Election in Iran
 

The candidates

 

On 20 May 2009, the Guardian Council officially announced a list of approved candidates, while rejecting a number of registered nominees.

Conservatives:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran

Mohsen Rezaee, former Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Reformists:

Mehdi Karroubi, former Speaker of the Majlis

Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the last Prime Minister of Iran (Campaign article)

 

The two leading reformist candidates in the 2009 presidential election were Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Karroubi and the National Trust Party support the idea of dialogue with the United States aiming at resolving the long standing conflicts. Early after the election of Barack Obama as US president, Karroubi stated that the changes from the United States have been positive. ”An important step has been taken.... I will take steps forward in this relation in accordance with national interests and national pride”, he said. Karroubi has been a critic of President Ahmadinejad's foreign policy and his famous remarks about Holocaust. Karroubi said: ”The Holocaust is an event, which did take place.” He believes that the president’s remarks costs Iran a great deal.

 

Mousavi is married to Zahra Rahnavard, a former chancellor of Alzahra University and political advisor to Iran’s former President Mohammad Khatami. Mousavi has directly addressed activating foreign policy to boost national interest by reducing tensions with other nations. This includes negotiating with US President Barack Obama if ”his actions are in keeping with his words.” His other notable assertions were when he called Ahmadinejad’s approach to the issue of Holocaust a wrong one. Mousavi condemned the killing of Jews in the Holocaust, a much different stance than Ahmadinejad.

 

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khamenei (born 17 July 1939), also known as Ali Khamenei, is an Iranian politician and cleric. He has been Supreme Leader of Iran since 1989 and before that was president of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He has been described as one of only three people having ”defining influences” on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

Mousavi denied the claims that his candidacy is per request of Supreme Leader Khamenei, and asserted he had not sought Khamenei’s approval beforehand. Some had claimed that his candidacy was a means to stop the other reformist hopeful, former President Mohammad Khatami, from proceeding with his candidacy. On March 16, 2009, the former Iranian President Khatami withdrew from the election race in support of his long-time friend and adviser, former Prime Minister of Iran, Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

 

Seyed Mohammad Khatami (born September 29, 1943) is an Iranian scholar and politician. He served as the fifth President of Iran from August 2, 1997 to August 3, 2005. He also served as Iran’s Minister of Culture in both the 1980s and 1990s. Khatami attracted global attention during his first election to the presidency when, as ”a little known cleric, he captured almost 70 % of the vote.” Khatami had run on a platform of liberalization and reform. During his two terms as president, Khatami advocated freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, constructive diplomatic relations with other states including those in the European Union and Asia, and an economic policy that supported a free market and foreign investment.

 

The election of reformist president Khatami brought hopes for a thawing of relations. In January 1998 Khatami called for a ”dialogue of civilizations” with the US in a CNN interview, contrasting Huntington's famous essay Clash of Civilizations. In the interview, Khatami invoked Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America to explain the similarities between American and Iranian quests for freedom. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright answered with conciliatory words and there followed an exchange of wrestling teams, freer travel to and from the United States, and an end to the American embargo of two Iranian export items: carpets and pistachios. Relations did not improve further, as Iran’s conservatives opposed them in principle and the US preconditions for discussions included changes in Iranian policy on Israel, nuclear energy, and support for terrorism.

 

Many believe Rafsanjani to be the richest man in Iran due to his deep involvement in various Iranian industries, including the oil industry, as well as his ownership of many properties throughout the country. There have also been allegations that some of his wealth has come from arms deals made after the Revolution. His wealth has earned him the nickname of Akbar Shah in Iran. The American business magazine Forbes has included Rafsanjani in their list of richest people in the world. In 2003 Forbes described Rafsanjani as the real power behind the Iranian government, and asserted that he ”has more or less run the Islamic Republic for the past 24 years.”

 

Although he has been a member of the pragmatic-conservative Combatant Clergy Association, he has a close bond to the reformist Kargozaran party. He has been seen as flip-flopping between conservative and reformist camps since the election of Mohammad Khatami, supporting reformers in that election, but going back to the conservative camp in the 2000 parliamentary elections as a result of the reformist party severely criticizing and refusing to accept him as their candidate. Reformists including Akbar Ganji accused him of involvement in murdering dissidents and writers during his presidency. In the end the major differences between the Kargozaran and the reformists party weakened both and eventually resulted in their loss at the presidential elections in 2005. However Rafsanjani has regained close ties with the reformers since he lost the 2005 presidential elections to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 

After his loss at the presidential elections in 2005, a growing tension between him and President Ahmadinejad arose. Rafsanjani has criticized President Ahmadinejad’s administration several times for conducting a purge of government officials, slow move towards privatization and recently hostile foreign policy in particular the atomic energy policy. In return Ahmadinejad has fought back that Rafsanjani failed to differentiate privatization with the corrupt takeover of government-owned companies and of foreign policies which led to sanctions against Iran in 1995 and 1996. He also implicitly denounced Rafsanjani and his followers by calling those who criticize his nuclear program as ”traitors”. After the disputed results of the June 2009 Iranian presidential election were certified by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Rafsanjani was reported to have called a meeting of the Assembly of Experts.

 

Rafsanjani advocated a free market economy. With the state’s coffers full, Rafsanjani pursued an economic liberalisation policy. Rafsanjani’s support for a deal with America over Iran’s nuclear programme and his free-market economic policies contrasted with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies, who advocate showing the West no quarter while pursuing a course of budget-busting state handouts in the face of repeated warnings of future economic problems. Rafsanjani is reportedly associated with the Iranian business class and is hostile to Ahmandinejad and the more ideological tendency in the Islamic Republic.

 

Rafsanjani voiced support to Prince Abdullah’s peace initiative and to ”everything the Palestinians agree to.” He was also clear that Iran’s international interests must take precedence over those of Iranian allies in Syria and Lebanon.

 

During last months before the election many asked him to withdraw in the support of Mohammad Khatami or later Mir-Hossein Mousavi. He refused and later both Mousavi and Karroubi stated that a union among reformists will only help Ahamadinejad to be reelected since according to them reformists need a massive turn out in order to win and more candidates are helpful to this cause.

 

The relatively unknown Ahmadinejad surprised everyone with his victory four years ago, and he has enjoyed Khamenei’s support throughout his presidency. Ahmadinejad, as a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and the armed forces’ Revolutionary Guard, is the representative of the hard right within the clergy and Iran's national security apparatus.

 

Relatively unknown when he ran as a candidate in the 2005 elections, he was able, thanks to what were likely stolen votes, to get into a runoff election. His opponent was another conservative, the former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. By campaigning as a populist, Ahmadinejad handily defeated Rafsanjani, one of the richest men in Iran and the representative of big capital.

 

Upon taking office, Ahmadinejad aimed to roll back the liberal policies of the previous administration of reformer Mahmoud Khatami. In his eight years in office, Khatami had taken a more liberal stance on social issues in order to cultivate the educated middle class, while forging economic ties with Western European capital. Khatami failed to stand up to hard-liners' attacks on liberal students and the media, and had little to offer the working class or the poor. Ahmadinejad could thus benefit from the cynicism of the middle class intelligentsia toward the reformers, while promising a better day for the working-class majority.

 

Once in office, Ahmadinejad tapped into record-high state oil revenues in an attempt to consolidate his political base. Handouts to the poor, bonuses to government employees and local development projects were central to his economic policy. And by boosting consumption of workers and the poor, this state spending boosted in the income of the bazaar--the small business interests that are the backbone of the Iranian hard right.

 

Other factions in the Iranian ruling class viewed these policies with growing alarm. In the view of figures like Rafsanjani, spending on scattershot social programs and Latin American-style clientelism was robbing the economy of money needed for investment - in particular to modernize the oil and gas industry. Many were leery of Ahmadinejad’s confrontational approach to the West over Iran’s nuclear program, arguing that it wasn’t worth the cost of sanctions on Iran’s economy.

 

Meanwhile, the educated middle class and professionals increasingly chafed at Ahmadinejad’s heavy-handed attempts to re-impose the social norms of the Islamist revolution. Furthermore, the working class saw its income constantly eroded by inflation, and efforts to organize unions were met with harsh repression under Ahmadinejad. The president even attempted to roll back price subsidies for staple goods for the poor, and corruption, long a feature of Iranian government, continued. For these reasons, Mousavi and his supporters saw an opportunity to unseat Ahmadinejad.

 

Ahmadinejad has moved to strengthen relations with Russia, setting up an office expressly dedicated to the purpose in October 2005. He has worked with Vladimir Putin on the nuclear issue, and both Putin and Ahmadinejad have expressed a desire for more mutual cooperation on issues involving the Caspian Sea. More recently, Iran has been increasingly pushed into an alliance with Moscow due to the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program. By late December 2007, Russia began to deliver enriched batches of nuclear fuel to Iran as a way of persuading Iran to end self-enrichment.

 

Ahmadinejad has sought to develop ties with other world leaders that are also opposed to US foreign policy and influence like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Venezuela voted in favor of Iran’s nuclear program before the United Nations, and both governments have sought to develop more bilateral trade. As of 2006, the ties between the two countries are strategic rather than economic; Venezuela is still not one of Iran's major trading partners.

 

Iran-Israel relations have shifted from close ties between Israel and Iran during the era of the Pahlavi dynasty to hostility since the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Iran has severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel, and refers to it as the ”Zionist entity ” or the ”Zionist regime.”

 

The War has already Started

 

During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran and the US have had the most high-profile contact in almost 30 years. Iran and the US froze diplomatic relations in 1980 and had no direct diplomatic contact until May 2007. On 8 May 2006, Ahmadinejad sent a personal letter to then-President Bush to propose ”new ways” to end Iran’s nuclear dispute. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley both reviewed the letter and dismissed it as a negotiating ploy and publicity stunt that did not address US concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. A few days later at a meeting in Jakarta, Ahmadinejad said, ”the letter was an invitation to monotheism and justice, which are common to all divine prophets.”

