One year on from Iran’s disputed election and in the wake of repeated protests by opposition forces in the country, the Guardian’s video documentary unit and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism interviewed former members of the elite Revolutionary Guard. Released on the web, this fifteen minute video documentary is just this summer’s latest salvo in the ongoing battle over how to relate to Iran. 1) See Guardianfilms and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. world/2010/jun/11/iran-election-revolutionary-guard

What is the basis of political power in Iran? The answer used to be fairly straightforward: a conservative, religious elite backed by a praetorian military force of Revolutionary Guards and its auxiliary Basij militia. But since the June 2009 elections the fault-lines that previously described power in Iran have shifted.

The Guardian and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism have provided video testimony from recently defected Revolutionary Guard officers that throws some more light on this shift. The short video interviews three defectors, all now in exile, who left in the wake of the post-election government crackdown at the end of 2009, (the fourth person interviewed, a former Revolutionary Guard general, left Iran two years earlier). All three provide first-hand evidence that the regime was badly shaken by the protests which erupted after the elections and continued through 2009, culminating in December (on the feast of Ashura) with demonstrations and a brutal crackdown.

This is a straightforward piece of video journalism and the core of the film – first-hand testimony from recent defectors – succeeds in making its point: the Revolutionary Guard may have become unreliable praetorians. But the film goes on to conclude that there is an “unholy alliance” between young students and the old Revolutionary Guard that is “posing a new threat to the survival of the Islamic republic”.

Journalistic hyperbole? Almost certainly. There is no doubt that the strength of the demonstrations and the violence of the crackdown sent shock waves throughout Iran’s political system. But the movement which was galvanised by the election results in June 2009 is not threatening the Islamic republic itself; it is opposing what it sees as the theft of the elections and, more recently, battling the repression it has faced, repression meted out by a ruling faction within the regime headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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References   [ + ]

1.  See Guardianfilms and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. world/2010/jun/11/iran-election-revolutionary-guard