Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to Think About Iran

by Lawrence A. Franklin

An important axiom of the regime, necessary for US policy makers to remember, is that the Islamic Republic's ruling class is an inveterate enemy of the United States and the existing world order. The regime's overall objective is the destruction of the United States and the civilization it represents.

What is to be done about Iran? The current U.S. Administration might be better served if it would engage in some strategic thinking. The concentration of media pundits has focused on only one dimension of the Islamic Republic, its nuclear program. This sole focus obscures the essence, motivations, and objectives of a regime ultimately more dangerous to the world than even its nuclear capability.

To begin with, U.S. policy makers might take a fresh look at the operating principles by which the regime lives -- as well as its strengths and weaknesses -- to develop better a series of policy options on how best to weaken or even destabilize the regime. At the very least, such a process might yield an approach that would induce the regime to curtail its terrorist activities and support for radical movements throughout the globe, if not slow down its nuclear program.

Operating Principles of the Regime

The prime directive of Iran's ruling class is to ensure the regime's stability. During its three and a half decades, the Islamic Republic has successfully negotiated contentious passions within the regime's power centers to avoid open confrontation. When it appeared that factional intra-regime differences were about to unravel the existing order, the regime's leaders pulled back and restored equilibrium within its senior ranks. The most memorable example of this pattern transpired during the era of Mohamad Khatami (08/1997-08/2005), when his election to the presidency emboldened Iran's population to push the theocracy for comprehensive reforms.

Iran's security forces, reactionary mullahs and hardliners rightfully interpreted this trend as an existential threat to the regime and surmised that liberals were exploiting the reforms Khatami enacted to carry out a democratic counter-revolution. Khatami was privately, and later publicly, warned to reign in his supporters. In addition, intelligence agents from the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS), in an attempt to intimidate Khatami supporters, executed several liberal intellectuals.[1] Finally, a group of 24 high-level Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] officials issued a public ultimatum to President Khatami, either to put down the student riots or be removed from office.[2] After this threat was published, Khatami-era political reforms began to be rolled back. The real power "behind the curtain" had evidently decided the prime directive of regime survival had to be enforced.

Sometimes, the regime's power brokers have disciplined their own who might have pushed their personal agendas too recklessly. The former president of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for instance, had made no secret that he would like to be the next Supreme Leader. However the hard-line Chairman of Iran's Council of Guardians, Atyatollah Jannati, who vets all candidates for public office, criticized Rafsanjani during a nation-wide television broadcast of his sermon during a Tehran-based Friday prayer service: "A presidential candidate must live a simple life but when he drives around in a Benz [Mercedes Benz], he cannot possibly understand the people's pain when they are hungry and he therefore is unable to sympathize with the lower classes".[3]

Former President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad attempted to surround himself with a coterie of clerics more loyal to him than to the Supreme Leader Khamenei. Both Rafsanjani and Ahmadinijad have been chastised for these excesses.

Rafsanjani's storied riches and ability to survive the harsh vicissitudes of the Iranian revolutionary politics have caused current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to see him as a potential rival to be moved aside if the opportunity arises. Consequently, when Rafsanjani's ambition gave offense, after he decided to run for a third, non-consecutive, term as president in the 2012 Iranian presidential elections, Khamenei discouraged his candidacy. The Council of Guardians, roughly analogous to an Iranian supreme court, then ruled against permitting Rafsanjani to run, citing his advanced age of 70 years.[4] As all members of this body are appointed by the Supreme Leader's Office, in rejecting Rafsanjani, the Council evidently implemented Khamenei's will.