 

The Bush administration considered Iran to be the world’s leading state supporter of terrorism, a claim that Iran and Ahmadinejad have denied. On November 2006, Ahmadinejad wrote an open letter to the American people, representing some of his anxieties and concerns. He stated that there is an urgency to have a dialog because of the activities of the US administration in the Middle East, and that the US is concealing the truth about current realities.

 

On January 29, 2002 US President George W. Bush gave his Axis of evil speech, describing Iran, along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, as an axis of evil and warning that the proliferation of long-range missiles developed by these countries was of great danger to the US and that it constituted terrorism. The speech caused outrage in Iran and was condemned by reformists and conservatives alike.

 

Since 2003 the US has been flying unmanned aerial vehicles, launched from Iraq, over Iran to obtain intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, reportedly providing little new information. The Iranian government has formally protested the incursions as illegal.

 

In January 2006, James Risen, a New York Times reporter, alleged in his book State of War that the CIA carried out a Clinton approved operation in 2000 (Operation Merlin) intended to delay Iran's nuclear energy program by feeding it flawed blueprints missing key components - which backfired and may actually have aided Iran, as the flaw was likely detected and corrected by a former Soviet nuclear scientist who headed the operation to make the delivery.

 

Several claims have been made that the US has violated Iranian territorial sovereignty since 2003, including the flying of drones, sending US soldiers into Iranian territory, and the use of former or current members of the Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK or MKO) and the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK) to carry out provocations such as bombings on Iranian territory in order to provoke pre-existing ethnic tensions.

 

Since 2003 the US has been flying unmanned aerial vehicles, launched from Iraq, over Iran to obtain intelligence on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, reportedly providing little new information. The Iranian government has formally protested the incursions as illegal. A US RQ-7 Shadow and a Hermes UAV have crashed in Iran. In June 2005, Scott Ritter, former UN weapons of mass destruction inspector in Iraq, 1991–1998, claimed that US attacks on Iran had already begun, including US overflights of Iran using pilotless drones. Scott Ritter claimed in April 2005 that the Pentagon was told in June 2005 to be prepared to launch a massive aerial attack against Iran in order to destroy the Iranian nuclear program. He claimed in June 2005 that the US military was preparing a ”massive military presence” in Azerbaijan that would foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran. He also claimed that the US attack on Iran had ”already begun.”

 

An American journalist, Seymour Hersh, has also stated that the US has also been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt for underground [nuclear weapons development] installations. Seymour Hersh claimed in January 2005 that US Central Command had been asked to revise the military’s war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran and that the ”hawks” in the US government believed the EU3 negotiations would not succeed, and the Administration will act after this became clear. A former high-level intelligence official told him ”It’s not if we’re going to do anything against Iran. They’re doing it.”

 

In September 2005, US State Department allegedly refused to issue visas for Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Mousa Qorbani, and a group of senior Iranian officials to travel to US to participate in an International parliamentary meeting held by the UN According to UN rules, US has to grant visas to the senior officials from any UN member states, irrespective of their political views, to take part in UN meetings.

 

In his article published March 27, 2006, Joseph Cirincione, director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, claimed that ”some senior officials have already made up their minds: They want to hit Iran.” and that there ”may be a coordinated campaign to prepare for a military strike on Iran.” Professor at the University of San Francisco and Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus Project, Stephen Zunes, also claims that a military attack on Iran is being planned. President George W. Bush insisted on August 31, 2006 that ”there must be consequences” for Iran’s defiance of demands that it stop enriching uranium. He said "the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran.”

 

In early April 2007, Michael T. Klare claimed that President Bush had already taken the decision to attack Iran. He said that references to Iran by US president George W. Bush in major televised speeches on January 10, January 23 and February 14, 2007 establish that President Bush ”has already decided an attack is his only option and the rest is a charade he must go through to satisfy his European allies.” Klare claims that in these speeches in particular, President Bush has developed a casus belli in order to prepare public opinion for an attack, focused on three reasons: claims that Iran supports attacks on US troops in Iraq, claims that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and claims that Iran could become a dominant power in the region and destabilise pro-US governments in Israel, Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and thereby endanger oil supplies.

 

In March 2005. the US revised its doctrine on when to use nuclear weapons to include preemptive or possibly preventive use on non-nuclear states. In August 2005, Philip Giraldi, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, claimed that US Vice President Dick Cheney had instructed STRATCOM to prepare a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States... [including] a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons... not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. The reason cited for the attack to use mini-nukes is that the targets are hardened or are deep underground and would not be destroyed by non-nuclear warheads. Claims that the US plans to use nuclear weapons in an attack on Iran have also been made in 2005 and 2006 by Jorge Hirsch, in January 2006 by Michel Chossudovsky, and by the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran and in April 2006 by Seymour M. Hersh.

 

On April 18, 2006, on C-SPAN, in response to a journalist’s questioning, ”Sir, when you talk about Iran, and you talk about, how you have to have diplomatic efforts, you often say all options are on the table. Does that include, the possibility of a nuclear strike, is that something that your administration has plans about?”, US president George W. Bush replied ”All options are on the table.”

 

From 2003 to early 2006, tensions between the US and Iran have successively mounted even while International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of sensitive nuclear industry sites in Iran have continued, in line with an Additional Protocol to the NPT which Iran voluntarily adhered to. Since 2003, the United States has alleged that Iran has a program to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity. In June 2005, the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed ElBaradei should either toughen his stance on Iran or fail to be chosen for a third term as IAEA head.

 

Escalating tensions between the United States and Iran have been attributed to the evolving state of energy geopolitics, and the future of energy security for much of the Western world. This includes ultimate control over the Straits of Hormuz, through which tankers ferry close to 40 percent of the world's daily oil needs.

 

An armed confrontation between the United States and Iran, and an Israeli entry into such a conflict, may embroil the entire region in a state of war, possibly leading to new nation-states carved along ethno-religious lines. This may ensure stable oil supplies in the future and prevent a hyperextension of the ongoing ethno-religious strife in Iraq.

 

Also, Iran has announced plans to create a new International Oil futures exchange, possibly called the Iranian Oil Bourse, trading oil priced in euros and possibly other currencies, rather than dollars, as used by other oil markets. Some fear that this would have significant negative impact on the strength of the US Dollar on international currency markets. The opening of the exchange had been planned for March 20, 2006, but has been delayed.

 

In political speeches leading up to and following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush has claimed that his administration's goal in the invasion was to bring democracy to countries in the Middle East and to oppose islamofascism.The anti-Iraq War World Tribunal on Iraq and others have doubted the sincerity of this motive, pointing to a List of killed, threatened or kidnapped Iraqi academics systematic campaign against academia in Iraq during the US occupation of Iraq. Robert Dreyfuss, author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, claims that the US actions in the region have in fact supported, and are continuing to support, ”islamofascism” rather than oppose it.

 

Paul Pillar, former CIA official who led the preparation of all National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on Iran from 2000 to 2005 in his role as national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, told the InterPress Service that all of the NIEs on Iran during that period ”addressed the Iranian fears of US attack explicitly and related their desire for nuclear weapons to those fears” and stated ”Iranian perceptions of threat, especially from the United States and Israel, were not the only factor, but were in our judgment part of what drove whatever effort they were making to build nuclear weapons.”

 

Another former CIA official, Ellen Laipson, said that ”the Iranian fear of an attack by the United States has long been ”a standard element” in NIEs on Iran.” In 2005, the United States passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which appropriated millions of dollars for human rights NGOs working in that country. Several politicians in both countries have claimed the Act is a ”stepping stone to war,” although the Act contains a specific prohibition on the use of force towards Iran.

 

Within the United States, the now-unpopular war in Iraq has taken a toll on the willingness of the American public to accept another war. A CBS poll taken in June 2006 showed that only 21 percent of Americans supported military action against Iran. Fifty-five percent favored diplomacy and 19 percent said Iran was not a threat to the United States.

 

Some groups have begun organizing sentiment in opposition to an attack on Iran. This pressure to rule out a military attack on Iran may have an impact on the actions that the United States government will be willing to take with regard to Iran.

 

In May 2007, Iran's top diplomat Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki declared that Iran is "ready to talk" to the United States. There is significant work to be done before the United States will drop a 28 year old freeze on diplomatic relations, but the comments mark the furthest diplomatic advance made by Iran in recent memory.

 

A Reuters/Zogby opinion poll taken in the US and published on September 28, 2006 found 70 percent opposed any attack on Iran, 9 percent in favor of ”air strikes on selected military targets,” and 26 percent supporting the use of ground forces. Opposition to Israeli intervention weighed in at 47 (to 42) percent. Although anti-American billboards can be found in Iran and the slogan ”death to America” is heard in Friday prayers, some have noted that Iran ”just might” have the ”least anti-American populace in the Muslim world.”

 

In October 2008, President Ahmadinejad expressed his happiness of 2008 global economic crisis and what he called ”collapse of liberalism.” He said the West has been driven to deadend and that Iran was proud ”to put an end to liberal economy.” Ahmadinejad used a September 2008 speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations to assert the American empire is soon going to end without specifying how. ”The American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road, and its next rulers must limit their interference to their own borders,” Ahmadinejad said.

 

On November 6, 2008 (one day after the 2008 US Presidential Election ), President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated Barack Obama, the newly elected President of the United States, and said that he "Welcomes basic and fair changes in US policies and conducts, I hope you will prefer real public interests and justice to the never-ending demands of a selfish minority and seize the opportunity to serve people so that you will be remembered with high esteem". It is the first congratulatory message to a new elected President of the United States by an Iranian President since the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis.

