Iranian Revolutionary Guards & volunteer tank hunters give victory signs on the southern front of the Iran-Iraq War, Dec. 1982. On motorcycles & armed with Soviet-made rocket-propelled grenades, they were a fast, highly-mobile force against Iraqi armor.
"Attacking Iran: Lessons from the Iran-Iraq War Part 2"
Op-Ed, Fair Observer
August 4, 2012
Author: Annie Tracy Samuel, Research Fellow, International Security Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
A version of this analysis was previously published by the International Security Program as a policy brief: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/21698/
Based on an examination of Iran's reactions to Iraq's 1980 invasion, Annie Tracy Samuel calls into question the contention that an attack by the US and/or Israel will weaken the Islamic Republic. This is the final part in a series of two articles. Read part 1 here: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/22223/
During the Iran-Iraq War, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini and his political and military allies took advantage of the wartime mobilization to consolidate their power. Iran's current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and the powerful Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) would be able to achieve similar results in the case of an attack on Iran. The Revolutionary Guards have long warned of the dangers posed by Iran's external enemies and have characterized internal opposition as the work of external forces. An attack on Iran will seemingly vindicate the IRGC's position and enable them to increase repression and their own power. Iranians favoring any sort of softer line will be undermined and suppressed.
An Attack on Human Rights
Hossein Ghazian, an Iranian sociologist who was jailed in Iran and is now a visiting scholar at Syracuse University, said that, in the case of an attack, the regime would have "enough legitimacy, excuses, and reasons to repress those opposed to it." Similarly, in a 2005 op-ed in The New York Times, Iranian human rights activists Shirin Ebadi and Hadi Ghaemi put forward "The Human Rights Case Against Attacking Iran." They argued that "for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause." The authors also drew a parallel with the Islamic Republic's behavior following the 1980 Iraqi invasion. They argued that the "threat of foreign military intervention will provide a powerful excuse for authoritarian elements to uproot [independent human rights organizations] and put an end to their growth." Furthermore, they asserted that "Human rights violators will use this opportunity to silence their critics by labelling them as the enemy's fifth column. In 1980, after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and inflamed nationalist passions, Iranian authorities used such arguments to suppress dissidents."
In a report released by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in November 2011, Ghaemi, writing as the president of the organization, emphasized that the parallel is still valid....
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