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News | Questions over Death of Ahmad Rezaei; Ahmadinejad Power Play

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

14 Nov 2011 09:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

RezaeiFatherAndSon.jpg9 a.m., 23 Aban/November 14 Speculation is swirling around the death of Ahmad Rezaei, the 31-year-old son of Mohsen Rezaei, the former presidential candidate and top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and current secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council.

Ahmad Rezaei, who was found in a Dubai hotel with his left wrist reportedly slit in an apparent suicide, was a controversial figure. In 1998, he moved to the United States, where he gave interviews in which he fiercely criticized Iran's ruling elite. He claimed, for example, that political dissidents had been murdered on the direct order of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His interviews caused deep embarrassment to his father, who has been a fixture in the Islamic Republic's political and military establishment since the 1979 Revolution.

The elder Rezaei claimed that certain Americans had tricked his son, claiming that they worked for NASA, in order to entice him to leave his homeland and move to the United States, so that they could take advantage of him. He condemned his son, saying that if he ever came back to Iran, he would be treated like any other critic of the Islamic Republic. Ahmad Rezaei eventually returned to Iran in 2005, though his father made that public in a television interview only a year later. He was never prosecuted and later left again for the United States, where he reportedly married an American citizen. A subsequent attempt to return to Iran was opposed by the government, and thus he stayed in Dubai, where police reported his nationality as American. His family has arrived in Dubai to take his body back to Iran.

Aftab News, a website that is close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, claimed that he was electrocuted. Shahram Gilabadi, deputy head of public relations for the Expediency Discernment Council, told Mohsen Rezaei's own website that the death is suspicious and still under investigation. Ammariyon, a website close to the vigilante group Ansaar-e Hezbollah, claimed that the young Rezaei was assassinated by Israel's Mossad.

Debka, a website linked with Israel's intelligence agencies, offered both an intriguing comparison and purported details of Rezaei's demise that contradict all of the official reports:

The cause of his death strongly resembled the method by which Hamas' contact man with Tehran Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was slain on Jan. 19, 2010 in another Dubai hotel. The local authorities laid that death at the door of Israel's Mossad. For instance, Rezaie's body showed no signs of violence. He appeared [to] have been injected with the Suxamethonium muscle relaxant and then smothered with a pillow.

Debka also claimed that while Rezaei was still in the United States,

[H]e contacted Israelis with an offer to help run down what happened to the Israeli navigator Ron Arad, who has been missing since 1986, when his plane went down over Lebanon and he was captured by Shiite groups and believed handed over to Tehran. Rezaie offered to travel to Dubai and use his contacts in the Expediency Council to discover what happened to the Israeli navigator in return for a handsome down-payment. His Israeli contacts eventually turn him down.

Debka speculated that Ahmad Rezaei might have been murdered on the order of Khamenei as a warning to his father to step back from his close relationship with Rafsanjani. No evidence at all to support this far-fetched claim has been presented.

Major political and military figures have visited with Mohsen Rezaei to convey their condolences, including Majles Speaker Ali Larijani; Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards' top commander; Major General Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force; Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi; Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, commander of the national police; and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, former commander of the Revolutionary Guard air force.

Ahmadinejad versus Khamenei

In an obvious slap at Supreme Leader Khamenei and his supporters, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, his chief of staff and closest confidant, and Hamid Baghaei, his vice president for executive affairs. Mashaei has been accused of leading the "perverted group," which Khamenei's supporters claim is plotting to expel the clerics from the government, while Baghaei has been accused of financial corruption. In a ceremony at Iran's national museum, Ahmadinejad spoke about the nation's 5,000-year history, and said, "If Ferdowsi had not lived, Iran would not exist today." Abolqasem Ferdowsi (940-1020) wrote the epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings), which helped the Persian language to survive the Arabs' invasion of Iran. Mashaei has repeatedly lauded the nation's pre-Islamic history, which has angered the hardliners around Khamenei and the conservative clergy. Ahmadinejad thanked the Organization for Cultural Heritage, which has been run or controlled by Mashaei and Baghaei since 2005, for the work that it has been doing to preserve the symbols of Iranian history and said, "If a nation destroys its cultural heritage, it is committing suicide."

Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakoli denied Ahmadinejad's assertions about him regarding the 2005 presidential election. As noted here last week, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech filled with strong statements against his critics. In his speech, Ahmadinejad referred to a conversation with a Mr. "T" and said,

In 2004 someone from the opposition met with me and said that we were thinking about supporting another person for the presidency, but realized that he cannot do it. "Are you ready [to run for president]?" [he asked.] I said, "Do you realize what you are saying? If someone from the ranks of people with bare feet [the poor] becomes the president, it will represent another revolution, and will end aristocracy, royalty, nepotism and embezzlement. Will you be able to tolerate that?"

