4. Purge of the Monarchists

By Roberts, Mark | McNair Papers, January 1996 | Go to article overview

4. Purge of the Monarchists


Roberts, Mark, McNair Papers


4. PURGE OF THE MONARCHISTS

Almost immediately, leading military figures were publicly displayed by the new regime in what was to become a string of summary executions that took place in "an atmosphere of arbitrariness and lack of control." (Note 1) This "reign of terror" was intended to send a clear message to the military to submit unconditionally to the new regime.(Note 2) In Tehran, three generals were paraded in front of foreign journalists as "some of the honorable thieves who have ruled this country for the last 10 years." (Note 3) The new leadership had in fact decided that a "purge of the armed forces would be undertaken, but on a limited scale, concentrating on 'corrupt elements.'" (Note 4)

Provisional Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan quickly appointed Major General Muhammad Vali Gharavi as the Chief of the Supreme Commander's Staff, in the first of what were to be many military personnel replacements carried out by the new regime.(Note 5) Bazargan also appointed Lieutenant General Sa'id Mehdiyun as Commander of the Iranian Air Force. When announcing General Mehdiyun's appointment, all air force personnel, to include "officers, warrant officer technicians, NCO's, administrative staff and enlisted men," were ordered to report for duty on the following day to their units.(Note 6) By doing so, the new regime ensured that the military were not only present and accounted for,(Note 7) they could also be employed against any potential dissident elements. Air Force Brigadier General Ayatollah Mahaqqeqi, the commander of air force fighters, was arrested. There was no reason immediately given.(Note 8)

On February 13, 1979, Major General Gharavi, Chief of the General Staff, issued an order to all senior officers of the staff command to report immediately to Staff Command

Headquarters for a conference. The urgency of the order was emphasized by the proviso that the officers were allowed to come in civilian clothes if necessary.(Note 9) Additionally, all officers, staff, and soldiers of the Army's Staff Command were ordered to report for duty to their respective sections to "discharge their duties" for the following day.(Note 10)

On the same day, an order was issued from Prime Minister Bazargan for all "officers, servicemen and employees of the War Ministry and its related organizations" to report for duty and "resume work immediately after receiving this message." (Note 11) Simultaneously, Colonel Tavakkoli, Head of the Provisional Islamic Revolution Staff Command, issued the following directive to all members of the armed forces:

Since all the units of the armed forces have accepted the leadership of His Eminence Imam Khomeyni, the leader of the revolution, all the units that have started moving toward Tehran in order to assist the units in the capital are hereby informed to immediately return to their barracks and report the whereabouts of all units in the relevant garrisons to the provisional revolution staff command. People who are on the route of these units are asked not to obstruct their movement.(Note 12)

This same day, Khomeini addressed the Iranian populace, stressing that the army, as well as the police and gendarmerie, should not be attacked because they "have returned to us, and are one of us." The Ayatollah also stated that the "army is ours," appealing not only to those elements of society who harbored anti-military sentiment, but also to the military itself.(Note 13)

Deputy Prime Minister Amir Entezam issued a statement that the 487,000-man Iranian Army was "dissolved, unfortunately." He then went on to proclaim that he entertained hopes of improving the state of affairs for the military to "put it back together again." (Note 14) This sentiment was echoed by Prime Minister Medhi Bazargan, who stated the desire to rebuild the fragmented military rapidly with the same organizational hierarchy and a distinct command hierarchy of new, appointed officers,(Note 15) cast in the mold of the nascent Islamic Republic. …

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