An Administration Plagued by Fraud and Corruption
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles
30 Mar 2010 22:04
[ comment ] There is no doubt in the minds of many Iranians, including the author, that Tehran's hardliners committed fraud on a vast scale to steal the presidential election of June 12, 2009, and deny victory to Mir Hossein Mousavi. The rigging of the election, the hardliners' violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, the jailing of thousands of people, the systematic murder, rape, and sodomy of dozens or more, the Stalinist show trials--these acts have plunged Iran into a crisis with no end in sight. Superficially, the country is calm, but even the most minor event may trigger a huge national explosion at any moment.
Rigging the June election was by no means the first time that the hardliners resorted to fraud and cheating to maintain their hold on power. Such acts have been going on ever since the 1979 Revolution (echoing, of course, the behavior of the preceding monarchy), and they have become ever more widespread since Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was appointed Supreme Leader in 1989. Because he had neither Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's charisma and popular base of support, nor the religious credentials expected of the man who would replace him, Ayatollah Khamenei has always had to rely on the security, intelligence, and military forces, as well as the minority of Iranian clerics in the conservative and reactionary camps, in order to consolidate his control of the nation. The result has been the never ending growth of economic corruption and the looting of national resources by a small group, widespread political and social repression, and a culture of institutionalized criminality that has provided fertile grounds for electoral fraud. Indeed, the commission of political crimes is an essential tool used by the hardliners to maintain power.
At the same time, with the partial exception of the first three years of Mohammad Khatami's presidency, Ayatollah Khamenei has never allowed a free press to flourish in Iran. There is no independent news media that can act as a watchdog of the state and reveal the depth of corruption and political crimes that the hardliners have been committing.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss all the crimes for which the hardliners have been responsible over the past three decades. There are enough to fill several books. I have described some of them, such as the infamous Chain Murders, and the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s, in previous articles. The intention here is to provide an overview of the various economic and political crimes, as well as intellectual frauds, that have been committed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the administrations that he has run at every level, and the people close to him.
Ahmadinejad's Academic DegreesEverything associated with Ahmadinejad is complex, contradictory, shrouded in secrecy. He was born on October 28, 1956, in Aradan, a village near Garmsar, a town about 80 km southeast of Tehran. His family moved to Tehran when he was very young. After finishing high school, Ahmadinejad took Iran's national university entrance examinations in 1976. He claims to have ranked 132nd out of 400,000 participants that year, but he enrolled in what is now the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) as an undergraduate student of civil engineering. That is strange.
In the mid-1970s, the school did not even have university status. It was a daaneshkadeh -- roughly, "college." Someone ranked as high as Ahmadinejad would have easily gained admittance to one of the three premier engineering schools in Iran: the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tehran and Aryamehr University (now Sharif University) at the top, followed by Tehran Polytechnic (now Amir Kabir University of Technology). The IUST was considered among the country's second tier of engineering schools, as it still is.
At the time, participants in the national entrance examinations had to identify their top ten choices before taking the test. Almost all those who wished to study engineering would place the three premier schools at the top of their list, and then less distinguished institutions lower down as their "plan B." One of Ahmadinejad's hallmarks has been his utter confidence in his own ability, mixed with extreme arrogance. There is thus every reason to believe that he would have identified his desired schools in just such an order. Given his supposed examination rank, he should therefore have been accepted to a first-tier school. The evidence clearly indicates that he ranked nowhere close to the position he claims.
The Basij militia was formed in November 1979 on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini. In September 1980, Iraq's army invaded Iran. It is believed that after the invasion Ahmadinejad joined the Basij militia and later worked in the intelligence apparatus. At the same time, he held a number of administrative posts in the province of West Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran, including the governorships of the towns of Maku and Khoy. Later, he was an advisor to the governor-general of Kurdistan province in western Iran. But he was also accepted to the Master of Science program at the IUST in 1986 and received his degree three years later. How did he manage to attain this degree while he was employed far from Tehran?
In 1993, Ahmadinejad was appointed governor-general of Ardabil province, which used to be part of East Azerbaijan province. But he was also a Ph.D. student in transportation and planning at the IUST. He always claimed that he was working 18 hours a day for the people of the province. Perhaps he did, but then when did he find the time to work on his doctoral dissertation? After Khatami was elected president in 1997, his first interior minister, Abdollah Nouri, immediately removed Ahmadinejad from his post.