 

US military operations inside Iran

2006 Sanctions against Iranian institutions

Iran and Iraq

2007 US raids Iran Consulate General

2007 Iran willing to improve relations with U.S

Claims of arms smuggling against Iran

Possible IRGC terrorist designation by the United States

Release of detained Iranian diplomats and citizens

2008 Naval dispute

2008 meeting in Baghdad

2008 House proposes naval blockade

2008 US initiates covert action against Iran via CIA, DIA and Special Forces

2008 US-Iran nuclear negotiations depend on perception of respect

2008 US rejected Israeli plea to attack Iran

 

The panel of US 20 experts, who include academics and former US ambassadors, warned against a military attack on Iran and called for unconditional negotiations, saying it was the only viable option to break ”a cycle of threats and defiance.” The panel includes former US special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins, former US ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering, and a host of Middle East scholars from US universities. They called on the United States to replace calls for regime change with a long-term strategy, allow Iran a ”place at the table” in shaping the future of Iraq and Afghanistan, offer security assurances in the nuclear talks and re-energize the Arab-Israeli peace process.

 

In his inaugural speech, President Obama said: To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

 

Perhaps in response, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech with a list of grievances, including the 1953 coup, support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war, and the Iran Air Flight 655 incident. In March 2009, an official delegation of Hollywood actors and filmmakers met with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran as a symbol of Obama-era thaw in US-Iran relations, but Javad Shamghadri, the Arts Adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rejected it and said "Representatives of Iran’s film industry should only have an official meeting with representatives of the academy and Hollywood if they apologize for the insults and accusations against the Iranian nation during the past 30 years.”

 

On March 19 2009, the beginning of the festival of Nowruz, Obama spoke directly to the Iranian people in a video saying "The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right - but it comes with real responsibilities.”

 

Has the Election been stolen?

 

Thousands of Mousavi’s supporters have as a result taken to the streets, Iran is on a knife edge - tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across the country this weekend and are clashing with police in the capital city of Tehran in outrage at ”the mounting evidence” that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government may have massively rigged and stolen Thursday’s election.

 

With two-thirds of the votes counted, the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official news agency, announced that incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election with 66 % of the votes cast, and that Mir-Hossein Mousavi had received 33 % of the votes cast. The European Union and several western countries expressed concern over alleged irregularities during the vote, and some analysts and journalists from United States and United Kingdom based media voiced doubts about the authenticity of the results.

 

The election was held on June 12, 2009. Early results showed Ahmadinejad winning by a landslide, though Mousavi and many others refuse to believe it, suggesting that the Interior Minister, Sadegh Mahsouli, an ally of Ahmadinejad, interfered with the election and distorted the votes to keep Ahmadinejad in power. Mousavi has claimed victory, and called for his supporters to celebrate it. Electoral results must be confirmed by the Guardian Council, a panel of senior Islamic clergymen led by Ali Khamenei.

 

Mousavi issued a statement saying, ”I’m warning that I won’t surrender to this charade,” and he urged his backers to fight the decision as well as to avoid committing acts of violence. In a written statement released through his website, Mousavi called the entire election a “sleight of hand” and promised to unveil the secrets that led to his defeat. He has promised he won’t surrender to what he called a fraudulent result that amounted to treason. “It is our duty to defend people’s votes. There is no turning back,” Mousavi said, alleging widespread irregularities even before the count began. Protests, in favour of Mousavi and against the alleged fraud, broke out in Tehran.

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, labeling his victory as a ”divine assessment.” Mousavi lodged an official appeal against the result to the Guardian Council on 14 June. On 15 June, Khamenei announced there would be an investigation into vote-rigging claims, which would take seven to ten days.

 

Violence erupted in Tehran Saturday after officals announced election victory for incumbent President Ahmadinejad. Prompting supporters of challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi to protest after he had proclaimed a landslide win earlier on Friday. Significantly, Mousawi’s claim came several hours before polling booths had even closed. So how did he know he had secured more than fifty per cent of the vote, as he claimed? Or could it be that he was playing out his part in a hidden agenda?

 

The elections in Iran are pretty much class based with the poor, rural and conservative on Ahmadinejad’s side and the middle class, more liberal, affluent city folks, in population numbers still a minority, on the ”reformer” side. While the big demonstrations for Mousavi during the campaign were emphasized in the ”western” media, the even bigger demonstrations for Ahmadinejad were less reported on.

 

Khamenei, who has praised the vote and urged support for Ahmadinejad, is now urging Mousavi and his followers to seek redress through legal means rather than through rioting in the streets. President Ahmadinejad, who was scheduled to visit Russia has reportedly delayed the trip given the unrest in Iran, and has likened the violence to the clashes often seen after a major soccer match, and urged the protesters to accept the results.

 

If you are looking at the news, you may note that there is rioting all over Iran now, especially in Tehran, Shiraz and some other places. Now a crackdown by militias and security forces has begun - the regime is making mass arrests and heavily controlling media and text-messaging. They hope to hold fast, to ride out the storm and secure domestic and international acceptance of the result. The CIA/Mossad duo can be proud of the pain and confusion they’ve caused in Iran and worldwide.

 

Iran was in uncharted political territory following mass protests against what was almost certainly a rigged presidential election victory for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The long-festering divisions in the Iranian ruling class have become wide-open splits as the result of mass support for the reformist presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Mousavi.

 

A vicious police crackdown on demonstrations in the capital city of Tehran was accompanied by the arrest of more than 130 prominent Mousavi supporters--including Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of former President Mahmoud Khatami, a former speaker of the parliament, and the son-in-law of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a leader of the 1979 Islamist revolution.

 

Other figures rounded up by police include Mostafa Tajzadeh, a minister of the interior under Khatami; Behzad Nabavi, a former minister of industry; and Mohsen Mirdamadi, organizer of the 1979 occupation of the U.S. Embassy.

 

In the past, such crackdowns were aimed mostly at liberal newspaper editors, human rights activists and labor union organizers. Now major politicians are getting the same treatment from Ahmadinejad, who the street protesters call a dictator and liken to the former Shah of Iran, the U.S.-backed strongman who was toppled in 1979.

 

This struggle at the top of Iranian society may lead to more rebellion from below. Unlike previous elections, where even victims of election fraud swallowed the results, Mousavi has refused to do so. Instead, he called on his supporters to remain on the streets, and formally requested that the authorities grant permission to hold further protests.

 

While it’s possible that the president’s support among the poor, particularly in rural areas, could have made him the top vote getter among five rivals, it’s highly unlikely that he could have captured an outright majority to avoid a second-round election between the top two candidates.

 

And by hardening the divisions in the Iranian ruling class, the election fraud has ushered in a new era in Iranian politics, in which rival groupings may finally crystallize into something like permanent political parties--a development that has until now been blocked by the Shia Islamist clerical establishment at the core of Iranian politics.

 

Israel

 

The compelling international issues today, those which will shape the future, are most importantly the Middle and Far East-Israel, Iraq, China, North Korea. Preeminent is Israel, for it is the Israel lobby (sometimes called the Israel firsters), broadly defined, which is setting the entire, immediate, agenda. Traditional lobbying of Congress is still dominated by the American-lsrael Political Action Committee, but its power base today is the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, chaired by Richard Perle, a Reagan Defense Department veteran.

 

Perle was a co-founder of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which maintains that there is no difference between Israel’s national security interests and America’s. It calls for regime change not just in Iraq, but in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. Total war, JINSA co-founder and pundit Michael Ledeen, another Iran-Contra figure, calls it. Two other JINSA board members are on the policy board, Adm. David Jeremiah and former CIA Director James Woolsey.

 

Before 1980, the Israel lobby functioned mostly on the fringe, through independently funded, extremely conservative organizations like the Committee on the Present Danger, JINSA, the Center for Security Policy, the Project for a New Century and the American-lsrael Political Action Committee. Some were based at mainstream academic institutions. Some were closely tied to religious organizations, ironically both Zionist and fundamentalist Christian.


They asserted that the defense of Israel and the consequent and necessary control of the Middle East rests solely on the virtually unquestioning support of Israel’s every policy-including the settlements in the occupied territories, collective punishment, preemptive strikes and the ultimate transfer of all Palestinians out of what once was Palestine- and that such support should be the fundamental pillars of US foreign policy. Their justifications were as diverse as their constituents, but all saw Israel as the proxy guarantor of US domination over the Middle East and its oil and water resources, perfectly designed to keep Arab nationalist aspirations at bay and in disarray. Christian fundamentalists viewed Israel as the key battleground for the Second Coming, Armageddon, the Day of Judgment.

 

Mirhoseyn Mousavi was the guy handpicked by US imperialism and International Zionism to overthrow Ahmadinejad, who has gotten the ire of the West, since his regime and Syria are the last two Arab or Islamic regimes who are standing up to Zionism. Ahmadinejad is a wily politician, skilled at exploiting nationalist feeling. He has the all-important support of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the zealous cohorts of the religious police and the Revolutionary Guards. And he has exploited the nuclear issue and fanned the hostility of Israel and the West to portray Iran as a country still threatened by the “Great Satan”.

 

Except for Iran, Syria, Hamas-Gaza and Hezbollah, all of the rest of the Arab and Islamic World has folded in the face of the Zionist onslaught or been bought off by US imperialism. Saddam was another rejectionist, but the Zionist traitor neoconservatives engineered an illegal invasion to bring him down. Ghaddafi was threatened with invasion by the same folks, and promptly folded. The Palestinians now effectively have no outside support. Egypt collaborates with Zionism to police the Gaza border and assists in the starvation and deprivation of the Gazans. Egyptian police prevent guns from flowing to the Gazans for their noble resistance to the Zionist enemy. Jordan was captured long ago. Elections are not allowed in Jordan, because the 65 % Palestinian population would elect a radical anti-Zionist regime. Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco are bought off and sold to the US.

