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Of the arm, fist and rifle

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — product from a neat, brief convo with Ibn Siqilli aka Chris Anzalone ]

I found the upper image in the same Visual References post from Chris Anzalone that I recommended recently in two comments here [figs 2, 3, 3B] and here. If you look closely — or is just my poor eyesight? — you’ll see the arm, fist and rifle to the left of the black banner in the upper half of the upper image.

Black banner? Did I just say black banner?

That upper image is the “logo of the Brigade of the Awaited Savior (Katibat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar)” according to Chris, and the text below reads, “O’ One Who Arises (al-Qa’im) [from] the family of Muhammad.”

So there you have Mahdism (the titles al-Muntazar and al-Qa’im are both indicators of the same returning great one as the term al-Mahdi itself) along with the well-known banner…


What follows I have taken from a post on the Lebanese Expatriate blog, with some minor format changes to give the contents better graphical integration with the rest of the post:

For those with the slightest knowledge about Hezbollah and the Middle East, I am not sharing with you something new, but for those who receive this information as a revelation, check out the resemblance between the emblem of Hezbollah and that of the Pasdaran, a.k.a Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.


— Hezbollah emblem to the left in yellow. Pasdaran emblem to the right in blue.

So what’s new? Why am I shedding light on what is already obvious? Why target Hezbollah today, out of all the parties that have been selling Lebanon?

Today, more than ever, Hezbollah and Iran owe Lebanon an explanation. Take a look at the 10 Riyal postage stamp that is circulated in Iran.


Iranian 10 Riyal postage stamp showing the emblem of Hezbollah covering the whole map of Lebanon. A clear symbol of the hidden intentions and a direct breach for the sovereignty of Lebanon’s independence as a nation.

The stamp commemorates the martyrs of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Isn’t this an obvious breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty as a nation? I understand the bff relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, but why does Iran need to have Hezbollah’s emblem covering the Lebanese territories instead of the Lebanese flag? Why does Iran need to commemorate the Lebanese martyrs in the first place?

What does Hezbollah have to say about this in the first place? How can Hezbollah justify such a demeaning document? What can its big-bellied, tie-less MPs and representatives say to logically justify this? Will they even attempt to justify it, or consider it normal and not even worth concealing with the whole world’s knowledge of its non-matrimonial marriage to Iran.

As a Lebanese, I ask my government (which is controlled by Hezbollah) to question the Iranian ambassador about the motives of this stamp and ban its circulation.

As a Lebanese, I ask Hezbollah to denounce the usage and circulation of this stamp in Iran and ask the Iranian state for an apology to the Lebanese people and its government.

That’s taken from a post made in January, but I think it is no less relevant today, and adds to the general picture I’m painting.


I put this post together as the result of an exchange with Chris in which I asked him whether a raised arm with slanted rifle was now a characteristic motif across many or all Shi’a jihadist movements, to which he responded:

Those groups influenced by Hizbullah &, by extension, Iranian Gov’t, seem to favor it, likely b/c it’s used by the Pasdaran.

I then asked whether he’d say Hizbollah got the motif from the Pasdaran or vice versa, to which he replied:

The former.

I stumbled across the DoubleQuote image and accompanying Lebanese Expatriate post myself, searching for the best image of a Pasdaran flag or logo while following up on Chris’ pointer to the Pasdaran — and that gave me yet another use of DoubleQuotes in the wild!

Hat-tip, #FF and thanks, Chris!


Quiet note to self: compare the arm, fist and rifle motif here with the name of the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord group in 1970s Arkansas. Most interesting, the way we display value systems in titles and images…

Iranian Assassination – Narco-Cartel Plot Charged

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The US Attorney General Eric Holder, supported diplomatically by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, charged the Iranian government earlier today with a plot to enlist a Mexican narco-cartel to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. SECSTATE Hillary Clinton, the FBI Director and President Barack Obama have all weighed in on this issue with strong public statements:

U.S. authorities said they had broken up a plot by two men linked to Iran’s security agencies to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. One was arrested last month while the other was believed to be in Iran.

