Top officials had serious concerns about loss of loyalty among the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) amid the recent protests, a new document reveals.
Iran International has received a copy of a 44-page document that contains citations of the remarks made by 45 IRGC commanders and clerics at a meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at his office on January 3 on the anniversary of the death of IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani.
The document ends with an excerpt of Khamenei’s own remarks complaining that those present had spoken about loss of faith and the hardships that the rank and file endure, but no one had talked about those who had kept their faith in the regime despite hardships.
The meeting was held more than three months into the anti-regime protests following the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of ‘morality police’ and quickly spread across the country.
Participants in the meeting included top IRGC officers such as Major General Gholam-Ali Rashid, commander of IRGC’s Khatam Al-Anbiya Central Headquarters, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Hojjat ol-Eslam Mahmoud Mohammadi-Shahroudi who heads the Basij Militia Organization of Seminary Students and Clerics and Hojjat ol-Eslam Abdollah Haji-Sadeghi, Khamenei’s representative in the IRGC.
Major general Gholam Ali Rashid, the commander of Khatam al-Anbiya Central Headquarter
Rashid told Khamenei that there had been several cases of major insubordination since the protests started including aborted plans to use artillery to shell certain targets in Tehran, including Khamenei’s residence. Culprits were arrested, he said.
Speakers mainly focused on the negative impact of the protests on the morale of forces under the command of the IRGC, with several offering anecdotal accounts of insubordination. They also mentioned personnel’s refusal to use violence against protesters, particularly women and also cases of desertion. According to one commander, forces had even helped the protesters in some cases by providing misleading information to operational forces and sending them to wrong locations.
Some of the speakers also said the rank and file were paid low salaries which in many cases made them identify themselves with the discontented public and sympathize with them. Some like Major General Rashid suggested that taking action to improve the living standards of the personnel was required given rising cost of living that affected them and their loyalty to the regime.
Iran has been experiencing 40-50-percent annual inflation for the past three years, with food items rising 70-110 percent in one year. Crippling US sanctions are the major reason behind the economic crisis.
In one case, Colonel Ehsan Khorshidi, the coordinating deputy of the IRGC in Alborz Province said that a few conscripts and a lieutenant stole military’s food supplies which were then distributed in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Karaj, the capital of the province. “Feeling sympathy with the people is not a small matter. This time it was the food supplies of the division. What if next time it is the weapons they distribute?” he asked.
He also pointed out that many among the families of the forces had been involved in the protests and had even been arrested. “This morning at least six senior officers contacted me to ask me to request my help to get backing from the commander of the force in the matter of the arrest of their family members.”
According to the document, Khamenei said the judiciary chief should order leniency in the cases of arrested IRGC staff’s family members.
Several of the speakers pointed out that the continuation of the protest for months and their spread across the country had been beyond their expectations. Given past experiences, Colonel Khorshidi said, officials thought the protests would be quelled even before reaching the level they could be considered as a “threat”.