Friday, July 31, 2009

Iran: A Less Than Lethal Insurgency

We're seeing the Iranian protesters again on the news, with the memorials for Neda and the ensuing melee.

Iran is an interesting case right now on the bureaucratic struggles during an insurgency. The fact that the protests have dragged on this long, one month plus and counting, means that the Iranian government does not have enough manpower to secure the streets. The counter-insurgency rule of thumb for manpower is 10 to 20 soldiers per 1000 residents. Obviously here Iran fails to have those soldiers to lock down Tehran.

The reason is simple. In the news videos we have seen thus far, there is a conspicuous absence of the Iranian army. Instead, the riot police and the Basij militia are the primary enforcers against the protesters. Without bringing in the rest of the Iranian security apparatus, the Basij is outnumbered by the protesters on the street. It would take a more rigorous analysis, but I suspect the Tehran metro police department is being kept out of play here as well.

The fact that Iran has not deployed the military means that the revolutionary council does not trust the military. The size of the protest population has backed the Revolutionary Council into a corner here: It can call in the Army, which would contain the current crisis, but which would leave the protesters to fight again down the line, as I described earlier. Or, it could stick with the Basij, and the current insurgency will continue like an open sore, sapping the Iranian security apparatus.

It appears that the Revolutionary Council is facing a lose-lose situation here, and the Iranian Insurgency has a genuine chance of success, my previous predictions not-withstanding.

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