Opposition Leaders in Danger of Arrest, Trial and Death

There were telling omens in Tehran this week of Islamic regime preparations to arrest and put on trial the top leaders of the popular unrest sparked by the June 12 presidential election.

The trials would not end in jail time for Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi and maybe even expresident Hashem Rafsanjani, but possibly death sentences against one or more of the three.

It would be the signal for a wholesale, bloody purge of the opposition and its sympathizers in which thousands would be thrown into prison and more executions take place.

In this process, the Revolutionary Islamic Republic would turn itself into a military junta governed by the Revolutionary Guards and their guns.

Iran's domestic turmoil would then cease to be an internal political matter.

The arrests and trials of opposition heroes would resonate worldwide as the most important and dramatic event of 2009. The Iranian regime's brutal repression of its critics would be bound to impinge on American, Russian, Chinese and European relations with Iran.

For starters, president Barack Obama would have to back away from his pursuit of engagement with Tehran on its nuclear program. His entire Middle East program would become irrelevant as Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian issues disappeared on back burners.

The first sign of evil intent toward the opposition leaders came from Yadolla Javani, head of the Revolutionary Guards politburo, who urged opposition leaders to be put on trial for conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic Republic, a charge which carries the death sentence.

While his remarks might be disregarded as representing the most radical elements of the Revolutionary Guards, the Iranian Majlis Speaker, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, must be taken more seriously.

Larijani, a moderate pragmatic conservative and former nuclear negotiator, said in an interview published in the semi-official Iranian newspaper Jam-e Jam Monday, Aug. 10: “The reformist movement is following the same path as the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization.”


Sentenced to death by analogy


The Mojahedin-e Khalq has planned and executed terrorist operations against the Iranian regime for nearly three decades from its European and Iraqi bases of operations

The MEK maintains its main headquarters in Paris and has concentrations of members across Europe, in addition to the large concentration of MEK located at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, which the Maliki government in Baghdad recently shut down.

Before Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003, the MEK received all of its military assistance and most of its financial support from Saddam Hussein. The fall of Saddam's regime has led MEK increasingly to rely on front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities.


Even before the current unrest, suspected associates of the Mojahedin-e Khalq were held guilty of treason and put to death. By bringing the MEK into the discussion, the moderate wing of the Iranian regime represented by the Speaker, which disagrees with president Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, signals it now supports him and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the conviction that the Islamic regime is under existential threat: For it to survive, the opposition must cease to exist and that can only be achieved in one way.

This virtual death sentence against the so-called “reformists” also emerges from Larijani's further comments which we have translated here:

“Just as the Mojaheidn-e Khalq, were devout children of this country who despite their superficial understanding of Islam were obsessed with Marxist ideology and believed that this school of thought to be scientific and justice seeking… The same is true of the reformists of Iran who were our own Muslim friends, people who had revolutionary credentials, but their superficial understanding of religion and their obsession with advances of secular liberal democracy made them – in the best case – consider Islam a private matter, something to be practiced at home.


“Our misguided friends”


“The dogma they chose was a mix of secularism and Islam which they called religious innovation…This was first seen in their argument that they want to participate in elections, they recognize the law and operate within a certain framework, but they used the election atmosphere to mobilize the people and steer them to a different direction…

“The third phase,” Larijani continued, “is conflict with the regime…A revolution or a velvet coup is not such an alien thing. Take a look at what Mr. Mousavi claims. He believes there is something called the green movement in the country and that this is an accomplished fact and he considers himself the leader of this movement. What he also says is that this green movement wants to uproot lies and evil and reform Iran. These things are a velvet coup…

“The roots of such deviation existed in the thoughts of these friends from the very beginning, especially in their insistence on charisma rather than principles. Take a look at the time when the blessed Imam [Khomeini] passed away. These gentlemen claimed that the “Guardianship of the Jurist” was a garment tailored for the Imam [Khomeini] and that after him the ruling system must be a [leadership] council. Now, this is the very difference between Principle and reformism. We must not worship the Imam [Khomeini], but must worship the new school of thought relating to God…”

Larijani ends his comments by defining the opposition leaders' goals as he sees them:

“They (the opposition leaders) even claimed that since Mr. Rafsanjani was, and in reality is, one of the pillars of the regime, we must change the Constitution to allow him presidency for life, like Imam Khomeini. All these matters planted the seeds of deviant thinking in the minds of our reformist friends…”


Obama administration on the spot for a response


Larijani's comments sound like the doctrinal endorsement for a radical purge to eradicate the opposition root and branch, the execution of which, DEBKA-Net-Weekly Iranian sources note, Ahmadinejad is clearly preparing, judging from the way he is constructing his administration.

Since most respectable conservatives have refused jobs in his cabinet, the president has opted for inexperienced newcomers from among his most pliant loyalists, who will not interfere when the Revolutionary Guards seize power and crack down on the top reformists and their movement.

This development would seriously outdate the speech of reconciliation to the Muslim world which Obama delivered from Cairo University on June 4. The US and the rest of the world would be faced with a Muslim world transformed. Middle East rulers would not want to hear about peace moves; they would be transfixed by the dire events in Iran and want to know how the US administration proposes to deal with it – or not.

A US-Iran showdown – be it an economic and ideological cold war or a military clash – would drastically impact on the US war effort in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran is quite capable of enlisting the Shiite populations in those countries to lend their weight to the Taliban and al Qaeda fighting the Americans.

Since Tehran shows no sign of abandoning its drive for a nuclear bomb, Obama will be taxed with making an urgent response to a defiant Iran under a military dictatorship – whether an embargo on refined fuel products to Iran or accelerated military preparations for armed conflict.

(Read previous issue No. 408 of August 7, “US Could Manage to Knock out Iran's Nuclear Sites with Missiles”)

Russia, China, Turkey and some European nations such as Germany, which fraternize with Iran, will be pushed into a corner to decide which side they are on.

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