A Nest of Extremists for Radical Programs Fueled by Rocketing Oil Revenues
Iran’s new president-designate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is bursting with big plans – few of which should cause surprise.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian experts have been closely following his meetings and the plans he has unfolded in the last week and can sum up the program he will chart for the government he has begun to assemble.
With the excess revenues rolling into the Iranian exchequer from rocketing oil prices, he is preparing to spend big petrodollars on Iran’s nuclear program and developing long-range missiles, as well as expanding the Sepah Pasdaran Revolutionary Guards – who are his ideological kin. He also plans to deepen the Iranian intelligence services’ grip on – and funding for – Palestinian and radical Islamic terrorist organizations.
His particular favorites are the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Jihad Islami and Hamas.
Under his rule, Tehran’s tone towards Washington will grow more belligerent. His words threaten to become deeds in the Persian Gulf region.
In contrast, Ahmadinejad will kowtow to the Europeans, offering European Union members fat oil contracts and an open Iranian market for their products.
In his domestic policies, he will rule with an iron fist. The opposition will be silenced by intimidation. Women will suffer from ever crueler restrictions.
In yet another contrast, the hard-line president as a competent economic manager will substantially better the lot of the ordinary Iranian. Therefore, while his policies and predilections will continue to cause deep unease in the West, he stands to become an extremely popular president at home.
There was no shortage of funds during the eight-year term of outgoing president Mohammed Khatami. The hard-line factions which rule the roost in Tehran made sure that this would-be liberal reformer never controlled any important policy instruments or the budgets for improving life in the country. The idea was to convince the people that freedom and democracy do not generate improved economic conditions.
Selling radical Islam by filling stomachs
But ultra-conservative Ahmadinejad will be given every chance to show the country that he is the man to rescue the economy from its long decline. His most urgent task will be to slash Iran’s 30% rate of unemployment. This cannot be achieved overnight. The country lacks the industrial-financial infrastructure for employing the many job-seekers who are high school and university graduates. These groups have been showing signs of despair and rage, which could quickly become a wave of unrest serious enough to threaten the regime.
On the other hand, Iran’s oil revenues have almost tripled in recent months and are still calculated on the basis of $22 per barrel. The regime now commands more ready cash than ever before for creating new jobs.
The new president lost no time in meeting the regime’s great and influential props, some in secret.
His first appointment was with senior members of the Shiite clergy at the religious town of Qom whom he honored for their pivotal role in his election as president. He sought their continued support for his program to strengthen the radical religious content of national social and economic policies and the export of Iran’s revolution to the Muslims of the world – an Iranian euphemism for terrorist intervention in foreign lands.
His separate conversations with nine ayatollahs were cordial and elicited unreserved support for his administration. Among them were Ayatollahs Fazel-Lankarani, Nasser Makarem, Hossein Nouri-Hamedani and Safi Golpayegani. He also made a point of calling on Mohammad Taghi Mesba-Yazdi, the mullah who issued the fatwa ordering Iranians to vote for Ahmedinejad.
This was the same cleric whose edicts sanctioned the assassination of some of Iran’s most distinguished political and literary figures.
While affirming his blind allegiance to these radical religious leaders, he asked for several months’ grace before tightening Islamic legislation. The new laws must go forward together with economic benefits for the population, he said. And this takes time. “But citizens with full stomachs will be more accepting of Islamic laws.”
The president-designate also solicited continued backing from Revolutionary Guards chiefs at an unpublicized interview in their offices in North Tehran. The Pasdaran commander, Yahya Rahim-Safavi, and his deputy, Mohammad Ammad-Baqer Zolghadr, demanded a pledge of large infusions of cash for weapons development including long-range missiles and for speeding up the nuclear program which they control.
The new ministers
They agreed that more money would be spent on the intensive sponsorship of Islamic terrorist groups, which is bound to strengthen Tehran’s operational links with al Qaeda.
In this respect, Ahmadinejad’s election has given al Qaeda an unexpected shot in the arm.
Two officials were given to understand they were unwanted in the new administration. Hojjat-ol-Eslam Hassan Rohani who led nuclear negotiations with the European Union from 2003 and head of the Supreme National Security Council, who was criticized for being too soft with the Europeans. He tendered his resignation Wednesday, July 6. Gholam–Reza Agha-Zadeh, chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Commission, will also go.
Some of the new men tipped for Ahmadinejad’s future administration are listed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Tehran sources. All are hard-line religious extremists.
Ali Larijani, spiritual ruler Ali Khamenei‘s favorite presidential candidate who was wiped out in the race. He is in line as deputy president for nuclear affairs to take the place of Rohani.
Mohsen Rezai, former Revolutionary Guards Commander and current secretary of the Council for Promoting the Regime’s Interests headed Hashemi Rafsanjani, the leading loser of the presidential election. Rezai, who has effective ties with some Western intelligence agencies, is tipped for defense minister.
The incumbent defense minister Ali Shankhani may, on the other hand, be asked to stay on.
The other two candidates for the defense post are two deputy commanders of the Revolutionary Guards Zolghadr and Afshar.
Kamal Kharrazi‘s chances of retaining the foreign ministry are slim. The extremists have accused him too often of lacking enterprise in disseminating the Islamic Revolution. Two names mentioned as his replacement are foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi and the radical Mottaki who has filled diplomatic posts in the past.
Among the candidates for the powerful head of the intelligence ministry is Pour-Mohammadi, Khamenei’s former chef de bureau.
The sensitive job of oil minister could go to a close friend of the new president Nejad–Hosseinian or the former security forces chief, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, who was defeated in the first round of the presidential election.