According to leaked internal documents from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, several thousand fighters refused to act against the Iranian people during the Mahsa Amini protests which began on 16 September 2022. According to the documents, during a January 3rd, 2023 meeting between senior IRGC commanders and the Supreme Leader, Fifty-eight commanders and security officials were present and all but 13 gave speeches over the course of four hours.
Abdullah Haji Sadeghi, Khamenei’s representative within the IRGC, told the meeting: “Based on our reports, it appears that IRGC forces are not in the same situation as last year, particularly with respect to their morale, as there has been a decline.”
He continued: “We have gathered information and statistics from various units across divisions, which reveal the existence of conflict [within the ranks]. This must be managed properly. It is important to note that we are not talking about just one or two individuals, but rather an armed force consisting of over 600,000 personnel.”
During the meeting the deputy commander of the IRGC force in Alborz, Ehsan Khorshidi, also warned:
“Recently, we have witnessed instances of disruption and aid by armed forces towards civilians,” highlighting that a week before the meeting, a group of soldiers in the Alborz units had staged a theft from a military storage facility.He added: “upon investigation, security forces concluded that there was no robbery, and the agents responsible for the transfer [of items] had distributed everything among the underprivileged neighborhoods of Karaj. The suspects are currently in custody, but we’re unsure of how to proceed.”
Gholamali Rashidi, made perhaps the biggest revelation of the meeting:
“Since the start of the protests, we have had personnel who have defied orders…One incident involved an individual targeting the Supreme Leader’s residence with artillery. Thanks to the immediate response of our fellow members in the unit, the perpetrators were identified and apprehended.”
This revelation apparently is what inspired the Supreme Leader to release thousands of detainees and make a compassionate speech the following day:
“I was on a provincial trip and people came out to welcome me,” Khamenei said. “I noticed that at least a third of the population, including women who weren’t wearing good hijab, were shedding tears. It’s not fair to label them as counter-revolutionary or anti-revolutionary. How can anyone criticize their enthusiasm and eagerness to participate in religious or revolutionary ceremonies?… they are our daughters.”
This report indicates that Iranian national leadership sensed and acted on a potentially catastrophic loss of power due to the protests.
Initial reporting on this topic came from IranWire and IranInternational.