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Hezbollah's Man in Iran

by MEIR JAVEDANFAR

24 Nov 2009 18:0511 Comments
222.jpg[ comment ] Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour is a careful man.

Ever since his right arm was blown off in Iran's Damascus embassy in the early 1980's, he has become more careful about where he goes, and whom with. Some Iranians believe that the beautiful book on Shiite Islam which contained the bomb was sent by the Israelis to Iran's embassy in Damascus, where he had been working. According to Mohtashamipour, he is lucky that he placed the book on the table first, and opened it sideways. Had he opened it in front of his face, his head would have been ripped off from the explosion.

Although it cannot be confirmed, there is reason to believe the accusations suggesting Israel's involvement. Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour is, after all, the Iranian who established Hezbollah in Lebanon. The first man who tried and failed was Mostafa Chamran. The U.S.-educated Chamran had a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He was then hired as a senior research staff scientist at Bell Laboratories and NASA. However, once the Islamic opposition against the Shah grew, the religious Chamran found his calling back in Iran amongst his fellow revolutionaries. A fervent Islamist who later became Iran's Defense Minister, he tried at the beginning of 1980 to establish a pro-Iranian group amongst Lebanon's Shiites. His main target was the Amal movement, which back then was the main representative of the Shiites in Lebanon's political arena. However, he found that he was unable to convince them to accept Iran's Velayat-e Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurists) system, whereby Iran's Supreme Leader would be accepted by them as God's representative on earth to all the Shiites. Chamran was killed on the battlefront during the war against Iraq in 1981.

In 1982, Mohtashamipour succeeded where Chamran had failed by convincing the new Hezbollah movement to accept Ayatollah Khomeini's religious authority. The rest, as they say, is history.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Mohtashamipour is treated like a hero in Iran, but the reality is quite different. Many conservatives hate him; despite the fact that he created what many believe is Islamic Iran's most successful political and military ally in the Middle East. The reason is simple: he is a reformist.

On many occasions, security guards have had to ward off physical attacks against him by neo-conservative students and Basijis who have no problem declaring their undying love and appreciation for Hezbollah. Yet they can't stand Mohtashamipour, because he wants reform within the system. On one occasion in the mid-90's, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the governor of the Ardebil province, Mohtashamipour had to be pulled away from a mob of ultra-religious students by the the future Iranian president. Mohtashamipour took refuge at Ahmadinejad's house until the next day, when he was able to return to Tehran.

The recent unrest in Iran has made life more difficult for Mohtashamipour. During a recent visit to Damascus, he was shadowed and harassed. Not by the Mossad or the CIA, but by allies of Ahmadinejad. He was not left alone, even when he visited the Sayyida Zeinab shrine. At one point he was even told "you wouldn't dare return to Iran" by the operatives shadowing him around the city.

The treatment of Mohtashamipour provides the West with a strong indication of the roots of Iran's current erratic behavior. When the Iranian founder of Hezbollah is treated this way because he disagrees with Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, others who stand in their way have much more to worry about.

One factor that helped Khamenei deal with the West throughout the years was the presence of well educated, pragmatic reformists in key positions. Even after Ahmadinejad won his first term, people like former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and moderate conservatives such as Ali Larijani had a say in the formulation of policy presented to the Supreme Leader.

But Larijani resigned as Iran's top nuclear negotiator because he could no longer stomach working with Ahmadinejad. And after Ahmadinejad's controversial reelection, people like Velayati and Rowhani were sidelined. Those who surround Khamenei these days are almost exclusively all neo-conservatives. Despite their lack of experience, they have another important quality: loyalty. Iran's Supreme Leader has one goal in mind, and that's to build a bomb -- be it a physical device or the "breakout capacity" to build one on demand. Until then, he has no time, patience or sympathy for those who may question him, no matter how knowledgeable or skilled they may be. This is why he is allowing President Ahmadinejad, his loyalist soldier, and his foreign policy-ignorant allies to spearhead important policy bodies such as the Supreme National Security Council.

And for those who want to see a pragmatic Iran, this will likely be the case for the foreseeable future.

Republished with permission of
RealClearWorld.com.

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11 Comments

"Iran's Supreme Leader has one goal in mind, and that's to build a bomb -- be it a physical device or the "breakout capacity" to build one on demand."

There's at least a few problems with this assertion. First off, as we all know, Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons. Second, a potential nuclear capacity and the actual possession of an indigenously manufactured nuclear weapon are two different things- not simply "build a bomb" as the author suggests. Also, the 2007 NIE flatly contradicts the author's statement.

"Until then, [Khamenei] has no time, patience or sympathy for those who may question him, no matter how knowledgeable or skilled they may be."

No time? For over 20 minutes, Ayatollah Khamenei listened to criticism from math student Mahmoud Vahidnia, who by the way was not persecuted for doing so. (Imagine Obama, Brown or Sarkozy enduring 20 minutes of public criticism from one ordinary citizen over the war in Afghanistan! Such could never happen.)

Honestly, the author would do well to examine the political treatment meted out to Americans J. Robert Oppenheimer and even John Kerry before characterizing "Iran's erratic behavior" toward Mohtashamipour. And as for "foreign policy-ignorant allies", didn't we just have a vice-presidential candidate from Alaska that claimed she could see Russia from her house?