Rafsanjani had also earned the enmity of Khamenei and regime military leaders with his attempt to ride the popular wave of the "Green Revolution," when millions of Iranians disputed the results of the 2009 re-election of hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denounced Khamenei as a dictator deserving of death.[5] The regime's internal security services punished Rafsanjani for his attempt to garner favor with the protestors by arresting Rafsanjani's daughter, Fatemeh, and his son, Mehdi, who were briefly detained for alleged economic or political offenses.[6]

Ahmadinejad, when he was midway through his second term as Iran's president, also ran afoul of the regime's more hard-line factions. He had surrounded himself with a private group of religious and political advisors who appeared more loyal to him personally than to Khamenei. When Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, President Ahmadinejad's religious confidant, helped establish a rival theological focus, separate from the Supreme Leader's Office -- and Ahmadinejad encouraged a mystical connection to the alleged site of the Twelfth and last Imam's disappearance, from which the Imam would ultimately emerge at the end of time to transform the world, implementing the tenets of Shii Islam[7] -- Khamenei launched a private political offensive against the president's office by approving the arrest of several of Ahmadinejad's closest advisors. An embittered Ahmadinejad, a few months before leaving office, was secretly detained by an IRGC detail that warned him not to make good on his threat to air regime dirty laundry in public after his term. [8]

Additionally, Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, despite having been founding fathers of the existing totalitarian order[9], have also been disciplined for having encouraged the reformist "Green Movement" protests in 2009. Both men spent more than 1000 days under house arrest.

The Islamic Republic, although a totalitarian system, is not a top-down dictatorship. There is no "leader" who is supreme. There are several partially autonomous "dowres" (circles) of influence. There is also considerable "behind the curtain" wheeling and dealing and collegial decision-making. The government, including the office of the president, is not primary.

Moreover, these circles of power are drawn from a central corps of mullahs, security officials, and influential civilians from Islamic revolutionary families. Nevertheless, these influential nodes form only fleeting coalitions depending upon the issue or political trend. One could think of them as bubbles interlocking for a brief period before disengaging to form new constellations.

Contrary to frequent erroneous reporting, regime leaders are not recalcitrant ideologues. They are flexible in political maneuver, nuanced in their understanding of the West, well-informed about internal and external threats, and pragmatic in decision-making.

Regime decision-making bears some similarity to the structures of the departed Soviet Union; the most visible institutions of the regime are the least potent instruments of power. This is particularly true of the Majlis, a consultative assembly rather than a law-making legislature in the Western governmental sense. The Supreme Leader's Office, the Guardian Council, high-ranking Iran-Iraq war veterans, ex-military economic potentates and Islamic Revolution Guard Corps elites all share slices of real power.

Despite the public persona of the so-called Ayatollah Khamenei, he rarely issues a major decree without first vetting it with these other power centers. Nevertheless, regime factions have embraced the Leninist principle of Democratic Centralism: once the power circles have arrived at a final decision, often following much private and public debate, all factions are expected to endorse the policy. Almost always, the cover of respectability of the Supreme Leader is invoked, formally to end the debate. The strength of his public pronouncements rests on the "valiyat-e-faqih" [Guardianship of the Jurist] theocratic principle of political-religious infallibility, a principle that lies in the personhood of Ayatollah Khamenei as "rakbar" (the leader). Despite this concept there are no overweening personality cults in Iran such as existed with Qaddafi's Libya or Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

An important axiom of the regime, necessary for U.S. policymakers to remember, is that the Islamic Republic's ruling class is an inveterate enemy of the United States and the existing world order. To quote Imam Khomeini: "America is worse than Britain. The Soviet Union is worse than both of them. But today it is America that we are concerned with. All of our troubles are caused by America and Israel"[10] Imam Khomeini gave ample proof of his anti-American animus when he embraced the seizure of the United States Embassy on November 4, 1979. His holding 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days underscored his deep-seated antipathy for what he referred to as "Satan-e-Bozorg" [the "Great Satan"] or "Istikbar i-Jahani" [the "World Arrogance"].[11] These terms of reference remain in political vogue today, just as the familiar chant of "Marg bar Amreka" or "Death to America." The constancy of these themes is rhetorical evidence that the regime's overall objective remains the destruction of the United States and the civilization it represents. The same is true of the Iranian regime's objective to expunge Israel from the face of the planet. There has been no diminution of the regime's passionate attachment to these twin goals.

