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October 9, 2009

Abdo: “The Rise of the Iranian Dictatorship”

Geneive Abdo, Iran analyst at the Century Foundation, wrote an article in the October 7, 2009 edition of Foreign Policy about the expanding power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran.
Abdo writes:

“The secretive paramilitary group became a dominant institution in Iran — socially, politically, militarily, and economically — during Ahmadinejad’s first term. He appointed IRGC members to positions as ambassadors, mayors, cabinet ministers, and high-ranking officials at state-run economic institutions. The IRGC returned the favor during the electoral campaign. Before the election, the chief of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jafari, encouraged the guards to “participate” — a not-so-subtle directive to do whatever necessary to guarantee Ahmadinejad’s re-election. They did so, both by intimidating opposition members and even, some in Iran allege, single-handedly rigging the vote.”

The newly appointed commander of the Basij paramilitary group under IRGC control is Mohammad Reza Naghdi, a senior military officer who was sanctioned by the UN for links to Iran’s ballistic missile program.  Adbo highlights his role as “a key player in organizing and financing Ansar Hezbollah, a militia that orchestrated the 1999 attack on student dormitories at Tehran University” among his other involvements with severe crackdowns on dissidents in Iran in illustrating what she refers to as the titular “Rise of the Iranian Dictatorship”.
Abdo’s views ring true with other analysts and scholars on Iran, as well as some current developments. Rasool Nafisi, professor from Strayer University, recently discussed the increasing military stronghold on Iran socially, politically, economically at a NIAC briefing on Capitol Hill as part of its US-Iran Policy program. Recently a company affiliated with the IRGC purchased a majority share of Iran’s telecommunications monopoly for nearly $8 billion. Kenneth Pollack of the Saban Center recently spoke of the silencing of more moderate opposition and reformist voices in Iran since the June election and the continuing rise of hardline elements in the Iranian government at a recent discussion on Middle East affairs.
Abdo also writes about how the militaristic expansion in Iran causing stirs on all sides of the political discourse:

“Khamenei’s appointments come amid a fierce debate inside Iran. Even conservatives are unnerved by the militarization of the state. They argue that the military’s intervention in Iranian politics is against the revolutionary ideals of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic in 1979. Khomeini established the IRGC to defend the revolution from internal threats after the fall of the shah. In 1988, he established the Basij forces on university campuses across Iran to ensure that students, long known for political dissent, would remain loyal to the republic.
Now, Khamenei has given the militias under his control unprecedented power. This will surely lead to a more restrictive society at the precise moment a broad-based opposition movement seemed to promise real change for the first time since the 1979 revolution.”

This trend has created fears of a descent into a Junta-like system in Iran.

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