By Alireza Jafarzadeh
Today Iranians are expected to go to the polls to choose the next president in a highly orchestrated and vetted event courtesy of the ruling clerics. Four candidates have been ordained by the Guardian Council- the body of clerical elders which blesses all manners of critical decisions in the country- to run for this election: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mohsen Rezai, and Mehdi Karoubi.
The first is the loud-mouthed current president, who was previously an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) commander and a teer-a-khalas (coup de grâce) specialist. The second was Tehran’s prime minister during the tumultuous war years of the 80’s, under the administration of the “pragmatic” (“we only need one atomic bomb to destroy Israel”) Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – he clearly does not subscribe to or understand Mutually Assured Destruction. The third is a founding member and the former chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who is on the run from the Interpol for complicity in the 1994 Argentinean Jewish community center bombing. The last, and certainly the least, is the lone certified cleric, a former speaker of the Majlis (parliament) who was an early and rabid supporter of Khomeini’s call for the head of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.
Further forensics may help to clear the political fog. Much is known about the current president Ahmadinejad, so we dispense with (most) of the gore. Ahmadinejad, by his own admission, was part of the quintet of the Central Committee of the Office of the Unity which led and operationally oversaw the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. He was the special operations officer in the 6th special corps of IRGC’s Qods Force, responsible for sabotage and cross-border missions. In his current hat, he oversees his government’s expanding drive to perfect the nuclear fuel cycle and acquire the ultimate weapon.
Mir Hossein Moussavi is the current reincarnation of the moderate political animal in Iran. He was a founding member of the Islamic Republic Party- think of it as the mullahs’ Third Reich. Among honors on his resume, he lists: 144 extraterritorial assassinations during the premiership, the massacre of nearly 30,000 political prisoners on the eve of the signing of the 1988 UN Iran-Iraq cease-fire accord, and the 1983 embassy and marine barrack bombings in Beirut.
Mohsen Rezai ranks high in the pantheon of terror. He commanded the IRGC during the disastrous war with Iraq, with ultimate responsibility for sending tens of thousands of under-aged adults to their death in the battle fronts as human mine sweepers, many of whom were shrouded in army-issued blankets to prevent their body parts from splattering. Rezai played a decisive role in coordinating and directing the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, for which he was implicated by an Argentine court and for whom, in 2007, Interpol issued an arrest warrant.
Mehdi Karoubi is the least consequential. Nevertheless, he occupies a special place among the regime hierarchy. For, he is a permanent member of the Expediency Council, chaired by former president, Rafsanjani.
So, where are we now? A bit of chronology brings us home. When faced with the hostage takings by the mullahs in the 80’s, the world blinked. The Iranian regime was rewarded crucially with time; time to suppress dissent at home, and to spread its gospel of hate and warmongering in the Middle East and around the globe. When faced with its drive to build a nuclear bomb in the 90’s and 00’s, the West decided chiefly that it must “engage” the mullahs in dialogue. We were bombarded with group acronyms: EU-3, then EU 3+2 (referring to the big EU countries, plus China and Russia), or P5 + 1 (that is the permanent five + Germany). “Freeze for dialogue” (a pre-condition for suspending nuclear enrichment in exchange for negotiation), “freeze-for-freeze” (freezing enrichment for freezing sanctions) became mantra for the regime’s calculated strategy of freezing time. It is time which it wants, and which the world has so little of.
Clearly, the mullahs are not suckered. “Bigger sticks and bigger carrots” work if (only and only if) the other side is receptive to an orderly and rational chain of events: faced with a looming threat, it responds by accepting the offer of peace. The Iranian mullahs have distinguished themselves in at least one crucially important fashion: when offered a big carrot, they counter by requiring an even bigger carrot, and then an even bigger carrot. Their rational is clear- at least to some; time is purchased and attention is deflected at the expense of a world and a Middle East in desperate need of peace and crisis resolution.
Among its many faces, the current election charade is emblematic of a constant in the regime tactics. With a strict electoral vetting process, in which “too” anything distasteful to its strategy and ambition is rejected, the Iranian regime prefers very much that the West becomes preoccupied with the absurdity of the June election process, not minding that western nations fret ad nauseam about the winners and losers of this election, while at the end, and at last, it has bought yet more time. More time to perfect how it makes the bomb and more time to repress its citizens and those of other nations.
|Mr. Jafarzadeh is the author of “The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Jafarzadeh’s revelations of the nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002 triggered IAEA inspections of Iranian sites.|