The regime also seems to remain dedicated to its objectives of radicalizing, and then uniting, the entire Muslim world. Having achieved this prerequisite regime, "true believers" assume that supplanting the existing nation-state system would quickly follow. Imam Khomeini denounced the world's divisions into countries as artificial and foreign to the will of God. "These boundaries around the world to designate a country or a homeland are the product of a deficient human mind. The world is the homeland of humanity. All people should reach the salvation of both worlds. This will happen only by implementation of God's divine laws."[12]

Many of Khomeini's political concepts and views still resonate in the regime's understanding of its historical mission. Khomeini's writings and speeches are, in fact, cited by regime leaders as "inspiring the Islamic Awakening which resulted in the overthrow of Mubarak of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Gaddafi of Libya, and Saleh of Yemen."[13] Ayatollah Khamenei personally repeated this claim by stating that Khomeini had fashioned the "hegemony-free model" for the current movement in the Islamic World."[14] However, the International Affairs Department of the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini's Works is the primary propagation instrument for the preservation of Khomeini's ideas.[15]

Khomeini, especially in the first years of the Islamic Republic, encouraged cooperation between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam. He wanted to bridge this millennium-long chasm in the Islamic world. To this end, he ruled that it was permissible for Shia to pray in mosques, even when the prayers there were led by a Sunni Imam. He also established Qods Day, in which he called upon all Muslims to take concrete steps to liberate Jerusalem from "the Zionist Entity." He supported Sunni Palestinian groups as well as anti-Western revolutionary Islamic movements throughout the world. The continued cooperation of Gaza's ruling party, HAMAS, with Iran's regime is a testament to Khomeini's ideas regarding closing the gap between Shia and Sunni. Another instance of Khomeini's transcending the Sunni-Shia divide was the propagation of his ideology in Bosnia. [16]

Khomeini's description of Iran's unique position in world affairs, for example, continues to shape the regime's idea of itself: "One cannot find a country today whose motto is "Neither East Nor West...the future belongs to Islam and the Muslims."[17] The Islamic Republic justifies its "export of the revolution" -- and zealous worldwide offensive to support terrorist, separatist, and rebellious movements -- by embracing Khomeini's interpretation of Shia Islamic doctrine.[18] In it, he defines the political norms of the existing international order as based on the shallow foundation of man-made laws or "qavanin bashiri." Khomeini insists that the oppressed [mostaz'afan] of the earth will triumph over their oppressors [mostakbaran] when divine laws supplant the laws of man. For him, this is the God-given mission that the Islamic Republic must help bring about.[19]

Despite this seemingly uncompromising revolutionary agenda, Iranian statesmen have been sufficiently skilled to avoid total isolation, a status that could endanger the existence of the regime. The Islamic Republic's diplomats have artfully exploited U.S. policy differences with Russia and China, for instance, by maintaining amicable relations with Moscow and Beijing. Tehran also has developed close diplomatic links with smaller nations, such as Venezuela, also hostile to the "global arrogance" -- meaning the United States.

Assessments of Regime Strengths and Weaknesses

The greatest strength of the regime is its will to remain in power. It has done so only because it has effectively handled all opposition. In the first months of the regime's existence, Khomeini outmaneuvered threats by radical youths to wrest control of the revolution from the mullahs by embracing the militant students' seizure of the U.S. Embassy. Later Khomeini staged "a night of the long knives" against the powerful, well-organized, pro-Soviet Tudeh [Communist Party of Iran], an erstwhile ally against the Shah. After Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980, Khomeini decisively exploited Marxist-Leninist Mujahedin-e-Khalq's [MEQ] support for Saddam Hussein by labeling them as traitors to Iran.

