Bayou Calvinist

A Somewhat Eclectic Discussion by a Law Student Concerning All of Today's Major Topics, as well as, a Few Not So Major Topics

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Antithesis of Democratic Leadership

I ran across this great post by Kirk Sowell on his blog Window on the Arab World (http://www.arabworldanalysis.com/blog/). Not that the election fairly indicates the majority of Iranian opinion, but Iran's recent "election" is a bad sign, especially when nukes are thrown into the mix. Observe:

Assessing Iran's New President
Last week's Iranian presidential election has been widely heralded in the West and elsewhere as a turn for a more dangerous Iran. The president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has variously been accused of being both a supporter of terrorist organizations and a perpetrator of terrorist acts himself, a clear indicator of Iran's intent to develop nuclear weapons and an end to European efforts at negotiating a solution to the nuclear crisis, a nightmare for Iranian business, a supporter of repressive tactics against democracy reformers, and a student leader who was personally involved in the 444-day hostage taking at the U.S. embassy in 1979. The weight of evidence seems to indicate that all of these accusations are true, except probably the last one (I'm no expert on this, but those who are seem to have concluded that Ahmadinejad is not the guy in the embassy photos, although the non-technical opinion of some hostages goes the other way).
First, let's look at terrorism. Ahmadinejad is open in his support for certain terrorist organizations - Hizbullah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas - but Khatami and Rafsanjani were as well. What sets Ahmadinejad apart is that he is apparently a leader of Qods Force (Jerusalem Force), a military wing of the Iranian revolutionary guard which maintains Iran's links to terror groups, including al-Qaeda. (See this post from Winds of Change for more on this, hat tip to Regime Change Iran.)
The relationship between Iran and al-Qaeda is a much debated one, but two things are clear:(1) Iran provided passive support for the 9/11 attacks by allowing some of the operatives involved to pass through its territory in order to cover their trail, and;(2) Iran is current providing refuge to a good number of al-Qaeda members, including much of the senior leadership which has not yet been killed or captured. Iran claims that these individuals are being held in custody, although they provide no reason for us to believe this, so it is clear that the are there.In addition, I have also read that Iran was operationally involved in some of al-Qaeda's attacks in Saudi Arabia in 2003-2004, and that Osama bin Laden himself is in Iran. But I have read informed sources which suggest otherwise. So I'll leave that debate for another day.
Through his role in Qods Force, Ahmadinejad is also accused of operational involvement in several attacks in Europe. For details, see the first four paragraphs of this Times of London article. See also this relevant post from Regime Change Iran.
For a look at the economic implications of Ahmadinejad's victory, check out this post from Regime Change Iran: Election Aftershock in Corporate Iran
The Jerusalem Post suggest that, with Europe grappling to deal with internal crises and remain relevant on the global stage at the same time, it would be a good idea to start with Hizbullah. It is not encouraging to read, however, that Austrian business leaders are pressuring their government not to probe Ahmadinejad's links to terrorism in their own country because it might imperil their contracts (see Iran Focus, Austrian Firms Against Government Probe into Iran President's Role in Killings.)
So who is Ahmadinejad? This is the best summary of his life that I have seen, from the same Times of London article linked above ("US agents probe past of Iran's leader"):
...Amid the political frenzy, it was not easy last week to separate fact from fantasy. Yet from details provided by US regional specialists, official Iranian websites and previously reliable opposition sources, it proved possible to piece together a sobering account of the new president’s ties to ultraconservative anti-western factions. These include a unit long suspected by US intelligence agencies of directing state-sponsored terrorist activities abroad.
Born in the desert town of Garmsar, east of Tehran, in 1956, Ahmadinejad was the son of a blacksmith. He attended Tehran’s Elm-o Sanaat University in the last years of the Shah’s rule and was swept up in the wave of resentment that spawned the 1979 revolution.
With the return to Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolution’s spiritual leader, Ahmadinejad became his university’s representative in the student Office for Strengthening Unity, which would play a central role in seizure of the US embassy.
Several former embassy hostages claimed last week Ahmadinejad was among the students who held them captive for 444 days. But experts using advanced facial recognition technology have established that he is not the man identified on a widely distributed photograph of hostages and captors.
As Islamic rule intensified in the early 1980s with purges of moderate students, Ahmadinejad joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an ultra-conservative group fiercely loyal to the ayatollahs.
A senior officer in the IRGC’s special “internal security” brigade, Ahmadinejad’s duties included the suppression of dissident activity, which, according to his rivals, involved the interrogation, torture and execution of political prisoners.
US intelligence sources and Iranian opposition figures believe he became a key figure in the formation of the IRGC’s Qods Force, which has been linked to assassinations in the Middle East and Europe, including the murder of Qassemlou.
White House officials last week demanded that Tehran respond to questions about Ahmadinejad’s past. “The Iranian government . . . has an obligation to speak concerning these questions,” said Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman...

One thing is clear here: if the U.S. government is genuinely spending time right now looking into Ahmadinejad's past, this is another intelligence failure, and not a minor one. It is not like this guy came out of nowhere - he was mayor of Tehran, the country's capital and most important city. This would be like as if Rudy Giuliani were elected President of the United States, and the Chinese government were somehow dumbstruck as to who this guy was. Maybe these questions are just a means of posturing, like we really know the answers but are just asking the questions for diplomatic effect. Yet it did seem to take days for the government to conclude that he wasn't a hostage taker. I don't find this terribly encouraging, on many fronts.

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