The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2024 65 The Guards’ mission to memorialize themselves may be useful as a work of history—but futile in a larger sense. the history of its role in Iran’s eightyear “sacred defense,” the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. Its multivolume e War Chronology, which is thorough and careful, reveals (or claims in hindsight) planning and forethought in the guards’ action. Samuel shows how the IRGC’s history makes clear that it was far from the Western stereotype of a band of rag-tag crusaders’ hangers-on left to be slaughtered by the enemy while the real ghters looked on. With e War Chronology as a primary source, her studies nd that, after the Iranians’ successful o ensive in the spring of 1982 had expelled Iraqi forces from Iranian soil, Khomeini himself was inclined to accept a cease- re that would have restored the status quo ante. According to the Guards’ own account (and contrary to other histories), IRGC commander Mohsen Reza’i convinced a reluctant Khomeini to continue the war on the basis that a cease- re would leave Iran vulnerable to subsequent attacks. e decision to continue that way had disastrous consequences for Iran. What are we to make of this e ort to create a thorough historical record? e IRGC veterans can be proud of their role in defending Iran against a betterequipped invader, who had struck at a country weakened by international isolation and months of revolutionary turmoil. Now that these veterans are aging—and knowing much of Iran’s young population has no memory of the war—they are working to preserve the record of their accomplishments. Younger Iranians, however, have more immediate concerns. e Guards’ mission to memorialize themselves may be useful as a work of history—but futile in a larger sense. Reading Samuel’s excellent account, I was struck by similarities to what we saw in Algeria in the mid-1980s, just before the end of single-party (FLN) rule that had gone on since independence in 1962. It was clear then that most Algerians—with no memory of the bloody events of the 1950s and 1960s—felt little connection to their elders’ independence struggle against France. For most Iranians today, a history of the IRGC’s heroism does not ease their economic situation or make their government any less odious. Nor does it lessen pressure to conform to the ossi ed social views of aging theocrats whose only response to questions and protest is more repression. Like Algeria, the events carefully chronicled may have been heroic; but today most people have other and more immediate concerns. For them Illa tunc. Haec nunc. ( at was then. is is now.) n John Limbert is a retired U.S. Foreign Service o cer, novelist, and academic. He was among the last American diplomats to serve in Iran and spent 14 months as a prisoner of those occupying the U.S. embassy from 1979 to 1981. He has written widely on Iranian subjects, including Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History (2009) and the historical/espionage novel (co-written with Marc Grossman), Believers: Love and Death in Tehran (2020).