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Opposition Groups

Since the end of the Second World War, Iran has experienced militant opposition to a vareity of policies, both from ethnic minorities and political factions opposed first to the regime of the Shah Reza Pahlavi, and then to the authorities of the successor state the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Immediately following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Khomeini regime faced severe challenges from several opposition groups, including royalists, National Front bureaucrats, intellectuals and professionals, communists, guerrilla organizations, Kurdish rebels, and distinguished mujtahids (Shia clerics whose demonstrated erudition in religious law has earned them the privilege to interpret law). Of these, the royalists and the National Front leaders operated mainly from foreign bases or underground cells. The communists were purged in 1983 when the Tudeh political party's leadership was almost entirely eliminated. The main guerrilla group, the Mojahedin (which developed into the Mujahedin-e Khalg Organization, or MEK/MKO), claimed to have made strides in organizing a war of attrition against the regime. It operated openly between July 1986 and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq from Baghdad, emphasizing their determination to overthrow the Iranian regime. Iraqi authorities would later arm them with heavy equipment including tanks to fight against the Iranian military during the Iran-Iraq War. After the war Iraqi authorities used them in crackdowns against opposition groups in that country. After the 2003 ceasefire following the coalition invasion of Iraq, the MEK gave up their heavy weapons, and a significant number renounced the MEK/MKO and voluntarily repatriated to Iran.

Members of the Kurdish ethnic group have been fighting the regime since their 1979 rebellion, even though Tehran kept them off balance by using Pasdaran forces. The Kurds had launched a number of rebellions against the Shah as well, including one in 1963 that was put down with US support. Kurdish groups were initially supported by the Iranian government, seen during the Iran-Iraq war as a potential important ally against Iraq. By 2000, however, policy in Iran had changed and saw cooperation between Turkey and Iran in combatting the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).

The Baluchi ethnic group also had active militant organizations. The most prominent, the Jundullah, which also operated in Pakistan, was responsible for attacks on Iranian Revolutionary Guards in 2006. Iran had previously launched major military campaigns into the region.

National Front politicians have openly displayed their differing views, mostly in West European capitals, although the group led by former Prime Minister Bazargan was the only domestic "opposition" party tolerated by the regime by the mid-1980s. Iran's political establishment closely monitors and vets political participation, through the Guardian Council, making it virtually impossible for unsanctioned political opposition.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:46:12 ZULU