During Khatami's presidency, the regime was able to frustrate and crush liberals who wanted to transform Khatami's reforms into the establishment of a European-style liberal democracy. The brutal suppression of the Green Movement, after the allegedly fraudulent presidential election of 2009, is still another example of the regime's skill at outlasting and outmaneuvering determined opposition.

Perhaps the greatest example of the regime's ability to endure is its capability to isolate clerical opposition to its continued existence. The five hundred political clerics that serve the Supreme Leader's Office were able to suffocate the opposition of traditional and liberal clerics alike,[20]as in isolating Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and holding him under house arrest for having criticized Imam Khomeini's fatwa that called for the assassination of author Salman Rushdie.[21] Also, many senior clerics in Shia Iran's holy city of Qom remain in silent opposition, managing to retain their teaching posts in theological seminaries as well as the generous stipends doled out by the pro-regime clerical emissaries.

The regime's security apparatus has, over time, improved its ability to monitor, penetrate, and manipulate opposition organizations. The regime's praetorian guard, the security agencies, also have been effective in crowd control techniques, counter-intelligence practices, and tactics to suppress dissidents. They are capable, loyal, and brutal; nuanced in the application of terror and shrewd in their judgment on when to apply force or merely to collect intelligence on the opposition. Regime security services, for example, do not always discourage demonstrations at the first signs of protest. Sometimes, they thoroughly film events and, after an exhaustive filtering process, arrest selected individuals who had participated in the demonstration. They come quietly and at night, usually threatening family members in the home, a method that usually elicits cooperation from the individual about to be dragged off to prison. Sometimes after several days of interrogation and torture the protester is released back into his milieu with the mission of collecting information on his or her fellow anti-regime activists. Still another tactic is to release the prisoner only to re-arrest him in the near future, a tactic designed to break the victim's morale. Security officials also often threaten to arrest loved ones, a technique that usually prompts a prisoner to cooperate with authorities.[22]

The authorities also underscore their willingness to employ raw terror against their own citizens, as in posting snipers on rooftops to shoot down street protestors and ordering gangs of chain-wielding toughs to charge into crowds of demonstrators. There should be little doubt that this regime is one that controls its populace by terror. The regime is quick to imprison or execute any citizen deemed "counter-revolutionary." They often publicly execute dissidents as well, claiming they are common criminals, and displaying their bodies for hours. Sometimes, presumably for psychological impact, the police have ordered recently hung victims transported throughout Tehran on construction cranes.

A public hanging in Iran.

The government also maintains an archipelago of secret prisons throughout the country. The primary responsibility of regime security services is apparently to suppress whatever might be viewed as dissident activity -- a task facilitated by the weak, divided, and unorganized nature of the opposition. Its most vocal members are middle-class students, many from the more affluent neighborhoods of "Shemran," the northern suburbs of the capital, Tehran.[23] Coalition-building among various opposition groups in Iran such as between student rebels and working class Iranians has not been effective, in part, because of traditional class cleavages in Iranian society. In Iran, there is also no tradition of independent labor unions. Past attempts to organize free labor groups have been crushed. The lack of a vibrant free labor movement deprives the opposition of a powerful civil society organization which could help build an effective anti-regime coalition.[24]

The regime has also been careful not to breach the economic dimension of its social contract made with Iran's working-poor labor class that dominates the neighborhoods south of Tehran. The regime continues to provide food and housing subsidies to these workers as well as employment opportunities, including joining the ranks of the Basij [Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed]. The Basij are gangs who keep student protestors in line and help enforce the conservative social norms of the regime. They assure that teenage boys and girls demonstrate no signs of public affection, that women display "good hijab" [complete covering of their hair], that the genders use separate slopes while skiing, and that young men do not wear Western dress such as T-shirts and hats with un-Islamic or immodest messages.

