New Appointments to Block Leaks, Tighten Hard Line

In a step to further harden Iran's inflexible nuclear stance, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is planning a wholesale personnel overhaul of its national Atomic Energy Commission, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian and intelligence sources report. He is picking the new appointees from among his closest circle of trustes, people who have worked with him for years and proved their personal loyalty to him.

The reshuffle is prompted by two additional motives:

1. Ahmadinejad suspects certain key Atomic Energy Commission figures of leaking vital nuclear secrets to the Americans and other Western agents.

Iran's special security services, which answer directly to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are hunting frantically for the party who betrayed to the West the existence of the Fordo enrichment plant near Qom. Their inquiries tend to support the president's suspicion of an AEC insider, although they first pointed the finger at Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist whom they suspect US intelligence kidnapped in Jeddah on his way to the Mecca pilgrimage in May of this year.

2. He believes some members of the AEC's management team are covert sympathizers of the opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi, who led the challenge to his election as president and, like him, favor a more flexible nuclear posture instead of the present policy of ratcheting tensions up to a diplomatic or even military confrontation with the US.

Ahmadinejad appoints his campaign managers to nuclear posts

Our Tehran sources report that while the head of the Atomic Agency, Said Jalili is formally in charge of appointments, the names of officials to be fired or hired is personally vetted by Ahmadinejad.

The list shows the way the wind is blowing in Tehran and the extent to which the president rules the nuclear roost.

The replacement of Seyyed Hamed Safdari as director of the Natanz enrichment facility by Mohammad Khonsari, who orchestrated Ahmadinejad's presidential campaign in the city of Kerman, is the most important change, our Iranian experts note..

They also point to the elevation of the president's campaign manager in Kashan, Mohammed Mehdi-Zadeh, to take over from Amir Alaee as CEO of the Pessa conglomerate, which acquires and smugglies sensitive military equipment from around the world for the Iranian military nuclear program.

The position of deputy director of field security at nuclear sites will soon fall vacant since Ahmadinejad was informed that the incumbent Vahid Bolourchi secretly supported the opposition leader Mousavi's charge that the election was forged.

The president is interviewing candidates for this sensitive post.

According to our sources, the only reason Mohammad Saeedee is still deputy director for international affairs at the Atomic Energy Commission and Mohammad Fayyaz Bakhsh survives the reshuffle as deputy director for power plants is that no suitable replacements have been found.

No butter, more guns for Iranian masses

DEBKA-Net-Weekly Iranian and intelligence sources see a further hardening in the Islamic regime's determination to carry through its nuclear plans by hook or by crook. The heads of the regime are debating the cancellation of government subsidies for food, fuel and health care, to free up funds for nuclear development and war preparations.

These subsidies were never cancelled in the 30 years of Islamic rule and bloody riots are feared. To appease the public, regime heads propose opening bank accounts for all of Iran's 36 million households into which the government will deposit $17 per month as compensation for the loss of subsidies.

Iranian lawmakers, led by Speaker Ali Larijani, contend that the paltry sum of $17 is peanuts compared with the billions that will flow to the national coffers if the subsidies are cancelled. They have demanded greater parliamentary control over the disposition of the released funds. But Ahmadinejad will never give Larijani or any members of the Majlis a look into the funding of Iran's nuclear program.

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