Thursday, November 18, 2010
'Iranian Military Officers Won't Support Ahmadinejad'
by Ben Hartman
Dissident commander tells Paris crowd regime change must be internal process, says he backs "liberation" from the Islamic regime.
PARIS – Most Iranian military officers are not loyal to the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and would not fight to protect the Islamic Republic, a former Iranian pilot who defected to France said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Paris, Lieutenant Behzad Masoumi Legwan gave a speech saying: “It is a fact that the overwhelming majority of the officer corps are in no way obedient followers of the regime. On the contrary, they are looking for the first opportunity whereby they can openly display their true sentiments by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Iran.”
Legwan added, “I and a significant segment of personnel and senior officers in the armed forces are in opposition to the Islamic Republic, and will never alter direction until such time that our nation has been liberated.”
The 39-year-old Legwan arrived in Paris earlier this month, over a year after he fled to Iraqi Kurdistan in September 2009. In Kurdistan, he made contact with representatives of the Green Wave Movement for Freedom of Iran and the Kurdish Democratic Party, who arranged for him to arrive safely in France.
Legwan was given refugee status by the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, which also provided him with the necessary travel documents to make it to his new home.
Months later, he was joined in Paris by his wife, who was also given assistance by the French government.
Legwan and his wife have no children back in Iran, though the pilot did confirm that he still has many relatives in the country, whom he has not spoken to but who he assumes are in danger.
A spokesman for Green Wave said that Legwan and his wife are living under tight, round-the-clock security in Paris, though she would not comment on what, if any, role the French government plays in providing security for him.
During the press conference, the pilot related a harrowing story of repeated torture at the hands of Iranian security forces interrogators, who called him in for questioning on a number of occasions that began when he was accused of rebellion and sedition in 2001.
Before and following his eventual discharge in 2007, Legwan said he maintained contact with a network of dissenting military officers, who helped prepare him for his defection.
Though he had no clear figures on how large the network of dissident officers in Iran is, or how many support the cause, Legwan said through an interpreter that “for every official defector who makes it out, there are hundreds more back in Iran who feel the same and need our support.”
Legwan was joined on the podium by former consul of Iran in Oslo and executive director of Iranian Green Embassies Campaign Mohammed Reza Heydari, who defected to Norway in January 2010. Alongside the two dissidents was Amir Hossein Jahanchahi, the founding chairman of the Green Wave.
Jahanchahi minced no words in describing the global danger posed by the Iranian regime, whose president he likened to Hitler: “Iran is the root of all the problems in the region. All the conflicts in the region, including the Israel-Palestine conflict, Lebanese internal strife, and the Afghan and Iraqi wars all lead back to Iran.”
He added that Israel is in a lose-lose situation in regard to the Iranian nuclear program, saying “if Israel does not attack, there will be war; but if Israel does attack, it would be the biggest gift the Ahmadinejad regime could ever receive and would send the entire region into war.”
Jahanchahi accused the leaders of the West, in particular US President Barack Obama, of not understanding the severity of the situation in Iran, or the danger it poses to the entire world.
He added that the West “has no idea how many “Iranian agents are operating even just in Paris alone, and they aren’t necessarily Iranian or Shi’ite.”
Jahanchahi also said Western leaders are not doing enough to help the people of Iran bring about regime change, before adding that such change will and must be brought about internally by the Iranian people.
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Posted by Sally Zahav at 10:22 PM