That same year, Ahmadinejad received his Ph.D. It has been reported that on the day he was supposed to defend his dissertation, his thesis advisor, Hamid Behbahani, told the dissertation committee, "You all know Mr. Ahmadinejad and how pious he is. Thus, say salavvat [salutation to the Prophet Muhammad and his family] and accept his thesis." It seems that Ahmadinejad never actually defended his dissertation. In any case, "Dr." Ahmadinejad joined the faculty of the IUST.
Mayor of Tehran
In early 2003, the Khatami administration held perhaps the most democratic elections in Iran's history for the city councils around the country. Unlike the presidential and parliamentary elections, city council candidates are not vetted by the ultra-reactionary Guardian Council. Practically anyone who wanted to run was allowed. With many members of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition (led by Ezzatollah Sahabi) and the Freedom Movement (led by Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi) running for the Tehran council, Ayatollah Khamenei left the city so that he would not have to vote. He grew angry enough to imply that he would order the cancellation of the elections.
As it turned out, Ayatollah Khamenei did not have to cancel any elections. Frustrated by the slow pace of reform under Khatami -- who later said that during his two terms the hardliners created a crisis for the country every nine days -- and particularly by the infighting among the members of the Tehran council, which was dominated by the reformists, large numbers of people in Iran's large cities boycotted the elections. In Tehran, only 12 percent of eligible voters took part, and the vast majority of those were supporters of the Islamic fundamentalists, who refer to themselves as "principlists."
A heretofore unknown fundamentalist group, Abaadgaraan-e Iran-e Eslami, or Developers of Islamic Iran (DII), swept the Tehran elections and all 16 seats on its city council. The 17th highest vote getter was former deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh. Jailed right after last June's rigged presidential election, he was recently released for Nowruz, the celebration of the new Iranian year.
The DII was actually a front for Jameiyat-e Isaargaraan-e Eslami, or the Society of Islamic Revolution Devotees (SIRD). Its members began their political activities in March 1995, and the group was formally founded in February 1997. In Iran, the SIRD is known simply as the Isaargaraan. Isaar is an Arabic word for altruism, and an isaargar is someone willing to selflessly sacrifice for a sacred cause. The SIRD consists mainly of former Basij members and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps veterans of the Iran-Iraq war. Its secretary-general is Hossein Fadai, who was jailed during the Shah's reign for his political activities and worked with the Revolutionary Guards during the war as a combat engineer. He has repeatedly accused the reformists of being supported by the United States. Ahmadinejad himself was a founding member. Fadai and another leading member of the SIRD, Ali Reza Zakani, are very close to Ahmadinejad. The organization was fiercely opposed to Khatami and issued many statements against him and his administration, criticizing practically every one of his policies.
The DII was led by Mehdi Chamran, the ultraconservative brother of the Berkeley-educated Dr. Mostafa Chamran (1932‒1981), Iran's first minister of defense after the Revolution, who was killed in the war with Iraq. The group nominated Ahmadinejad, then an obscure politician, for the position of Tehran's mayor. Such appointments must be approved by the minister of interior. But Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari, the reformist cleric who then held the office under Khatami, refused to approve the nomination for several weeks, due to Ahmadinehjad's record as Ardabil governor-general (discussed in more detail below). Eventually, due to intense pressure from Ayatollah Khamenei, Mousavi Lari relented and approved the appointment, starting Ahmadinejad's rise in the Iranian political galaxy.
As Tehran's mayor, Ahmadinejad reversed changes made by the previous reformist mayors, Morteza Alviri and Mohammad Hassan Malekmadani. He transformed the city's cultural centers, founded by Alviri and Malekmadani, into religious ones, demanded separate elevators for men and women in municipal offices, and ordered the remains of those killed in the Iran-Iraq War to be buried in the city's major squares.
From the moment he took office, Ahmadinejad also advocated the construction of a new monorail system, though work on a Tehran subway system was already under way, led by Mohsen Hashemi, son of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Because the DII, Ahmadinejad, and other hardliners despise Rafsanjani, they wanted to set up a rival public transportation system, defying all economic sense. Huge sums of money were spent on the project, but it never took off.
As Tehran's mayor, Ahmadinejad put together a coalition of some of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij commanders, ultra-reactionary clerics led by Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, and his allies in the DII, and announced his candidacy for the presidential elections of 2005. He was given very little chance of winning. It was widely believed that Ayatollah Khamenei's initial choice was Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a brigadier general, pilot, and former commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air force, who was much more polished than Ahmadinejad. Most people believed that Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karroubi, the reformist candidates, would make it to the second round of the elections (Iran's presidential election system requires a runoff if no candidate wins over 50 percent of the vote in the initial round).
