Iran’s lackluster apparatchik is good at following brutal orders but not much else


COLIN SHINDLER: With Raisi’s election, the prospect of a nuclear-free Iran, which does not pose a threat to Israel, appears to be fading quickly

LAST MONTH, diehard Ebrahim Raisi was elected President of Iran last month with a very low turnout. He was easily defeated in 2017 by outgoing President Hassan Rouhani who, like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami before him, had hoped to move the Islamic Republic forward in a more pragmatic direction.

In contrast, Raisi embodied the views of the die-hard conservatives around the old Supreme Leader, Ali Khameinei. Raisi made his take on Israel clear when he visited southern Lebanon in 2016 and visited Hezbollah military positions near the border. He commented: “The Zionist regime, due to its terrorist nature, strongly felt that ISIS should be established as a second center of state terrorism in the region. The resistance front quickly neutralized this plot – and God willing, the first center of terrorism will suffer the same fate. “

Last week, a drone attacked the center of the Karaj Agriculture and Medical Division near Tehran, which is linked to the Iranian Atomic Energy Authority. Its mission was probably to destroy as many centrifuges as possible in the Center, which could be used to enrich uranium isotopes beyond the 3.67% limit and open up the possibility of building a military nuclear device.

The attack follows news that Russia was prepared to sell Iran a Kanopus V satellite equipped with a high-resolution camera that would allow surveillance of Israeli military sites.

All of this and Raisi’s election gerrymander are tied to the undeclared war between Israel and Iran that has been going on for 30 years – since Saddam Hussein’s long conflict between the Islamic Republic and Iraq ended in 1988. C It was also the end of a period of quiet cooperation between the Ayatollahs’ Iran and the State of Israel.

In 1980, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon believed Saddam’s military forces were the greatest threat to Israel – and thus smuggled weapons into Tehran. The Iraqi army was several times the size of Israel’s and seemed ready to seize Iranian oil reserves. Indeed, Israel’s attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981 was allegedly carried out with the help of Iranian intelligence services.

As Iran publicly raged about Israel as “little Satan,” it subtly distracted attention from Israel’s supply of arms to the Islamic Republic. Khomeini hardly did much at that time to help Israel’s enemies, especially the PLO in Lebanon. Indeed, he refused to authorize the transfer of F14 Tomcat fighter jets to Lebanon. In return, Begin secured the release and exodus of large numbers of Iranian Jews who were transported by bus to Pakistan and flown to Austria.

Worker at the Natanz nuclear power plant (AFP)

The Israel-Iran alliance against the Arab states collapsed with the end of this war, and was replaced by a growing alliance between Israel and the Arab states against Iran, symbolized by the Oslo Accords in 1993 and Abraham’s agreements with the Gulf States in the last year.

Iran’s nuclear program dates back to 1957, when the Shah signed an agreement with the United States. Many Iranian nuclear scientists then left their countries with the advent of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and several Western countries withdrew their support.

After the fall of the USSR in 1991, an impoverished Russia began supplying Iran with sensitive nuclear technology and helped build a nuclear reactor in Bushehr. China has also supplied research reactors, laser enrichment equipment and various uranium compounds. In August 2006, a heavy water reactor, which could produce plutonium, a necessary component of any weapon, began operations in Arak. Was this a natural evolution towards a peaceful nuclear program for the good of the country or the first step towards the acquisition of a nuclear device?

The first revelations of clandestine nuclear power plants in the early years of this century came with the election to the presidency of the intransigent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust questioner and a potential annihilator of Israel. Although it elicited a strong reaction from the West, in Israel both the political level and the intelligence community felt that the sanctions were not sufficient.

In 2002, Meir Dagan was appointed head of the Mossad. Since then, Iran has been plagued by computer viruses that have driven centrifuges out of control, mysterious fires at vital facilities and a constant series of assassinations of scientists linked to the nuclear industry.

Last November, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian nuclear program chief and senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed when his convoy was sprayed with bullets in an ambush. Other assassinations like that of Majid Shahriari, a specialist in the transport of neutrons in nuclear reactions, were carried out by passing bikers planting magnetic bombs on cars carrying members of the scientific elite.

Such attacks are clearly not the work of amateurs and are designed not only to eliminate nuclear scientists, but also to deter their budding replacements.

Who is responsible for these precision attacks? Although the public automatically associates such acts with the Mossad, a more likely candidate is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI or MEK). A far-left group founded at the University of Tehran in 1965 to oppose the Shah’s draconian regime, the MEK has combined socialism with Islamism. He helped topple the Shah in 1979, but then came face to face with Ayatollah Khomeini who was gradually tightening the grip of Islamists in the country.

