Iran's Revolutionary Guard Pledges to Hold Fire
Senior officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guards have written a letter to their commanding officer demanding assurances that they will not be required to open fire on anti-government demonstrators.
By Con Coughlin
17 February 2011
Following the recent violence that occurred during anti-government protests in Egypt, the officers argue that it is against the principles of Shi'ite Islamic law to use violence against their own people.
In a suggestion of a major split within the Islamic Republic's ruling hierarchy over its handling of anti-government protests, the letter has been circulated widely throughout the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards, the body responsible for defending religious system.
The letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Daily Telegraph, is addressed to Major Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards' commanding officer. It calls on Major Gen Jafari to issue guidance to both the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij paramilitary militia to use restraint when handling anti-government protests.
During the violent anti-government demonstrations that followed the disputed presidential election in June 2009, which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elected to serve a second four-year term, the government relied heavily on the Basij to suppress the protests over fears that it could not rely on certain Guards units.
But in the letter, which is signed by senior officers commanding Guards units in Tehran, Qom, Isfahan and Tabriz, they urge Major Gen Jafari to "use your authority over the Basij to order them to leave their truncheons at home next time."
It goes on to state unequivocally, "We promise our people that we will not shoot nor beat our brothers who are seeking to express legitimate protest against the policies and conduct of their leader."
The Iranian government has called on its supporters to take to the streets today to demonstrate their "hatred" for the opposition Green Movement, which has made a dramatic return following the recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. One demonstrator was killed and scores more injured when pro-democracy activists protested against Mr Ahmadinejad's government, chanting "death to the dictator".
Western diplomats, who have also seen the letter and confirm its authenticity, say it has now been passed to Mr Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's Supreme Ruler, although no official response has been forthcoming.