Iranian officers warn clergy over oppression

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IN A rare sign of public dissent in the Iranian military, a group of senior officers has warned the country's clerical rulers about the danger of using the armed forces for quelling popular discontent.

The appeal demonstrates how serious is the popular sense of frustration with the government's economic policies, which expressed itself in rioting last month at Qazvin. It indicates that the armed forces are intent on preserving their status of being above politics, and not acting as a tool of oppression for unpopular policies.

It will not be lost on the country's rulers that the Shah fell because the army, the most modern in the region, refused to go on to the streets to prop up the tottering peacock throne.

In a joint letter addressed to the 'Political Leadership', four senior serving officers from the Air Force, the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), the Land Forces and the Law Enforcement Forces express their 'deepest anxiety' about the continuation of the 'present total disorganisation'.

The letter, signed on behalf of 'a great number of officers, personnel and soldiers of the Iranian Armed Forces', warned that the Army, which has offered hundreds of thousands of its best sons for the defence of the Iranian nation, can 'no more remain idle and silent' while the country is threatened by 'aggression from outside and disintegration from inside'. It called on the 'Political Leadership' to take 'appropriate measures and find wise and sound solutions' to this state of affairs.

Observers said the letter, without being a threat, presents an important challenge to the clerical leadership. 'The signatories may have pronounced their own life sentence, but, nevertheless, nothing will be the same again in Iran, as the 'Great Dumb' (a nickname for the Armed Forces) seems to have recovered its tongue and started to talk,' said one analyst.

The fact that the signatories have condemned an attack 'by forces of repression' on a recent meeting of a 'group of patriotic politicians' including Mr Dariush Foruhar, the leader of the Secular Iranian Nation Party (INP) 'whose only sin was to express the people's demands' indicates that the officers are followers of the late Dr Mohammad Mosadegh, the prime minister who paid for his nationalisation of the British-dominated Iranian oil industries in the Fifties by being deposed in 1953 in a CIA-sponsored coup.

The signatories are Brigadier General Reza Pardis, Commander of Air Force Operations; Pasdar Brigadier General Mo'ez Khadem Hosseini, Commander of the First Brigade of the 10th Division's Special Forces; Pasdar Brigadier General Seyyed Hamid Sadr ol Sadet, Commander of the Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari Province's Law Enforcement Forces; and Colonel Mohammad Hussein Kardan, Interim Commander of the 55th Division's Airborne Operations.

A spokesman for the INP refused to comment, but confirmed that all the signing officers were 'known and active'.