Forward Op-Ed: Co-founder of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Talks about Past Islamic Republic's Complicity and Future Danger

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The Forward, America's most influential Jewish weekly newspaper, is publishing a startling Op-Ed this week by a co- founder of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Sazegara. The op-ed (http://www.forward.com/articles/what-was-once-a-revolutionary-guard-is-now-just-a/) coincides with a Bill introduced last week by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007, calling for the Revolutionary Guard to be declared a terrorist organization.

The Forward, America's most influential Jewish weekly newspaper, is publishing a startling Op-Ed this week by a co-founder of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Sazegara.

The op-ed (http://www.forward.com/articles/what-was-once-a-revolutionary-guard-is-now-just-a/) coincides with a Bill introduced last week by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007, calling for the Revolutionary Guard to be declared a terrorist organization. Lantos is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the House.

Mohsen Sazegara co-founded the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in 1979, and served the Islamic Republic in a number of senior government positions, including deputy prime minister for political affairs and managing director of the National Radio of Iran. He went into exile after being imprisoned in 2003, and is currently a visiting researcher at Harvard University.

In the Op-Ed Sazegara states that,

What was envisioned as Iran's "people's army… has grown into a multi-headed monster. Today, the Revolutionary Guard is a mafia-like organization with a corrupting influence on Iran's army, police, media, industries, judiciary and government. It is imperative that every effort now be made to contain the Revolutionary Guard's powers, because its political and economic adventurism will ultimately lead to a serious crisis, not just in Iran but also across the Middle East."

He provides firsthand details of the formation and structure of the feared Guard, discussing how the organization has mushroomed from its early mission as a check against a military coup to a corrupt mafia-like cartel, an enemy of the people and a sponsor of international terrorism.

Among the specific points in his Op-Ed:

•Against his advice, the Revolutionary Guard became a coercive force, modeled after the Nazi brownshirts, at the service of the ruling establishment in Tehran.

•To carry out the Revolutionary Guard's bidding in areas outside the country -- Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and, most importantly, Iraq -- the Quds Force was created. There should be no doubt about the Quds Force's role in what transpired last summer in Lebanon, or in what is happening on a daily basis between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq.

•The Revolutionary Guard has been a major contractor in the construction of oil and gas pipelines, as well as in the importing of Kazakh oil into Iran.

•The Revolutionary Guard was the prime force behind Iranian efforts to help Saddam Hussein and his family smuggle oil out of Iraq.

•Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad moved into the president's office, contracts for oil pipelines worth more than $7 billion have reportedly been awarded to Revolutionary Guard-affiliated enterprises without any public tenders.

•The Revolutionary Guard controls more than 100 different economic enterprises, conducting business under the aegis of either itself or the Basij force under its command. Its commercial activities have ranged from importing household goods -- at a time when other commercial enterprises were banned from importing some of those goods -- to being in charge of car manufacturing companies and assembly plants.

•The Revolutionary Guard has extended its reach across Iranian society. Militarily and politically, it has carved out a role for itself not unlike that of the Red Army and the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. It has transformed itself, KGB-like, into a mafia that dominates Iran's police force. And in its business activities, it now resembles some of the world's major cartels.

The Op-Ed is the result of an eight-month effort by Forward opinion editor Oren Rawls to have Sazegara express his views to the American Jewish community. In July 2006, Rawls published an opinion article in the Forward arguing that with the Middle East spinning violently out of control, America needs to explore every possibility for détente with Iran - and that can only happen once a better understanding is gained of this dangerous adversary. An Iranian exile directed him to Sazegara, and after eight months of persistence, this small step toward détente is now featured in America's leading Jewish newspaper."

About the Forward (http://www.forward.com): The Forward is widely regarded as American Jewry's essential newspaper of record. Published weekly since 1990, the Forward is committed to rigorous reporting and balanced, thoughtful commentary on news, politics and culture in the Jewish world. Forward editor J.J. Goldberg, a veteran journalist and author, and his staff have enhanced the paper's reputation for incisive, hard-hitting reportage with a populist, progressive spirit that was the paper's hallmark in its early days. Headquartered in New York, the newspaper is owned by the Forward Association, Inc., a 501© (4) corporation. It is published on Fridays and is available on newsstands nationwide as well as by subscription.

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