In 1981, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General of the Party of the Islamic Republic were killed by bombs which led to the banning of all opposition groups. An MEK demonstration in June 1981 was brutally suppressed by the Revolutionary Guards and many demonstrators were arrested, tortured and executed.

That Raisi rose to the presidency instead of being investigated for crimes against humanity… is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.

For those who are still at large, the PMOI members left Iran and regrouped in France – from where they were expelled in 1986. They then went to Iraq where Saddam Hussein welcomed them. open. This latter move cost the MEK a lot of support within Iran, which was still at war with Iraq.

After enduring the vicissitudes of exile and defeat, the PMOI began to reinvent itself as a believer in democracy and a defender of human rights. Its attacks on Zionism have disappeared and there has been no mention of the evils of imperialism. In 2008, the United Kingdom lifted its designation of the MEK as a terrorist organization, followed by the United States in 2012. There has been unverified reports in the press that members of the MEK are trained by Israeli practitioners in Albania.

Iran, however, winds between the reactionary – and the less reactionary. All important decisions are taken by Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei, who has been in power since June 1989. He is now over 80 years old and in poor health. Ebrahim Raisi was elected in this flawed election as a sure pair of hands that will ensure the forward march of the Islamic Republic.

Nuclear enrichment at the Natanz power plant

However, his hands are not only safe, they are also bloody. At the end of the war with Iraq in 1988, Ayatollah Khomeini signed a fatwa to execute many of his leftist opponents who remained in prison. Khomeini wanted to make sure that there would be no opposition to his regime after his demise. Raisi was handpicked for the task.

Ayatollah Montazeri, Khomeini’s designated successor, strongly opposed these massacres. He was dismissed in favor of the current Supreme Leader, Ali Khameinei. In August 2016, Montazeri’s son released a recording of his father’s 1988 protest and was sentenced to 21 years in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system”.

Ebrahim Raisi was part of a four-man commission that sentenced thousands of prisoners to death, often without evidence and without a rudimentary belief in due process. The prisoners were accused of “making war against God”. The victims were often asked if they were believers and prayed daily.

Between July and October 1988, family visits to various prisons were suspended so that the massacre could take place. The families were later informed that their loved one had been executed. Iran is now believed to be littered with mass graves.

While other groups such as the Communist Tudeh and the Kurdish Democratic Party suffered, it was PMOI members who were hanged by the thousands in 32 cities across Iran. It is probably for this central reason that the PMOI may be involved in assassinations and sabotage in Iran today.

Raisi was part of a commission that sentenced thousands of prisoners to death, often without proof. Family visits to various prisons have been suspended so that the massacre can take place.

Khomeini said his fatwa was directed against the “hypocrites”. Rafsanjani told the BBC in 1989 that the murders amounted to the execution of war criminals convicted after 1945. Raisi himself in May 2018 compared them to drug traffickers who had spent many years in the corridor. of death before meeting their creator. He said the murders were “one of the proud achievements of the system”.

The leaders of the Islamic Republic have further ensured that there are no Muslim rituals and burial records. Mourning was prohibited and threats were directed against grieving families. A culture of silence prevailed.

Amnesty International has expressed its opinion unequivocally: “That Ebrahim Raisi has assumed the presidency instead of being investigated for crimes against humanity, murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that the impunity reigns supreme in Iran.

The text written on a clay cylinder attributed to Cyrus the Great over two millennia ago is considered the world’s first human rights charter. Iran’s new president couldn’t be further from Cyrus’ legacy. He is on a par with those who presided over the Stalinist spectacle trials in the 1930s.

This dull and brutal apparatchik, Raisi, is now well positioned to succeed Khameinei as supreme leader. He reached this high position because he was obedient to his masters and only followed orders. He was never pragmatic.

The prospect of a nuclear-free Iran, which poses no threat to Israel, appears to be fading quickly. President Biden’s negotiators in Vienna, who are trying to find a way out of Iran’s nuclear quagmire, will find it even harder to do their jobs.

READ MORE

UN chief urges US to lift sanctions on Iran as agreed in 2015 (Reuters)

UN official calls for human rights investigation against Iranian president-elect Raisi (Times of Israel)

Biden’s billion dollar question: Does Iran still want a deal? (Haaretz)

Biden swears Iran won’t have nuclear weapons under its watch as he meets Rivlin at the White House (Haaretz)

Photo: Ebrahim Raisi supporters hold a meeting in Tehran on June 16 (Yomiuri Shimbun / AP)


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