The article describes in detail the “Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini in 1979,” and deployed in horrific fashion throughout the Iran-Iraq war:
When their training was done, each Basiji received a blood-red headband that designated him a volunteer for martyrdom. According to Sepehr Zabih’s The Iranian Military in Revolution and War, such volunteers made up nearly one-third of the Iranian army–and the majority of its infantry.
The chief combat tactic employed by the Basiji was the human wave attack, whereby barely armed children and teenagers would move continuously toward the enemy in perfectly straight rows. It did not matter whether they fell to enemy fire or detonated the mines with their bodies: The important thing was that the Basiji continue to move forward over the torn and mutilated remains of their fallen comrades, going to their deaths in wave after wave. Once a path to the Iraqi forces had been opened up, Iranian commanders would send in their more valuable and skilled Revolutionary Guard troops.
The theology that motivates such sacrifices is detailed by Kuntzel, as is Ahmadinejad’s relationship with the movement, a movement which is growing in numbers and influence:
Since Ahmadinejad became president, the influence of the Basiji has grown. In November, the new Iranian president opened the annual “Basiji Week,” which commemorates the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War. According to a report in Kayan, a publication loyal to Khameini, some nine million Basiji–12 percent of the Iranian population–turned out to demonstrate in favor of Ahmadinejad’s anti-liberal platform. The article claimed that the demonstrators “form[ed] a human chain some 8,700 kilometers long. … In Tehran alone, some 1,250,000 people turned out.” Barely noticed by the Western media, this mobilization attests to Ahmadinejad’s determination to impose his “second revolution” and to extinguish the few sparks of freedom in Iran.
At the end of July 2005, the Basij movement announced plans to increase its membership from ten million to 15 million by 2010.
One more excerpt:
he Basiji’s cult of self-destruction would be chilling in any country. In the context of the Iranian nuclear program, however, its obsession with martyrdom amounts to a lit fuse. Nowadays, Basiji are sent not into the desert, but rather into the laboratory. Basij students are encouraged to enroll in technical and scientific disciplines. According to a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Guard, the aim is to use the “technical factor” in order to augment “national security.”
What exactly does that mean? Consider that, in December 2001, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.” On the other hand, if Israel responded with its own nuclear weapons, it “will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.” Rafsanjani thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis. It might not be possible to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level of damage Israel could inflict is bearable–only 100,000 or so additional martyrs for Islam.
And Rafsanjani is a member of the moderate, pragmatic wing of the Iranian Revolution; he believes that any conflict ought to have a “worthwhile” outcome. Ahmadinejad, by contrast, is predisposed toward apocalyptic thinking.
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