Is Ahmadi-nejad using Arabs to fight his own people?

That’s the rumor. It’s interesting as a rumor, whether it’s true or false.

My nominee for the most interesting rumor from Iran: That Arabs (in some reports Hezbollah members from Lebanon) are being deployed by the regime to fight the dissidents. One dissident source speculates that the regime is afraid that Iranian cops won’t be as brutal toward other Iranians as the regime wants them to be. (Which seems improbable, given how brutal some of them actually are.)

True or false, the rumor is significant. Either the regime is importing foreign fighters because it’s unsure of the loyalty of its own forces, or the dissidents have figured out a good way to appeal to Iranian nationalism and disdain for Arabs. They’re also chanting “Allah-u-akhbar” and “Death to the dictator,” both echoes of 1979.

Update A reader wants to know more about the source of the rumor. I’ve seen three different reports (not necessarily independent) from two different listservs: one of which I’m on, one of which a friend is on. In each case, I’m getting it second- or third-hand, and the ground rules forbid me to say more.

I’m convinced that this is a genuine rumor circulating among dissidents in Iran, and completely agnostic as to its factual basis, if any.

Update A reader writes:

I don’t find this hard to believe. Dictatorships often have a hard time finding *enough* people willing to crack the heads of their own to really crackdown. The Chinese had to import large numbers of troops from far away rural districts for Tiananman Square. When the Polish government cracked down on Solidarity, they had to be very careful which troops they used to avoid having whole units mutiny. In fact, they had to leave the regular army out of it. One of my father’s colleagues was a lieutenant platoon leader at the time, and [name omitted]talks about how they avoided participating by going to his mother’s house and eating cookies.

Unfortunately, I think Poland 1980 is how this is going to end up. I’ll very (pleasantly) surprised if these protests aren’t completely crushed, and we get a much more openly despotic Iran. I hope that it doesn’t last any longer than that did.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: