The Supreme Leader Caught in His Own Web?

khawebIran Truth, by Clare Lopez, August 19, 2015:

For those who have only experienced either democracy or dictatorship, it is difficult to grasp the complexities of Iran’s political system, which is an autocracy that has adopted some democratic features. A careful reading of the Iranian constitution, however, clarifies for the reader that the Supreme Leader is the one and only person who wields ultimate power in that system, including appointment power for a vast number of positions.

Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of Kayhan, the most important Iranian daily widely viewed as the regime outlet for the Supreme Leader’s ideas and policies, is one of those appointed to his job directly by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Thus, it was no surprise that Shariatmadari’s 15 August 2015 editorial, claiming that Khamenei opposes the nuclear deal, drew immediate attention. Obviously, Shariatmadari would not have written that without Khamenei’s consent. The confusing part, however, is that Hamid Reza Moghadam Far, top advisor to MG Mohammed Ali Jafari, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander, then harshly criticized Shariatmadari and warned him not to ascribe to the Supreme Leader his own ideas and understandings.

Given that Jafari is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader (just like Shariatmadari), and that there’s little history of this Iranian regime sending out such mixed messages from its own top ranks, the only conclusion possible is that sowing confusion is a calculated move at this time, intended to serve a regime objective.

For over three decades, the Islamic regime of Iran has made implacable enmity toward the U.S. and Israel the foundation of its official foreign policy, reflecting its leaders’ ideological dedication and fervor. Generations of young people have been indoctrinated to Islamic beliefs and recruited to the IRGC, Qods Force, and Basij on the basis of commitment to these beliefs. A blood-soaked litany of terror attacks instigated by this mullahs’ regime stretches from the ruins of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut through Khobar Towers, the East Africa Embassy bombings, the USS Cole attack, 9/11 and hundreds of American troops killed and maimed by Iranian and Hizballah explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tehran’s support for Islamic terror groups has left a global trail of murder and mayhem. “Resistance” is what the Ayatollahs call it. “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” are the slogans, chanted in endless repetition. America is the “Great Satan” and Israel the “Little Satan.” Never did the Supreme Leader imagine negotiating, much less reaching an actual agreement, with such hated enemies.

But the sanctions took their toll and financial collapse had to be avoided, even if it meant coming to the table to negotiate with the world’s superpowers, however noxious that was for Khamenei personally. Getting the West to believe Iran was desperate enough to obtain relief from sanctions that it would agree to limit its nuclear weapons program was only a clever ruse, of course, but it worked. The first step was allowing Hassan Rouhani, an old regime hand who’d served as negotiator in earlier talks, to become president. Khamenei needed Rouhani’s smiling demeanor to smooth international impressions of the Islamic Republic. The years-long cultivation of Secretary John Kerry by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also would pay off big time. The clincher was bringing in Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, an old friend of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, to push through to the final agreement. Intelligence services like Iran’s are willing to invest lots of time and effort with targets at this level.

The American collapse on every single key issue—from enrichment (a stipulation demanded—and obtained—even before the first secret talks began in Oman in 2011) to centrifuges, the Arak plutonium-producing reactor, off-limits facilities, Iran’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), sanctions relief, and P5+1 technical assistance with nuclear development and site protection—surprised and delighted the Iranians. Contrary to Shariatmadari’s claims, the Supreme Leader is in fact quite satisfied with the nuclear deal; but, he cannot show that publicly, for two key reasons. If the U.S. Congress should vote against the deal, potentially leaving in place even some sanctions that President Obama could neither waive nor lift, Khamenei would find himself the public supporter of a failed deal. The powerful IRGC and Basij militia might hold him responsible for compromising the blood of martyrs and values of the Islamic Revolution for which the Iranian people sacrificed their economy and lives. And that would spell the end of the regime.

What to do? Khamenei wants the benefits of this deal without any of the possible liabilities. So, even as his trusted Iran Lobby pulls out the stops to make sure the deal goes through, he tries to find a way to support it without disappointing the guns that keep him in power. Solution: in public, Khamenei has spoken in general, nebulous phrases that convey no certain position. But in private, to certain audiences among the IRGC, Qods Force, and Basij, he pretends to oppose the deal. To others, he expresses support. Each group is allowed to go out and express its understanding of the Supreme Leader’s position with the media. Meanwhile, Khamenei plays the game safely and waits to see which way the deal will go.

If something goes wrong with the deal, Khamenei will be the one who warned Rouhani’s negotiating team not to trust the Americans. Publicly, then, he can discredit Shariatmadari and claim the media misstated his position (even though everyone knows that without Khamenei’s prior permission, neither Jafari nor Kayhan’s editor-in-chief would even discuss the subject). The regime is trapped in a web of its own making. It has radiated hatred toward Israel and the West for so long and so insistently that it cannot now just stop chanting “Death to America” or calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map. Nor can it abandon its terror proxies across the region. Disappointing the IRGC and Basij that are the backbone of this regime would shake the very foundation of the Islamic Republic of Iran: unthinkable.

Khamenei depends on the U.S. Congress to save his regime. Congressional members may want to think about that long and hard before voting on this disastrous deal next month.

This piece was co-written by Daniel Akbari, a lawyer certified to practice before the Supreme Court of Iran, holds a master’s degree from Texas State University and a graduate certificate in homeland security from the Bush School of Government and Public service. 

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Egypt’s Troubling Iranian Turn

Commander of Iran's Quds Force Qasim Soleimani

Commander of Iran’s Quds Force Qasim Soleimani

IPT: By John Rossomando

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force met with officials close to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi during a secret two-day visit to Egypt just after Christmas. The Times of London calls it “another blow to Cairo’s fragile relationship with the West.”

Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s “meeting was intended to send a message to America, which is putting pressure on the Egyptian government, that we be allowed to have other alliances we please,” a source told the Times.

The U.S. State Department designated Soleimeini as a terrorist, and the Quds Force serves as Iran’s primary unit for training and equipping foreign Islamic revolutionary movements. The Quds Force was responsible for setting up Hizballah in the 1980s and has been involved in training Hamas, the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

The Iranian paramilitary leader met with Essam al-Haddad, one of Morsi’s foreign affairs advisers, and Muslim Brotherhood officials, to advise them on building a security and intelligence apparatus independent from the national intelligence services that are controlled by the Egyptian military.

A report in The Australian suggests that the Egyptians invited Soleimani to meet.

“When the Iranian revolutionaries took control they didn’t trust the military, so they setup a parallel system independent of Iran’s army that has been quite successful,” Heritage Foundation Middle East expert James Phillips told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Consequently, the Brotherhood likely sees the IRGC/Quds Force as a successful model to copy, Phillips said.

Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal al-Din was forced out of the government after he objected to the meeting, Al-Arabiyah reported Thursday.

In addition, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived in Cairo Wednesday for talks that Iran hopes could lead to expanded ties with Egypt. The two countries have not had diplomatic ties since Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1970 and granted asylum to the shah after he was overthrown.

Relations between Iran and Egypt have steadily improved since Morsi, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood figure, was inaugurated in July. Morsi also met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his late August visit to Tehran for the Non-Aligned Movement summit.

Syria will be high on the agenda during Salehi’s visit, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Iran and Egypt have competing interests in Syria, with the Iranians backing the Assad regime and the Egyptians supporting their Muslim Brotherhood brethren in their rebellion.

The meetings between the Brotherhood and Iran send the message that Egypt will move closer to Iran if the United States and other Western nations cut off aid, an unnamed Egyptian official told the Times.

“It is another sign that the Muslim Brotherhood is distancing itself from the U.S.,” he said. “It is wishful thinking the State Department, the CIA and other agencies that they can count on the Muslim Brotherhood as an ally against the more extremist Islamists.”