Ayatollah Khamenei apparently changed his mind at the last moment and switched his support to Ahmadinejad. It is widely believed that he did so at the urging of his son Mojtaba, an ally of Ahmadinejad's. Both are close to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. It is also widely believed that a large number of votes were changed to allow Ahmadinejad to make it to the runoff with Rafsanjani.
During the campaign's second round, Ahmadinejad's humble background and lifestyle, along with his promises to root out corruption and maximize oil revenues, attracted many poor and lower-class people. In contrast, Rafsanjani was considered by many as a symbol of corruption. There is also credible evidence that Ayatollah Khamenei directed the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij commanders to order their members to vote for Ahmadinejad, and to take with them to the voting stations as many family members and friends as possible. As a result, Ahmadinejad was elected. Complaining about the irregularities in the vote, Rafsanjani said, "I will leave it to God to judge what has happened."
Once in office, Ahmadinejad began a sweeping purge of the bureaucracy. He installed many allies in positions of authority, indicating the extent of his secret network around the country. As a key ally, Brigadier General Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr -- a hardliner in the Revolutionary Guards -- declared, Ahmadinejad's election "was not an accident. It was a result of two years of complex, multifaceted planning." It has been reported that even Ayatollah Khamenei was surprised by the extent and depth of Ahmadinejed's network.
In 2006, simultaneous elections were supposed to be held for the city councils, as well as for the Assembly of Experts, the constitutional body that appoints the Supreme Leader and is supposed to monitor his performance. The reformists forged an alliance and put up 16 credible candidates for Tehran's city council. Ahmadinejad's sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, also ran for a seat on the council. For months, she accompanied her brother everywhere. Ahmadinejad claimed that she would receive the highest number of votes because he was highly popular and the people wanted another Ahmadinejad.
By then, Ahmadinejad had formed a new political group, the Sweet Scent (SS) of Service. (There is no entirely satisfactory English translation for the group's name. Although it might make little sense in English, it is an unexceptional phrase in Persian.) Most of its members are former commanders of the Revolutionary Guards. Its secretary-general is Mohammad Ali Ramin, a close ally of Ahmadinejad who used to work at Kayhan, the daily that serves as the mouthpiece of the hardliners and is run by Hossein Shariatmadari. Ramin is currently deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance and responsible for the press. In the short time that he has held the position, he has ordered the closure of scores of newspapers, weeklies, and other publications. Ramin lived in Germany for many years and is rumored to have associated with the neo-Nazis and the far right there. He is believed to be the prime mover behind Ahmadinejad's rhetoric about Israel and the Holocaust, and was the secretary of the Holocaust conference that was held in Tehran in 2006.
Despite its use of public resources, the SS of Service was defeated badly in the elections for the city council, with its candidates receiving only 4 percent of the votes. The Tehran election results were not announced by Ahmadinejad's Interior Ministry for quite some time. All indications were that at least ten reformists had been elected, and that Parvin Ahmadinejad was not even among the top 30 vote getters. It was widely reported that Ayatollah Khamenei had said that no more than four seats should be given to the reformists, and so, after considerable alterations of the votes, it came to pass. Parvin Ahmadinejad was declared the 15th-place vote getter and was thus "elected." Even then, only three of the SS of Service candidates for Tehran made it onto the council. Around the country, the reformists received 60 percent of the votes cast in city council elections.
The same thing happened in the elections for the Assembly of Experts. Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, and the hardline clerics around him nominated many younger, relatively unknown clerics. Mesbah Yazdi himself ran for a seat as a representative of Tehran province, and it was claimed by the hardline clerics that he would receive the largest number of votes. But the pragmatists and relatively moderate clerics allied with Rafsanjani, who was also running for a Tehran seat in the Assembly.
Once again, the results were not announced by Ahmadinejad's Interior Ministry for sometime as Mesbah Yazdi did extremely poorly, while Rafsanjani led the balloting. Once again, the votes were altered. For example, Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghaddam, a relatively moderate conservative cleric, was also running for a seat as a representative of Tehran province. It was reported widely, and implicitly confirmed by Mesbahi Moghaddam, that all his votes were counted for Mesbah Yazdi. Rafsanjani was ultimately declared the largest vote getter -- though with a reduced number of votes -- and Mesbah Yazdi was announced as the eighth-ranked candidate.