Iran denied the charges. But President Barack Obama called the plot a “flagrant violation of U.S. and international law” and Saudi Arabia said it was “despicable.” Revelation of the alleged plot, and the apparent direct ties to the Tehran government, had the potential to further inflame tensions in the Middle East, and the United States said Tehran must be held top account.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a Reuters interview, expressed hope that countries that have hesitated to enforce existing sanctions on Iran would now “go the extra mile.” At a news conference, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the convoluted plot, involving monitored international calls, Mexican drug money and an attempt to blow up the ambassador in a Washington restaurant, could have been straight from a Hollywood movie.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder alleged that the plot was the work of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is the guardian of Iran’s 32-year-old revolution, and the Quds force, its covert, operational arm. “High-up officials in those (Iranian) agencies, which is an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot,” Holder told the news conference.

“I think one has to be concerned about the chilling nature of what the Iranian government attempted to do here,” he said….

I confess that I am not quite sure what to make of this story. 

If accurate – the case originated with a DEA confidential informant in Mexico – it would amount to a new stage of reckless boldness by Iran’s hardline Pasdaran clique of security and intelligence agencies run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their retired leadership that have a semi-hegemony over the Iranian regime. It also points to the danger to American national security of a long, basically open, border with a failing state Mexico that is deeply embattled in a polycentric counterinsurgency war with the rapidly morphing narco-cartels (that said, I do not expect the administration to move a policy inch to repair the latter). Why would Iran do this – and in such a harebrained manner?

Some possible motives:

* Internal factionalism – Iran recently released imprisoned American hikers, albeit after a substantial ransom payment. Potentially, this could be viewed in the topsy-turvy world of Iranian Islamist politics as a “goodwill gesture” toward the United States. Historically, such gestures provoke rival factions in Iran to initiate anti-American actions, including acts of terrorism, usually via proxies. If an intel operation was “factional” rather than blessed by a wide elite consensus, it might very well be a marginal idea carried out on a shoe-string.

* Counterpressue – Indirect Iranian skirmishing against the US which is drawing down in Iraq and is pressuring Iran’s ally Syria. Also against the Saudis who brutally suppressed a predominantly Shia “Arab Spring” rising in Bahrain which, if it had succeeded in toppling the regime, would have added Bahrain to the regional “Shia Revival”.

* Opportunism – The Pasdaran leadership may have  believed the stories of American decline, assessed our extensive military commitments and budgetary problems and taken the Obama administration’s temperature and concluded that the benefits of carrying out the assassination outweighed the remote risk direct  of US military retaliation.

Some points to consider:

* Proximity – Iran could more easily, with less risk and with far greater likelihood of success, carry out acts of anti-American terrorism closer to home in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan the Gulf States, even in Saudi Arabia or Egypt.  Acts of terrorism in the American homeland risk a massive overreaction by Washington ( the US only needs the Navy to deal out severe consequences to Iran) which might welcome a legitimate pretext to bomb all of Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities and national security sites.

* Self-Preservation by the Mexican narco-cartels make such cooperation with Iran less likely, having the example of their Colombian predecessors in the 1980’s before them when they raised the ire of the USG sufficiently. The narcos have their hands full fighting the Mexican Army and one another without adding the CIA, Global Predator drones or the SEALs to their plate.

* Friends of MeK – By some miraculous deus ex machina, the cultish, 1970’s era Iranian Marxoid terrorist group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MeK) have spent a wealth of funds to buy the lobbying services of a glittering array of former top US national security officials and general officers – despite being on the State Department’s official terrorist list.

….Among the new faces: former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton (D), who once chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and who served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission; Ambassador Dell Dailey, who was the State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism from July 2007 to April 2009; General Michael Hayden, director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009; and not one, but two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe and ex-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) also spoke.

