Iran's Next Minister of Intelligence?
13 Aug 2009 11:40
Photo: There is talk of Ruhollah Hosseinian taking over at the Intelligence Ministry.
By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles
As first reported by the author, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired his Minister of Intelligence, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, after he and his deputies had prepared a report for Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which they had stated that contrary to what Ahmadinejad and his supporters in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) high command have been claiming, there was no link between foreign powers and the protests and demonstrations that erupted after the rigged presidential election of June 12.
Ejehei had also been angry at the fact that Ahmadinejad had not immediately carried out Ayatollah Khamenei's order to sack Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as his First Vice President, and he is said to have been opposed to the broadcasting of the "confessions" of the jailed reformist leaders.
Ahmadinejad also fired several other key figures in the Ministry, including Haaj Abdollah, deputy in charge of internal security, and Khazaei, the deputy for counter-intelligence, both of whom had been working with the Ministry from its inception in 1984. Also fired was the deputy for parliamentary affairs, as was as another high-ranking official in charge of technology; all four had reportedly been involved in the preparation of the report.
Several credible reports from Tehran indicate that at least a dozen other senior officials in the Ministry have either resigned to protest the purge, were fired, or forced into retirement. Some had protested the fact that many members of the intelligence unit of the IRGC (referred in Iran by the reformists as the "parallel intelligence organization") had been brought by Ahmadinejad into the Ministry, and had taken effective control of it, in an effort to purge from the Ministry those who are deemed disloyal to Ahmadinejad. There was so much discussion about the Ministry that it was forced to issue a statement, asking the press not to report on its internal developments.
After firing Ejehei, Ahmadinejad asked one of Ejehei's remaining deputies to be the caretaker Minister until a permanent Minister was selected; Ahmadinejad was turned down. Ahmadinejad then announced that he himself would be the caretaker Minister, and appointed an ally, Majid Alavi, as his deputy.
The question is now who is going to be the next Minister of Intelligence? According to the law passed in 1983 when the Ministry was being set up, the Minister must be a Mojtahed, or a learned Islamic person. This has meant that all of Iran's Ministers of Intelligence have come from the ranks of the clerics. So, by appointing himself as the caretaker Minister, Ahmadinejad is already violating the law regarding the Ministry.
A leading candidate for the post is Ruhollah Hosseinian, a hard-line clerical ally of Ahmadinejad. Born in 1955 in Shiraz, he began his theological studies at Valiasr School, but then joined the Haghani School in Qom, which is run by the reactionary cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who also serves as Ahmadinejad's spiritual leader. [All five of Iran's Intelligence Ministers have been graduates of the Haghani School.] Hosseinian has held various positions, including a prosecutor in the revolutionary court of Mashhad, a city in northeast Iran, and in the province of Sistan and Baluchestan, in southeastern Iran on the border with Pakistan; and deputy prosecutor in the same court in Tehran. He was also a prosecutor for the special court for the clerics, an extra-judicial organization meant to control dissident clerics.
Hosseinian was also a deputy to Ali Fallahian, the notorious former Minister of Intelligence who has been implicated in many crimes. While there, he became a close friend of Saeed Emami, the notorious ring leader of a group of intelligence agents who murdered six intellectuals and dissidents in the fall of 1998 (they were involved in many lesser known murders from 1988-1998), referred to in Iran as "the Chain Murders." When Emami was arrested, Hosseinian strongly defended him and accused the Khatami administration, in a nationally broadcast TV program, of being behind the murders. He once said, "We have been a murderer ourselves. This [murder of the dissident] is not the way things were done." But, he also contradicted himself when he said,
I do not deny that Saeed Emami might have been involved in the murders. He actually believed that the enemies of the Islamic Republic must be wiped off the face of the earth. He had a lot of experience in this matter.
When the government announced in the spring of 1999 that Emami had committed suicide in jail (a claim that most did not believe), Hosseinian openly mourned his death. He said that, "Hajj Saeed [Emami] sacrificied himself for Iran's Islamic path. Emami was killed in order to prevent identification of higher authorities who had ordered the murders."
For a short time, Hosseinian was an advisor to Ahmadinejad for security matters. He is now a deputy in the 8th Majles (parliament), and heads the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents. He is an ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad, and is said to have been involved in a fist fight with Ejehei after Ahmadinejad became aware of the report about the link between the reformists and foreign powers.
Another leading candidate is Heidar Moslehi, a mid-rank cleric. He is currently the head of the Organization for Islamic Endowments (vaghf) and Charities, which runs a vast network of mosques and other Islamic centers. When Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, Moslehi, who at that time was the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in the Basij militia, was appointed by Ahmadinejad as his advisor for clerical affairs. But, the appointment was protested by many, and he resigned after three months and was appointed to his present post. If appointed to the post, given his history with the Basij, Moslehi will enhance the influence of the military in the security and intelligence apparatus.
Other candidates include Ahmad Salek, a cleric and representative of Ayatollah Khamenei to the Qod force, an elite and secretive unit within the IRGC. He is also a hardliner who has been accused of many crimes and wrongdoings.
The fourth possible candidate is Hossein Taeb, a cleric who is the commander of the Basij and has a reputation for advocating use of violence against the protestors. In a recent open letter about the aftermath of the presidential election and the violent crackdown, Ali Motahhari, a Majles deputy (son of the late Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari, a leading figure in the 1979 Revolution who was assassinated in April 1979, and a brother-in-law of Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Majles), criticized Taeb and his use of violence, saying, "He is friendlier to batons and sticks than to wisdom and thinking." Taeb has also been implicated in the crimes that have occurred in the Kahrizak detention center on the southern edge of Tehran, where at least three protestors jailed there were murdered. Many more tortured and held under the most inhumane conditions there.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau