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Iran: The Baseej Gets Its Own Air Force

By: Meir Javedanfar

24/09/2008

Since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, the people’s militia, known as the Baseej in Farsi, has been increasing its prominence inside Iranian military circles.

Until recently, the Baseej’s military capability, comprised mostly of light weapons. Unlike the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) or the army, the Baseej does not have an air force, nor does it have heavy mechanized weaponry such as Tanks. In fact, during the eight year war against Iraq, almost all Baseejis were used as foot soldiers, carrying weapons no heavier than Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG). Many of its soldiers were considered to be cannon fodders for the IRGC. In some cases, instead of using mine clearing equipment, brain washed Basijis were told to walk over the mines. They were told that by doing so, they would become martyrs, and thus go to paradise. Also, its officers did not have senior positions inside the military hierarchy.

However since Ahmadinejad became president, he has made Hejazi, a former Baseej commander, second in charge of the all powerful IRGC. This is a serious boost for the militia force. And now, according to the Iranian news agency Shahab News, he has started to put together an air force for the Baseej, thus boosting the Baseej’s position even more.

Why is Ahmadinejad doing this? Because he prides himself of being a former Baseeji. Not that he fought alongside them during the war. His association with the Baseej came after the war, when he used their extensive networks inside Iran to push through his projects in remote places such as Ardebil province in north Western of the country, where he was a governor.

It is no secret that the three million strong Baseej has unprecedented reach inside Iran. Their presence in remote places, helped him win the 2005 presidential elections. And now, with one year to go before the next elections, he is hoping to use their influence to win the elections again.

Also, some of the senior IRGC officers are concerned about his right wing talk, which could justify war against Iran. In the Baseej, he gets no such opposition. The Baseej’s loyalty and support to him will be very useful in counter balancing opposition against the president in important circles of power.

Last but not least, being the most ideological and loyal members of Iran’s military structure, their growth will strengthen Ayatollah Khamenei and Ahmadinejad’s defenses against the much feared “velvet revolution” against the regime.


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