Inside Iran's Revolutionary Guards....
Michael Totten talks to Reza Kahlili, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guardsman, who has just written a book about his experiences...
MJT: So why did you join the Revolutionary Guards in the first place?Sounds like a great book....but first read the rest of the interview...
Reza Kahlili: It was a special time after the revolution against the Shah in 1979. Everyone was jubilant and thought democracy had finally arrived. We were promised that the clergy wouldn't interfere in the new government, that people could choose the government they liked, that we would have freedom of speech and could criticize top officials. It was a great atmosphere at the time. We could stand on the corner and talk about politics. Everybody was really happy about the direction we thought it was going to take.
It was during this time that my friend Kazem told me about the opportunity with the Revolutionary Guards. They hired me immediately after the interview. I thought they were formed to serve the people, to protect the country, to help make sure the poor participated in the new infrastructure. I was willing to teach, I was willing to work, and that's why I joined.
MJT: You had no idea Khomeini was going to take control of the country the way he did.
Reza Kahlili: I don't think anybody had any idea. Everyone was so overwhelmed. We thought the Shah would never leave the country. It was unthinkable that anyone could force his regime to collapse. Something magical had happened.
MJT: Khomeini portrayed himself then as a democrat.
Reza Kahlili: Absolutely. I hope that I show that in the book. He deceived Iranians. He presented himself as a democrat. Everything he said indicated that different political parties would be involved, that the clerics would not interfere, that people would have the right to choose whatever they wanted. But he lied through his teeth. Everything he said was a lie. Nobody expected that from him because he was a figure from the 1960s. He was criticizing the Shah when nobody else dared to. Everybody thought of him as an honest, righteous man.
MJT: When we look at Iran now, it's obvious that a huge percentage of Iranians don't like the government. But we didn't see these big demonstrations or hear much criticism of Khomeini in the 1980s. After he seized control, after he ran President Banisadr out of office and so on, it appeared, from here in the United States, that most Iranians supported him.
Reza Kahlili: This is the fault of the Western media. Barely one year into the revolution, a majority of the people wanted Khomeini and the clerics gone. They started clamping down on every sector of the society after just four or five months. Then there was the hostage-taking, political parties were banned, and women were forced to wear hijab. Hezbollah gangs were in the streets. It all happened very quickly. People realized a much worse dictatorship was coming, and that's when the resentment against Khomeini began.
Before the revolution, mainstream Iranians didn't have that much resentment against the United States. Many Americans lived there. And from 1981 or so, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s, people were praying every day and night that there would be a coup or that the U.S. would do something. They wanted to be freed from these clerics. There were demonstrations, there were uprisings, but they were never covered by the foreign mass media. They weren't as large as the ones we're seeing lately, so they were clamped down fast. Demonstrators were taken to prison, tortured, and killed.
MJT: What is this government's ultimate goal?
Reza Kahlili: Every opinion put out by the Western analysts over the years has been wrong. Just last year Newsweek came out and said everything we know about Iran is wrong, but they found out a month later that they were wrong about everything they said. The same with the New York Times reporter, I forget his name.
The idea that this government is a dictatorship that wants to sustain power and therefore won't do anything like use a nuclear bomb is incorrect, I think. They have shown through their behavior over the past three decades that they have one goal, and that's to confront the West.
If you look more deeply into the thought processes of the people controlling the government, these are people who strongly believe Islam will conquer the world. Every act they commit is in that direction. They don't just want a nuclear bomb to make them untouchable. They think it will be the trigger for Islam conquering the world.
If all they wanted was to protect their government, as many are saying, they have the best opportunity right now. They can negotiate with the West, join the global economy, be respected and all that, but they refuse to do so.
MJT: So do you think if they acquire nuclear weapons they will actually use them?
Reza Kahlili: They will.
MJT: Against Israel?
Reza Kahlili: You have to look at the parallel projects that they're working on, the missile delivery system and the nuclear project. Currently they cover part of Europe. Their goal is to cover all of Europe. They're not going to announce they have a bomb unless they have overcome the glitches of putting together a nuclear bomb and a nuclear warhead. But once they do that, they will make enough bombs so that all of Europe is under their coverage.
Reza Kahlili: Then they will begin their most aggressive behavior in trying to control the Middle East, moving toward the goal of destroying Israel, bringing the imperialistic system of economics to a halt, creating chaos, and waiting for the Mahdi to appear. It's all right out in the open. Just look at their Mahdi philosophy.