Iranian President Ahmadi Nezhad has been busy putting together a cabinet for the Islamic republic, and while all real power remains firmly in the clammy hands of Supreme Leader Khamenei, it’s worth taking a look at some of the new ministers, if only because it tells us two important things: (1) The face the regime wishes to show to the world at large, and (2) the policies the regime intends to unleash on the long-suffering Iranian people.
Let’s start with the interior minister, Hojatoll-Islam Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi
. He was formerly the number-two man in the ministry of intelligence and security–where he was directly in charge of the foreign section (and thus the sorts of foreign operations now running full bore in Iraq and Afghanistan)–and, even more significantly, the man in charge of those matters in the office of the supreme leader.
Pour-Mohammadi comes from a sartorially celebrated family; his father and brother are tailors for leading clergy. Indeed, they prepared the raiments for both bin Laden and Zawahiri in their recent videos, in which their clothing was distinctively Iranian.
The minister for intelligence and security is Hojjatol-Islam Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ezhei, from Isfahan, where he acquired a reputation as a particularly vicious and barbaric head of the Islamic tribunals which regularly issued brutal sentences. He has been special prosecutor in the intelligence ministry, where he was also in charge of key personnel decisions, and at present he is judge and prosecutor for the special tribunal of the clergy.
To Mohammed-Hossein Saffar-Harandi of Tehran goes the ironically named ministry of culture and Islamic guidance. In reality, that ministry’s key role is to provide cover for external intelligence operations. For a decade, Saffar-Harandi was the director of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, in which he holds the rank of brigadier general, and for which he was the commander of southern Iran.
The foreign minister is Manoucher Mottaki, whose long diplomatic career (he has been ambassador to both Japan and Turkey, and deputy foreign minister) has included the sensitive role as liaison between the foreign ministry and the revolutionary guards. While he was ambassador to Ankara, numerous Iranian dissidents were murdered and others kidnapped.
And then there is the defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, another brigadier general in the revolutionary Guards, where he has been since its official formation in 1979. As several commentators have pointed out, he was the commander of the RG forces in Lebanon in 1983, when the Marine barracks were blown up by the Guards and Hezbollah. So we owe him one.
The mullahs have torn off their conciliatory mask in order to bare their fangs to us, the Europeans, and the Iranian people. If we had an Iran strategy worthy of the name, our confused leaders would have pointed out the remarkable interview with the chief nuclear affairs negotiator, Hossein Musavian. It was broadcast on Iranian television August 4th, and made it quite clear that the Iranians deliberately tricked the Europeans into giving the mullahs an extra year to complete a vital part of their nuclear program in Isfahan.
“Thanks to the negotiations with Europe,” he bragged, “we gained another year, in which we completed…Isfahan.” This was quite a coup, at least in Musavian’s humble opinion: “We suspended (the enrichment program) in Isfahan in October 2004, although we were required to do so in October 2003…Today we are in a position of power: (the program) in Isfahan is complete and UF4 and UF6 gases are being produced. We have a stockpile of products, and…we have managed to convert 36 tons of yellow cake into gas and store it…”
President Chirac? Chancellor Schroeder? Prime Minister Blair? How do you all intend to answer your parliamentary inquiries? You were all gulled by the mullahs (or, to put the darkest light on the matter, willing accomplices).
Meanwhile, the mullahs are killing us. Time published a long report from Baghdad on August 14, entitled “Inside Iran’s Secret War for Iraq,” which lays out chapter and verse of the mullahs’ longstanding efforts–often coordinated with Assad’s Syria–to drive us out of Iraq. It is the first time I’ve seen a major publication confirm what I reported months before Operation Iraqi Freedom: planning for the terror war against Coalition forces in Iraq “began before the U.S. invaded.” And Time quotes a “British military intelligence officer about the relative inattention paid to the murderous Iranian activities. ‘It’s as though we are sleepwalking’.”
Got Iran Policy?
Instead of devoting hours of prime time coverage to the ravings of a broken mother, our media would do better to ask this administration why, four years after 9/11, it still has no Iran policy.
Perhaps, although one cannot say more than that, we are paying more attention. First came the announcement that American forces in Iraq found a cache of Iranian weapons, and had also captured a truck with shaped explosives entering Iraq from Iran. Then, talking to journalists on his plane during a South American swing on August 17, Rumsfeld said that U.S. forces have found Iranian weapons in Iraq “on more than one occasion over the past couple of months.”
