The Baseej Force of Iran to Receive Full Police-Military Powers

On the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the Iranian Baseej militia President Ahmadinejad said the one million strong force of volunteers would now become part of Iran’s military and police systems.

Ahmadinejad, who was among the organizers of the para-military national “mobilization of the oppressed,” (Baseej-e Mostazafan), made this recent decision due to signs of growing discontent with his governing style, including growing active resistance in a number of border regions where ethnic groups such as the Kurds, Turkmen and Baluchis never laid down their arms.

The president derived his power from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. (IRGC) of which the active Baseej militia is incorporated. The fact the organization is based on a large number of civilians across the country grants Ahmadinejad a wide popular support base.

Previously the IRGC and Baseej commanders put the number of militia members at 20 million, an obvious attempt to create the image of a huge popular movement. Other estimates, including that of the Independent Media Review Analysis (IMRA) published on 31st January 2006, with an assessment by Wahied Wahdat-Hjeh, put the number of Baseej militiamen at nine million. Other researchers, mostly intelligence analysts, say there is a “wishful thinking Baseej militia” of millions.

However, the reality is that the true force, which could be mobilized with any significant military or security value, is of about one million of whom only 400,000 are actually formed into regional or local units. President Ahmadinejad himself was a member of the so-called al-Quds (Jerusalem) units of the Revolutionary Guard, which derived its manpower from the popular movement of the Baseej and took part in the long Iraq-Iran war between 1980 and 1988.

Lessons from that war show that relying on the aging and children to provide so-called human waves has no military significance. The overall numbers of Baseej members continued to be exaggerated after the war for propaganda purposes. The recent decision to grant Baseej members full military and police authority does not mean that millions of old men, children and women are now “police officers,” but it does serve two purposes essential for the future of President Ahmadinejad: promoting hundreds of thousands of his supporters to be on-call police officers and to create an international image, known from many past dictatorships in the region, of a massive block of people ready to fight an invasion. Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq, was also busy in creating an illusionary visual and vocal image of massive support comprised of volunteers who were even “willing to die alongside the Palestinians.”

In July of 2005 the Baseej force commander was appointed as the new Iranian police chief. Ismael Ahmadi Moghaddam became a powerful power broker and as an ally of President Ahmadinejad, he now has the Baseej as an auxiliary police with one significant reality – the Iranian Muslim dictatorship is tightening its grip over 66 million people, all in the name of the so-called oppressed.

Yoram East
Yoram East is a retired Israeli colonel born in Jerusalem, who writes about foreign policy and goings-on in the Middle East. Sadly, Yoram passed away in October 2010.