Book Review:

“Oral History of Holy Defense Narrated by Ali Asghar Zarei”

Electronic warfare (EW)

Fereydoon Heidari Molk-Mian
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


We read in the book’s preface:

“One of the most influential units in the battles of the Eight Years of Holy Defense was Electronic Warfare (in Persian Jangal) unit. By monitoring activities of the enemy, from the front lines to the depth of the battle area, through electronic devices and plunderous walkie-talkies, and analyzing their information, the troops of this unit obtained valuable data on position and strength of the enemy; then by reporting results of these measures, they provided significant help to the war commanders and warriors in battle with the enemy.”

The present book, in twenty conversations, is narration of the efforts made by Sardar (General) Ali Asghar Zarei, one of the main commanders of JANGAl during the years of holy defense.

On the book cover, there is a title and a picture of the narrator, and the back book cover is also decorated with an impressive part of his (Narrator) manuscript:

“Everyone who wants to write the book of war, faith, jihad, martyrdom, patience, and prayer must be present in this vast holy place. This is not about the city and its daily routines; not for normal daily work and vain behavior and speech. Here we are talking about making an epic and heaven with all the depth of meaning and greatness of these two words.

After the title pages, CIP, and copyright page (on one page), and the comprehensive content, there is a foreword by the Document and Research Center and an introduction by the interviewer and editor of the book. Twenty conversation sessions constitute twenty chapters of text of this narrative, in which the narrator recounts his memories from childhood and before the revolution to after the imposed war and as a representative at the Islamic Consultative Assembly. After that, part of the photo album comes mainly in color and sometimes in black and white with good quality (at the same time, in some places of the narrative text, as required by the content and its subject, remarkable and impressive photos are included), as well as the document part (including judgements and manuscripts by the narrator) and the last pages are dedicated to the index as usual.

Although the book “Oral History of Holy Defense Narrated by Ali Asghar Zarei” consists of twenty sessions, generally, it can be divided into three separate parts:

First part: First and Second Sessions

The first two sessions of the book describe the events that took place before victory of the revolution and continued until arrival of Imam Khomeini (RA) in Iran.

The narrator first mentions his family background and childhood. Since he was a teenager, he worked in the summers to help his family financially. He started his work with selling ice cream and gradually after other jobs such as selling chocolates, pocket pack facial tissue, and corn on Keshavarz Boulevard, he went to a soap factory and worked there because those things did not convince him anymore. For about four years, he did exhausting and heavy work in the soap factory. Then, consulted by his relatives, he changed his high school and went to Hashtroudi High school to improve his educational performance and get accepted into the university. There, he met Mr. Saberi (Gol Agha), the literature teacher who was one of the revolutionary teachers of the high school. The high level of Hashtroudi High School and being helped by the English language teacher became his stepping-stone, and he was able to be accepted in the informatics major in Tehran University. In the first year of the university, he received a picture of Imam (RA) and a treatise of him, which was published under name of another person. At this point, Zarei read religious books, including works of Shahid Motahari and other articles and books, which had a great impact on him. At the same time, he got to know the Hojjatie Society and used to go to their meetings; but when he realized their path was different from the Imam and the revolution, he cut off his connection with them.

Then it is time to discuss the revolutionary activities in Abadan Faculty of Petroleum. The narrator points out due to the problems he and his family suffered caused by SAVAK, he decided to leave Tehran in order to be able to pursue both his revolutionary activities and his education. For this purpose, he participated in the entrance exam (Konkur) again and was accepted in Abadan Faculty of Petroleum. In continuance of the interview, he describes atmosphere of Abadan before the revolution and during struggle against Shah's regime. According to him, at that time there was a bipolar of oil personnel and non-oil personnel in Abadan. Oil personnel shops and clubs were distinct, and a dual system had been created. The number of oil workers was also significant and mostly they were immigrants. Native forces were often recruited and worked in oil company as service workers, and technical and specialized jobs were occupied by immigrant forces. In depicting atmosphere of Abadan Faculty of Petroleum, the narrator mentions that one of the advantages of this college and among the reasons for choosing it is that it was male; because he did not like mixed-gender atmosphere of other universities. Finally, he mentions his cooperation with Mansuroon group and helping to organize popular demonstrations in Abadan, strike of oil company employees, going to Qom to provide money to help the oil company strikers whose salaries wasn't paid, and expansion of revolutionary activities in Abadan.

Second Part: Third to Seventh Sessions

In this part, during five sessions, the narrator first mentions his recruitment by IRGC. First, he talks about martyrdom of his brother Hassan Zarei on the threshold of victory of the revolution, and its effect on continuation of his struggles. He also mentions revolutionary changes of Abadan, activity and recruitment of various groups after the revolution, political current of Arab’s People, formation of Abadan’s IRGC, Fath Cultural Center, Abadan’s Basij, the first Marine command of IRGC in Abadan, and establishment of the Sisters’ Basij.

Then, he talks of the role of Abadan’s IRGC in various fields and assistance of IRGC to the people in various incidents. In continuance of the interview, the narrator deals with issues such as Arzaq (food) committee and construction jihad in Abadan, the first Friday prayer in Abadan, and cultural atmosphere of Abadan after victory of the revolution. Then, the discussion of causes of the war between Iran and Iraq is brought forward, and the narrator mentions issues such as general unity to resist the enemy's invasion, evidence of beginning of the war, prediction of start of the war in the presence of Khuzestan’s governor, and the first martyr of Abadan. After that, he mentions the Nojeh coup plot (NEQAB) as an illusion of subversion.