Youths who enter the Basij are subjected to an intensive core curriculum in ideological political training. These courses focus on nurturing loyalty to the theocratic principles upon which the regime is based. There are courses in "Velayat" [Guardianship], Basirat [Insight], and Marefat [Awareness].[25] As the curriculum emphasizes unwavering loyalty to the regime, the regime seems to want to safeguard Basij recruits from being infected by their young counterparts in the Green Movement.

Nature of the Regime

Today's Iran is much less a theocracy than it is a military bureaucracy. The economy now is largely run by retired military bureaucrats, many of whom who are veterans of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. This ruling class of mullahs and martial plutocrats has accrued great fortunes, by expropriating the financial resource of several charitable foundations [bonyads]. One account of the Office of the Supreme Leader estimates that the Leader's office has established a real estate empire worth about $52 billion.[26] A large portion of this wealth has apparently been accumulated from seized property of the regime's opponents and émigrés.[27] The U.S. Treasury Department claims that the Supreme Leader's Office controls dozens of public and private companies.[28] Other leaders of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, such as former President Rafsanjani, also are fabulously wealthy. Rafsanjani earned the nickname "kooseh," [shark] from his ability to arrange business deals that have possibly made him the richest man in Iran.[29] When Ahmedinijad was president, there was also a surly struggle between them for control of the vast revenues of Iran's Islamic Azad University. Rafsanjani won the contest by being named Chairman of Azad University's Board of Trustees.[30]

Iranians, in general, are apparently contemptuous of the clerical class; many street jokes exist at the expense of the clerics, and there is a decline in attendance at mosques. At regime-sponsored religious ceremonies, many of the attendees are apparently military and security personnel in plain clothes, whose attendance ensures support for regime hard-liners' speeches.[31] Consequently, with the waning of clerical influence, the real muscle of the regime now resides in the upper ranks of the Pasdaran, or IRGC.

Although the political mullahs along with their praetorian allies, the IRGC, may not have great popular support, there seem to be some Iranian nationalists who apparently are also not enamored of the West, seem proud of Iran's high profile on the international scene and determined to protect Iran's national sovereignty. They seem to remember with bitterness the UK/US-aided 1953 overthrow of the Mossadegh administration, the Shah's surrender of the sovereignty of Bahrain, as well as the West's support for the return of Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf to the United Arab Emirates.[32] Popular support for Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons may be more pronounced than western analysts might assume.[33] Moreover, it also may be that a majority of Iranians support the development of a companion intercontinental ballistic missile capability as well as the country's space program. There is no doubt that Tehran's current challenge to Arab and Western power in the Persian Gulf is also popular. Many patriotic Iranians support these policies despite their antipathy towards the regime -- a loyalty that permits the regime a bit of cover on sensitive nationalist issues. [34]

Nevertheless, the regime's greatest weakness is that the vast majority of educated young Iranians appear to despise the existing order [35].

President Rouhani's election has not only failed to slow down the execution rate of Iranians, most of whom are young people hanged allegedly for drug offenses -- Rouhani's election has, in fact, increased executions. [36]

Like many of history's great revolutions, the Iranian revolution is eating its young.

[1] Marz-e-por-gohar (Our Glorious Borders) Party, Roozbeh Farhanipour claims that between 1988 and 1998 there were at least 103 murders of Iranian dissident intellectuals. The murders reached a crescendo in 1998. New York Times, Douglas Jehl, December 14, 1998.

[2] "The Shadow Commander" by Dexter Filkins September 30, 2013, The New Yorker. The public letter to Khatami warned that he must put down the 1999 Student-led Revolt or the military would do so, implying that he would be removed from office in the process.

[3] "Rafsanjani's Benz at Center of Controversy" by Aram Karami. Iran Pulse: Must reads from the Iranian Press, 19 May 2013. Rafsanjani drives around Tehran in a Mercedes.

[4] "Could Rafsanjani Be Disqualified From Race Because of Age?" by Max Fisher, Washington Post, May 20 2013. (Council of Guardians rules Rafsanjani at 78 is too old to qualify as viable candidate for the Presidency).

