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Geopolitics

Iran Protests, Dissent In The Ranks: Interview With A Mole Inside The Revolutionary Guard

A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards tells Kayhan-London that while they must stay hidden, "many" policemen, soldiers and officials sympathize with the mass protests against the Islamist regime. He also shares information about Iran's role in the Ukraine war.

photo of Iranian Revolutionary Guards

A file photo of Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops

Firoozeh Nordstrom

Iran's Revolutionary Guards are the de facto military and economic bedrock of the Islamic regime, also acting as its ideological police tasked with crushing dissent at home and abroad.

Its generals occupy many key civil and ministerial positions, and are often the ones issuing the most brutal threats against political opponents and disgruntled Iranians. But in the current moment of political upheaval, an unknown and important factor is the view of the Guards' rank-and-file members. Are they equally zealous in defending the regime and keen to crush the nationwide uprising that erupted in mid-September, after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran police custody?

Ali is the name given here to a Revolutionary guardsman who has told Kayhan-London that he and his family turned against the country's regime "some years back."


He says an unquantified but "significant number" of the Guards and their families now oppose the state, and his own relatives were upset by recent calls on the social media to "kill the families of sepahis." ('Sepah' is the Persian word for an army but has been used since 1979 for the Revolutionary Guards, in contrast with Iran's regular army 'artesh').

Ali spoke to Kayhan-London on condition of anonymity:

Q: How did you join the Revolutionary Guard?

A: My father was in the Sepah at the age of 18. A paternal uncle is also a member, as is my brother, though he agrees with me. I haven't seen my father for five years as he threw my brother and me out of his home after I insulted (the country's paramount leader, Ali) Khamenei.

My father loves Khamenei and told us many times, "I'd even sacrifice you for the state if I had to." My parents live in Kermanshah (in western Iran). We live in Tehran. My mother used to pay us secret visits before my father went to Ukraine. I had no contact with my father and found out through my mother that he was sent to Ukraine about two months ago. He was sent with the rank of colonel... previously, he had been to Syria and knows about these types of wars.

Q: You said you and your brother oppose the Islamic Republic. Why haven't you left the Revolutionary Guard?

A: It is not as easy as you think. We are engaged in this from a young age. It might be easy to leave the Sepah after a two-year service, but after 10 to 12 years, it is extremely difficult and dangerous. So like the other protesters, we try to help the overthrow.

Q: How?

A: I myself am in charge of a group of plainclothes agents (used to put down the protests). I've told them, "if you catch any protesters don't harm them, just take them to a side street a bit further on and let them go." Or if I'm there myself, I arrest protesters when there are other forces there, then let them go.

My brother has told all the plainclothes agents under him, "these are teenagers. They've been deceived. If we arrest them they'll just loath us." That's the pretext for their release, or they'll suspect him. Some policemen have openly refused to fire on people, though nobody has dared do this yet among the Revolutionary Guard. If the Islamic Republic isn't overthrown, later on it will murder or eliminate... all the policemen who disobeyed orders.

Q: They say forces from Lebanon have been brought in to crack down on the protests.

A: Yes. The Islamic Republic has brought in members of the Hashd al-shaabi and the Hizballah and is keeping more in Iraq and Lebanon. Which is why Hizballah has been slightly flexible with Israel (over the Karish gas field and maritime border with Lebanon).

They're a short of forces... and have recently trained (convicts) and pardoned them, but they are not to flee. They have been told they must suppress the people. They've even been forced to shave the back of their heads.. to make them recognizable, because as I say, they're short of manpower.

photo from the back of a female protester in Tehran, Iran, after the death of Mahsa Amini

Women and young Iranians on the frontline of protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, Sept. 19, Tehran

Social Media/Zuma

Q: What do you know about reported desertions among Revolutionary Guard forces?

A: Yes, there has been a lot. They're so short of forces that they're now officially using minors. My brother says some of his colleagues are not happy with the situation... of course there are a lot of people in the Sepah like my uncle, who only care about the money, and a smaller group like my father, who are stupid.

If the Islamic Republic doesn't pay the wages of these remaining forces, there will be more dissent... People just have to make an effort and give that final kick. If people want (regime change), this is the best time. Russia as (the regime's) permanent backer is stuck in Ukraine. It's now or never. The Islamic Republic is in its weakest position to date.

Q: What about the protests in the Iranian province of Kurdistan?

A: That's an important point... They've disguised their own forces in Komala (communist and separatist) uniforms, so they can launch a brutal war in Kurdistan. They want to slaughter the people of Kurdistan as separatists. They need this war so they can silence the protests. This is a most important piece of news that must be reported.

Q: Roughly how many forces has the Revolutionary sent to Ukraine?

A: The Islamic Republic has in total about 180,000 people in the Sepah, and they've sent some of them to Ukraine. Russia hasn't asked the (Lebanese) Hizballah or Hashd al-shaabi (an Iraqi militia) to send forces because (Chechen leader) Ramzan Kadyrov has a problem with them both.

The Iranian forces currently in Russia won't be coming back until the state of Ukraine is clarified. Some of them have been killed in Ukraine. They may send more guardsmen to Russia. First they'd sent Russia missiles and drones. Then they sent them... advisors. Then they gathered members of the Guards from across the country and sent them to the Ukraine war. My father told my mother they are on the western front, and some are based in Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine.

Q: Do you know anything about the wages paid to those sent to the Ukrainian front?

A: Between U.S. $1,500 and $3,000, depending on their rank.

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