In what should be a national scandal, those names are not even a comprehensive list of the very influential former politicians, K Street lobbyists and Beltway law firms accepting payments to whisper in the ears of current officials in the national security community, regarding Iran, on behalf of the MeK. Not sure how it is legal to do so either, since aiding a group on the State Department’s list by providing services normally can get you hauled into Federal  court pronto, if you are an ordinary American citizen. A most curious situation….

I have no brief for Iran, the regime is a dedicated enemy of the United States, but a group of exiled Iranian Marxist-terrorists who used to work for Saddam Hussein hardly have our best interests at heart.

It will be interesting to watch this case unfold, but in the meantime, opinions are welcome in the comments, particularly on the Mexican narco-cartel angle.

Hat tip to James Bennett.

Jung in Tehran, aka “enantiodromia”

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — Ahmadinejad vs Khamenei, Jungian enantiodromia ]




The western press, on the whole, has covered the recent tussle between Iranian President Ahmadinejad and his superior, the Ayatollah Khamenei, in political terms — as a power struggle between a President who wants increased authority for the Presidency and a Supreme Authority who isn’t about to relinquish his Supremacy.

It is also a theological struggle, and the LA Times nicely weaves the two strands together in commenting:

At its heart is a possible future struggle for power between the firebrand president and Khamenei’s conservative clergy, who are wary of Ahmadinejad’s messianic strain of Islam and his incendiary populism. They worry his tendency for explosive talk could threaten their long-term interests, if not render them obsolete.

Putting it bluntly, the arrival of the Mahdi – or a strong populist current holding the opinion that Ahmadinejad is the Mahdi’s trusted lieutenant, chosen to prepare the way for his coming – would disenfranchise the clerics of Qom, who ultimately derive their authority from the Imam Mahdi’s absence.

The fairly recent discovery of a video, apparently prepared by Ahmadinejad’s supporters and proclaiming the Mahdi’s “soon coming”, seems to have heightened the tension…

Having said that, it’s my impression that Ahmadinejad is losing this tug-of-war, that he doesn’t have the popular groundswell of support he would need to go up against the Supreme Authority and win, and that consequently, his Mahdist “messianic strain” is losing power and credibility.

Which in turn should mean that the West has less to fear from Iranian Mahdism…

Glenn Beck, take note.


Putting that another way, it seems that the extreme Mahdism of Ahmadinejad is resulting – ironically enough, by enantiodromia – in a backlash from Khamenei that appears likely to depotentiate and dissipate it.

Pondering the Pasdaran

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Rand emeritus David Ronfeldt posed an interesting question in the comment section of an earlier post that I wanted to bring to the fore, make a few observations about and open for some crowdsourcing to see if anyone has some good information on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Pasdaran) leadership:

I had a stray thought this morning about Iran’s IRGC, and wanted to risk asking about it somewhere.  in doing a quick search of blogs I follow, this is the only one that has recently made passing reference to the IRGC, specifically in this post.  so I’ll try first here.

I keep re-learning what a massive operation the IRGC is – tantamount to  what Jane Jacobs termed a “monstrous moral hybrid” perhaps.  the IRGC/IRG starts as an effort to consolidate various paramiltary forces following the 1979 iranian revolution.  now it has its own ground, naval, air, and special forces.  more interestingly, it has expanded economically, and acquired assets to become a multi-billions enterprise, including public construction projects, and even dentistry and travel.  it can shut out private business competition, for it can easily underbid and then overrun, while also using recruits and conscripts as labor.  in sum, it represents an hybrid of tribal, hierarchical, and market priniciples, if not network ones too. 

