Deeply alarmed by the outbreaks in Tehran over the plunging rial, Iran’s leaders began holding marathon meetings early Wednesday, Oct. 3, and dusted off the emergency measures they used to suppress the street protests staged against the 2009 presidential election.
They were perturbed in particular by the attack on Iranian security forces by moneychangers and gold merchants, a class not normally prone to aggressive behavior against authority, and their threat of a general strike to shut down the Tehran Bazaar indefinitely.
They surged into the streets after 60 moneychangers were arrested for black marketeering in a vain attempt to contain the rial’s precipitous slump against the dollar.
The government stepped in before the unrest coursed through the capital and infected other cities.
Iran’s leaders tackled the problem in two emergency working groups: one meeting in the office of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the other in the office of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended by Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar and the Revolutionary Guard commander for the Tehran area.
One intelligence briefing told the two teams what they already knew, that a Bazaar shutdown could ignite a popular uprising across the country.
However, another part of the briefing confirmed a scenario, which DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Tehran reveal was presented to Khamenei in mid-September.
A plot to stir up mass unrest in sync with a foreign attack
It was in effect a warning that CIA, MI6 and Mossad agents had been working under cover to stir up mass demonstrations in Iran’s main cities in close proximity to a foreign attack on its national nuclear program.
Flaming unrest would force the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the regime’s military and security mainstay, to divide its strength between breaking up countrywide disturbances and guarding the regime and devoting its energies to defending the nuclear facilities.
“Reliable intelligence sources within Western security agencies,” were cited as disclosing that Iran’s enemies would not be content with air and missile strikes, but would activate small teams of agent-paratroops for the penetration of underground nuclear plants like Fordo buried deep in the mountains.
These ground forces would also break into the nuclear sites which had been fortified with impenetrable security ceilings against air and missile attack.
These covert cells are very hard for Iranian security forces to detect in normal times; it would be so much harder when their movements were covered by waves of urban turbulence which taxed IRGC and security forces to the limit.
Khamenei was also informed at the time that Israeli troops had been training for some months for this type of mission and had been joined by small American units for the sharing of training sessions and information.
Both these armies have ample experience in parachuting commando forces into enemy territory for covert missions – Israel, in many operations in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza and the US in Afghanistan.
Collapsing the rial to force the regime to abandon its nuclear program
Both Iranian teams concluded that the steep decline of the Iranian currency – 80 percent decline this year, a loss of 40 percent in just the past week and a shocking 17 percent on one day, October 1 – was neither random nor a true reflection of Iran’s economic situation.
It was suggested that Western agents were at work in downtown Tehran’s gold coin and foreign currency triangle of Manoucheri Street, Fereowsi Street and Estanbol Street – and inside he gold jewelry market of the Tehran Bazaar – conniving with Abu Dhabi and Baghdad currency traders to collapse the rial.
Ali Akbar Velayati, special advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, and Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi were convinced that the merchants’ strike was premeditated to lay the groundwork for a popular uprising.
They speculated that the regime was being programmed by its enemies to abandon Iran’s nuclear program and forced to devote all its energies to economic recovery. Tehran would then become dependent on the West and the US for financial aid.
Tuesday, foreign currency trading wound down when the dollar jumped to 35,545 rials.
The central bank has held back dollars from importers for the past week and obliged them to deposit all their foreign currency. The result: Business transactions have ground to a halt and many businesses face bankruptcy.
Widening rift within the regime
The currency crisis and associated inflationary spiral have undoubtedly been exacerbated by sanctions, as claimed in the West. The gathering war clouds have also played a role, deepening Iranians' worries about economic stability and increasing their inflationary expectations. This led them to dump rials and seek safe haven in dollars and other hard currency to protect their savings.
But many Iranians are saying too that the crisis has its origins in the Ahmadinejad government's mismanaged subsidy reform initiative, so widening the rift between rival camps within the regime.
To rebuff these allegations, Ahmadinejad called a news conference Tuesday, Oct. 2, at which he accused his enemies of warmongering as part of a conspiracy to have him purged.
Our Iranian sources foresee the regime tossed in the coming days by stormy protest and disturbances – but not to the point of endangering its survival.