By Daan de Wit
This article has been translated into English by Ben Kearney
With the recent voter uprising in Iran, accusations are going back and forth over possible Western support for the demonstrators. Accusations coming from the Iranian side don't sound so plausible because they are issued from an extremist regime that puts a low priority on human rights - appearances are against them. But what are the facts?
The Iranian Information Secretary Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said late last month that 'some people with British passports "had a role in the riots"'. In the meantime it's been reported that an employee at the British embassy in Tehran has been taken into custody by Iranian authorites and will be tried in Iran. Mohseni Ejei also said that 'the suicide bombing on Saturday at the shrine of Imam Khomeini was one in a series of bombings which were planned to cause unrest in the country. In the run up to June 12 presidential election, certain groups, “mostly affiliated to Israel ”, sought to carry out bombings in various parts of Iran [video , 4'55"] but the terror agents were arrested by the country's security forces, he added. The Intelligence minister also said a number of people who had long been trying to promote insecurity in the southern cities of Iran including Ahvaz were arrested. “Israel and certain Western powers, especially the U.S., are behind most of these incidents in Iran,” he added'.
Secretary Mohseni Ejei is likely referring here to the result of a request made by the American administration to Congress in December of 2007 for expansion of covert operations in Iran. I write about this on page 175 in my book: 'Bush asks for and receives 400 million dollars for operations outlined in a highly classified so-called 'Presidential Finding'. This Finding must be submitted for approval to Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress as well as the most important members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. An insider told journalist Seymour Hersh in June of 2008 that 'The Finding was focused on undermining Iran's nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change’. The operations in Iran are being led by the CIA and JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, a part of the armed forces that specializes in special operations'. But that was back during the Bush Administration.
Isn't everything different under Obama? Two former members of America's National Security Council put an end to these types of misconceptions. They write in the New York Times that the 'Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic'.
Half a year before the 400 million dollars was requested of and granted by Congress, page 254 of The Next War [sources via the website] read as follows: 'thanks to a document signed by Bush, the CIA is able to carry out propaganda and disinformation campaigns designed to destabilize and ultimately topple the regime in Tehran. [...] A few days before President Bush authorized [these so-called 'black propaganda operations'] in May of 2007, the Iranians arrested ten members of Jundullah, a terrorist organization sponsored by the U.S. Not only were the ten men in possession of 500,000 dollars, but they were also carrying modern espionage equipment and maps of sensitive areas. In May of 2008 Pakistan arrests six members of Jundullah and threatens to turn them over to Iran. ABC News reported that the group ‘has carried out a number of violent attacks on Iranian army facilities and officers inside the country’ and that the CIA is trying to prevent their extradition. Jundullah kidnaps soldiers and intelligence officers in Iran and records their executions on camera. Responsibility for a February 2007 attack on a bus whereby eleven members of the Revolutionary Guard were killed was claimed by Jundullah. Sources from ABC News say that these kinds of U.S. sponsored attacks have been taking place since 2005. Military analyst Sam Gardiner speaking in June of 2008: 'Hardly a day goes by now we don't see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed'.
In the meantime the attacks simply continue, even now that the Obama Administration is in office. Jason Raimundo writes: 'Obama, with his peace overtures, serves as the smiley-face mask for some pretty loathsome activities. The U.S. government claims to be fighting terrorism, yet is sponsoring groups that plant bombs in mosques, kidnap tourists as well as Iranian policemen, and fund their activities with drug-running in addition to covert subsidies courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers. The recent suicide bombing in Zahedan was the work of Jundallah. These are war crimes, carried out with the full knowledge of the leaders of both parties in Congress, paid for by you and me, and conducted in our name. [...] we’re already at war with Iran, and have been for quite a while. It’s only a matter of time, and circumstance, before it becomes official'.