The next topic is related to the beginning of the imposed war. The narrator first talks about his decision to get married on the threshold of the war, but after that, returning to the south with mortars, nationwide attack on Iran, and his first injury are raised. The meeting with Imam Khomeini (RA), attempts to control the situation, Abadan Hotel (Abadan operation headquarters), being in charge of Basij of Abadan, structure of Basij of Abadan, and the days leading to the fall of Khorramshahr are some of the other topics that the narrator deals with here.

Another topic is preventing fall of Abadan, during which the narrator rementions his injury. He also talks about continuation of popular resistance until Operation Samen ol-Aemeh (AS), effective factors in preventing the fall of Abadan, maintaining the administrative structure in Abadan despite the enemy's siege and emergence of disagreements in Abadan’s IRGC.

The last session of this part is devoted to training fighters in the IRGC’s 8th Region (Khuzestan). First, the political groups in Abadan are mentioned, then, the narrator deals with formation of defense lines in Abadan, the removal of Bani-Sadr, transformation in the combat organization of IRGC, and finally, the liberation of Khorramshahr.

The Third Part: Eighth to Twentieth Sessions

The remaining thirteen sessions of the book are mostly dedicated to the central theme of EW (electronic warfare) which is also mentioned in the book title, and ironically, it is supposed to be discussed mainly around in the remaining two-thirds of the narrative.

First, studying in the field of telecommunications and entering Jangal (EW) is narrated. He talks about continuing his studies at Sharif University of Technology in the field of telecommunications, communicating with top students at the university, entering electronic warfare (Jangal), and the initiative to establish Jangal in IRGC.

Then he notes the idea and formation of the electronic warfare command of IRGC. Referring to the telecommunication production sector and the actions taken in this sector, the narrator talks about designing electronic circuits, connecting the air warning network sites, and recruitment of educated people abroad. Then, he deals with topics such as integration of the telecommunications production sector with IRGC's electronics and telecommunications group, special support for Jangal, approving the plan to establish electronic warfare commands as a complement to intelligence and telecommunications missions.

The next topic is commanding Jangal. In this part, he talks about these topics: the commander of Jangal operation, change and development in structure of Jangal, advancing Jangal with the most numerous expert forces, relationship with Jangal commands of Artesh (the army), recruitment of expert forces from universities, development of Jangal to proceed the war, different views in signal intelligence and Jangal, and also continuation of the communication between Jangal and university.

Then, the need of the fronts to strengthen and develop IRGC’s Jangal is discussed. While talking about the need to further strengthen and development of IRGC's Jangal and founding electronic warfare systems in the sacred defense, the narrator talks about entering into the enemy's security environment and problem of eavesdropping in decoding the enemy's advanced equipment. He also mentioned finding the weak point of the British system, the successful test before Operation Badr, receiving the enemy’s intelligence after success of Rahmat Project, as well as returning to the homeland to serve in the war, communication with IRGC, how Rakal encryption works and performance of Rahmat system, that Rahmat Project was not discovered for the enemy, and finally, unique indigenous technology.

The structured interaction of Jangal with information and telecommunications is another topic that the narrator mentions. Then, in this connection, there is talk of interconnectedness of information and telecommunication activities, Fajr system (setting the stage for IRGC’s Jangal tactical measures), and the office of Jangal command in universities.

When it comes to the subject of electronic warfare support, mentioning types of electronic warfare, the narrator first talks about English Jangal systems donated to Saddam in the hands of fighters. After that, he examines such topics as development of specialized ranks in IRGC, the search for the 701st battalion, breaking of the Iraqi code, the first experience of Fajr coder in Operation Badr, and finally, ambiguity in effectiveness of Jangal.

In the topic of equipping Jangal with electronic trophies of Saddam's army, he talks about support of the electronic warfare command with booty equipment and its location in IRGC’s Jangal. Next, he mentions the first site of Jangal command in the south, shortage of Jangal facilities, frequency control with civilian equipment, and non-fulfillment of the twenty million dollars promise. Referring to explosion in the new location, there is a talk about replacing the Jangal commander.

In another discussion, adapting research and development with the needs of Jangal is discussed. Here, the narrator talks about redesign of the Fajr system and upgrade of the prototype, Jangal's role in Operation Valfajr-8, and resumption of activity in the south. He also refers to the use of wired communication by Iranian and Iraqi commands in the defense situation, as well as the use of past experiences in developing Jangal.

In the continuation of the discussions and topics of these interviews, Operation Karbala-1 is considered as a turning point in development of Jangal. In addition, he also mentions Jangal in the operations of Karbala-3 and Karbala-4, and influence of Jangal in the decision to implement Operation Karbala-5 as well as Jangal in the northwest operations.

The last topic is dedicated to activities of the narrator after the holy defense. First, he talks about the events after the sacred defense period, and after that, with description of consolidation of Jangal and telecommunication, he announces establishment of Nasr Electronics Research Center. In continuance of the interview, the narrator mentions responsibility of technical faculty of Imam Hossein University (AS) and its representation in the Islamic Council. Also, in the last words, by evaluating the oral history sessions of the Document Center, he talks about importance of oral history and states that the most important reason for it is that layers of experiences of the holy defense should be delivered to the society, especially the young generation.

The first edition of “The Oral History of Holy Defense Narrated by Ali Asghar Zarei" was compiled by Yahya Niazi; it was published in the Center for Documents and Research of Holy Defense in 479 pages, 1000 hardcover copies in octavio size, and with a price of 150,000 Tomans in 2021/1400.

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