Politics & Policy

Murder’s Row Rules

The mullahs and us.

Iranian dissidents appealed to the United Nations to support calls for freedom for Akbar Ganji, the brave writer who is being tortured in Tehran for the sin of exposing the murderous activities of the theocratic regime of the Islamic republic. The top dog at the U.N., Kofi Annan, declined to take a stand, claiming he did not know enough to have an opinion. The U.N.’s lapdog at the U.S. Senate, Indiana’s Richard Lugar, similarly declined comment, thereby relegating himself to the honor roll of appeasers of terrorists, murderers, and torturers. With the exception of the New York Sun, no major newspaper has supported Ganji, nor, for that matter, the broader cause of Iranian freedom.

Happily, President Bush unhesitatingly denounced Iran’s mullahcracy for its barbaric treatment of Ganji, and his forthright support of freedom has been echoed by Senators Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum, and Joe Biden. Even the European Union felt compelled to support Ganji in an usually blunt demand for his release. Others may well follow, as they should.

“Death to Despotism”

Ganji is only one of a tragically lengthening list of brave Iranians who deserve our support. Despite recent crackdowns and executions–the leadup to the installation of new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad–hundreds of Iranians demonstrated at Tehran University on Ganji’s behalf earlier this week. The regime’s response was remarkably vicious, even by their own low standards. Even before the demonstrations began, water and electricity had been cut off to the university dormitories, and security forces deployed throughout the area. The first wave of demonstrations celebrated the anniversary of the student uprisings of 1999, and tens of thousands of people marched quietly through the streets, defying the regime’s ban (even the Organization of Student Unity, which has official status, was denied a permit to commemorate the uprisings). Worried about the huge numbers, the regime arrested a few hundred leaders.

During the days that followed dissidents demonstrated on behalf of all political prisoners, and carried banners reading “Death to Despotism” and “Long Live Liberty.” The numbers were smaller, and the regime moved in, using clubs, chains, knives, and iron knuckles. Hashem Aghajari, the well-known writer who was imprisoned for years and has paid for his bravery with the loss of a leg, was attacked by security forces with such violence that his artificial limb was separated from his body. Leaders of the Student Unity Organization–Mohammed Hashemi, Mohammed Sedeghi, and Nasser Ashjari–were rounded up and jailed. Any student found with a banner or poster was arrested, and all cellular phone communication in the University area was jammed.

And yet the protests continue, to the near-total indifference of the media of the so-called civilized world (the most notable exception being John Batchelor, whose late-night radio broadcasts have been a rare source of information on Iran). In the township of Mehabad in Kurdistan province, thousands of people demonstrated on July 11 against the murder of a Kurdish activist named Shovaneh Ghaderi. The demonstrators chanted “Death to the Islamic Republic,” and “Death to Khamenei.” The demonstrators were clubbed and beaten, at least one was killed, and significant numbers were arrested. On the 12th there was a work stoppage, nominally to protest the economic misery of the city, despite the torrent of petrodollars pouring into the mullahs’ coffers.

The mullahs tried to organize an attack by common criminals against the political prisoners in Karaj prison, but it was miraculously foiled.

Meanwhile, Western diplomats are preparing for the installation of Ahmadinejad, who has been misidentified as one of the hostage takers at the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. Some hostages believe they saw him, and they probably did, because he was at the time one of the most infamous interrogators and torturers at Evin prison, where some of the hostages were taken. But he was not at the embassy. His infamy, aside from his involvement in torture and executions in Iran itself, rests on his alleged involvement in the assassination of Abdurahm Qasimlou, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, who was assassinated in Vienna 16 years ago.

The evidence against Ahmadinejad comes from a variety of credible sources, ranging from an Austrian Green-party parliamentarian, Peter Pilz–who has shamed the previously paralyzed government into opening an investigation–to the excellent writer and analyst Amir Taheri, who says flatly that Ahmadinejad’s involvement in the assassination “is an established fact.” Maybe the presidential election in Iran between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani should have been called “murderer’s row,” since both of them have been accused of involvement in assassination of the regime’s enemies in Europe. That fact alone tells you most everything you need to know about the Islamic republic.