Then came the 2008 elections for the Eighth Majles, the Iranian parliament. The reformists lined up a strong slate of candidates, particularly for Tehran. They nominated many former ministers and high-ranking officials that had served in the government for years, believing that the Guardian Council would not dare disqualify them. However, the local councils, which carry out the preliminary review of candidates' qualifications and had been appointed by Ahmadinejad's Interior Ministry, eliminated the vast majority of reformist candidates. Only about 100 reformists, most of them little known, were allowed to run for about 100 seats, out of a total of 290. Even then, they did well -- 50 of them won their elections, along with 25 "independents" who were, in fact, also quietly reformist.
There is, of course, no need to detail here what happened in the 2009 presidential election. It was completely rigged.
Economic Corruption and Crimes
On behalf of the 1997 presidential election campaign of Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, Khatami's main conservative rival, Ahmadinejad as governor-general of Ardabil province spent 3 billion toumans (about $5 million at the time) of the provincial budget. Khatami's first minister of the interior, Abdollah Nouri, fired Ahmadinejad and referred his involvement in Nategh Nouri's campaign and the illegal use of government funds to the courts. The case is apparently still open, although it has been inactive for 13 years.
As governor-general, Ahmadinejad also made arrangements for his close friend Sadegh Mahsouli to have exclusive rights to the oil swaps then taking place between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Mahsouli made at least $7 million, which put him well on his way to acquiring his nickname: "Billionaire Minister."
During Ahmadinejad's tenure as Tehran's mayor, 350 billion toumans (about $430 million) in municipal funds went unaccounted. No one knows what has happened to the money. Ahmadinejad's supporters claim that it was spent partly on research and preparation for the monorail project and partly on addressing Tehran's heavy traffic jam problems, but there is no documentation to support these assertions.
Almost immediately after he was elected president in 2005, Ahmadinejad asked the Majles to allow him to withdraw and spend about $400 million from Iran's foreign currency reserves for the Basij militia. He received permission, but again there is no accounting of how the money was spent.
Ahmadinejad's friend Sadegh Mahsouli is the embodiment of corruption. As minister of the interior, he delivered the "victory" to Ahmadinejad in the rigged election of last year. The "Billionaire Minister" estimates his own wealth at $160 million. How did he amass it? In addition to being helped by Ahmadinejad in the oil swaps with the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mahsouli used his Revolutionary Guard connections to purchase thousands of square meters of lands in some of the best neighborhoods of Tehran at a small fraction of their market price. He then turned around and sold the lands at their real value, making an astronomical profit. Now minister of welfare and social security, he surely possesses a unique perspective on the lives of the poor.
Over the past five years, the Ahmadinejad administration has awarded nearly $10 billion in contracts to Guard-controlled companies, most often without any formal bidding. They include large projects in the oil and natural gas industry, the petrochemical industry, and railroad and dam construction. The contracts have been so rich that Rostam Ghassemi, head of Khatam-ol-Anbia (KA), the engineering arm of the Guards that is currently under UN Security Council sanctions, recently announced that his company will no longer participate in "small and medium-size projects."
With KA receiving most of the large projects, many private companies have either gone bankrupt, or have been forced to work as subcontractors for the Revolutionary Guards. Since KA does not have the required expertise to carry out many of the projects it controls, it keeps a significant fraction of the profit and then contracts out the actual work to the private sector. Delays, inferior performance, and cost overruns are the frequent result.
No-bid contracts and KA's involvement in most large projects harm Iran's national interests in at least two other important ways. First, KA's involvement with Iran's oil and natural gas industry makes it extremely vulnerable to sanctions by the United States and its allies. Given that oil and natural gas are the most important sources of energy in Iran, as well as the most important sources of foreign currency, any large-scale sanction against the industry is extremely harmful to the vast majority of Iranian citizens. The industry is already suffering from the lack of significant investments by the European and American oil giants, while other major oil producers have raidly been developing their reserves. If these trends continue, Iran's loss of market share will likely be severe.
The Iranian economy has also been harmed by the way that KA, in alliance with Ahmadinejad, has been allowed to raid the treasury with impunity, in the absence of any supervision by the Majles. An example is the Persian Gulf's South Pars/North Dome field, the largest natural gas reservoir in the world, which Iran shares with Qatar. The field covers 9,700 square kilometers: the South Pars, comprising approximately 3,700 square kilometers, is in Iran's territorial waters; the North Dome, comprising the remainder, is in Qatar's territorial waters. In terms of fossil energy content, the field is also the largest in the world.