Pirouz / November 25, 2009 2:25 AM

Khamenei has issued a fatwa.His religous credentials are questionable and certainly inferior to Ayatollah Montazeri.So any fatwa he issues can be revoked the next day.

pirooz / November 25, 2009 9:47 AM

I find it rather difficult to believe the details of attacks and similar events when there is no reference mentioned. How did these rather insider accounts of important figures leak out?

didaar / November 25, 2009 1:17 PM

Khamenei is a corrupt, degenerate liar and responsible for the death of many Iranians - why would anyone choose to defend a man who has committed crimes not only against the Iranian people but Iran itself.

Agha Irani / November 25, 2009 1:18 PM

well spoken pirouz. At a macro angle, considering all the problems and attempts to destabilise the Iranian political system, it is a tribute to Ayatallah Khamanei that he has despite pressures on him managed to keep the state together. It sometimes looks from the outside that Iran is about to implode on itself, but for real change to occur there is no substitute but to patiently work at the grassroots and put pressure on the system to reform itself without endangering the state and public security. It is not in the interest of any Iranian that Iran becomes an Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or a Somalia. Iranians are politically more sophisticated but need to be careful of those who are trying to create such wide dissension between political factions as to make the country ungovernable for this or any future government of any political hue.

rezvan / November 25, 2009 9:42 PM

The people of Iran have joined together to let the world know they want nothing short of,"REMOVAL OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC".may we free ourselves from 30 years of religious darkness and ignorance.

Amiri R / November 26, 2009 12:03 AM

Pirouz,

if you believe that Khamanei is telling his true intentions with his so-called fatwa, and that he wants nuclear tech for any thing other than the bomb, then I have a used car that I would like to sell you.

Khamanei has one goal and that is selfpreservation. he had already sold Iran to Russia and China. Now He has sold his religion too.

Razvan,

The grass root movement in Iran is our renaissance: an Iranian awakening. It is the old Promiss of Zoroaster, Mohammad and Jesus that light shall overcome darkness. knowldege, and science will overcome superstition and ingnorance. Peace and respect for other nations overcomes warmongering and paranoia. And respect for human life overcomes sacrificing all humanity over an imaginary apocolypse.


Keivan / November 26, 2009 8:17 AM

Pirouz,
I have noticed in your previous comments as well, that you often draw a comparisson between the islamic republic and the American political system, impling that "hey, US does the same thing"

That of course is a rediculous comparisson.

Never forget that Americans elected a black man with the middle name of Hussain, and an African last name as their President. How?
People, mostly young and educated overthrew a ultra-conservative, superstitious religious, warmongering,bullying, idiotic, humanrights abusing Bush government without a drop of blood shed. They did it with their votes. Now that is a system that works!

And next time you want to insult the Americans , remember that the very computer that you use, the light bulb that lights you room, and the car that you drive is all due to the genious and hard work of Americans of all color, religion and nationality.


Keivan / November 26, 2009 8:37 AM

"the genious and hard work of Americans of all color, religion and nationality."

Keivan, is that a joke, or do you really mean to be serious?

Because if you're serious, I have THREE CARS I'd like to sell YOU.

And the comparisons between Iran and America may not be the best arguments not because America isn't such a big mess, but because we have much bigger aspirations for Iran than to compare her to the world's biggest bully and warmonger.

Mr. Obama is Bush III, and if you'd like to think otherwise because of his middle name, you're very welcome to. Here are a few things you should look at however if you're ever done letting the mainstream media feed you sugar plum fairies:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091207/scahill

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/11/24/national/w135403S69.DTL

and btw, there's LOTS more of where that came from.

Pedestrian / November 27, 2009 12:14 AM

Dear Pirouz/pedestrian,

Oh I am dead serious. American universities, cities, products, and inovation are the envy of the world. 300 years ago, They put into their constitution freedom of religion and thought and best of all separation of church and state ..almost 300 years ago !!!!! how far behind are we???

At some point I certainly shared some of your distrust and hatred of America. Who can forget or forgive the 53 Coup? the blind support of the Shah? Vietnam and Iraq. I too used to blamed all of our troubles on America. But Keep in mind that every despot needs a boogyman, and US sure made a good one for Khamanei.

America is not perfect. There are many flaws. I can give YOU also 100s of examles. BUT
The fact is I am here in America, as a moslem, free to practice my religion, speak my thought, call Obama or Bush Hitler if I wanted to, or even open and read your sites without fear of filters or going to jail. Now THAT is the essence of America that I love and ppl like Khamanei hate.

Keivan / November 27, 2009 9:20 AM

Well said Keivan!
Pirouz and pedestrian (and Rezvan; that is if they are not all on person) are paid by khamenei to post garbage on free and open websites like this to counter the alleged color revolution they are so paranoid about. I am sure we could not have such a free and open discussion on the PressTV website which deletes comments that are not in line with the islamic regimes propaganda nonsense. More garbage produced by a garbage regime

Agha Irani / December 18, 2009 2:01 AM