Now, that supports the usual way of looking at this:  just a gigantic hybrid operating inside a state, almost as a semi-autonomous state within a state.  and that’s not uncommon in many countries.  the chinese and cuban militaries are heavily involved in economic enterprises too.  and in parallel fashion, this is a growing trend  among criminal enterprises as well, like the zetas mentioned in your reading  recommendations above.  

but then I had this stray thought:  the IRGC is not so much a state within a state, as a caliphate within a state.  I am not well-informed about how to define and think about caliphates.  but the little I know leads me to think this might be a thought worth further consideration and analysis.  esp. if the irgc could be considered as a model for an emerging Shia caliphate, and one that is way ahead of radical Sunni aspirations. 

so: an emerging caliphate within a state.  any comment?  advice for further thinking?   

I am not a Persianist or expert on Twelver Islam but David’s questions cross a number of disciplinary boundaries, as most interesting questions usually do. Using one “lens” here, such as security studies or Iranian history or IR theory, by themselves, are not enough with a semi-opaque government like that of Iran. This analysis probably should be approached in a multi-disciplinary fashion, so I welcome anyone out there with a relevant perspective to add what you know about Iran and the Pasdaran in the comment section.

I think that the issues here are structure, behavior and motivation of the Pasdaran as an institution within Iran.

First on the “state within a state”model:

If we look at previous historical examples of “state within a state” entities with which to compare the Pasdaran, the SS and the NKVD stand out as superior in my mind to that of China’s PLA, which was always tightly integrated into the CCP ( much moreso than the Soviet Red Army leadership in the USSR) and as a regular army, never dominated the party after 1949.  By contrast, the SS after 1934 quickly “mestastasized” to “colonize” the Gestapo ( memory tells me that SS men were something like a third of Gestapo officers) and Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler attempted to do so with other ministries by granting influential Nazi party organ and German state officials high SS rank, enjoying a limited success in penetrating other centers of power in the Third Reich. The war and the Holocaust allowed the SS to field an elite guard army in the Waffen-SS and supplementary expeditionary/constabulary forces abroad in the form of Einsatzgruppen, Totenkopf and ordinary reserve police battalions under SS command.

The expanding concentration camp structure permitted the SS to become an economic power within the Third Reich in its own right both as a provider of slave labor to private industry and Nazi ministries for Labor, Agriculture and Armaments and War Production and in factories and mines controlled directly by SS concentration camp commandants. Albert Speer was Himmler’s most determined (and successful) rival in thwarting the growing power of the SS in economic affairs and Speer’s last book, published posthumously, INFILTRATION is a rambling but detailed account of Himmler’s bureaucratic imperialism and chilling ambitions for a postwar Nazi world ( an understudied and valuable book for insights into what might have been had Hitler won WWII).

The NKVD in the Beria period had an even more privileged and extensive place in Stalin’s USSR than the SS occupied in the Third Reich but the Soviet planned economy was substantially different from that of Germany’s or that of Iran’s today. While the NKVD had its own empire of enterprises, the capacity of the NKVD to maximize their value was sharply limited by fear of Stalin”s paranoid caprice and the absence of any private economy in the Soviet Union with which to profit from any ill-gotten gains. Nazi Germany’s weird, Fascist, economy with it’s mixture of oligopolistic cartels, private enterprise and state planning ( described well in Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy) and the place of the SS in it is a better analogy to Iran’s state enterprises, bazaari business elite, bonyads and undercapitalized small business sectors

On the IRGC as the seed or kernel of a “Caliphate”:

This is an ideological and motivational question that is apart from normal, secular, bureaucratic expansionism.

First, I’m not certain that “caliphate” is the best way to frame the discussion. All Shia Muslims are literally the Shiat ‘Ali or “Party of Ali”, going back to the dispute over succession to the Prophet Muhammed. I have to heavily qualify my comments by stating this is not my area of expertise, but as far as I am aware, “caliphate” has not been a major part of historical Shia dialogue as the modern Iranian clerical establishment emerged under the Qajar dynasty or later under the Pahlavis. The Persian Shahs did not claim that title, which was held by the Ottoman Sultan until it was abolished by Ataturk. A more appropriate question, which I believe David is getting at, would be “Is the IRGC leadership Mahdist?”.

