Thursday, September 10, 2009

Delusions of candor: Tehran IRGC commander puts the latest spin on unrest

'Delusions of candor' is an ongoing series on the regime's efforts to spin the news, create disinformation, and spread propaganda.

'Despite reports published in foreign media, the number of dead in the unrest totaled 36, three in Kahrizak [detention center] and almost 10 others whose place of death is known. But it is unclear where the rest were killed and who shot them,' said the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander for Greater Tehran, General Abdollah Araghi.

Araghi, who heads the IRGC's Mohammad Rassoulollah (Mohammad Prophet of God) Corps, was speaking at the induction ceremony for northern Tehran's new IRGC commander, according to news reports from ILNA and IRNA.

Before the closure of its offices on Tuesday, September 8, the opposition committee looking into the abuse and deaths of protesters had released a list of 72 identified dead protesters and had announced additions to the tally in the near future. Two senior members of the committee, Alireza Beheshti and Morteza Alviri, were arrested on the same day.

However this is the first time that a top regime official has admitted that any deaths occurred at Kahrizak. Just recently, Iran's Security Forces Chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam had said that no one had died at the notorious detention center. Araghi's figures also contradict those of IRGC commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, who claimed last week, 'In total, there were 29 dead and of those, 20 belonged to the Basij forces and only 9 were protesters.'

Araghi devoted most of his speech to the post-election unrest and the security measures taken to counter it.

In a strange statement, fraught with unintended meaning, Araghi said, 'Three outcomes had been predicted. First, that the Principlist candidate [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] would take the vote, and this is what happened and we saw the result. Second, that Mr. Mousavi and the 2nd of Khordad front would win the vote, and in this respect post-election celebrations had been predicted. And finally, that the election would go to a second round.'

Araghi said that the Basij had not been summoned on the evening of the election, when 'garbage cans, government property, and banks were set on fire, and clashes with security forces took place.'

Subsequently, security forces in the capital went on red alert, according to the IRGC general. 'Certain parts of Tehran, like Narmak, Tehran Pars, and Gheitarieh, saw truly heavy clashes, so much so that the city looked like it was in revolt,' said Araghi, citing only districts in northeastern Tehran, although most of the documented protester deaths took place in other parts of the capital.

'The heaviest demonstrations took place on June 15, when the organizers managed to bring anyone who had any grievance into the streets,' Araghi continued, employing the same dismissive tone that Ahmadinejad took in a recent speech when he said, 'Anyone who had had a spat with his mother came to the streets.' Photos, videos, and eyewitness accounts of that demonstration seem to indicate that the silent protesters held aloft posters with only one message: 'Where is my vote?'

Araghi contended that Leader Ali Khamenei's Friday Prayer sermon on June 19 'clarified matters and led to a fall in the number of ignorant people who were coming to the streets.'

'Unfortunately, the Association of Combatant Clerics' statement on demonstrations, which was akin to thumbing their nose at the regime, invited the population to engage in civil disobedience,' regretted General Araghi. 'The IRGC, Basij, security forces and other forces decided to put an end to this disobedience.' The next day, June 20, turned into one of the deadliest for the reform movement.

As an example of foreign media bias, Araghi referred to footage of a Basiji shooting on people from a rooftop at the Ashoura 117 Base near Azadi Square on June 15.

The valiant Basiji had been defending the base for three and a half hours, said Araghi, before opening fire on one individual who was trying to gain control of the base's arsenal. According to reports, at least seven people -- Ahmad Naim Abadi, Nasser Amirnejad, Sorour Boroumand, Fatemeh Rajabpour, Mahmoud Raisi Nafissi, Kianoush Assa, and Massoud Khosravi -- were killed in front of the Basij base on Mohammad Ali Jenah Street and in the adjacent Azadi Square that day.

Araghi warned that the 'enemy's tactics have moved from the military phase to soft threats' and that the IRGC had to change its approach to confront the new dangers.

He did not elaborate on whether civil disobedience was a part of the opposition's new ominous tactics.