“Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. … These children who rolled to their deaths were part of the Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini in 1979 and militarized after the war started in order to supplement his beleaguered army. … [It] was essentially a volunteer militia, most of whose members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically, and by the thousands, to their own destruction. …
“[T]oday, it is a source not of national shame, but of growing pride. Since the end of hostilities against Iraq in 1988, the Basiji have grown both in numbers and influence. … And, last year, they formed the potent core of the political base that propelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--a man who reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War--to the presidency.
“Ahmadinejad revels in his alliance with the Basiji. ... Ahmadinejad's ascendance on the shoulders of the Basiji means that the Iranian Revolution, launched almost three decades ago, has entered a new and disturbing phase. A younger generation of Iranians, whose worldviews were forged in the atrocities of the Iran-Iraq War, have come to power, wielding a more fervently ideological approach to politics than their predecessors. The children of the Revolution are now its leaders.
The above quote reminds me of the warrior religion that propelled Japan’s militaristic culture in the first half of the 20th century. We knew the appropriate manner of dealing with a warrior religion back then as Prof. Lewis explains here. It’s not yet clear what will be required to defeat the current enemy but as our President has said recently “all options are on the table.”