 

In Arabia, there are no democracies. All of the regimes are sold out to the US. There are US military bases in all nations, for the sole reason of policing the Arabian peoples. The effect is that the Arabian peoples are under a dictatorship of US military bases combined with local satraps and Quislings. It’s true the Saudis allow fighters to go to Arab lands, but only to Iraq to fight the Shia that they hate so much. Lebanon has been under imperialist-Zionist assault for years now. With the election of a French Jew to head the French state, France is now firmly in the Zionist camp. This, along with a colonial attachment to the Lebanese fake state that never died, explains why France has gone along with imperialism-Zionism in Lebanon.

 

The Iranian people are much more conservative than the photos of the chic young upper middle classes of Tehran would have you believe. A recent poll showed that only 15 % of Iranians want the regime to further liberalize social mores in Iran. Much larger numbers thought the clerical social policing was fine, and big numbers even wanted an even more conservative society enforced. Ahmadinejad, the president, is believed to have wide support in the Revolutionary Guard and among Iran's ruling clerics, though neither have given public endorsements in the presidential race.

 

Regime Change

 

The Iranian Directorate or Directorate for Iran is a unit of The Pentagon created in 2006 to deal with intelligence on Iran in the context of diplomatic and military tensions between the US and Iran. Critics compare it with the Office of Special Plans (OSP) which dealt with controversial intelligence reports about Iraq. The acting director of the Iranian Directorate is not publicly known but has been reported to be military officer Ladan Archin by the Asia Times Online. Some of the other members are: former director of the Office of Special Plans, Abram Shulsky, Project for the New American Century member Reuel Marc Gerecht, and Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, John Trigilio. According to the Los Angeles Times the purpose of the Iranian Directorate in the Pentagon is to ”undercut the government in Tehran” together with the Office of Iranian Affairs in the State Department.

 

Since the September 11 attacks, American diplomatic discourse on Iran has changed. In 2002, President Bush labeled Tehran part of the global ”axis of evil” and advocated the need for change, while Congress allocated $20 million to promote democracy in Iran. In 2006, the administration requested an additional $75 million for democracy promotion, all the while insisting that it does not want regime change in Tehran, but rather ”change in regime behavior.” From this amount, $36.1 million was allocated for Voice of America television and Radio Farda broadcasting. The remainder will be spent in Iran and abroad supporting NGOs and human rights organizations such as the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in New Haven, Connecticut.


Some reports indicate that US financial support is in fact aimed at regime change and goes beyond the allocated $75 million. In May, ABC News reported that the CIA had hired Jundallah, a Pakistan-backed Baluchi group, to carry out sabotage operations inside Iran. (Later, ABC reported that President Bush had in fact authorized a covert CIA program against the regime.)


In addition to public and covert funding of Iranian opposition groups, the United States also supports individual dissidents through various means. On June 5, for example, President Bush met privately with two such dissidents during the Democracy and Security International Conference in Prague. These meetings might be seen as a means of granting legitimacy to individual dissidents such as Pahlavi and Amir Abbas Fakhravar (who claimed leadership over Iranian student activists when in Iran).


Fakhravar has an uncertain reputation among Iran-based activists for exaggerating his political power. In 2006, many former and current student activists such as Ahmad Batebi and Nasser Zarafshan publicly refuted Fakhravar’s claims about his background. Batebi, an acclaimed activist, remains in prison. Zarafshan, a lawyer who represented the families of victims killed during the wave of ”serial political murders” in November 1998, and who has himself spent five years in prison, wrote a letter stating that Fakhravar was a known Iranian intelligence asset and that other activists were trying to avoid him.

 

Despite its efforts, Washington has not assured Iranians of its intentions to support democracy. Although the United States seeks to amplify the voice of certain Iranian dissidents and ignite a democratic movement within the country, many Iranians assume that Washington actually aims to create an authoritarian pro-American puppet to supplant the current regime. Activists are concerned about the creation of an Iranian version of Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi. American support for controversial figures such as Fakhravar could send the wrong message to the Iranian people and increase their suspicions.

 

Founded in 2007 with money from the Rockefeller Foundations, the Center for New American Security was ostensibly about developing “strong, pragmatic and principled defence policies” in the 21st century.

 

By September 2008 when the Center for New American Security published a report on how best to deal with Iran two things became apparent. First the the Center for New American Security was a revised version of the now discredited Neocons, who effectively engineered the Iraq invasion. Secondly, while the Neo Conservatives claimed themselves conservatives, the Center for New American Security displayed a liberal facade. That however was no more than window dressing and while the CNAS talked of “principled defence policies”, like the neocons it had its own hidden agenda. So while the neocons ultimate objective was regime change in Iraq, the Center for New American Security was focussed on Iran. And although it wasn’t explicit, the CNAS September 2008 report looked at ways to effectively bring regime change to Iran, by whatever means possible.


“While both Iran and the international community would be better off if Iran plays ball,” the report noted, “game-changing diplomacy is designed to improve prospects for the United States and the international community irrespective of how Iran responds. What exactly “game changing diplomacy” entails is a moot point but it may have been seen in the western press coverage of Ahmadinejad main challenger, Mir Hussein Mousavi. Accordin to Times Online: ”America and its Western allies are also waiting to see whether the nuclear stand-off can be resolved by talks, whether Tehran will continue to export terrorism and threaten its Arab neighbours and Israel and whether Iran's ageing energy infrastructure will be modernised.”

 

The US has prepared the Battlefield. The New Yorker, July 7, 2008 Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. “The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.”

 

The Revolution has Color

 

A senior Revolutionary Guard accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pro-reform opponents on Wednesday of waging a ”velvet revolution” in Iran, at the climax of a bitter presidential election campaign. The comments were a further escalation in a war of words after Ahmadinejad, facing a strong challenge from former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, accused his rivals of using Hitler-style smear tactics and said they could face jail. The campaign has shown up divisions among leading figures in the Islamic Republic, between backers of the hardline incumbent and more moderate advocates of detente with the West, whose supporters have spilled on to the streets for boisterous rallies. Iran often accuses Western powers of seeking to undermine the Islamic state through a ”soft” or ”velvet revolution” with the help of intellectuals and others inside the country.

 

The fact some commentators dubbed Mousavi’s challenge the “Green Revolution” should have also rung alarm bells. These colour coded “revolutions” have something about them that could easily have been dreamt up in a political think-tank. Like an advertising product logo, they have wide appeal and are easily recognisable. A quality that crucially, has the power to immediately nuetralise any critical scrutiny. Again, one is reminded of early Western media coverage of the Rose and Orange Revolutions.

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard chief has warned reformists in the country against seeking what he called a ”velvet revolution.” ”There are many indications that some extremist groups, have designed a colourful revolution ... using a specific colour for the first time in an election,” the statement said. Mousavi’s supporters, dressed in his green campaign colour, have taken to the streets of Tehran for nightly rallies, waving flags and banners and shouting anti-Ahmadinejad slogans.” Color revolutions is a term used to describe related movements that developed in post-communist societies in Central and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia in the early 2000s. The Rose_Revolution in Georgia was sponsored by the US government who started flooding Georgia with weapons, and ”independent contractors” soon after Sakashvilli took office.

 

Beyond challenging Ahmadinejad however, the reformist Mousavi is also a painter and architect and a former prime minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989. So he has the qualities to bring the sort of reforms promised by Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and Georgia’s Rose Revolution. In fact the Western mainstream media’s take on the reformist candidate was reminiscent of early coverage of the Orange and Rose Revolution, which both involved the support of financial oligarch George Soros and neither delivered what they initially promised. Ukraine’s President Yushchenko failed to meet popular aspirations and brought years of political instability though the country’s elite remained untouched. While Georgia’s Rose revolution ultimately resulted in war with Russia and humilating defeat.

 

Many analysts believe the Orange Revolution was built on a pattern first developed in the ousting of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia four years earlier, and continuing with the Rose Revolution in Georgia. Each of these victories, though apparently spontaneous, was the result of extensive grassroots campaigning and coalition-building among the opposition. Each included election victories followed up by public demonstrations, after attempts by the incumbent to hold onto power through electoral fraud.

 

Each of these social movements included extensive work by student activists. The most famous of these was Otpor, the youth movement that helped bring in Vojislav Koštunica. In Georgia the movement was called Kmara. In Ukraine the movement has worked under the succinct slogan Pora - It’s Time.

 

The Orange Revolution, which followed the disputed November 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, is said to have been partly inspired by the Georgian Rose Revolution. Georgian flags were seen being waved by supporters of Viktor Yushchenko, who held up a rose while greeting the crowds. The chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, Givi Targamadze, former member of the Georgian Liberty Institute, as well as some members of Kmara, was consulted by Ukrainian opposition leaders on techniques of nonviolent struggle. Later he also advised leaders of the Kyrgyz opposition during the 2005 Tulip Revolution. Georgian rock bands Zumba, Soft Eject and Green Room, which earlier had supported the Rose Revolution, organized a solidarity concert in central Kiev to support Yushchenko’s cause in November 2004.

 

Activists in each of these movements were funded and trained in tactics of political organization and nonviolent resistance by a coalition of Western pollsters and professional consultants funded by a range of Western government and non-government agencies. According to The Guardian, these include the US State Department and USAID along with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, the Bilderberg Group, the NGO Freedom House and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. The National Endowment for Democracy, a foundation supported by the US government, has supported non-governmental democracy-building efforts in Ukraine since 1988. Writings on nonviolent struggle by Gene Sharp formed the strategic basis of the student campaigns.


A significant source of funding for the Rose Revolution was the network of foundations and NGOs associated with American billionaire financier George Soros. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies reports the case of a former Georgian parliamentarian who alleges that in the three months prior to the Rose Revolution, ”Soros spent $42 million ramping-up for the overthrow of Shevardnadze.” Speaking in T'blisi in June of 2005, Soros said, ”I’m very pleased and proud of the work of the foundation in preparing Georgian society for what became a Rose Revolution, but the role of the foundation and my personal has been greatly exaggerated.”

