Another liquidation by internal forces?
by MEIR JAVEDANFAR in Tel Aviv
20 Jan 2010 22:10
This time the victim was Vali Haji Gholizadeh, who was shot dead outside his home on Tuesday, January 19, in the city of Khoy, near the Turkish border. He was the chief prosecutor of the city.
The Tehran-based Khabar Online initially blamed "anti-revolutionary forces with relations to foreign governments" for his death. Seyyed Mohammad Ali Mousavi, the head of the judiciary for the Western Azerbaijan province, went a step further and held the Kurdish separatist group PJAK responsible. His evidence was based on intelligence reports. Mehr News Agency, which has close links with the right wing of Iranians politics, declared that the Kurdish separatist group PJAK had in fact "accepted responsibility for the assassination."
The city of Khoy has a sizable Kurdish population. In the early 1980s, its mayor was the then little known bureaucrat by the name of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who later on went to become the president of the Islamic Republic. The young Ahmadinejad -- who is Persian -- was viewed suspiciously by the locals, especially as he was related to the Revolutionary Guards, which had violently put down a recent Kurdish uprising.
So tension has always existed in that region. And PJAK has been responsible for a number of bombings and hit-and-run operations against Iranian forces in the past. What could have made them a bigger suspect in this case was the recent hanging of Fasih Yasamani in the city of Khoy, who the government of Iran had accused of being a PJAK activist. Yasamani was executed on January 6. According to the Prosecutor's office in the city of Khoy, Haji Gholizadeh was directly responsible for Yasamani's file. According to the Iranian government (commenting after the execution), Haji Gholizadeh had received death threats from PJAK.
However in a strange twist to the story, PJAK has come out and denied any role in the assassination of Haji Gholizadeh. In an interview with the Persian language Rooz publication, the head of PJAK, Abdol Rahman Haji Ahmadi, stated that "I have no knowledge of who was involved in this act of terror." The same goes for its official newspaper, Rojhe Lat. In a recent article, it stated that "Haji Gholizadeh was assassinated by unidentified persons."
If Haji Gholizadeh had really been responsible for the death of their comrade, had PJAK carried out the hit, it would not have any reason to hide their involvement in his assassination. In fact they would have every reason to announce it as a means of boosting its popularity amongst supporters. They could have also touted it as a victory against the Iranian government and its security forces and to use it as a means of creating deterrence. The separatist group Jundollah did the same in October 2009, when it assassinated several commanders of the Revolutionary Guards.
However PJAK is doing the opposite by denying any responsibility. Perhaps PJAK is concerned about the backlash by the regime. However one also has to ask: Is it possible that this was an inside job?
After the assassination of the Iranian scientist Masoud Ali Mohammadi, some observers, including myself, believed that foreign intelligence agencies were most probably involved. The Iranian government itself placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of foreign intelligence agencies. Other observers remained doubtful. In fact some Iran experts, including Columbia University's Professor Gary Sick, supported the idea that the Iranian government itself was most probably responsible for his murder, as Ali Mohammadi was a Mousavi supporter. His killing was meant to silence and intimidate the Green Movement.
It is also possible that in this case Haji Gholizadeh was also murdered by internal forces. While it's not clear whether he was a member of the opposition, it has been reported that he was involved in the fight against corruption. One cannot rule out the fact that he was possibly working on exposing corruption amongst high ranks of his office or province. It would not have been difficult for senior people to assassinate him and to blame PJAK for it, especially since it would be easy to pass it off as a PJAK hit.
In the current atmosphere of tensions and division within the Iranian regime, assassinating people and blaming it on foreign agents or anti-revolutionary forces can become a popular tool. The alternative of arresting them, putting them on trial and raising the anger of the public would probably be more unattractive and less viable to the regime's interests.
However what Ayatollah Khamenei should note that he can turn into the boy who cried wolf too many times. Meaning in the current confusion, foreign intelligence agencies may actually come and carry out genuine hits. However in such genuine cases, the public may not believe the authorities. And more importantly, members of his own regime, who are concerned about internal liquidations, may actually turn to help foreign intelligence agencies as a means of settling scores with the Supreme Leader and his assassination squads.
After the controversial reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of the trends that can be observed within Khamenei's regime is the increase in chaos within the higher ranks. The factional infighting was made worse last week. In yet another clear indication of the loss of cohesion within the system, Majles was shoved aside by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in their efforts to place the savings from the subsidies reform package under the government's supervision (instead of the Majles).
In the long term, such acts, which create further isolation and infighting, will come to haunt the regime.
So far, this has not affected the decision-making body for the nuclear program. The day it does will be the day when Khamenei's nuclear dreams will start to slip away from him.
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