Sunday, July 03, 2005

Iran's Sham Election Reveals Its Hard-Line Reactionary Turn

Jack Kelly, Post-Gazette:
In his essay on Iran in the current issue of Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens describes his journey to a cemetery, south of Tehran, for victims of the Iran-Iraq war. A subway guard gave him directions to the cemetery, which is beside a memorial to Ayatollah Khomeini, fomenter of Iran's Islamic revolution. "Why the [expletive]," the guard added, "would you want to go to that bastard's grave?"

The young guard's attitude, which appears to be shared by about three-quarters of his countrymen, illustrates why the recent election was a sham.

According to the Iranian government, former secret policeman Mahmoud Ahmadeinejad defeated former president Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani, 62 percent to 37 percent, in a runoff for the presidency on June 24. Turnout was 60 percent, the government said.

The Associated Press reported the government's figures as if they were true, even though there was a boycott of the election (photographs taken throughout the day showed polling places in urban areas virtually empty), and Rafsanjani claimed massive ballot box stuffing.

The election was boycotted by reformers because the only candidates permitted to run in it were those approved by the mullahs who hold the real power in Iran.

Even in a diminished electorate comprised largely of government employees, Revolutionary Guardsmen and secret policemen, Ahmadeinejad required help to reach the runoff. Michael Ledeen, the Iran expert who writes for National Review, reported that his sources told him about 7 million people voted in the first round of the election June 17. Yet 29 million ballots were cast.

The blatant manipulation of an already sham election to install a hard-line reactionary as president " suggests that the Ayatollah Khameini, chief of the Guardian Council, no longer sees a need to put a "reformist" face on the regime.

That suggests to me that Iran is very close to -- or already possesses -- a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it. READ MORE

That Iran's nuclear program is more advanced than most in the West realize is the subject of two recently published books, "Countdown to Terror" by U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and "Countdown to Crisis," by investigative reporter Kenneth Timmerman.

Weldon's book consists mostly of memoranda from "Ali," an Iranian exile in Paris, who runs an anti-regime intelligence network. Weldon published the memos out of frustration with the CIA's refusal to take Ali seriously, even though intelligence he provided uncovered a 2003 al-Qaida plot to hijack an airplane in Canada and fly it into the nuclear power plant in Seabrook, N.H.

Why would Iranians have detailed knowledge of an al-Qaida plot? Perhaps because so much of al-Qaida's leadership has taken refuge in Iran.

Two of Osama bin Laden's sons and al-Qaida's former military chief, Saif al Adel, are among 20-25 al-Qaida leaders living in villas near the town of Chalous on the Caspian Sea, reported NBC investigative producer Robert Windrem on June 24.

Windrem described the al-Qaida leaders as being "under virtual house arrest," but this is disputed by Ali and by Timmerman's chief source, a recent defector from a top position in Iranian intelligence.

Osama bin Laden himself has been in Iran since a meeting late last year in which he met with Iranian leaders to plan attacks on the United States, Timmerman's source said.

If bin Laden is under Iranian protection, it would explain why he has yet to be captured, even though CIA Director Porter Goss told Time magazine last month he has "an excellent idea" where bin Laden is.

The CIA has described this defector as "a fabricator of monumental proportions." But Timmerman says this is because the defector warned the CIA in July 2001 that a "massive attack on America" was planned for Sept. 11.

Conspirator Ramzi bin al Shibh spent nearly a month in Tehran before the attacks, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported in July of last year.

If al-Qaida and the mullahs are in cahoots, then al-Qaida may get the bomb when Iran does. The war on terror could be about to heat up in a very, very big way.

In the meantime, now that the mullahs have discarded their "moderate" mask, there likely will be a bloody crackdown on dissidents.

"It's only a matter of time now before the liberal forces inside of Iran are cut off at the knees and shot in the head," warned Robert Mayer (Publius Pundit). "This election alone has determined the future of hundreds of thousands of families. Make no mistake. Ahmadeinejad was not selected by accident."