The Ministry of Oil intends to develop the South Pars in 28 phases. Phases 15 and 16 have been granted to KA. But mismanagement and other factors shrouded in secrecy have delayed the work. In addition, Ghassemi, the KA head, announced in early January that "to remedy the financial difficulties that KA was experiencing" and to complete the project, the Revolutionary Guards were planning to withdraw $1 billion from Iran's reserved foreign currency. Ghassemi blamed the National Iranian Oil Company for the problem.
This withdrawal is, of course, illegal. Any such use of funds must be approved by the Economics Council, the Foreign Reserves Funds' Board of Trustees, and the Majles. But Ahmadinejad has completely bypassed all of them. He stripped the council of its powers and brought it under his own control. He also removed the Board of Trustees. And he never asked the Majles for permission.
Article 44 of Iran's Constitution stipulates that most national industries must be privatized. Under Rafsanjani, the Assembly of Experts developed a plan for privatization. But the Ahmadinejad administration has been conducting a fire sale of some of the most important national assets, selling them at a small fraction of their actual value to quasi-private corporations controlled by the Revolutionary Guards; to several bonyaads, or foundations, run by hardliners that already control vast assets; and to companies controlled by high-ranking clerics loyal to the hardliners. The result has been a vast looting of the nation's resources. In a future article, I will probe this issue in depth.
In August 2008, Ahmadinejad introduced Ali Kordan to the Majles as his new minister of the interior. His predecessor, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, was sacked after he submitted a report to Ayatollah Khamenei concerning the 2008 Majles elections and its many irregularities without informing Ahmadinejad. During his confirmation hearings in the Majles, Kordan claimed that he has an "honorary" doctorate from the University of Oxford. He was confirmed by a very slim majority, but his supposed doctoral degree opened up new venues for Ahmadinejad's critics to probe. By late October 2008, it had become clear that not only did Kordan not have a doctoral degree, but that he did not even have a bachelor's. The Majles voted to impeach him.
Mohammad Abbasi, who headed the government's liaison office to the Majles, tried to bribe the Majles deputies to prevent Kordan's impeachment, handing out checks for 5 millions toumans (about $5,000). A physical confrontation ensued between one deputy and Abbasi. Ali Larijani, the parliament's speaker, called Abbasi's efforts "indecent" and forbade him from entering the Majles. Kordan was impeached and removed from office. He recently passed away.
In February 2009, the National Audit Office reported that $1 billion was missing from Iran's foreign currency reserves.
Ahmadinejad claimed that it was an accounting error, but even many conservative Majles deputies dispute that. The matter is still unresolved.
Several weeks ago, there were widely credited rumors that two of Iran's most important banks were going bankrupt, which caused a panic and led many people to withdraw their money. The rumors were so persistent and the flight of money out of the banks so swift that the government barred withdrawals of more than 15 million toumans ($15,000) at a time. Mahmoud Bahmani, governor of Iran's Central Bank, ultimately admitted that the banks had given $47 billion in loans to 300 people, but had succeeded in collecting only about $7 billion. The rest is essentially in default. In one case, an unnamed prominent man had taken a loan of $210 million, an unheard-of amount in Iran. The hardliners essentially treat Iran and its resources as their own private property.
The corruption is on such a great scale, the Revolutionary Guards' power is so vast, and the remaining press is so incapable of probing the endemic fraud and deceit that even the unexplained disappearance of $1 billion from the national treasury, the illegal withdrawal of another $1 billion, and $40 billion of loans in default does no harm to Ahmadinejad, a man whose claim to piety and incorruptibility is one of his hallmarks. Talk about a "Teflon president."
Academic FraudAhmadinejad and his cohort have even badly damaged the credibility of Iranian academics. In addition to the unanswered questions about his own advanced degrees, many of his close aides and cabinet members have been caught cheating and lying about their records.
In addition to Kordan, Kamran Daneshjoo, Ahmadinejad's minister of science, research, and technology, responsible for overseeing the universities, has also not received the degrees he has claimed. Daneshjoo was in charge of supervising the rigged 2009 election and certifying it.
In his page on the website of the IUST, where he is a faculty member, Daneshjoo claimed to have received a Ph.D. from the Imperial College of London. When questions were raised, the name of the institution was changed to "Manchester Imperial Institute of Science and Technology," which does not exist. He also claimed that he had received his bachelor's degree from "Queen Mary," presumably meaning Queen Mary's College.