[5] "Rafsanjani and Khamenei: The Ahmadinijad Years." By Akbar Ganji Al-Jazeera. September 25, 2013.

[6] BBC News Middle East by Jamshid Barzegar, September 24, 2013. Rafsanjani's son and daughter arrested.

[7] "The Twelfth Imam: Mohammad ibn al-Hassan (al-Mahdi) The Hidden Imam Expected to Return."

[8] Breitbart: "Iranian President Arrested by Revolutionary Guard" by Awr Hawkins, May 2, 2013.

[9] The Forbidden Truth: Interviews of Roozbeh Farahanipour, by Jamie Glazov, Frontpage Magazine. Mousavi was named Prime Minister by Imam Khomeini in 1981. Mousavi also was responsible for mass executions during the 1980s. Karroubi embezzled large sums of money as head of the "Foundation for Families of the Martyrs." He also was infamous for numerous sexual scandals. Later with Imam Khomeini's support he was selected as Speaker of the Majlis (Parliament).

[10] Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini (translated by Hamid Algar) Sermon, October 27, 1964. Berkeley: Mizan Press. 1981. p. 181.

[11] Fred Holiday, "Iran's Revolution in Global History" Open Democracy: Barcelona Institute for International Studies, March 5, 2009. Dr. Farouk Saleem, "Shaytan-e-Bozorg" Centre for Research and Security Studies (A Blog of Overseas Pakistanis), February 8, 2009.

[12] Kashf Asrar (Revealing Secrets). Tehran, Islamiya Press, 1943.

[13] Tehran Times, 14 May 2012. "Islamic Awakening in the Thoughts of Imam Khomeini" Conference.

[14] "Islamic Invitation" Istanbul, Turkey June 4, 2012. Khamenei's Speech on the 23rd anniversary of Khomeini's death in front of the mausoleum where he (Khomeini) is buried.

[15] The Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini's Works. Tehran, Iran.

[16] Ahlul Bayt News Agency: Iranian Cultural Center. Sarajevo. June 3, 2013. Features Forum and Film about Imam Khomeini (as a voice of moderation).

[17] Keyhan newspaper July 26, 1982.

[18] "We have then, no choice but to destroy those systems of government that are corrupt in their very nature and to overthrow all treacherous, corrupt, oppressive and criminal regimes." Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations by Khomeini (1941-1980). Edited by Hamid Algar, Routledge Press, 2005, p.48.

[19] Khomeini Sermon of December 3, 1962.

[20] "Assets of the Ayatollah" by Steve Stecklow and Babek Daghanpisheh, Reuters. November 13, 2013.

[21] Montazeri was once the presumed successor of Khomeini as Deputy Leader until he was forced to resign after he denounced the Fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie, author of the book "The Satanic Verses", a satiric critique of Islam, the Koran, and Muhammad.

[22] Interview of Roozbeh Farahanipour, leader of the Iranian Opposition group "Marzeporgohar" (Defend Our Borders). March 1, 2014. Roozbeh is a secular, nationalist political activist who was Tortured in Evin Prison. Upon his release, he escaped over Iran's border to Turkey. During the widespread protests in 2009, he secretly traveled back to Iran to conduct anti-regime operations.

[23] Interviews with U.S. Government contractor translator Saeed Khalaji and Defense Language Institute Instructor of Persian/Farsi Bijan Moshiri. Saeed's family is from the Shemran district of Tehran, where his father owned a jewelry shop. Bijan has been in contact with student opposition groups in Iran.

[24] The United Nations' Geneva-based International Labor Organization (ILO) has a detailed account of the regime's arrests of labor activists and the suppression of attempts to establish a free labor movement in Iran. The International Transport Workers Union's Iranian affiliate, "The Vahed Syndicate" has petitioned the ILO to assist in applying pressure on Iran's regime to release its Treasurer Reza Shahabi. Also see Mansour Osanloo's op-ed article in the New York Times, June 13, 2013. Osanloo, the former head of Tehran's Bus Drivers' Union, was imprisoned from 2006 to 2011.