 

These institutions were the cradle of democratization, notably the Soros Foundation … all the NGO’s which gravitate around the Soros Foundation undeniably carried the revolution. However, one cannot end one’s analysis with the revolution and one clearly sees that, afterwards, the Soros Foundation and the NGOs were integrated into power. Among the personalities who worked for Soros’ organizations who later assumed positions in the Georgian government are Alexander Lomaia, Secretary of the Georgian Security Council and former Minister of Education and Science, is a former Executive Director of the Open Society Georgia Foundation (Soros Foundation,) overseeing a staff of 50 and a budget of $2,500,000. David Darchiashvili, presently the chairman of the Committee for Eurointegration in the Georgian parliament, is also a former Executive Director of the Open Society Georgia Foundation.

 

Georgia held parliamentary elections on November 2, 2003. At stake were 235 seats in parliament of which 135 would be decided by a nationwide proportional party-list system and 85 were majoritarian contests in which a first past the post winner would be determined in each of Georgia's 85 electoral districts. In addition, a nationwide referendum was held on whether the future parliament should be reduced to 150 members. Voters used a separate ballot for each of these three contests, folding them together and placing them in a single envelope which was then put in the ballot box. This was not a presidential election; that was set to occur in the spring of 2005, at the expiration of President Shevardnadze's second and final term.


Subsequently, the elections were denounced by local and international observers as being grossly rigged in favor of Shevardnadze. Mikheil Saakashvili claimed that he had won the elections (a claim supported by independent exit polls). This was confirmed by an independent parallel vote tabulation (PVT) conducted by the ISFED (International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, local election monitoring group). Saakashvilli and the united opposition accepted ISFED’s PVT as official results, and urged Georgians to demonstrate against Shevardnadze’s government and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against the authorities. The main democratic opposition parties united to demand the ousting of Shevardnadze and the rerun of the elections.


In mid-November, massive anti-governmental demonstrations started in the central streets of Tbilisi, soon involving almost all major cities and towns of Georgia. The Kmara (Enough!) youth organization (a Georgian counterpart of the Serbian Otpor) and several NGOs, like the Liberty Institute, were active in all protest activities. Shevardnadze’s government was backed by Aslan Abashidze, the semi-separatist leader of autonomous Ajara region, who sent thousands of his supporters to hold a pro-governmental counter-demonstration in Tbilisi.

 

Former president Leonid Kravchuk accused Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, of financing Yushchenko's campaign, and provided copies of documents showing money transfers from companies he said are controlled by Berezovsky to companies controlled by Yuschenko's official backers. Berezovsky has confirmed that he met Yushchenko's representatives in London before the election, and that the money was transferred from his companies, but he refused to confirm or deny that the companies that received the money were used in Yushchenko’s campaign. Financing of election campaigns by foreign citizens is illegal in Ukraine. According to BBC’s The Russian Godfathers, Berezovsky poured millions of dollars into sustaining the spontaneous demonstrations and was in daily contact with the key opposition leaders.

 

On the other hand, Russia’s involvement in the election was more direct and heavily on the side of Prime Minister Yanukovych. The extent of this involvement is still contested but some facts are indisputable such as multiple meetings between Russian president Vladimir Putin, Kuchma and Yanukovych before and during the elections. Putin repeatedly congratulated Yanukovych while the results were still contested, which was soon to embarrass both parties. Yanukovych received a much more preferential treatment in Russian media, and was surrounded by Russian consultants known to be close to the Kremlin throughout the election cycle. During the protests Russian media portrayed the Ukrainian protesters as irresponsible, led astray by Western agents.


The Pentagon and US intelligence have refined the art of such soft coups to a fine level. RAND planners call it swarming, referring to the swarms of youth, typically linked by SMS and web blogs, who can be mobilized on command to destabilize a target regime.

 

Michael Ledeen & Manucher Ghorbanifar

 

The American neo-conservative Michael Ledeen, the Iranian presidential candidate of chagne, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and the opulent Saudi Arabian jet-setter, Adnan Khashoggi, have in common that they are all good friends and associates of Manucher_Ghorbanifar, who is an Iranian arms merchant, an alleged Mossad double agent, and a key figure in the Iran/Contra Affair, the arms-for-hostages deals between Iran and the Reagan administration. In one or two, at most three, degrees of separation, these people hung out in the same circles and very likely drank to the same toasts.

 

The psychological operations, or psyops apparatus, institutionalized today, which have virtually eliminated public media debate while severely damaging civil and constitutional rights, began in earnest during the Reagan and Bush I administrations. And the forces shaping administration policies and consequently government propaganda, include familiar faces from those years: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Eliot Abrams and Michael Ledeen, among many others.

 

What became known as the IranContra scandal-clandestine US arms sales to Iran, facilitated by Israeli intelligence guidance, with the huge profits used to fund the terrorist war of the contras against the revolutionary government of Nicaragua-was a major part of these operations. Both ends of the operation were ostensibly prohibited by US Iaw and the secret sales to Iraq were not even part of the publicly known equation.

 

Ledeen was involved in the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra scandal. As a consultant of National Security Advisor Robert C. McFarlane, Ledeen vouched for Iranian intermediary Manucher Ghorbanifar. In addition, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the CIA to arrange meetings with high-ranking Iranian officials as well as the much-criticized weapons-for-hostages deal with Iran.

 

Michael Ledeen had been accused of being involved in the forgery which claimed that Saddam Hussein had bought yellowcake in Niger. According to Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris noted in Washington Monthly of September 2004: ”The first meeting occurred in Rome in December, 2001. It included Franklin, Rhode, and another American, the neoconservative writer and operative Michael Ledeen, who organized the meeting. (According to UPI, Ledeen was then working for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith as a consultant.) Also in attendance was Ghorbanifar and a number of other Iranians.

 

In December 2001 Michael Ledeen organized a three-day meeting in Rome, Italy between Manucher Ghorbanifar and Defense Intelligence Agency officials Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode. Also present were two officials from Italy’s SISMI. In addition to a position at the American Enterprise Institute, Ledeen was working as a consultant to then US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who oversaw the Office of Special Plans. The 2001 meeting took place with the approval of then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. The meeting concerned a secret offer from reportedly dissident Iranian officials to provide information relevant to the War on Terrorism and Iran’s relationship with terrorists in Afghanistan.

 

In June 2002, officials of the Department of Defense met with Ghorbanifar and Iranian officials in Paris, France, without approval from the White House or other relevant Executive agencies. It is unclear if the other Iranians were actually MEK members.

 

Larry Franklin, a veteran Defense Intelligence Agency Iran analyst now working in the office of the Pentagon’s number three civilian official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, along with another colleague from Feith’s office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials.

 

The administration’s reluctance to disclose these details seems clear: the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a regime change agenda not approved by the president’s foreign policy principals or even the president himself.

 

In 2005, Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism operations at the CIA and the intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan, when asked by Ian Masters if Ledeen was the source of the forged memo, replied, ”You’d be very close.” However, just moments earlier when asked, ”Do we know who produced those documents?” Cannistraro stated, ”I’d rather not speak about it right now, because I don’t think it’s a proven case.”

 

Former CIA counter-terrorism officer Philip Giraldi, who is Cannistraro’s business partner and a columnist for The American Conservative, a paleoconservative magazine, said in an interview on July 26, 2005 that the forgeries were produced by ”a couple of former CIA officers who are familiar with that part of the world who are associated with a certain well-known neoconservative who has close connections with Italy” and went on to confirm that he was referring to Ledeen. Giraldi added that the ex-CIA officers ”also had some equity interests, shall we say, with the operation. A lot of these people are in consulting positions, and they get various, shall we say, emoluments in overseas accounts, and that kind of thing.”

 

Giraldi more recently stated in The American Conservative: At this point, any American connection to the actual forgeries remains unsubstantiated, though the OSP at a minimum connived to circumvent established procedures to present the information directly to receptive policy makers in the White House. But if the OSP is more deeply involved, Michael Ledeen, who denies any connection with the Niger documents, would have been a logical intermediary in co-ordinating the falsification of the documents and their surfacing, as he was both a Pentagon contractor and was frequently in Italy. He could have easily been assisted by ex-CIA friends from Iran-Contra days, including a former Chief of Station from Rome, who, like Ledeen, was also a consultant for the Pentagon and the Iraqi National Congress. It would have been extremely convenient for the administration, struggling to explain why Iraq was a threat, to be able to produce information from an unimpeachable “foreign intelligence source” to confirm the Iraqi worst-case. The possible forgery of the information by Defense Department employees would explain the viciousness of the attack on Valerie Plame and her husband. Wilson, when he denounced the forgeries in the New York Times in July 2003, turned an issue in which there was little public interest into something much bigger. The investigation continues, but the campaign against this lone detractor suggests that the administration was concerned about something far weightier than his critical op-ed.

 

Regarding regime change in Iraq, in 2002 Ledeen criticized the views of former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, writing: ”He fears that if we attack Iraq ”I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror.” One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists. That’s our mission in the war against terror.” He specifically called for the deposition of Saddam Hussein’s regime by force in 2002.

 

According to Ledeen: ”...we need to create a zone of freedom to which Saddam’s enemies can repair to find safety and normalcy. We have long proclaimed a ”no fly zone” in northern Iraq. We should transform it into a ”no trespassing zone,” help the INC install itself there, and then recognize the INC as the legitimate government of the country. It would immediately become a haven for Saddam's enemies and a staging ground for the democratic revolution. At the same time, we can create a similar zone in the south, where the country’s Shi’ite majority is concentrated. Both would come under the protection of our irresistible air power. These steps should be combined with internal sabotage and an imaginative campaign of psychological destabilization. The CIA wrought havoc on Abu Nidal by playing with his tortured mind, and Saddam's spirit is no more tranquil. Facing outspoken challenges from north and south, coping with daily acts of sabotage against his oil business and his security forces, Saddam may well do what Abu Nidal did: turn his wrath against his own people, and decimate his own protectors. There are many ways to wage war, and many ways to destroy a tyrant. Especially when you have his oppressed people on your side.”

