Iran Breaking News: Armed forces pledge not to shoot on protesters!

As we reported earlier, the situation in Iran is extremely tense. Most factions of the regime were confident that the mass movement of 2009 was now dead. But almost like lightning from a clear blue sky the demonstration last Monday shook the entire establishment, that was taken completely by surprise. Now it seems that the movement has provoked more serious cracks in the regime than we had anticipated.

According to a document received by The Telegraph, several lower ranking commanders of the Revolutionary Guards (a professional militia counting 120,000) have signed a document stating that they do not want to shoot on demonstrators. We provide here the full text of the article from The Telegraph:

“Following the recent violence that occurred during anti-government protests in Egypt, the officers argue that it is against the principles of Shi'ite Islamic law to use violence against their own people.

In a suggestion of a major split within the Islamic Republic's ruling hierarchy over its handling of anti-government protests, the letter has been circulated widely throughout the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards, the body responsible for defending religious system.

The letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Daily Telegraph, is addressed to Major Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards' commanding officer. It calls on Major Gen Jafari to issue guidance to both the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij paramilitary militia to use restraint when handling anti-government protests.

During the violent anti-government demonstrations that followed the disputed presidential election in June 2009, which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elected to serve a second four-year term, the government relied heavily on the Basij to suppress the protests over fears that it could not rely on certain Guards units.

But in the letter, which is signed by senior officers commanding Guards units in Tehran, Qom, Isfahan and Tabriz, they urge Major Gen Jafari to "use your authority over the Basij to order them to leave their truncheons at home next time."

It goes on to state unequivocally, "We promise our people that we will not shoot nor beat our brothers who are seeking to express legitimate protest against the policies and conduct of their leader."

The Iranian government has called on its supporters to take to the streets today to demonstrate their "hatred" for the opposition Green Movement, which has made a dramatic return following the recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. One demonstrator was killed and scores more injured when pro-democracy activists protested against Mr Ahmadinejad's government, chanting "death to the dictator".

Western diplomats, who have also seen the letter and confirm its authenticity, say it has now been passed to Mr Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's Supreme Ruler, although no official response has been forthcoming.” (The Telegraph)

If the information in the document is correct, it marks a very important milestone in the development of the Iranian revolution. And there are several factors that would indicate that what is being reported here is in fact true.

Firstly the revolutions in the Arab world has shaken all regimes in the area who all feel the ground underneath them shaking. The inspiration that the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions provide the masses of the region, however, spread fear into the ruling circles of all these countries. In Iran too, the movement is resurfacing. All corners of Iranian society are being affected as tension is being raised to unheard of levels. Not only is the regime more oppressive than ever, but the social conditions for millions also being worsened by the day. This is preparing enormous explosions within society.

On top of this, the legitimacy of the regime is in free fall as it tramples on all the laws and rules that it insisted on putting in place in the past. In such a situation even the forces of the Guards are also affected – especially since the Guards are a professional army, many of whom are devoted to carrying on the Islamic revolution and all its laws (which for instance include – at least in theory – freedom of assembly and protest). But as these laws are not respected by the regime itself many of these Guards, who were once the main social base of the regime, are becoming disillusioned with it.

The guards are part of the middle classes and comprise of all kinds of layers. Its lower layers with low wages and lower living standards are closer to the masses, while their top layers have been engaging in big business and have accumulated great wealth. In the year 2000 more than 70% of the Guards voted for Khatami, a vote that was seen by most people as a protest vote against the regime. This again proves that the Guards are not one solid block of reaction, but they are receptive to social pressures.

After six months of struggle against the masses, we saw on the day of Ashura how fraternisation was even seen between some of the Guards and the people. This latest letter of the officers, if authentic, reveals how strained the Guards must have been feeling during that year. We have also heard from other officers that the Guards cannot take much more pressure before they begin to disintegrate (Iran's Revolutionary Guards point to fresh dissent). It is therefore clear that the officers feel that the Guards cannot be forced to endure such a period again.

It is clear that the regime will denounce this news immediately and try to sow confusion so as not to encourage people to take to the streets, but the damage has been done. This news will spread like wildfire and will further heat up as the the demonstration on Sunday approaches. [This article will be followed up with a more thorough analysis on Monday.]

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