If the IRGC is orthodox Shia in its orientation, then we might expect that the Pasdaran would behave more or less as a secular, if ideologically hardline, national security bureaucracy and a force within Iran for “siloviki” policies, Iranian style.

If the IRGC senior leadership has a heavy crossover in membership with the Hojjatiyeh, that would be far more worrisome and would raise the level of uncertainty regarding Iranian state behavior in crisis situations .

Mahdi” theology is semi-heretical Islamic doctrine and has differing forms in Sunni and Shia Islam, on which I am not qualified to opine, but for our purposes, we can state that it contains a fairly dangerous element of apocalyptic millenarianism as a worldview. Moreover, in the Iranian context, the quasi-divine Hidden Imam emerging from Occultation, as virtually a messenger of Allah, would not be bound by any of the constraints contained within the Quran. Islamic jurisprudence normally disdains “innovation”, in interpreting scripture, but the Mahdi (and more importantly, his true believer followers) would be the great and messianic exception.

Of course, what we really need here is some hard data ( or at least reasonably informed speculation) regarding the factions within the Pasdaran and the clerical hierarchy, and their strength relative to one another. Since the election protests, the Pasdaran appears to have become the major political force inside the regime, akin to the KGB in the days of Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev, except the KGB in the 80’s saw the need for economic reform in the USSR and the Pasdaran today appears to be entirely reactionary in its policy prescriptions for Iran.

Comments? Questions? Complaints?

Escobar on the Hojjatiyeh behind Iran’s Pasdaran Clique

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Pepe Escobar writing in the Asia Times had a very interesting article on Iran’s hardline faction, centered in the Pasdaran and security services, and the religious group behind them, the Hojjatiyeh, a term which I had not previously heard ( hat tip to Russ Wellen):

Requiem for a revolution 

An iron-clad cast
The key man to watch is Major General Mohammad-Ali Jafari. In 2006, he became the IRGC’s top commander. At the time he was already thinking in terms of the enemy within, not an external enemy. He was actively working on how to prevent a velvet revolution.
It’s essential to remember that only a few days before the election, Brigadier General Yadollah Javani – the IRGC’s political director – was already accusing Mousavi of starting a “green revolution”. He said the Guards “will suffocate it before it is even born”.The IRGC has always been about repression. They literally killed – or supported the killing of – all secular political groups in Iran during the 1980s, especially from the left. After the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, died in 1989 they split into two sides. One side thought Iran needed a (slight) opening; they were afraid of a popular counter-revolution. Today, they are mostly reformist leaders or reform sympathizers.

The other side was, and remains, ultra-conservative. They include the already mentioned Jafari and Javani, as well as Ahmadinejad and his current Minister of Interior, Sadegh Mahsouli, the man who oversaw the election.

The religious strand runs parallel and overlaps with the military strand – this is always about a military dictatorship of the mullahtariat. So one must refer to the Hojjatiyeh, an ultra-sectarian group founded in the 1950s. Khomeini banned them in 1983. But they were back in force during the 1990s. Their spiritual leader is Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, known as “the crocodile” in Iran. Two weeks before the elections, Yazdi issued a fatwa legitimizing any means necessary to keep Ahmadinejad in power.

That was the green light to steal the elections. It’s essential to remember that Ahmadinejad replaced no less than 10,000 key government bureaucrats with his cronies in these past four years. These people were in charge of the maze of official organizations involved in the election and the vote counting.

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi believes that Iran’s supreme leader is chosen by Allah – when Allah tells the 86 members of the Council of Experts to find the leader. That’s how Khamenei was “found” in 1989 – even though he was (and remains) a minor scholar, and never a marja (source of imitation). What Yazdi wants is an oukoumat islami – a hardline Islamic government sanctioned by none other than Allah.

An informative piece. Read the rest here.

Escobar is also the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving Into Liquid War and Obama Does Globalistan, published by Nimble Books.

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