 

”Iran is the mother of Islamic terrorism, and it has worked hand-in-glove with Yasser Arafat and the PLO for 30 years. Therefore the only coherent strategy for the United States is one that defeats the Islamic Republic and the PLO, along with the other terror masters in Riyadh, Damascus, and Baghdad. The talk about peace, and the endless "plans" that emerge from one capital or another, are no more and no less than stalling tactics by those who oppose the president's vision. Peace in this world only follows victory in war.

 

Although Ledeen was in favor of assisting anti-Saddam forces in Iraq short of an invasion, he also believes that Iran should have been the first priority in the war on terror. The New York Times describes his views as ”everything traces back to Tehran.” Ledeen’s phrase, ”faster, please” has become a signature meme in his writings and is often referenced by neoconservative writers advocating a more forceful and broader war on terror. In 1979, Ledeen was one of the first Western writers to argue that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was a ”clerical fascist”, and that while it was legitimate to criticize the Shah’s regime, if Khomeini seized power in Iran the Iranian people would suffer an even greater loss of freedom and women would be deprived of political and social rights. He presently believes that ”No one in the West has yet supported Iranian democratic organizations” and that ”aggressive support for those Iranians who wish to be free” would most likely work in ending the clerical government.

 

Ledeen is currently against both an invasion of Iran or air-strikes within the country. He has argued that the latter may eventually become necessary if negotiations with the Iranian government fail, but it would only be the least bad option of many options and it would lead to many negative unforeseen consequences. The New York Times has called Ledeen’s skepticism towards military action against Iran surprising given his opposition to the regime. In October 2007, Ledeen argued that: ”Those who believe that I am part of some “hawkish gang” just haven’t noticed that I am opposed to invasion or bombing the nuclear facilities. My fear is that, by failing to promote a non-violent democratization of Iran, we make large-scale violence much more likely.” Maybe hi just wanted to give his Iranian friends a chance to win the election, which they by now has lost.

 

Ledeen also believed that Iran is the main backer of the insurgency in Iraq and even supported the al-Qaida network formerly led by al-Zarqawi despite its declaration of jihad against Shi’ite Muslims. He claimed that German and Italian court documents showed Zarqawi created a European terrorist network while based in Tehran.

 

Ledeen was a board member of the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI), founded by Morris Amitay, a former Executive Director of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ledeen had also been part of the board of the US Committee for a Free Lebanon. According to the Washington Post, quoted by Asia Times, he was the only full-time international affairs analyst regularly consulted by Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s closest advisor.

 

In a 2003 column entitled A Theory, Ledeen outlined a possibility that France and Germany, both NATO allies of the United States, ”struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs” to use ”extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice” to bring down a potential American Empire. He stated, ”It sounds fanciful, to be sure,” but that, ”If this is correct, we will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe. And there, as in the Middle East, our greatest weapons are political: the demonstrated desire for freedom of the peoples of the countries that oppose us.”

 

Jonah Goldberg, Ledeen’s colleague at National Review, coined the term ”Ledeen Doctrine” in a 2002 column. This tongue-in-cheek ”doctrine” is usually summarized as ”Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,” which Goldberg remembered Ledeen saying in an early 1990s speech. The term ”Ledeen Doctrine” is often mistakenly attributed to Michael Ledeen himself. Goldberg himself has stated that he is ”not sure” if Ledeen ever actually said this or thinks along these lines.

 

Writing in The Nation, a left-wing magazine, Jack Huberman, who describes Ledeen as ”the most influential and unabashed warmonger of our time”, attributes these quotes to Ledeen: ”the level of casualties (in Iraq) is secondary”, ”we are a warlike people (Americans)...we love war”, ”Change - above all violent change - is the essence of human history”, ”the only way to achieve peace is through total war”, ”The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people”, and ”Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

 

The Buchananite journal, The American Conservative has claimed that Ledeen had strong sympathies for Italian fascism and that ”Ledeen’s careful distinction between fascist ”regime” and ”movement” makes him a clear apologist for the latter.”

 

Ledeen has been accused of associations with shady organizations. For example, Jim Lobe has stated that ”Ledeen’s right-wing Italian connections - including alleged ties to the P2 masonic lodge that rocked Italy in the early 1980s - have long been a source of speculation and intrigue, but he returned to Washington in 1981 as ”anti-terrorism” advisor to the new secretary of state, Al Haig.” While he acknowledges being paid by the SISMI in 1980 for ”risk assessment”, Ledeen denies any connections with Licio Gelli’s masonic lodge. Ledeen told Vanity Fair that he had been paid $10,000 by the SISMI in 1979 or 1980 for advising them on extradition matters between Italy and the US. He denied having worked with [Francesco] Pazienza or Propaganda Due as part of a disinformation scheme. ”I knew Pazienza,” he explained. ”I didn’t think P-2 existed. I thought it was all nonsense - typical Italian fantasy.” Pazienza, while at SISMI, did help Ledeen obtaining a tape confirming information on ”Billygate.”

 

According to Ledeen: ”I do not feel remorseful, since I had and have no involvement with our Iraq policy. I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place and I advocated - as I still do - support for political revolution in Iran as the logical and necessary first step in the war against the terror masters.” Ledeen’s statements prior to the start of the Iraq war such as ”desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein” and ”dire need to invade Iraq” make his later statement that he ”opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place” to be an ”outright lie” to Glenn Greenwald.

 

It was during this time in Italy that Ledeen supported the Bulgarian connection conspiracy theory concerning Grey Wolves member Mehmet Ali Ağca's 1981 attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II. The theory has since been attacked by various authors and journalists, including Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who initially believed the story. The theory was adopted in 2005 by the Italian Mitrokhin Commission. A competing theory points toward Gladio, a NATO network believed to have supported the Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves and the strategy of tension in Italy, which had allegedly been supported by Gladio and SISMI agents. Gladio stay-behind networks directly responded to SACEUR. According to Craig Unger, ”With Ronald Reagan newly installed in the White House, the so-called Bulgarian Connection made perfect Cold War propaganda. Michael Ledeen was one of its most vocal proponents, promoting it on TV and in newspapers all over the world.”

 

Ledeen holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he specialized in Modern Europe. At Washington University, Ledeen was denied tenure. He was subsequently named Visiting Professor at the University of Rome. One of Ledeen's principal mentors was the Jewish German-born historian George Mosse, for whom he was research assistant at the time. Mosse wrote two famous books on National Socialism. Another major influence on Ledeen was the Italian historian Renzo De Felice. Ledeen held political views which stress "the urgency of combating centralized state power and the centrality of human freedom" that are said to have influenced or inspired the Bush administration.

 

Earlier in his career, Ledeen authored Universal Fascism: The Theory and Practice of the Fascist International, 1928-1936, published in 1972 and now out of print. The book, which was his doctoral dissertation, was the first work to explore Italian leader Benito Mussolini’s efforts to create a Fascist international in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Ledeen follows Italian historian Renzo de Felice in drawing a distinction between ”fascism-regime” and ”fascism-movement”, and seems to approve of at least one aspect of the latter, saying ”fascism nevertheless constituted a political revolution in Italy. For the first time, there was an attempt to mobilize the masses and to involve them in the political life of the country”, and describing the fascist state as ”a generator of energy and creativity.” Ledeen continued his studies in Italian Fascism with a study of the takeover of Fiume by Italian irredentist forces under Gabriele d'Annunzio, who Ledeen argued was the proto-type for Mussolini.

 

Ledeen is a strong admirer of Niccolò Machiavelli, whom he regards as one of the greatest political thinkers. In Ledeen's view, Machiavelli combined democratic idealism and the necessary political realism to secure and defend idealism in perfect measure.

 

In the October 22, 2003, American Enterprise Institute article The CIA and the War on Terror, Michael Ledeen wrote of Ghorbanifar: ”Manucher Ghorbanifar, a man [the CIA] have wrongly characterized as a ”fabricator” out for money, when in reality he has been an extraordinary source of understanding and has sacrificed a substantial personal fortune in the cause of Iranian freedom.”

 

”In the mid-1980s, when Ledeen was working for the National Security Council, he tangled with the CIA again over his efforts with Israeli spy David Kimche to gain the release of US hostages in Beirut through an Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, in the opening stages of what would become the Iran-Contra affair,” Jim Lobe wrote June 26, 2003, in the Asia Times. ”But Ghorbanifar did not come through. Despite Ledeen’s assessment of the middleman as ”one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known”, he flunked four lie detector tests administered by the CIA, which had long warned that the Iranian ”should be regarded as an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance”,” Lobe wrote.

 

Ghorbanifar ”has had two CIA ”burn notices” issued on him, meaning agency officers are not to deal with him,” Warren P. Stobel wrote July 20, 2005, for Knight Ridder Newspapers. According to Daily Kos: ”Add in the one other long-term source the Neocons favor--Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian version of Chalabi, who fooled us badly during Iran-Contra and doesn't seem to be any more reliable now.”

 

”The CIA had long since proscribed dealings with Ghorbanifar. The agency had him classified as a chronic liar. When a US ambassador in Italy got wind of the meetings, he and the CIA station chief in Rome notified superiors at the State Department and the CIA." George J. Tenet, former director of the CIA, "in turn persuaded the number two official on the National Security Council, Stephen Hadley, to prohibit further meetings with the Iranian arms merchant and the so-called Iranian dissidents he was presenting to neocons avid for regime change in Tehran.

