Friday, September 25, 2009

IRGC intelligence aided by KGB as early as 1979: Former Revolutionary Guards chief makes astonishing slip on live TV

Mohsen Rezai, former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and a candidate in the 2009 presidential election, told Iranian state television that the IRGC's intelligence service had received tips from the KGB as early as 1979.

Responding to questions over the telephone, Rezai appeared on the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) on Tuesday night in a program devoted to 'soft revolutions.'

'I remember, in the early days of the revolution -- I was in charge of the IRGC's intelligence -- the Soviets would tell us every once in a while that the royalists were making preparations in Turkey to attack us,' Rezai said on the 9 PM show. 'At one point, I think it was the Soviet ambassador who had visited the Supreme Leader... the Agha (NB Agha, or Sir, refers to the Supreme Leader, who was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the time) called me in and said, "Look into what these people are saying. It seems a bit irrational." I looked into it and determined that they were providing us with very good information.'

Rezai co-founded and led the intelligence unit of the IRGC in 1979. According to some accounts, he commanded forces dispatched to Torkaman Sahra to crush a rebellion later that same year. He became the commander of the IRGC in 1981, at the age of 27. He held that position until 1997, having obtained a doctorate in economics from Tehran University in 1992. He was one of four candidates approved for the 2009 presidential election and has disputed the official results. Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of one of his top advisers Abdolhossein Ruholamini, was beaten to death in an Iranian prison, probably Kahrizak, in July. Though he has muted his criticism in the past two months, he remains close to the Principlist rivals of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

'They were telling us -- it was the KGB in those days -- they were saying, "We have precise information that the royalists are putting together an operation against Iran in Ankara. We wanted to tell you this,"' added Rezai. 'Later it transpired that... not that what they were saying was false, but it wasn't as big as they were saying.'

Opposition figures and protesters believe that Russia, which has close economic and political ties with the Islamic Republic, not only supports the regime, but has provided it with security advice and training. A day after the massive June 15 demonstration which rallied millions of protesters in Tehran, Ahmadinejad flew to Yekaterinburg, Russia, to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit and was greeted warmly by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. In a statement on July 1, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi said, 'The people carrying out the crackdown were trained in Russia.' The issue of Etemad Melli, the newspaper of Karroubi's party, which published that statement was banned. The statement was subsequently printed in Kalameh Sabz, an underground newspaper.

The slogan 'Death to Russia!' has become a fixture of street protests in Iran, notably on July 17 and September 18. 


Of note:
The other guest of the program was another former head of the IRGC, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who was present in the studio. He was succeeded by the current IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari in 2007. Ironically, analysts believed at the time that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had decided to replace Rahim Safavi because he was too close to Ahmadinejad, who had provoked rifts within the conservative camp. Jafari, who headed the IRGC's Strategic Studies Center and was a specialist in asymmetrical warfare, was believed to be a more consensual figure.

Jafari has used asymmetrical tactics, effectively fighting a superior military force, in Iraq. He may be employing the same knowledge now, only this time to counter the asymmetrical actions of the green movement in the streets of Iran.