By Kayhan Life Staff
The sudden resignation of Colonel Holako Ahmadian, the commander of the Iranian Army’s 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade (NOHED) — commonly known as the “Green Berets” — has shocked and surprised people in Iran and abroad.
Social media users have been reacting to footage of Colonel Ahmadian’s farewell speech, in which he advised his troops to “be eagles, not vultures.” Many people believe that Ahmadian’s reported forced retirement resulted from his refusal to order the troops under his command to crack down on protesters in Isfahan in November 2021.
In November 2019, Iranian security forces, antiriot units, plainclothes police, and the Basij (volunteer militia) crushed a massive protest by farmers and people from all walks of life in Isfahan, injuring many and arresting scores of others. According to eyewitness reports, at least three people died during the crackdown. Authorities confirmed that dozens of protesters suffered various injuries.
“Be eagles and not vultures,” Colonel Ahmadian said in his speech to the troops, a speech that was full of insinuations, veiled criticisms, and remarks aimed at senior military officials. “An eagle knocked to the ground has more honor than 100 flying vultures.”
“I proved that the ground forces are not the marriage certificate of anyone’s mother, even if their mothers have provided valuable service to society,” Ahmadian argued. “I have always stood up to anyone who has harmed the integrity of the nation.”
Ahmadian said he had not advanced his army career by bribing people with food and gifts, adding: “I only give gifts to those who wear green berets on their heads and have their finger on the trigger. I will be there until the end.”
Ahmadian ended his farewell speech by noting that he had “paid the price” and held his “head high” and was at “peace.”
At the end of his speech, Ahmadian’s troops carried him on their shoulders, chanting, “We love you, Holako.”
Kayhan London tweeted: “The farewell of a ground forces’ colonel to his soldiers: be eagles, not vultures.”
“Footage of the speech by Colonel Holako Ahmadian, the commander of the Army’s 65th Green Beret Brigade, has been circulating on social media,” the tweet added. “The [Army] retired him reportedly after he refused to crack down on the protests in Isfahan.”
The tweet included footage of Colonel Ahmadian’s farewell speech to his troops.
Colonel Ahmadian was given the command of the 65th (rapid deployment) Brigade in November 2020. Before that, he headed NOHED’s hostage rescue brigade. Ahmadian also served as the deputy commander of the ground forces base in Shiraz for a few months.
Ahmadian is one of the best-trained army officers in the Iranian military. He has completed courses on parachute regiment, instructing paratroopers, commando training, hostage rescue, and training in underwater diving, paragliding, free fall skydiving, and mountain commando. He graduated from the Islamic of Iran Army (AJA) University of Command and Staff (DAFOOS).
An informed source told Kayhan Life: “Colonel Ahmadian’s disputes with some senior military officials started in November 2019. The commander of the 65th Brigade was ordered to deploy his troops to the streets, but he argued that the primary duty of the special units was to protect [military] bases and strategic locations. Many of his colleagues, meaning his rivals, interpreted his decision not to deploy his troops to the streets as insubordination.”
During a meeting between senior commanders of the armed forces and members of the Supreme National Security Council, Colonial Ahmadian had opposed the plan to crack down on the protesters and reportedly left the meeting in a show of protest.
Colonel Ahmadian’s opposition to the use of military units to crush protests is significant, given that he is a patriotic soldier with impeccable revolutionary credentials.
In April 2019, when he was the deputy commander of the Army Ground Forces’ Center for Science and Technology in Shiraz, Colonel Ahmadian condemned the U.S. for designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a terrorist organization.
In an interview with the Tehran-based International Qoran News Agency (IQNA) on April 10, 2019, Ahmadian said: “The move is a proof that the IRGC has fulfilled its duty to protect our country and the revolution, and as a result angered our enemies.”
“In the past 40 years, the enemy has hatched several plots against the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution, but we have triumphed and will continue to be victorious with the grace of God,” Ahmadian declared. “Enemy has tried to cause division in the military and pit the Army and the IRGC against each other. The Army and the IRGC are not separate. We are all soldiers.”
Colonel Ahmadian has impressive military credentials and extensive combat experience. His exemplary service, achievements, and popularity among his troops are legendary. He is well-liked by the troops under his command and widely respected by the Army’s rank and file and senior military officers.
Ahmadian’s problems with the senior military commanders started after he refused to send his troops to the streets to crack down on protesters in November 2019.
In an interview with the website of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office in March 2021, the commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Ground Forces (NEZAJA), Brigadier General Kiumars Heydari, admitted that his forces had taken part in crushing the protests two years earlier.
Another informed source told Kayhan Life: “NOHED units undergo urban antiriot and crowd control training. Colonel Ahmadian believed that the Green Berets units should not be used to control unarmed civilians.”
“Ahmadian never intended to oppose the state, but after the events of November 2019, he and many others realized the truth,” the source noted. “The military wants an indoctrinated force, particularly special units with combat capabilities. Ahmadian did not want to give the clerics in the Army’s ground forces any room in the 65th Brigade to maneuver. He preferred to combine military and combat training with nationalism instead of Islamic propaganda and [devotion to] Velayat.”
“He [Ahmadian] argued that the military should not be run like the IRGC and the Basij Forces,” the source explained. “However, he never criticized the state until he became the commander of NOHED. If the state had any reservations about Colonel Ahmadian, it would have never appointed him as the commander of Iran’s most formidable combat force.”
“When [Brigadier General] Ahmad Reza Pourdastan was the commander of the Army Ground Forces, and the IRGC Qods Force [commanded by the late Lieutenant-General Ghasem Soleimani] ran into trouble in  in Deir Ez-Zur [eastern Syria], the army asked several Green Berets volunteers to be deployed to Syria,” the source said. “There were more volunteers than they needed, which delighted the top brass.”
“Before the appointment of Holako Ahmadian, others who were part of the 65th Brigade, including [Brigadier General] Nozar Nemati and [Brigadier General] Cyrus Amanollahi, had closer ties with the former and current commander of the Army Ground Forces, Pourdastan and Kiumars Heydari, and, therefore, were more flexible” the source explained. “Holako Ahmadian is an intelligent commander. He knows when and how to speak to avoid getting into trouble. He likes people. Like some of his colleagues, he chooses people over associating with charlatans.”
“Many people changed after the November 2019 protests. That is when his [Ahmadian’s] problems started.” the source said. “Putting pressure on someone from above is not that difficult. He knew the situation. His early retirement was not the direct result of the November 2019 protests. They harassed him for two years until he quit.”
“After the [conviction] of [Ammar Salehi] the son of the former commander of the armed forces [Major General Attaollah] Salehi on corruption charges [in March 2020], Many people in the Army realized that some senior officials are lining their pockets,” the source added. “Even some of the staunch devotees of the Velayat had their doubts. Ahmadian had done nothing or expressed no opposition to alarm the state. He is very intelligent. Even if he has problems with the state, the conditions are not such that he can openly express his views.”