 

”One of Israel’s most outrageous ”false flag” operations involved a wild propaganda story aimed at discrediting Libyan leader Muamar Qaddafi,” Al Jazeera reported in 2005. ”In the early months of Ronald Reagan’s administration, the American media began ”promoting” a story that a ”Libyan hit squad” was in the US to assassinate the president. It goes without saying this piece of ”fact” inflamed public sentiment against Libya. ”Suddenly, however, the ”hit squad” stories vanished. ... It was discovered that the source of the story was one Manucher Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian SAVAK (secret police) agent who had very close ties to the Mossad.”

 

It was May 2003. President Bush had declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. The State Department, which had been unenthusiastic about that war, was not inclined to provoke another with Iran and indeed had been calling for diplomatic engagement with the reform-minded Khatami regime. That regime for its part asked the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to forward to the United States a request for talks. These would address US concerns about its nuclear program, as well as the lifting of sanctions and normalization of relations.

 

Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage were inclined to accept the offer. Vice President Cheney, soon to declare, “We don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat it,” was not. Nor was Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and his Office of Special Plans. Indeed, Cheney and his neoconservatives had the State Department rebuke the Swiss intermediary as they began to ratchet up the tension level between the countries to its present near-breaking point.

 

This is the extraordinary narrative provided in large part by a highly reliable source, Powell’s former chief of staff, Colonell Lawrence Wilkerson. He minces no words. “The secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran,” he told Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service last month. “As with many of these issues of national security decision-making, there are no fingerprints. But I would guess Dick Cheney with the blessing of George W Bush [is responsible].”

 

Feith, who quietly vacated his office in August 2005 after the war for which he’d tirelessly campaigned had been exposed as one based on lies, hired neocon ideologue and Iran-Contra principal Michael Ledeen to work for the OSP in 2002. A longtime friend of fellow Iran-Contra plotter Manucher Ghorbanifar, Ledeen had met with the Iranian arms dealer several times from December 2001 to June 2002. These contacts, opposed by the CIA, which has long distrusted Ghorbanifar, are thought to have some relation to the forged Niger uranium documents used to bolster the case for the attack on Iraq. But Ledeen states that his business with Ghorbanifar related to Iran, not Iraq. Ledeen, as an American Enterprise Institute scholar and journalist for the neocon National Review, has repeatedly called for an immediate US attack on Iran. Meanwhile Ghorbanifar has been returned to the US government payroll, working with the Vice President’s Office and the Defense Department. He’s assigned among other things to provide intelligence on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

 

Ghorbanifar and one of his associates are thought to be the source of much of the information in the book Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information that Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America... and How the CIA has Ignored it written by his friend Congressman Curt Weldon and published last year. It declares that Iran is hiding Osama bin Laden, preparing terrorist attacks on the US, has a crash program to build nuclear weapons and is the chief sponsor of the insurgency in Iraq. Shades of Ahmad Chalabi!

 

Manucher Ghorbanifar was by his own account a refugee from the revolutionary government of Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, which confiscated his businesses in Iran, yet he later became a trusted friend and kitchen adviser to Mir Hussein Mousavi, Prime Minister in the Khomeini government. Some US officials who have dealt with Ghorbanifar praise him highly. Says Michael Ledeen, adviser to the Pentagon on counterterrorism: ”He is one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known.” Others call him a liar who, as one puts it, could not tell the truth about the clothes he is wearing.

 

A petty turf battle within the CIA turned a potential opening to Iran into a misbegotten arms-for-hostages deal that fell apart because of the squabbling and led to disclosure of the Iran-contra scandal. That is the contention of one of the factions that are still feuding hotly over the foreign policy disaster. As reports circulated about the imminent retirement of CIA Director William Casey, who is suffering from brain cancer, the agency itself is agonizing over its handling of the Iran initiative.

 

In this version of how the Iran affair unfolded, the CIA turf argument evolved into a dispute over whether to trust Manucher Ghorbanifar, the expatriate Iranian merchant and middleman who had offered to help the US establish contacts in Iran. CIA activists in the agency’s counterterrorism program supported the use of Ghorbanifar but eventually were outmaneuvered by the agency's Middle East operations officers, who waged a campaign to discredit the Iranian. Once Ghorbanifar was cut out of the delicate negotiations and the operatives at the Iran desk had prevailed in their efforts to have the US bargain directly with Iranian officials, the whole enterprise went sour. Infuriated, Ghorbanifar then urged an Iranian faction to leak the story of the whole sorry affair.

 

Ghorbanifar’s value went far beyond negotiating a hostage swap. So say several CIA sources and, not surprisingly, Ghorbanifar as well. Insists one operative: ”For years we had tried to recruit, to no avail, a simple Islamic revolutionary guard. Nobody in Iran wanted to touch the US, especially the CIA. Then this guy ((Ghorbanifar)) comes in and delivers for discussions practically anyone we ask for.”

 

US dealings with Iran have been portrayed as an overture to moderates led by Speaker of the Parliament Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Actually, CIA sources say, Ghorbanifar had persuaded the entire political leadership of the Islamic republic, including Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi and Ayatullah Hussein Ali Montazeri, designated successor to Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, to assent to secret contacts with the US Two reasons: the Iranians feared the Soviet threat more than any from the West; and they hoped that American arms would soon follow improved relations with the US

 

This story is supported by Mansur Rafizadeh, a former high official in SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police. Long a double agent serving both SAVAK and the CIA, Rafizadeh worked solely for the CIA after the Shah fell from power in 1979. According to Rafizadeh, Ghorbanifar first came to the CIA's attention in late 1980 when the Carter Administration was desperate to win the release of US hostages from the seized American embassy in Tehran. George Cave, a retired CIA agent then working under a contract with the agency, asked Rafizadeh if Ghorbanifar could help. The former SAVAK agent advised Cave that Ghorbanifar was ”one of the cleverest businessmen I have known. He has the habit of coming in as a partner and then taking over the whole operation.” Rafizadeh told Cave that Ghorbanifar would never agree to work as a subservient CIA agent. ”Then forget it,” Cave replied. In a 1981 memo to CIA headquarters, Cave described Ghorbanifar as ”unreliable.” Contends Rafizadeh: ”Anyone who refuses to take orders from the CIA is considered unreliable.”


Déjà vu

 

This is all so déjà vu. At least for all with eyes to see. The rejection of the Iranian proposal in 2003 reminds of the Iraqi peace proposals made to the Bush administration from December 2002 to March 2003. On February 19 Saddam’s regime indicated to Washington through intermediaries that in exchange for a US promise not to attack it would (1) cooperate in fighting terrorism; (2) give “full support” for any US plan in the Arab-Israeli peace process; (3) give first priority [to the US] as it relates to Iraq oil, mining rights; (4) cooperate with US strategic interests in the region; and (5) allow “direct US involvement on the ground in disarming Iraq.

 

The highest-ranking US official directly involved in the discussion was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board at the Pentagon, Richard Perle. The “Prince of Darkness” (as the neocon is sometimes known) regarded Iraqi pleas for a deal as “all non-starters because they all involved Saddam staying in power.” The neocons wanted regime change and they got it. Now they want it in Iran. Why settle for a diplomatic resolution of issues between the US and Iran when you can defeat “evil”?

 

In 2002, Cheney and Rice spoke authoritatively about Iraq’s attempts to import aluminum tubes “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs” citing intelligence reported by Judith Miller in the New York Times. Nowadays the press reports about a laptop computer stolen by an Iranian citizen in 2004 with designs “for a small-scale facility to produce uranium gas, the construction of which would give Iran a secret stock that could be enriched for fuel or for bombs” and “drawings on modifying Iran's ballistic missiles in ways that might accommodate a nuclear warhead.” In 2002, unbeknownst to the public, the US intelligence community was and still is - even though purged in Cheney’s effort to scapegoat the CIA for “flawed” (as opposed to faked) intelligence - divided with many in the CIA skeptical of the neocons’ claims.

 

The US intelligence chief John Negroponte to the National Press Club on April 20: “The developments in Iran,” he declared, “clearly they’re troublesome. By the same token, our assessment at the moment is that even though we believe that Iran is determined to acquire or obtain a nuclear weapon, that we believe that it is still many years off before they are likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into, or to put into a nuclear weapon; perhaps into the next decade. So I think it’s important that this issue be kept in perspective.”

 

Negroponte’s career highlight before acquiring his present Homeland Security post was his ambassadorship in Honduras from 1981 to 1985. During that time (which too few Americans remember) he supervised the training of Nicaraguan Contras and covered up vicious human rights abuses. I wouldn’t suggest that he’s personally opposed to a brutal illegal attack on Iran sometime soon. I don’t know. But by urging that the nuclear issue “be kept in perspective” he may reflect a concern within the “intelligence community” that once again the disinformation apparatus is proceeding unchecked.

 

The neocons may disparage the “reality-based community” in favor of their Nazi-like penchant to create their own alternative reality. But there are professional analysts who still highly valuate things like facts and reality and perspective.  So maybe we see here again some conflict within the administration - between those merely morally compromised by their very involvement in such a regime (and inclined to say, “Hey wait, let’s try to be honest here”) and those who lie though their teeth - without any moral qualms - to obtain their world-transforming objectives.

 

Of course, the Iran attack advocates aren’t saying that Iran’s 45 minutes away from nuking New York. They’re saying that it has a secret nuclear weapons program (despite IAEA claims that there is no evidence for one), and that the program must be terminated (at some unspecified point) before Iran builds its first nuke. Those acquainted with the science estimate that Iran is anywhere from three to 15 years away from constructing a nuclear weapon if it so desires. The neocons would like us to imagine the mullahs producing nukes sooner rather than later, because they were hell-bent on regime change in Iran while their man was in office and wanted to sell their attack as justifiably preemptive - as an attack to defend the American people.

 

The power structure is obviously divided on the Iran issue, if not as deeply as one might hope. Democratic Party leaders have indeed competed with the Bush administration to embrace a hard line on Iran.

