Supreme Iranian leader Ali Khamenei went into a purple rage when he heard that North Korea had publicly declared it had a nuclear weapon. Urgently summoning Iran’s security chiefs, top scientists and senior members of the supreme national security council to his office, he gave them a dressing down for failing to beat North Korea to the bomb.
“If we had our own Islamic bomb, the world could not continue to threaten us so brazenly,” he told the group, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Tehran.
Iran, he said, launched its nuclear program only just behind North Korea and had much more money to spend on its development
“And what happened? Iran is still stuck at the point of have having its uranium enrichment frozen,” Khamenei said.
No one dared utter a word as the ruler wound up his tongue-lashing with the furious observation that now North Korea instead of Iran had gained an insurance policy against foreign attack.
This week, it seemed in Tehran as if everyone was ganging up on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear plans. The autocratic hard-line supreme leader came out of his temper tantrum long enough to order his minions to deliver recommendations on ways of fighting the tide of criticism. First, Iran must harden its own rhetoric panning of the United States and other “enemies of the government”. It was time, he said, for Iran to refuse to be the world’s whipping boy.
The recommendations placed before him included reviving a tactic for hitting the West practiced by the founding father of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
As a result –
1. The Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) declared the death threat against Salman Rushdie, the British Muslim author of “The Satanic Verses,” was still valid. This was a shock to Rushdie who had slowly ventured to return to the public eye two decades after Ayatollah Khomeini first issued his infamous “fatwa” condemning him to death.
Khamenei himself signaled the renewal of the campaign against the writer on the eve of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
He was echoed by Iranian lawmaker Mehdi Kuchak-Zadeh who said:
“The bullet Khomeini fired in his fatwa is now nearing its target and will soon strike. At this very hour, our brave agents across the world are preparing to fulfill Khomeini’s edict to execute Rushdie.”
The Bassij, the “student volunteer” wing dedicated to the defense of the Islamic Republic, made its own announcement:
“Our dedication to carrying out the death sentence against Rushdie is a thorn in the side of our enemies.”
Legions of suicide bombers in training
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources have learned of urgent directives sent out from Tehran to the Iranian embassy in London and Iranian agents in Manchester to commission radical Islamic elements within the Pakistani community in Britain for the assassination.
2. Khamenei issued orders to test the readiness of the Iranian suicide units set up in late November. According to reports from Mohammad Ali Samadi, spokesman for the “Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement”, the first brigade of volunteers is in intensive training.
The “Yahya Ayyash Brigade (named after the Hamas bomb-maker Israel killed with a booby-trapped cellular telephone in 1996) is comprised of three battalions.
Two out of three are likewise named for Palestinian “martyrs.”
The first is called Rim Saleh al-Rebashi for the Palestinian suicide bomber who attacked Israeli troops at the Erez border crossing in the Gaza Strip, the second, after Mustafa Mazeh, who tried to kill Rushdie in London in the 1980s, and the third, after Ahmad Qassir, a suicide bomber who killed 63 Israeli soldiers in a blast in Sidon, south Lebanon in 1982.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism sources, each battalion numbers about 50 suicide bombers, including women. But Iran’s intelligence and security chiefs are still unsure of their combat readiness and have opted to assign the suicide missions to Hizballah, Pakistani, Algerian and Moroccan terrorist cells working for Iranian intelligence. Those groups are more at home in Europe and the United States and more familiar with the designated targets than Iranian agents – and therefore less prone to exposure.
Punish domestic dissidents
3. Tehran is cracking down on domestic political opposition and critics of the regime.
For the first time, radical clerics are talking openly about doing away with Iran’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.
Hojjat-Ol Mohammad Kharrazi (no relation to the Iranian foreign minister) declared a “bullet will pierce Shirin’s skull” if she continues to sound off on the lack of freedom of expression in Iran. Shirin responded by calling a news conference to announce she had been summoned for the second time to a revolutionary court and that the presiding judge had refused to disclose the charges against her.
Reports are circulating in Tehran that the government is about to declare a national emergency for the purpose of mass arrests of opponents and critics.
The United States may be saying publicly that it is committed to diplomacy as a course of action against Iran’s nuclear program, but it has quietly raised the level of its military activity in the Islamic Republic and its support for efforts by the Iranian opposition to bring down the Tehran regime.
The Bush administration will be focusing more on Iran over the next few months as the post-election situation in Iraq stabilizes. This week, the US Senate will begin to debate a bill proposed by Senator Rich Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) and 62 other congressmen calling for expanded US sanctions against Iran and a $10 million appropriation to support the Iranian opposition.
On the other side, Iran’s leaders are inflating the American danger to enlist public support against a foreign invasion. But our Iranian sources report that most Iranians are simply waiting for the United States to finally take direct action to bring down the tyrannical regime, just as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those sentiments are not lost on Khamenei.