Manifest Evil

The increasing tempo of violence by the mullahs against their own people, and the people’s continued readiness to endure terrible pain and even death to challenge the regime, suggests several things. First, that the regime has removed the last remaining “reformist” fragments from its public face; they have declared “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and they are going to use their mailed fist against anyone who challenges them. Second, that we can expect them to try similar tactics against their foreign interlocutors, taking a page out of the playbook of their Chinese buddies. They have already issued public statements regarding uranium enrichment which can best be summarized: If you’re nice to us, we’ll carry on with enrichment, and if you’re tough with us, we’ll carry on with enrichment. We’ve seen this before, but that line was previously delivered by Groucho. Third, as Khamenei himself has proclaimed, they intend to continue their support for the terrorists in Iraq, in order to drive us back to America.

As luck would have it, recent articles in the Arab press have unearthed even more evidence of Iran’s support for bin Laden and al Qaeda. Much of it has been written up by Dan Darling at WindsofChange.net, and it concerns the confessions of Saif al-Adel, most likely a pseudonym for Muhammad Ibraham Makkawi, an ex-colonel in the Egyptian special forces. Al-Adel reputedly fought against us in Somalia, was involved in the African-embassy bombings, and became one of Osama bin Laden’s top deputies after we killed Mohammed Atef. Al-Adel provided detailed information about his sojourn in Iran, and how he and others crossed from Iran to Iraq after the Iranians arrested some of the minor players.

Mshari Al Zaydi, writing in Asharq Alawsat, says that al-Adel, along with Zarqawi, went straight to Iran after their defeat in Afghanistan. In Iran they stayed in the houses belonging to the Iranian agent Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, something that could only have happened with approval from the regime. As al-Adel puts it, “We began to converge on Iran one after the other. The fraternal brothers in the peninsula of the Arabs, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates who were outside Afghanistan, had already arrived…We set up a central leadership and working groups…”

This is precisely what Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon said some time ago: that al Qaeda reconstituted its leadership structure in Iran after the liberation of Afghanistan. It makes sense, since the Europeans have long known of Zarqawi’s operational base in Iran (from which he created the European terror network that undoubtedly provided support for the operations in Madrid and London). And it jibes with the information I had, months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, that the Iranians were working with Saddam, the Syrians, and the Saudis to prepare a terror war against us in Iraq.

So we have abundant evidence of Iran’s involvement in the war in Iraq, and of the manifest evil of the regime that is universally recognized as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Yet Kofi Annan and Richard Lugar cannot find any words of condemnation, and the Bush administration, despite the president’s fine words, cannot find a line of action to support the Iranian people’s brave resistance.

Everything we know about Iran demands that we take action. Every day we learn more. It is hard to explain why we, and the rest of the Western world, continue the farce of negotiations and do nothing to bring down a regime that will surely kill as many of us and our allies as possible. Western appeasement infects others, and surely plays a role in Iraq’s recent wet kisses in the direction of Tehran (although it was encouraging to hear the Iraqi defense minister flatly deny the Iranians’ public statement that Iran was going to train some Iraqi troops). Shortly Prime Minister Jafari is going on an official visit, and he cannot be expected to be tougher on Iran than we are.

Perhaps Secretary Rice and National Security Adviser Hadley think they are being prudent and statesmanlike by giving the Europeans time to play out their negotiating string, and refraining from active support of the Iranian resistance. Not so. Such feel-good measures are sacrificing lives, above all Iraqi civilians, and also American fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Enough already with the clever stratagems and pleasant cooperation with the Brits, French, and Germans. Let’s get on with it.

Don’t you see there is no escape?

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.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


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