The mountains, faith, and the Basij make Iran an impenetrable “citadel” against attack
Iran’s new chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) had a stark warning for anyone foolish enough to launch an attack against Iran. Major General Mohammed Ali Jafari told PressTV in an exclusive interview that nobody should underestimate the will of the Iranian people.
“I just want to inform our enemies that they should not make a mistake,” he said, “If on the surface we appear to be simply going about our own business, they should appreciate that beneath we are very ready if the threat comes to pass. We will turn into a huge tsunami.”
Jafari was speaking on a special edition of PressTV’s Middle East Today program as part of events to mark the 28th anniversary of the founding of the all-volunteer Mobilization Resistance Force, the Basij.
The Basij marked its annual day on Monday Nov. 26 with nationwide rallies and military exercises. The idea behind the wargames, Jafari said, was to demonstrate the might and the organizational skills of the Basij.
In recent years the image of the Basij been tarnished by accusations of brutality in breaking up student demonstrations, the harassment of women while enforcing correct Islamic dress code, and even murder.
Jafari, whose IRGC is responsible for the Basij said many of the stories have been exaggerated, but admitted there could be a few bad apples.
“Our enemies are engaged in a cultural onslaught, psychological warfare being waged to distort the standing of revolutionary figures, and they want to distort the standing of the Basij as well,” he said. But with some 12.5 registered members Jafari conceded, “Who knows, a few individuals might have, because of their religious beliefs, might have done certain things.”
He said Basiji have been banned from engaging in such activities as checking women for correct dress code for example, and said any incidents that do occur are likely to be isolated and rare.
“Accidents and incidents can happen, I am not going to say they never happen. But as I said earlier, this is mostly rumor and hearsay, and the Basijis are not supposed to do such things, it is prohibited.”
Jafari was appointed to head the IRGC or Pasdaran on Sept. 1 this year. Well known for his strategic abilities and military planning, Jafari earned his “spurs” on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war between 1980-1988.
The general is considered one of the regions leading experts on the technique of asymmetrical warfare – sometimes described as David and Goliath warfare – using tactics and stealth to overcome a stronger opponent.
Jafari said the Iraqis lost to the Americans in two wars because they had failed to master the techniques of asymmetrical warfare.
“We believe that the Iraqi army back in 1991 made a huge mistake. They engaged the enemy using classic methods and for that reason in less than one hour they were routed.”
Jafari said the Iraqis learned some lessons from their humiliating defeat, but were still unprepared for the 2003 invasion.
“But the same country, the same army back in 2003 used some of what we call asymmetrical warfare and they were able to withstand the American onslaught for up to 20 days,” Jafari said.
“Let me say they didn’t have our experience. They had a classic army, but they didn’t have a popular army,” Jafari said, “and they did not take the asymmetrical concept fully. But still, for 20 days they were able to stand up to the American army.”
What the Iraqis also lacked was the Basij. Established in 1979 on the orders of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Basij is currently believed to number about eight million.
“I was addressing a group of Basij,” Jafari told PressTV, “I told them that the Basij were a popular force. It is a force which is always at the ready, armed with state of the art weaponry – it is also armed with faith,”
The Basji has a deep belief, Jafari explained, vis-à-vis the need to defend Iran and also defend the ideals of its revolution and the Islamic Republic’s system of government.
He said in times of peace the Basij go about their normal business as students, teachers, engineers, and so on, but they are always ready to defend the country against any foreign threat.
“What we are depending on first and foremost is our faith,” said the general, “In other words we are relying on a revolutionary, faithful religious people who have their lives in their very hands, and they are ready to defend the goals and the ideals of the revolution.”
And let us talk about our geography, he said, “We have many mountainous regions in this country, add that geographical vantage to the concepts I have already shared with you, these all come together to create a mighty citadel.”
Jafari is confident that with the tactics of asymmetrical warfare, the faith-based determination of the Basij, and the country’s natural defenses, Iran would present quite a different war to any foreign invader.
“We fully believe that no American invader can penetrate that citadel. Maybe they might be able to make some headway, a few kilometers around the borders, but other than that there will be many casualties and bodies of their soldiers which later they will have to collect and take back,” he warned.
While confident that Iran would be able to defend itself against any foreign military adventure, Jafari is also far from complacent.
“There is a possibility of a limited air attack, there is a possibility,” he said, “They might think a limited campaign against Iran is possible and then they will announce it is done. But,” said Jafari, “we will end the game ourselves.”
He said militarily Iran has made good progress and warned any attack would result in a shattering response. “Keep in mind they are stationed near our borders and they are well in range of our howitzers and missiles,” he said.
“If they attack our installations this means they have started war, and naturally we have the right to defend ourselves, and we will use everything in our power to defend ourselves. We never start a war,” he said, “but we respond well.”
Jafari added the ominous warning, “When I say we have the ability to respond, I am not talking about an air or missile capability. We have other capabilities, and we believe it is our right to use those capabilities throughout the region and also around the world.”
Jafari didn’t elaborate, but later made it clear that his warnings did not include terrorism.
“With regards to the accusations of terrorism,” he said, “we have grown used to them. They [the U.S.] have been repeating them for years. Most people around the world believe and know that Iran is very much opposed to terrorism, because we have been a victim of terrorism.”
Jafari said the two countries that have openly and officially supported terrorism are the United States and Israel. “There is a terrorist organization inside Iraq, even the Americans have labeled them as terrorists, but they are being protected by the American army,” he said, referring to the Mujahideen-e Khalq organization, or MKO.
The MKO is an Islamic socialist organization committed to the overthrow of the Iranian government. They fought on the side of the Iraqis during the 1980-88 war and have committed a number of attacks inside Iran.
Almost three months after taking office, Jafari brushed off the recent inclusion of the IRGC on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
“We have grown used to these allegations,” he said, “They have been repeating them for years.”
Despite the challenges of the job, Jafari remains optimistic, especially about his cherished Basij.
“I have great hopes for the future, I am an optimist,” he told PressTV, “Basically we want to concentrate on increasing quality. With that in mind I am confident that the future of the Basij is very hopeful. And because of these programs, their conduct and performance will be much better than today.”
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