[25] "The Ideological Political Training of Iran's Basij" by Dr Saeid Golkar. Brandeis University: Crown Center for Middle East Studies. Waltham. Massachusetts.

[26] Tim Federholz "Iran's Supreme Leader Built a Real Estate Empire on Seized Property" November 11, 2013. This wealth is deposited at "Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazarte" for the use of Khamenei.

[27] The institution of the "Setad-e-Ezraiye-e-Farman-e-Hazraet-e-Eman" (The Headquarters of the Execution of the Command of the Holy Imam) was established to manage those properties abandoned by émigrés and enemies of the regime. The wealth of these properties was originally earmarked for the poor and other charitable purposes. Reuters Press following a three year investigation determined that this financial empire has expanded to a huge financial empire at the disposal of the Supreme Leader's Office. Reuters Tim Fernholz and Fars News Service, Hassan Mosavi. 12 November 2013.

[28] U. S. Treasury Department/ Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Division, Stuart Levy. The Leader's corporate holdings are estimated to have reached $95 billion.

[29] The Rafsanjani family has vast energy, agriculture, and real estate assets in Iran but also abroad. For instance, the Rafsanjani family has invested a large sum of money in the Centerpoint Shopping Center in Toronto, Canada as well as in the construction industry which built highways in Toronto. Iran Zamin, January 27, 2007 and, September 9, 2005. Moreover, Rafsanjani's 44 year old son Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani reportedly received at least part of a multi-million dollar bribe payment for his assistance in granting a contract to Norway's State Oil Company. Iran Press Service 17 October 2003. "Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, Son of Ali Akbar (Hashemi Rafsanjani) Involved in Bribe Case" Oslo Norway, Dagens Naerinsliv newspaper: 3 September 2003.

[30] "Calls to Boycott Majles Vote: Questions for Ahmadinijad" by Mohammad Sahimi Front Line, Los Angeles, 22 December 2011

[31] One example of this politically-motivated and staged audience at public functions is the commemoration ceremony at Imam Khomeini's massive mausoleum complex south of Tehran on the 4 June 2010 anniversary of his death. When Hassan, the grandson of Khomeini (a sympathizer of the student-led Green Movement of 2009) rose to speak, Basij members who had positioned themselves in the front of the assembly hall began to ridicule Hassan and chant hard-line rhetoric. "Backstage at Friday Prayers" by Hamid Farokhnia 9 June 2010.

[32] These events generated opposition to the Shah from many nationalistic-minded Iranians. The Islamic revolutionaries were able to co-opt Iranian nationalists who criticized the Shah for his "capitulations" to Saudi Arabia.

[33] The 6 November 2013 issue of Haaretz contained an article quoting a poll conducted in Iran that claimed that 34% of Iranians supported Iran's development of nuclear weapons. However, a full 85% of Iranians supported an Iranian nuclear power capability despite international pressure and sanctions.

[34] A litmus test which reveals continued Iranian disdain for the Arab is the name for that body of water south of Iran but north of the Arabian Peninsula. Iranians uniformly insist despite their domestic politics insist that it is the Persian rather than Arabian Gulf. See Dr. Lawrence Franklin on "Andishe TV", Los Angeles explaining why it is the Persian Gulf. 31 May 2012.

[35] Eyewitness accounts and videos show that the vast majority of Iranian protestors in the streets following the disputed elections in 2009 were Iranian young people. At night, groups of young people would take to the rooftops to shout anti-regime slogans, sardonically screaming the phrase "Allahu Akbar" [Allah is Greatest].

[36] In the first two months of Rouhani's tenure, al least, 125 Iranians were executed. International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. "Iran Should Halt Executions as Rate of Hangings Accelerates" 8 October 2013.

Lawrence A. Franklin


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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