IRGC to expand Basij special forces

Poster for Basij Fatehin commemoration ceremony in Tehran.

Poster for Basij Fatehin commemoration ceremony in Tehran.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) held a commemoration ceremony in Tehran on Friday for members of the Fatehin (“Conquerors”) Special Unit of the Basij paramilitary killed in combat in Syria. IRGC chief commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari praised the Fatehin battalion, reaffirming ongoing plans to establish these units beyond Tehran province and across the country. Jafari told the media that he had given a report to the supreme leader about the expansion of the Fatehin.

Earlier this year, the commander of the IRGC’s Mohammad Rasulollah unit (Greater Tehran), Brig. Gen. Mohsen Kazemeini, signaled plans to expand these units, making the announcement at a ceremony commemorating the Fatehin who have fallen in Syria. The Fatehin unit of Qom province held its first drill in September. The drill’s motto was “the path to Jerusalem goes through Karbala,” first proclaimed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, during the Iran-Iraq war.

The IRGC commanders who delivered remarks at the ceremony on Friday in Tehran proclaimed that without the sacrifice of all Iranian-backed combatants in Syria, instability would spread to Iran.

“There’s not a day we do not hear about murder and explosion in neighboring countries and Europe,” Fatehin Commander Mahmoud Hashemi said on Friday.

The Basij, also known as the Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed, is an all-volunteer force that serves as auxiliary to the IRGC Ground Forces (IRGC-GF), as well as internal morality police and recruitment pool for the Guard.  The IRGC Tehran unit established the Basij Fatehin some time in 2009 or 2010, according to Kazemeini. The decision to establish the unit was likely made following the 2009 post-election protests, during which the IRGC and the Basij led a crackdown on protesters. The Fatehin has participated in IRGC drills held in Tehran, during which units practiced exercises to suppress mass protests and unrest. The Fatehin receive advanced training courses such as airborne and parachute, in addition to heavy ideological indoctrination. In Sept. 2015, the IRGC established a Fatehin sniper unit.

Basij members have deployed to both Syria and Iraq as part of the IRGC Ground Forces expeditionary force. In Syria, regular IRGC forces fight alongside IRGC-backed proxies in support of Bashar al Assad. Over 30 members of the Fatehin have been killed in Syria, out of the approximately 440 regular IRGC-GF.  Senior IRGC commanders praise the Fatehin as “a model” for the Guard.

Mehdi Hadavandi, the commander of the Fatehin Basij Tehran unit as well as the unit’s Syria operationssaid the IRGC has set up “special courses” for “resistance forces,” which include Iranian as well as proxies, for combat in Iraq and Syria. The commander told an audience last week that “the required forces are in Syria right now,” though registration is open should the situation demand more boots on the ground. He described the war in Syria as Kafai Jihad (meaning if the number of fighters are sufficient for jihad, the obligation to wage jihad is lifted for others).

“Resistance in Syria is different than all the fields until today,” Hadavandi said last week week. “Many of warriors and commanders who have served in areas such as the northwest and northeast of the country, Iraq, and Lebanon admit that Syria is different than all others. Training demands operations field, which has been created in Syria.”

“Because the Basiji fights in Syria the Basij of the Islamic world has taken shape. The blood of Iranians, Lebanese, Afghans, Pakistanis, etc., have been mixed in Syria,” Fatehin commander Hashemi said on Friday. “The enemies must know that the Fatehin is ready to Israel.”

“Armed struggle of the Islamic revolution beyond Iran’s borders is a very big and divine blessing that not everyone will have,” proclaimed IRGC chief commander Jafari on Friday. He vowed that all “shrine defenders would continue armed struggle until fulfillment of goals.” Jafari then boasted that “the blood of the martyrs and the preparedness of the forces” have strengthened the Islamic Republic’s hand, forcing “regional countries who claim to determine the destiny of Syria to negotiate with Iran.”

Jafari then claimed that “the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic resistance” have prevented “Israel’s territorial expansion.” He then proclaimed that all of the plans of Israel and the United States “have been defeated.”

“Today we are witnessing the formation of the army of the Master of Time [12th Shiite Imam Mahdi who will herald the apocalypse] in Syria,” proclaimed Hadavandi earlier this month at a ceremony for Ashura religious mourning ceremony in Tehran.

Amir Toumaj is a independent analyst and contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • den says:

    These are the same basij who at the start of the protests would go out in groups on motorcycles and beat people pulling them out of the rest never to be seen alive. So as they have made their intentions clear to everyone, again, to raise a proxie Shia revolutionary army, after Syria and Iraq fall to them. It seems to now be the natural mutation of what’s to follow.

  • Evan says:

    With respect, I believe that we are witnessing the birth of an army that is not meant for Syria, or Iraq.
    I believe that it is ultimately meant for Israel, and that the Iranians mean to use the current conflicts as a thin cover for raising this army, and that as soon as the IS is dealt with, they will turn to Israel.
    The conflicts now underway will provide the training necessary for the Iranians to field a battle tested and capable force. They have their proxy Hezbollah running the show in Lebanon, and once Iraq and Syria are dealt with, they’ll have a direct land bridge/supply route from Iran to Northern Israel.

  • When will the Iranian people be given the truth about the Chinese military annex of their own countries oil fields to China by treaty until 2024? This is the same China that gave billions of dollars of military aid to Iraq in the first Iran/Iraq war causing well over a million casulaties and now they are depending upon them for a defensive military posture while they carry out war crimes with Assad and Putin and their proxy fighting units from Pakistan and Afghanistan? Make sure the Iranian people are told the truth about their own governments sell out to China and Russia interest and ask the Basij to stop the slaughter of their own countrymen then. They drink from two new poison chalices


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