The first pillar was the system of velayat-e-faqih, or guardianship of the Islamic jurist, which laid the foundations for the first fundamentalist Islamic state and was written into the constitution.
The second pillar was the complete transfer of all power and authority to the Supreme Leader and from him to the theocracy of ayatollahs and mullahs, who perversely claimed their authority came directly from God.
The third and final pillar, carefully designed by Khomeini, was the creation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), his own version of the Gestapo, to spread their revolutionary policy of violence and terror at home and beyond Iran’s borders.
Today, the theocracy is so hated by 80 million repressed and impoverished Iranians, that only two pillars remain, velayat-e-faqih and the IRGC. Everyone knows that a stool with only two legs cannot persist.
The IRGC controls around 70 per cent of Iran’s economy, including its monetary and financial institutions. It pays no taxes and funnels resources into the pockets of the ruling elite. It also commands the regime’s clandestine campaign to build a nuclear weapon.
Khomenei moved rapidly to eliminate opposition to his clerical dictatorship, ruthlessly using the IRGC to murder tens of thousands of political opponents whom he said were guilty of “moharebeh” or “waging war against God”. The secret massacre of over 30,000 supporters of the main democratic opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran/Mojahedin e-Khalq (PMOI/MEK), in the latter half of 1988, stands out as one of the worst crimes against humanity of the late 20th century and is now under active investigation by the United Nations.
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Startling as these figures may be, they are only a fraction of the estimated 120,000 political prisoners executed so far during the clerical dictatorship in Iran.
The IRGC created the Quds Force, their vicious unit responsible for extra-territorial operations, overseeing the theocratic regime’s proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq, while planning, financing and initiating acts of terror worldwide.
In April 2019, President Trump designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO), the first time the US had designated an official military organisation of a foreign state as an FTO.
In January 2020, Trump also ordered the elimination of the senior Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani and his ally, the Iraqi chief of staff of operations, Abu Mehdi Mohandes. A targeted drone strike took out the two terrorist Godfathers at Baghdad Airport.
Soleimani was answerable only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and, as such, was described by many as the second most powerful person in the Islamic Republic.
His death has seriously undermined the IRGC and fractured a second pillar of the theocratic dictatorship. Khamenei is terrified that the IRGC is beginning to crumble. There is growing evidence of IRGC personnel absconding because they have not received their pay. Recruitment is collapsing.
It is now a question of how much longer the organisation can survive. Khamenei knows if the IRGC collapses, so will his theocratic regime.
There is widespread revulsion and hatred of the IRGC throughout the Iranian population. PMOI/MEK resistance units have been formed in towns and cities across Iran.
Young resistance fighters have lost their fear and have attacked court houses, government buildings and IRGC and paramilitary Basiji bases. Banners, posters, and images of the Supreme Leader are regularly defaced.
The courageous resistance units can take comfort from the defeat of similar revolutionary guards’ divisions in history. In Roman times, the Praetorian Guard, like today’s IRGC, were the embodiment of power, greed and terror, serving as secret police, executioners, and an anti-riot force.
Founded by the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, in 27 BC to protect him and Rome, they grew to number 15,000 men and became so powerful and corrupt that they turned on their leaders, assassinating 13 Roman emperors and even auctioning the throne to the highest bidder. They were eventually defeated, disbanded, and dispersed by Constantine the Great, marking a key stage in the fall of the Roman Empire.
Hitler’s elite personal protection squad, the Schutzstaffel or SS, was created in 1925 as a tiny squadron of less than 100 men, expanding throughout the Nazi era to hundreds of thousands of brutal and feared thugs and murderers under the leadership of the psychopath Heinrich Himmler.
After the Second World War ended, the Nuremberg Trials judged the SS to be a criminal organisation and held it responsible for most of the Nazi war crimes and for the Holocaust. Hundreds of its leaders were executed.
The thugs and murderers who occupy the ranks of the IRGC in Iran would do well to learn how history has never judged such elite guard units with sympathy. They always end in infamy and annihilation. The growing detestation of the IRGC by the Iranian people is a clear signal that another pillar of the regime is beginning to collapse.
The hatred of the mullahs, combined with the crumbling of the IRGC, will sound the final death-knell for the perverted system of velayat-e-faqih, the cornerstone of Islamic fundamentalism.
The only chance of survival for the teetering theocratic dictatorship would be for western appeasers to sign up to the defective nuclear deal, by acceding to the mullahs’ demands to lift sanctions and remove the IRGC from international terrorist blacklists.
The West must surely understand that only the final overthrow of the tyrannical mullahs will see peace, justice and freedom restored to the Iranian people. We must give them our full backing and let them know that the downfall of the IRGC will be the decisive catalyst for the collapse of the velayat-e-faqih regime.
Struan Stevenson is coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association