While protesting its nuclear activities are destined solely for peaceful purposes, the Islamic Republican regime in Tehran has taken out some divine insurance – just in case the painstakingly assembled American dossier proves incriminating enough for the UN Security Council.
It takes the form of a fatwa by a senior cleric affirming that it is permissible to make a nuclear bomb “for the purpose of a retaliatory strike against those aspiring to attack us with nuclear weapons.”
This fatwa was read out Wednesday, Feb. 15, by Hojjat-el-Eslam Mohssen Gharavian, closest aide of Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who happens to be the teacher and mentor of none other than Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This week too, Iran’s nuclear misdeeds were listed by American spokesmen, including secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Director of Intelligence John Negroponte.
Iran’s crimes are a good deal graver even than those held against Saddam Hussein three years ago. The Islamic Republic is accused of:
A clandestine program for manufacturing a nuclear bomb.
Sponsorship of Palestinian and Islamic terrorist organizations and orchestrating their operations.
Fomenting with Syria violent protests by extremist Islamic groups.
Repression of human rights
Denial of the Nazi Holocaust.
Issuing calls for Israel’s destruction.
The rejoinder to American charges came a day later: the unidentified head of an Iran organization called The Martyrs Forces – Lashgar e-Estesh-Hadioun – informed reporters in Tehran: “Our forces are poised to inflict death blows on imperialism. No power on earth can deflect those blows once the order issues from Khamenei’s office (the supreme ruler). Our fighters are already out in the field and will stay there for many years, cut off from all contacts until their mission is accomplished.”
Farsi airwaves for psychological warfare
Wednesday, Feb. 15, Rice, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced the White House would request $75 million in a supplemental budget to expand broadcasting into Iran, support civic groups such as labor unions and increase visits to the United States by Iranian students.
She promised: “The United States will actively confront the policies of this Iranian regime, and at the same time work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom in their own country. ” Rice called Iran a strategic challenge to the United States.
A major portion of this budget will be spent on television broadcasts into Iran. This medium is considered of high propaganda value. Iranian citizens eagerly pick up Farsi broadcasts from stations in Los Angeles. Their content is mediocre for lack of funding.
By chance, the Gharavian edict coincided with Rice’s statement to the Senate committee.
It was Tehran’s first blunt affirmation of a need to resort to nuclear weaponry. Addressing a closed meeting, the Iranian cleric said: “Whereas the entire world has nuclear arms, it is only natural that this form of weapon will be available to us for a retaliatory operation.”
He added: “The most important thing is to determine its destination.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian sources draw a circle around this statement as denoting a fundamental change in Tehran’s tactics.
Until now, Iran’s ecclesiastical leaders insisted that the production and use of nuclear arms was strictly forbidden under Islamic law.
While their assertions were not taken seriously, more as whitewash for the government’s actions, nevertheless their words were taken by the West as some sort of starting point that made diplomacy possible.
For the Iranian people, the religious taboo on nuclear weapons was a kind of guarantee that Tehran’s policy was not leading the country to such disasters as an economic showdown with the West or, even worse, an American military strike.
Now, for the first time, the West is hearing an influential Iranian cleric sanctifying the use of a nuclear bomb, implying it is under development as a weapon of retaliation. By the same token, the Iranian people are told shockingly for the first time that the nuclear program underway is not destined for peaceful purposes but to be a military deterrent.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iran experts infer from this tidal policy change and other symptoms that the ruling hierarchy and its decision-making echelons on nuclear policy are in a state of seismic flux.
Power-hungry Ahmadinejad’s stealthy putsch
Our Iranian sources confirm that the power-hungry president has abandoned his earlier show of allegiance to the supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khameni and the ruling elite, and embarked on a reshuffle which is more like a putsch.
Key jobs are being transferred from the incumbents to his radical allies and followers.
The regimes prior to Ahmadinejad’s preserved a balance tilted carefully between opposing factions – “reformists” and “conservatives” under president Muhammad Khatami; pragmatists and dogmatists in Hashemi Rafsanjani’s day.
By filling key positions with radical clerics and Revolutionary Guards hardliners, the new presidency is destroying this equilibrium.
Unless it is curtailed, this process, according to most experts, will bring to power the Sepah-e-Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards Corps) which are already bending every national financial and technological resource to the attainment of an atomic bomb and long-range missiles for its delivery.
They are harnessing to this goal the most radical members of Iran’s clergy, like fascist-Islamist Mesbah-Yazdi.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iran watchers note that, albeit less than a year in office, the new president has taken an axe to local government: two thirds of all district governors have been sacked in favor of ex-officers of the Revolutionary Guards. Forty percent of the new appointees are cronies of the president, his brothers-in-arms from the Revolutionary Guards in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
Ahmadinejad and his supporters are not yet done.
They have begun planting allies in the powerful Council of Experts, Shura-Ye-Khobregan, which controls the supreme ruler and is empowered to choose his successor. The plan is to add 34 secular members to the 85 all-clerical panel and so alter its internal balance. The new members will specialize in various fields of state management with the accent on the military and security spheres. The Revolutionary Guards will then be in position to sway the Council of Experts and determine who succeeds Khamenei, whose health is not good. This change, if approved unanimously by the full council, will put paid to Rafsanjani’s hopes of succeeding as supreme ruler.
The frog dies in the French cook-pot
The president this week took to task foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki for his tardiness in replacing the ambassadors in Britain, France and Germany. A month ago, when the three European powers broke off their halting nuclear negotiations with Tehran,
Ahmadinejad sacked 30 ambassadors. He ordered them replaced with Revolutionary Guards officers.
Ahmadinejad’s own mentor has been awarded a fat bonus. The budget for Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi’s office has been raised tenfold to a sum equivalent to a colossal $40 million. Amid genuine fears in Iran of a US-Israeli military assault, the piper repaid his master by singing the right tune: “Allah,” said Mesbah-Yazdi, “has set a heavy price for the struggle on behalf of Islam and the state for the purpose of testing the believers.” He added: “Allah sometimes sends sinners and criminals to harm the righteous and the believers in order to strengthen their faith.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Islamic experts see the firebrand president as having commissioned this doomsday rhetoric to prepare the nation psychologically for a heavy casualty toll in the event of a military confrontation with the West. Tehran is gripped by the pervasive fear that Washington is preparing to use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s subterranean nuclear installations.
Ahmadnejad does not only retain a fire-eating ayatollah, but also a tame political theoretician: Hassan Abassi this week warned Tehran not to make concessions to the West on its nuclear program. To make his point, he used an allegory. The West, he said, is employing “the frog tactic.” To preserve the fine taste of frog’s meat, French chefs start cooking it alive in cold water which gradually heats up. The frog does not wake up to its peril until it is too late and it dies in the scalding water. Abassi warned that, by granting the West concessions on its nuclear program, Tehran would play into western hands like the frog in the French cook-pot.
Withal Ahmadinejad’s maneuvers, Tehran has not shut the door on diplomacy. It has gone back to playing the card of talks with Moscow for Russia to host elements of its uranium enrichment operation – even suggesting a return to talks with the three European powers. The Iranians know that the easiest way to buy time and stay clear of the UN Security Council is to dangle the prospect of negotiations with the West.