A former Revolutionary Guards commander has compared Iran’s Supreme Leader with the late Shah who was ousted from power following the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In a piece that appeared in the newspaper Ettelaat on Monday, former IRGC Navy chief Hossein Alaei recounted the events of January 1978 in Qom city which would eventually lead to widespread demonstrations against the Shah’s regime and place Iran on an irreversible path towards revolution.
At the time, an article titled “Iran: Red and Black Colonialism” was published by Ettelaat newspaper, attacking the revolution’s leader Ayatollah Khomeini by questioning his motives and accusing him of serving foreign powers. The publication of the piece, allegedly written by the Shah’s Information Minister Darius Homayoun, sparked massive protests in Qom.
During Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq in the eighties, Brigadier General Hossein Alaei, the first top commander of the IRGC navy at the time of its formation in 1985, turned into an important figure among Guard commanders.
It would appear that Alaei’s recent article is in response to a call by dissident filmmaker and writer Mohammad Nourizad for prominent Iranian figures to bombard the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with critical letters. Nourizad, whose own seventeen open letters have questioned Khamanei’s conduct in the past two years, urged the retired admiral as well as fifteen other influential individuals to send similar letters to the Islamic Republic’s highest authority.
“9 January 1978 is the beginning of a popular and pervasive uprising which, in about a year, was able to expel the Shah from the country and bring an end to 2,500 years of monarchy in Iran,” Alaei writes. “But this incident was ignited very easily, and the regime itself provided the pretext.”
“The wrongful behaviour of the Shah’s security forces had amplified the people’s dissatisfaction with the monarchy and helped maintain it,” the former commander continued. “As the number of people killed on the streets, imprisonments and political prisoners rose, the Shah’s regime essentially lost its grandeur too.”
The article continues to add, “Up until that point, the people would not address the Shah directly in their protests but would try to voice their criticism of the lack of freedom of speech, the lack of political freedoms and the mistreatment by state agents such as the Imperial Guard. But a continuation of the state’s violent conduct and a harsh clampdown on protests caused the people to direct their opposition against the Shah himself and to demand a fundamental change in the ruling system.”
“The writing of letters to the Shah was [soon] under way and he was rightfully declared as the person behind all the country’s upheavals.”
In his piece, Alaei argues that the 1979 Islamic Revolution was aimed at preventing another “lifelong rule” and allowing Iranians “to determine their own destiny through free elections.”
Alaei then raises a number of questions he says the Shah “probably” pondered after being forced into exile, questions that might serve as an “important lesson for others.”
“Would the situation have not ended better had I shown restraint at the funeral of Imam Khomeini’s son and refrained from provoking the population with an offensive article written by my Information Minister under an alias? Wouldn’t my rule have lasted longer if, after the article was published in a state-owned newspaper, I had allowed it to be responded to,? Wouldn’t the affair have ended there if I had allowed for the people to hold peaceful protests …? Wouldn’t I have obtained better results had I not ordered agents to shoot at protesters … ?”
In an apparent reference to the illegal house arrest of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, Alaei writes that the Shah probably asked himself, “If instead of placing prominent [political leaders] under house arrest and exiling them to remote cities and imprisoning political activists I had paved the way for a dialogue, would I have been forced to flee the country?”
In mid-February 2011, Karroubi and Mousavi, who spearheaded the opposition Green Movement since the rigged 2009 election, were placed under an illegal and arbitrary house arrest after calling for protests in solidarity with the Arab Spring. Thus far, no formal charges have been put forth against them. Human rights groups say their continued captivity and maltreatment is inconsistent not only with human rights provisions, but also with Iran’s own constitution.
“If instead of accusing the people of being provoked by foreign [powers] I had refrained from insulting their collective intelligence, would I still have been forced to seek sanctuary abroad?” Alaei’s note continues. “If instead of accusing opponents of acting against national security I had accepted the opposition, recognised it as legal and guaranteed their rights, could I not have stayed in power longer?”
The former admiral, who always maintained a close contact with Mousavi throughout the years, has already come under fire from pro-regime websites for expressing his views. One such website called him a “hyena” attempting to discredit the Islamic Revolution by comparing it to the Pahlavi Dynasty.
Prior to Iran’s widely disputed 2009 presidential election, Alaei had been cited as saying that during the Iran-Iraq war, then prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi had “created a war economy that helped us fight Saddam Hussein.” “The country was stable, inflation was low . . . there was war, but nobody was hungry. We all respect him for his management.”
In what appeared to be a tacit warning to Iran’s ruling elite, Alaei ended his piece for Ettelaat by citing a verse from the Quran: “So learn a lesson, O ye who have eyes!” 
 Holy Quran, Surah 59, Verse 2.