Besides the American and Israeli governments there are more groups involved. In my book on the coming war against Iran I devote an entire chapter to the tangled web created by the conflicts of interest between the persons and institutions inside and outside the government who are focused on regime change in Iran. One of these organisations is the Brookings Institution. Right Web names them in the same breath along with well-known right-wing thinktanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. In late June the Brookings Institution issued a report [PDF] with the telling name Which Path to Persia? Respecting the country for what it is - a sovereign state - is clearly not an option. '[...] ignoring Iran is no longer a realistic alternative—not that it ever was. Tehran is acting on a broad range of issues of great concern to the United States'. The subtitle to the report: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran. Iran is seen as a problem, and problems are there to be solved. The goal of the report is to explore all possible options. A few titles of the chapters: 1. An Offer Iran Shouldn't Refuse: Persuasion; 3. Going All the Way: Invasion; 6. The Velvet Revolution: Supporting a Popular Uprising; 8. The Coup: Supporting a Military Move Against the Regime.
Discussed in the report are the advantages and disadvantages of both the military option and the way in which the Obama Administration is now openly approaching Iran. The authors of the report write: 'For those who favor regime change or a military attack on Iran (either by the United States or Israel), there is a strong argument to be made for trying this option first'. So as to then further illuminate both options: 'The ideal scenario in this case would be that the United States and the international community present a package of positive inducements so enticing that the Iranian citizenry would support the deal, only to have the regime reject it. In a similar vein, any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context — both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it'.
The report goes on: 'The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer—one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down'. Earlier I described how Obama's modus operandi resembles a wolf in sheep's clothing, and in the case of Iran could indeed lead to a military conflict: 'Iran knows that without a nuclear program it will never be able to achieve the position it wants in the region. Because of this it has no wiggle room. At the same time America seems to be declaring an unwillingness to move toward the Iranian position. Iran cannot be be allowed to become a nuclear state. If an unyielding Iran is unable to consider the gesture of the unyielding Obama, then later on the American president can always say that he did everything he could to reach out to the Iranians. From the report: 'Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal. [...] President Obama has steadfastly refused to rule out the military option, which also means that he and his advisers recognize that under certain circumstances, the United States will at least have to consider Airstrikes or even the full-scale Invasion option if the Iranians prove unwilling to compromise'.
One question that should not be overlooked in the midst of all this fuss - what are the chances that, instead of the incumbent President Ahmadinejad, it was his opponent, the former premier van Iran, Mousavi, that won the election? There were a number of polls conducted in Iran prior to the election by a Western organization. Two people who carried out the polling write in an article in the Washington Post that their 'nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin -- greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election'. It's difficult to know what the truth really is. Views on this are also divided. Professor James Petras wrote an article with the headline 'Iranian Elections: The ‘Stolen Elections’ Hoax', while another professor quoted in the previous installment of this series, Juan Cole, thinks that the elections were stolen.
At times, political and media rhetoric in the West has quite overtly dovetailed with the efforts of the demonstrators in Iran: 'US Senators bluntly charged Thursday that Iran's presidential vote was rigged and vowed to help the opposition defeat curbs on news and the social networking Internet sites it has used to organize', reports the press agency AFP. The question of the week on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS from Sunday June 21st is: 'After this extraordinary week of demonstrations, crackdowns and violence in Iran, what do you think people from outside can do to help those inside Iran who want change? Let us know what you think'. An even more proactive example [video, 9'45]: a TV station in Los Angeles not only produces programming in Farsi, but distributes 10,000 camera pens to people in Iran.
Former British intelligence officer and director of the Conflicts Forum in Beirut, Alastair Crook, sees a deeper layer in the current developments involving Iran. He writes that the rebellion in Iran is the reflection of a struggle taking place at the highest levels of the Iranian power structure. A struggle between supporters and opponents of President Ahmadinejad, who is taking action against a faction that in his opinion is trying to enrich itself: '[...] it is clear that a powerful determination has emerged to exorcise the Rafsanjani-Khatami circles from the establishment, fueled by a growing popular anger as the evidence of their external links to the West is being carefully examined. [...] It was this group of powerful clerics that stood behind the Moussavi challenge to Mr. Ahmadinejad [...]. Paradoxically, the Western understanding that Mr. Ahmadinejad is a tool of the clerical leadership who stands with the repressive Revolutionary Guard and Basij (the popular militia) against reform could not be more wrong. It was Mr. Ahmadinejad who campaigned against the wealth and self-interest of some of the clerical elite. Mr. Moussavi was more closely allied to those interests'. In short, Crook believes that President Ahmadinejad would have wanted to carry out reforms to purify the Revolution of corruption and was frustrated in those attempts by ex-presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami.