The Bassij, Israel’s Enemy from Iran
The world now knows the fiery rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What is less known is the group he comes from, called the "Bassij."
The Bassij is one of the most committed enemies of Israel and the United States in the world today. This paramilitary group is one of the most important organizations within Iran. It claims as many as three million members in reserve but tens of thousands serve full time and follow a radical ideology.
Menashe Amir hosts a radio show for Voice of Israel Farsi. He's considered one of the foremost experts on Iran, maintains contact with Iranians regularly, and keeps his finger on the pulse of Iranian daily life, such as the influence of the Bassij.
Amir said, "I'm very much afraid that Western countries and Western people don't realize how dangerous this ideology is and what will be the prospect in the future…They believe that the Messiah will come soon and their mission is to safeguard the regime."
The Bassij play a key role for the ruling mullahs and for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Just a few days ago, he paid tribute to elite Bassij units and called them his children.
"Ahmadinejad says that he is part of the Bassij, and for him Bassij is very important and that it has a holy mission -- just to safeguard the regime, just to suppress any opposition, any moral behavior which in not in line with the regime," said Amir.
The Bassij function as a human shield for Iran's rulers. Iran's supreme leader has given them almost unbridled power to protect the regime from internal dissent.
They crush any opposition throughout the country much like the way Hitler used his S.A. Brownshirt forces to crush any opposition to the Nazi Party.
"Whenever there is any sign of opposition against the regime," Amir explained, "they come and they attack people, they beat them, they injure them. And they are very much detested among the Iranian population." The fanaticism of the Bassij is legendary and horrific. During the Iran/Iraq War in the 1980s, tens of thousands marched to their doom across Iraqi minefields.
They are trained to embrace martyrdom. Chemicals severely wounded one Bassij, Mohaned Raza, during the Iran/Iraq War.
Raza said, "Islamic teachings will motivate us from 13 years old and up, including our elderly -- all of us are ready to sacrifice our life."
The same fanaticism during the 1980s is still at work today, and some say even more aggressively. It's directed at the United States, called "The Great Satan," and particularly right now at Israel, called "The Little Satan."
"We have to wipe out Israel," said one Bassij member.
Another Bassij member stated, "I am here due to my Muslim obligation to fight Israel until the last drop of my blood."
While many Iranians detest the Bassij, this group sees itself as a vanguard of Shiite Islam that will help prepare the way of the islamic messiah, the Mahdi, and defeat the west.
"The Bassij think that Islam is a young, dynamic force that is growing while the Western civilization is a declining force," said Amir. "It's weak, it's old. They are not ready to sacrifice themselves. And that's the reason why the Basiji deeply believe that in the end the victory will be with Islam itself."
"No one likes war," said one of the Bassij members, "but if there is a war, we will be ready to die. In helping Muslims where there is injustice, we like to become martyrs."
With this kind of fanaticism fueling Iran's regime and its nuclear program on the way, it will be up to U.S. President George Bush and a new democratic Congress to deal with this daunting threat to Israel, the West and the U.S.