part of the reactionary Khamenei who left himself no room to back down and maneuver.

To make matters worse yet, the hardline IRI leaders cannot be expected to compromise or surrender since they know that when their past and present conduct is properly investigated they will be charged with crimes against humanity and prosecuted with vengeance. Not much foresight here either from the psychopathic Khomeini for taking out his utter frustration in taking over Basra for his "Omma" on defenseless Iranian political prisoners in 1988...

To make matters even worse, the IRGC mafia has nowhere to run. Unlike the Royals and their cronies who relatively painlessly slipped into the western countries they had fancied and frequented, the present ruling thugs are truly stuck between a rock and a hard place. The closest thing to a safe haven for them is probably the Hezbollah's tiny Shiite stronghold in Southern Lebanon (where they can be certain to invite the neighboring Israelis to stage an exemplary show of force in punishing rogue holocaust-deniers with nuclear ambitions). Otherwise they can probably seek refuge in treacherous Syria, or in certain other lawless backwaters like parts of Yemen, Somalia or Sudan which at best offer only wretched living and perpetual terror. Otherwise there isn't a rogue enough country in the globalized world that would offer to host them without the temptation to sell them out for small favors shortly after.

Meanwhile there is no evidence that the massive Green Opposition movement, which has been warned repeatedly of the oncoming terror but has the momentum, is going to come out more subdued and cautious than before.

Hence, it is logical to assume that the regime, which by the way has all the firepower and the monopoly on violence at the moment, will have no choice but fight with vengeance to the last. They may be doomed, but they will last longer, perhaps indefinitely longer, if they go for a hard fight. And if they have to fight, they might think to start with the most ruthless and terrorizing show of force; A pre-emptive strike for maximum effect.

Another reason for them ordering a massive crackdown now is to expose and purge disloyal elements of the security forces that could later pose a mortal threat to the regime.

So far the Green movements has managed to embarrass and destabilize the regime, robbing it of its air of legitimacy. Beyond that, I don't know how well thought out this strategy for a non-violent opposition is. Just like the nation building experience in Iraq today hasn't gone as smoothly as that of Japan after WWII, the "Velvet Revolution" in Iran may not go as smoothly as the movements in Ukraine or Georgia.

The IRI is so prone to holy terror that it has specially created the Basij, a large standing army of hooligans to do for them what the "brown shirts" did for the Nazis. From the beginning, the Khomeini regime has leaned towards shocking the world by disregarding international norms and diplomacy even when they knew they could not get away with it. Therefore I guess the Martin Luther King trick and the "Non-Violent Struggle for Change" will not work in the Islamic Republic who in principle
is no more respectful of basic human rights than the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It is easy to imagine that Gandhi could not have pulled off a victory if his adversaries where the Khmer Rouge instead of the OxBridge educated military strategists of the British Empire.

Assuming the worst happens tomorrow, I suspect in the aftermath the more diligent elements of what is now called "Green Movement" will regroup and rediscover armed resistance, and with a wide base of support will start to chip away at the illegitimate and despised regime with ambushes and street fights until elevating the whole affair to a situation like Beirut circa 1980. In this tragic case I would expect them to achieve victory, albeit at immense cost and collateral damage, because they will have vast worldwide support from every mighty power, including those that are straddling the fence right now.

If tomorrow's confrontation ends up no more heated than that of the Ashura, that would just postpone the day of the reckoning to the next event while giving the opposition's more confidence and more time to organize, something that the wretched regime is aware of and might want to avoid.

In the end it is hard to tell what is going to happen, but doing the forensic exercise of putting oneself in the Regime's shoes and asking the right questions one can expect to foresee at least one likely course of events.

The short term prospects are not cheerful... But I hope I am wrong...

Omid Parsi
New York



more from Omid Parsi

Another scenario: Civil war & opposition seeks allies to survive

by FG on

With occasional exceptions, civil wars tend to be the most brutal of conflicts, especially for civilians.  In Iran's case, such brutality would be certain, especially on the side of the mullahs should they appear to be winning.   Opposition leaders and their entire families would be slaughtered wholesale in event of defeat.

The most likely way an Iranian civil war would start is if the regime orders a mass slaughter and some of its forces defect but not enough for an opposition.  The mullahs retain the balance of forces and a monopoly over air power.  Widely despised, they are winning for that reason alone.  The opposition's only hope is an alliance with foreigners.  It seeks such an alliance.  This is not the same as military intervention and is a common historical phenomenon.

EXAMPLE: US Revolution

The alliance with France involved mainly the use of French naval forces (not land forces) to overcome what had been both the Brit's main advantage--its superiority at sea.   That alliance proved decisive when the British army was trapped on the Yorktown Peninsula between Washington's land army and the French navy. 

If event of a civil war and assuming the mullahs retain control of air forces, the resistance would have little chance.  Recall what Saddam did to Shia rebels in the Basra uprising after the first Gulf War.  The people would get similarly hammered.


The South knew it could not defeat the North militarily and on its own.  It hoped that a series of victories might bring an alliance with European powers (Britain and/or France) which would likely have been decisive. The South saw such an alliance as its best chance and sought it easily. No one opposed it and had such a deal been made it would have been cheered everywhere.  Call it realism.

At the time of Antietam, it needed only one more but lost that battle.  The Union victory there and at that time made the Emancipation Proclamation politically possible.  That proclamation in turn made it difficult politically for European nations to ally with the Confederacy afterwards. 

From that point on the Confederacy's only chance was to wear down the Union's will to fight by inflicting immense casualties in the hope McDowell would win the 1864 election vs.Lincoln and make peace.  The lost of Atlanta and the destruction of an entire Confederate army came just in time for Lincoln to win a close victory.

WWII: Brit resistance against Germany

I had a course with top US military historian Russell Weigley who pointed out that British resistance following the fall of France made no sense except in the hope that it could hold out long enough until the US got involved.   The day after Pearl Harbor, Churchill remarked, "the Germans have just lost the war."  He was right.

WWII: The US/Soviet alliance

This was an alliance of convenience and necessity for BOTH parties.  It didn't mean we were "supporting Stalin's dictatorship" or that Stalin was "supporting American democracy."

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I agree that if IRR goes on a mass murder spree all bets are off. The UN should pass a resolution authorizing military intervention. If they don't then other means should be considered. It will be impossible to sit back and watch wholesale slaughter of people. The US should put them on notice. This will not be the same as Iraq; all US has to do is to demolish the IRR forces. The Iranian people will manage the rest of process.

This is not without precedence. It happened in Yugoslavia.

In addition: all IRR embassies should be shut. Their representatives arrested and their accounts closed. 

Nuremberg style courts should be set up in the Hague. The Mullahs shipped there in chains. Open trials should follow with severe punishments. Make this a lesson to all evil tyrants and their supporters. 


Ordinarily I'd strongly oppose US or western intervention....

by FG on

Iranians are strongly nationalistic and would ordinarily resist the idea. 

On the other hand, should the regime start engaging in mass slaughter to save itself, it will be hard to stand by and watch Khamenei and his hardliners kill thousands or tens of thousands and set up Dachaus for ten times that number (Dachau was mainly for political prisoners and internal opposition, not Jews, from what I understand.

To stand by and allow such things seems morally wrong, like watching from a window as a woman is gang raped and stabbed on the street outside your house.  Ordinarily you should NOT get involved but what happens in these circumstances.

The author raises points with which it's hard for anyone to disagree:

1. The regime has already committed too many crimes against humanity so it can't afford to back down.  Its secret IRCG-run prisons are the seeds of Dachau-style camps.  That's exactly how the Nazi regime started ins concentration camps which were later expanded and used for outright extermination.

2. The thugs responsible have nowhere practical to go except, as Khamenei's Marie Antoinette/Imelda Marcos'-style wife has complained "some Lebanese village."

3. The ruling hardliners have no moral restraints and hace proven they would certainly engager in such slaughter and atrocitiers IF they thought they could get away with it--the only reason they haven't done so for now. 

Their main fear now is that much of the military might defect rarther than carry out such mass murder if ordered.   Should they be able to control that, Khamenei, Mojtaba, Jannati, the Yazdis, etc., would slaughter Iranians by the tens of thousands in a heartbeat. 

Don't doubt it for a minute. 

The only other potential restraint, at that point, would be the fear that foreign powers might act eventually, as in Rwanda and Kosovo, to save who that can.  As in the latter case, the intervention would come too late for many. 

The hesitation here wouldn't be so much a concern for losses among western forces as fear of  upsetting Iranian nationalistic tendencies.   Even many opposition members have taken strong stands against intervention and their position must be respected.  Only if an attempt at mass slaughter occurs and only if the opposition then appeals for outside assistance, lacking all alternativers except death or the camps, should outsiders intervene. 




by Observing_Iran on

Let this be a lesson to us Iranians to never trust in theocracy or akhoonds ever again. 



Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic

استقلال، آزادی، جمهوری ایرانی

Sargord Pirouz

Omid, it certainly has the

by Sargord Pirouz on

Omid, it certainly has the makings of dramatic, but I don't think it will be fateful.

I expect this to continue for some time, in sporadic episodes, as an undercurrent.

But hey, admittedly, these things are never easy to predict. We'll see come tomorrow.