It turns out Mr. "T" is none other than Tavakoli. He denied having that conversation with Ahmadinejad and said that he was a serious candidate for presidency at that time and, thus, he would not have suggested to Ahmadinejad that he run.

In an angry letter to Ahmadinejad, conservative Majles deputy Bahman Akhavan rebuked the president for threatening to publicize classified information about various state officials. "Do you think that if you were not the president, you could have had access to such information? They would not have even allowed you even at the door to the building of Ministry of Intelligence," Akhavan wrote. He also criticized the economic performance of the Ahmadinejad administration, saying that poverty and corruption have increased, while Iran has had the highest earnings from the oil exports since 2005. Akhavan said, "Given people like Ahmadinejad, Iran needs no more enemies."

Damage to historical monuments

While Ahmadinejad was praising his close aides for the work they have done to preserve Iran's cultural heritage, multiple reports indicate that some of the country's most important historical monuments have been damage by nature, or deliberately destroyed. Serious fissures have developed in Persepolis, the palace of Persia's ancient emperors, and one of the most treasured cultural heritage sites in the world. Excess humidity has damaged the monument, and the unrepaired fissures have worsened. In Ramhormoz, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, a hill containing historical artifacts from the Parthian era (248 B.C.-224 A.D.) has been completely destroyed as a result of the city's efforts to to build a sewer system. In Yazd, in central Iran, the historic "Shams House" was completely destroyed, even though it was registered as a historical monument.

Economy

Between two and three million accounts have been blocked since Saturday by Bank Saderat, one of Iran's largest financial institutions. The announced reason is "wrong information" given to the banking system. Reports indicate that large crowds have gathered around branches of the bank, worrying about the fate of their savings. The bank has asked people to go the banks with their national identity cards and birth certificates in order to correct any mistakes in their information, so that their accounts can be unblocked.

Human rights

In a major statement, the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin (OIRM), one of the leading reformist political groups that has been outlawed by the hardliners, warned that the nation is facing international threats and serious internal crises. Pointing to the United Nations Security Council's resolutions against Iran, the many reports on the violation of human rights in the country, harsh economic sanctions, continuous propaganda against the nation, and the "scenario" for the assassination of Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington, the OIRM said that these are the result of an aggressive foreign policy -- which it contrasted with the foreign policy of former President Mohammad Khatami -- and declared that the state of affairs in the international arena is totally unprecedented since the 1979 Revolution. The OIRM assigned the hardliners and their government direct responsibility for the consequences of what is happening. It condemned any form of military attacks on Iran or violation of its territorial integrity and national sovereignty -- particularly the efforts of the "Zionist regime" (Israel) -- and declared that the only way to emerge from the current impasse and protect Iran is for the ruling group to apologize to the nation, respect the people's wishes, end the dictatorship, and guarantee people's participation in national affairs through free and fair elections.

Hassan Fathi, a reporter for the BBC, was arrested in Tehran. He was charged with "propaganda against the state" and "spreading lies". He had spoken to the BBC in a live program and said that the explosion at a Revolutionary Guard that killed at least 17 people occurred at a missile base.

Hossein Najafi, a political activist in Fars province, was arrested. He is a member of the youth branch of Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist (and now outlawed) political party, and worked for Mir Hossein Mousavi's presidential campaign in Fars. He was previously arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 election and jailed for ten days. He has been sentenced to two years of imprisonment, and he may have been arrested to enforce the sentence.

Saeed Saedi, a Kurdish journalist and civic activist in Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Kurdistan province has been sentenced to three years of incarceration. He was previously arrested in December 2010 and spent 74 days in solitary confinement.

Assassination attempt

Yadollah Sadeghi, head of the Organization of Industry, Mines, and Commerce of Tehran, was attacked by his deputy Faramarz Ebrahimi, who tried to kill him by firing three shots at him. Some reports indicate that Sadeghi is comatose and in critical condition, while other reports indicate that he was injured, but not too seriously. Apparently, Ebrahimi was angry after he heard that Sadeghi had fired him.

Arrest of alleged spies

Two Kuwaiti citizens were reportedly arrested in the oil city of Abadan in Khuzestan province and charged with espionage. According to the report, they were equipped with spying equipment and arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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