 

Proxy War

 

Behind the presidential elections is a simmering proxy war between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the grey cardinal of Iranian politics, former premier Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The crushing defeat of Mir Hossein Mousavi could mean the end of the tumultuous career of The Shark, a nickname Rafsanjani acquired as a political predator in the early years of the Iranian Revolution.

 

Mousavi’s electoral platform has been a curious mix of contradictory political lines and vested interests but united in one maniacal mission, namely, to seize the presidential levers of power in Iran. It brought together so-called reformists who support former president Mohammad Khatami and ultra-conservatives of the regime.


If we are to leave out the largely inconsequential Gucci crowd of north Tehran, who no doubt imparted a lot of color, verve and mirth to Mousavi’s campaign, the hardcore of his political platform comprised powerful vested interests who were making a last-ditch attempt to grab power from the Khamenei-led regime. On the one hand, these interest groups were severely opposed to the economic policies under Ahmadinejad, which threatened their control of key sectors such as foreign trade, private education and agriculture.

 

Rafsanjani is the only politician in Iran who could have brought together such dissimilar factions. He assiduously worked hand-in-glove with Khatami towards this end. For those who do not know Iran better, suffice to say that the Rafsanjani family clan owns vast financial empires in Iran, including foreign trade, vast landholdings and the largest network of private universities in Iran. Known as Azad there are 300 branches spread over the country, they are not only money-spinners but could also press into Mousavi's election campaign an active cadre of student activists numbering some 3 million.

 

The regime was already well into the election campaign when it realized that behind the clamor for a change of leadership in the presidency, Rafsanjani's challenge was in actuality aimed at Khamenei's leadership and that the election was a proxy war. The roots of the Rafsanjani-Khamenei rift go back to the late 1980s when Khamenei assumed the leadership in 1989.

Rafsanjani was among Imam Khomeini's trusted appointees to the first Revolutionary Council, whereas Khamenei joined only at a later stage when the council expanded its membership. Thus, Rafsanjani always harbored a grouse that Khamenei pipped him to the post of Supreme Leader. The clerical establishment close to Rafsanjani spread the word that Khamenei lacked the requisite religious credentials, that he was indecisive as the executive president, and that the election process was questionable, which cast doubt on the legality of his appointment.


Powerful clerics, egged on by Rafsanjani, argued that the Supreme Leader was supposed to be not only a religious authority (mujtahid), but was also expected to be a source of emulation (marja or a mujtahid with religious followers) and that Khamenei didn't fulfill this requirement - unlike Rafsanjani himself. The debunking of Khamenei rested on the specious argument that his religious education was in question. The sniping by the clerics associated with Rafsanjani continued into the early 1990s. Thus, Khamenei began on a somewhat diffident note and during much of the period when Rafsanjani held power as president (1989-1997), he acted low key, aware of his circumstances.


The result was that Rafsanjani exercised more power as president than anyone holding that office anytime in Tehran. But Khamenei bided his time as he incrementally began expanding his authority. If he lacked standing among Iran's clerical establishment, he more than made up by attracting to his side the security establishment, especially the Ministry of Intelligence, the IRGC and the Basij militias.


While Rafsanjani hobnobbed with the clergy and the bazaar, Khatami turned to a group of bright young politicians with intelligence or security backgrounds who were returning home from the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war - such as Ali Larijani, the present speaker of the Majlis, Said Jalili, currently the secretary of the National Security Council, Ezzatollah Zarghami, head of the state radio and television and, indeed, Ahmadinejad himself.


Power inevitably accrued to Khamenei once he won over the loyalty of the IRGC and the Basij. By the time Rafsanjani's presidency ended, Khatami had already become head of all three branches of the government and the state media, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and even lucrative institutions such as Imam Reza Shrine or the Oppressed Foundation, which have almost unlimited capacity for extending political patronage.


All in all, therefore, the power structure today takes the form of a vast patriarchal apparatus of political leadership. Thus, perceptive analysts were spot on while concluding that Ahmadinejad would never on his own volition have gone public and directly taken on Rafsanjani during the controversial TV debate on June 4 in Tehran with Mousavi.

 

Ahmadinejad said, ”Today it is not Mr Mousavi alone who is confronting me, since there are the three successive governments of Mr Mousavi, Mr Khatami and Mr Hashemi [Rafsanjani] arrayed against me.” He took a pointed swipe at Rafsanjani for masterminding a plot to overthrow him. He said Rafsanjani promised the fall of his government to Saudi Arabia.

 

Rafsanjani hit back within days by addressing a communication to Khamenei demanding that Ahmadinejad should retract ”so that there would be no need of legal action.” ”I am expecting you to resolve the situation in order to extinguish the fire, whose smoke can be seen in the atmosphere, and to take action to foil dangerous plots. Even if I were to tolerate this situation, there is no doubt that some people, parties and factions will not tolerate this situation,” Rafsanjani angrily warned Khamenei.


Simultaneously, Rafsanjani also rallied his base in the clerical establishment. A clique of 14 senior clerics in Qom joined issue on his side. It was all an act of desperation by vested interests who have become desperate about the awesome rise of the IRGC in recent years. But, if Rafsanjani's calculation was that the mutiny within the clerical establishment would unnerve Khatami, he misread the calculus of power in Tehran. Khatami did the worst thing possible to Rafsanjani. He simply ignored the Shark.


The IRGC and the Basij volunteers running into tens of millions swiftly mobilized. They coalesced with the millions of rural poor who adore Ahmadinejad as their leader. It has been a repeat of the 2005 election. The voter turnout has been an unprecedented 85 %. Within hours of the announcement of Ahmadinejad’s thumping victory, Khatami gave the seal of approval by applauding that the high voter turnout called for ”real celebration.” He said, ”I congratulate ... the people on this massive success and urge everyone to be grateful for this divine blessing.” He cautioned the youth and the ”supporters of the elected candidate and the supporters of other candidates” to be ”fully alert and avoid any provocative and suspicions actions and speech.”


Khatami’s message to Rafsanjani is blunt: Accept defeat gracefully and stay away from further mischief. The election ensures that the house of Supreme Leader Khamenei will remain by far the focal point of power. It is the headquarters of the country’s presidency, Iran’s armed forces, especially the IRGC. It is the fountainhead of the three branches of government and the nodal point of foreign, security and economic policies.

 

Conclusion


The effort to overcome Ahmadinejad has brought together some unlikely allies. One of Mousavi's main backers is Rafsanjani, even though it was Rafsanjani who, two decades ago, pushed through the abolition of the office of prime minister in order to oust Mousavi, who then held the post. Back then, Mousavi was a proponent of a state capitalist economic policy that advocated restrictions on imports and government control of key industries. Rafsanjani, a champion of private property rights, was determined to isolate him, and largely succeeded. According to British journalist Robert Fisk Rafsanjani ”advocated economic liberalization, and pledged to control inflation through monetary policies and make life easier for private business.” Today, however, Mousavi's economic program is closer to that of Rafsanjani.

 

While Mousavi’s calls for women’s rights and greater political freedom inspired student activists and the middle class, he made no real outreach to workers and the poor, leaving the field open to Ahmadinejad. Thus, the Iranian president accused Rafsanjani of being corrupt during a televised presidential debate. (The reformist presidential candidate, Karroubi, also failed to put economic issues at the center of his campaign.)

 

In the post-election crisis, the limitations of the reformers’ social base have been exposed. A struggle to oust Ahmadinejad would require far more militant mass action than anything yet seen. But it seems doubtful, to say the least, that Mousavi, who has spent the last three decades in the political hierarchy, would call for workers’ strikes or insurrections.

 

He’ll be tempted to play an inside-outside game, appealing for street actions while counting on Rafsanjani--the head of the clerics’ Expediency Council and a consummate powerbroker -to cut some kind of deal with Ahmadinejad. It may be too late for that, however. Continued protests and repression may compel Mousavi and his allies to build some sort of underground opposition. In fact, Ahmadinejad has already accused Mousavi of trying to mount a ”velvet revolution,” styled after the 1989 demonstrations that overthrew the Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia.

 

Certainly, the US will try to use Iran’s power struggle to its own advantage by ratcheting up diplomatic pressure and increasing the usual CIA efforts to try to co-opt sections of the opposition. This will be a gift to Ahmadinejad, who will use any such efforts as a pretext to denounce, if not smash, the opposition.

 

Whether an election victory for Mousavi would have led the same way, if indeed he did actually win, is debatable. But it’s as well to be aware of what was behind these two earlier “Revolutions” because their echoes may be heard right now on the streets of Tehran. According to Times Online: ”No Iranian election in the 30 years since the 1979 revolution has been more open, more hard-fought and more crucial in determining the country’s future than the presidential contest taking place today.” The election has polarised Iranian society to a degree unthinkable a decade ago.

 

The handling of election results exposes the weakness of Iran’s strategic position. That makes an Israeli strike against its nuclear facilities all the more likely, not because Tehran has shown greater militancy, but because it has committed the one sin that is never pardoned in the Middle East - vulnerability.

 

Obama may contemplate a way to directly engage Khamenei. It is a difficult challenge.


Speculation aside, I want to make very clear that while I strongly support those taking to the streets challenging the election results, I do not, in any way, condone foreign exploitation of this situation. If anything significant is to come of what is transpiring in Iran right now, it must be something wholly achieved by Iranians for their own sake and on their own terms. But make no mistake and harbour no illusions – if you think that American, British, and Israeli intelligence aren’t already in the country looking to capitalize, you’re living in an alternate universe.

 

Seeing how we cannot ignore his ”neocon” credentials and that Michael Ledeen maintained his very good relations with Ghorbanifar, (who at least used to be) a good friend of Mir-Hossein Mousavi (the ”candidate of change” in the Iranian presidential elections); and given the support that Mousavi’s candidacy has been receiving from the American ”moderates”, maybe this kind of ”change” is the ”regime change” the Americans have had in mind for Iran? 

 

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