The fact is that Daneshjoo was expelled from the Imperial College for his political activities. In early 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, declaring that the author should be killed. There were demonstrations in London and elsewhere in Britain against Rushdie, in which Daneshjoo participated. Britain decided to expel him and several others. He never finished his studies before he was obliged to return to Iran. A university professor in Tehran who is very familiar with what happened told me that, after Daneshjoo's return, a thesis was put together for him to "defend." Most academics stayed away from it. The "defense" was held at Amir Kabir University, and Daneshjoo was awarded an "equivalent Ph.D. degree."
That was not the end of the fiasco. On September 20, 2009, Declan Butler of Nature, perhaps the most prestigious science journal in the world, asked me to compare two scientific papers, one published by Daneshjoo and his student, Majid Shahravi, and a second one published by a Korean group.
Nature wanted to know whether Daneshjoo and Shahravi had plagiarized the Korean paper. After reading the two papers, I realized that not only had Daneshjoo and his student copied about 70 percent of the text of their paper, word for word, from the Korean piece, but that many of the purported results were virtually identical. Some of their figures precisely mirrored ones in the Korean paper, while others were simply replots of the Koreans' results. Butler publicized the story.
Nature identified similar copying in other papers by Daneshjoo and Shahravi in a paper in the Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology, in the Taiwanese Journal of Mechanics (25, 117 ), and even in the Iranian Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Journal. Shahravi attributed it to a plot by "Zionist agents." No satisfactory explanation was ever offered by Daneshjoo, who told the Majles that he had not even read the papers on which his name appeared as coauthor. All the foreign journals have retracted the papers.
Then there is Hamid Behbahani, minister of roads and transportation, the man who asked Ahmadinejad's Ph.D. dissertation committee to say salavaat and accept the thesis. Nature examined a paper, co-authored by him, Hassan Ziari, his deputy and the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, and Mohammed Khabiri, then an IUST Ph.D. candidate, that was published in the Ukrainian journal Transport (XXI, 207 ). Much of its text and results were copied from previously published papers (see here and here).
These discoveries have damaged the credibility of the Iranian scientists who have achieved remarkable success under the most difficult conditions. A recent survey published by New Scientist indicated that scientific output has grown faster in Iran than in any other country, 11 times faster than the world average. A group of Iranian scientists, both inside and outside the country, has set up a website to expose scientific frauds, identify low-quality journals, and report on related issues.
Another member of Ahmadinejad's cabinet guilty of intellectual fabrication is his nephew, Ali Akbar Mehrabian, minister of industries and mines. In July 2009, an appeals court upheld his conviction on charges of scientific fraud. Farzan Salimi, a researcher in Tehran, had proposed and developed an idea for an "earthquake saferoom" -- a residential fortified space. He had presented his design to Tehran's municipal Department of Crisis Management in 2003, when Ahmadinejad was mayor. In a book published two years later, Mehrabian and an associate, Mousa Mazloom, described the details of the design and claimed it as their own invention. Ahmadinejad's name was also on the book as a coauthor.
Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Ahmadinejad's first vice president (the Iranian government has eight), claims to have a Ph.D., though it is not clear in what field. It is widely believed that his degree, like Kordan's, is fake. One thing is for sure: He is a master of pleasing his masters; perhaps his Ph.D. is in this area. At a ceremony in which Ahmadinejad was present, Rahimi claimed that during a trip to Syria a man had approached him and declared, "If God were to send a prophet after Prophet Muhammad, it would be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!" The judiciary recently announced the discovery of a major case of financial fraud involving "high government officials." There is persistent speculation that the "high official" is Rahimi. It has been reported that the judiciary chief, Sadegh Larijani, phoned Ahmadinejad and asked him to fire Rahimi, but was rebuffed.
Ahmadinejad's first minister of science, research, and technology, Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Kerman, was the "mathematics genius" of the cabinet. Zahedi has always claimed to be a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, which the organization has flatly denied. In 2005, when he was introduced to the Majles as a cabinet nominee, he claimed to have been called "one of the most prominent mathematicians of the century" by the American Mathematical Society. As it turned out, he was simply a member of the Society for a while. Zahedi has been dispatched to Malaysia as Iran's ambassador.
The cases surveyed in this article represent just the tip of the iceberg. Only when Iran is a true democracy with a free press will we learn the full extent of the crimes, corruption, and fraud perpetrated by the hardliners.
Cartoon of Sadegh Mahsouli being led to Majlies by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. By Nikahang Kowsar for Roozonline.
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