And so? These are straws in a very strong wind, and they will be blown away unless President Bush, Secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld, and Security Adviser Hadley at long last craft a serious policy to bring the terror war to bear on Tehran, as the president should have demanded on 9/12. The list of proven Iranian actions in the terror war against us is a very long one. To take just a few: In July, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch testified to the House International Relations Committee that “Iranian cadre were training Hizballah fighters in Lebanon,” which Representative Tom Lantos quite reasonably found “profoundly disturbing.” Hezbollah is operating in Iraq, and its infamous operational chieftain, Imad Mughniyah, remains at large even though the US Government has put a very high price on his head for decades. U.S. special forces in Hilla last fall captured documents and photographs of known Iraqi terrorists meeting with Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers in Syria. The celebrated Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon publicly stated that, after the liberation of Afghanistan, al Qaeda reconstituted its leadership in Iran, where they convened a strategic summit in November, 2002. One of the participants was a Syrian named Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, who is now suspected by British authorities of being one of the masterminds of the lethal terrorist attack in London. According to Spanish newspapers, “Intelligence reports from foreign agencies last year placed Nasar in Iran.”
The seemingly inescapable fact is that Iran is waging war on us, we are well aware of it, and we are not responding, even though most Iranians are dreaming of the day that the United States supports them against the mullahs. Hardly a day goes by without anti-regime demonstrations in one Iranian city or another, involving students, workers, intellectuals, and even some very important clergymen. The number of Iranian dissidents on hunger strike is growing. Akbar Ganji hovers between life and death in a hospital in Tehran. Yet, aside from occasional statements of compassion, there is no hint of action from the Bush administration.
This inaction has recently been buttressed by two fanciful “estimates” from the intelligence community. The first reassuringly forecast that Iran is a good ten years away from nuclear weapons; the second insisted that no revolution is in the Iranian works. To which the only proper response is a belly laugh. I’m personally willing to bet the farm against any intel-type willing to take the wager that Iran will have atomic bombs in a period closer to ten days than to ten years. And the “no revolution in the works” prediction comes, as Eli Lake of the splendid New York Sun wrote yesterday, from the same people who made the same prediction just before the fall of the Shah and who confidently told Ronald Reagan that the Soviet Empire was here to stay. Somebody should ask the deep thinkers to name three revolutions that occurred without outside support, and when they fail, they should then be asked how they could make such an assessment without discussing the key variable: our support or lack thereof.
As if that were not enough, our expert community, in and out of government, incessantly warns that if we were to support the democratic opposition in Iran, it would actually hurt the chances of revolution, because the Iranians would be so angry they would rally around the mullahs in a blind nationalistic spasm. The deep thinkers should take a look at the mullahs’ reaction to the ongoing revolt in Awaz, in Khuzistan province. The regime has blamed the whole thing on the British Government. This produced a memorable response from the British Ahwazi friendship society:
Protestors are armed with rocks, tyres and anything else they can use in acts of civil disobedience. They do not have guns. Is Asefi afraid the British are smuggling rocks into Iran to overthrow the Revolutionary Guards? Does he think Ahwazis need special training from the British in order to throw rocks?
The mullahs always blame their troubles on foreigners, and yet the Iranian people remain opposed to the regime, and many of the most popular dissidents openly ask the West, and particularly the United States, to help them.
Well, Mr. President? To use the language of one of your favorite games, it’s time to call or fold. Indeed, if you’re planning to stay at the table, you might even raise: President Ahmadi Nezhad was not in the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, but he was hard at work in Evin Prison, where some of the hostages were interrogated. You’ve got every good reason to tell him to forget about coming to New York this fall to pose at the U.N. That would send a ripple of hope through the Iranian populace, now interpreting our willingness to let him come here as a sign of acquiescence. And while you’re at it, why don’t you ask the Europeans to show at least some symbolic courage. They’ve failed to stem the Iranian nuclear program. It’s obviously a wasted effort to ask the U.N. to apply sanctions, since China and/or Russia will quash it (and in fact, sanctions are the last thing we should want, since they would punish the Iranian people, not the beturbaned tyrants in power). Put the mark of Cain on the mullahs: propose that the Europeans to join with you in asking for a ban of Iran from all international athletic competition. And ask the international trade union organizations to support their brothers and sisters in Iran, many of whom have not been paid for months, despite the cascade of petrodollars.
Enough already. Let’s roll.
–Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.