شهریور ۳۱، ۱۳۹۰

"A Power Grab by Mojtaba Khamenei"


Last week we featured a cable, released by WikiLeaks, in which Ayatollah Syed Salman Safavi --- four days after the disputed 2009 Presidential election --- told Western diplomats in London that a person "very close to the Supreme Leader...working in the Supreme Leader's office" had orchestrated the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Safavi's implication was that the Supreme Leader's son, Mojtaba Khamenei, even if he did not direct the manipulation, was fully supportive of it and that the operation was backed by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohammad Ali Jafari. Safavi further claimed that the IRGC had been split by the decision to rig the election in favour of Ahmadinejad, whom he said had the backing of only one senior cleric, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi.

And now the other half of this intriguing tale....

Another cable from WikiLeaks reveals that in the days after the election, the US Embassy in London had another high-profile Iranian source claiming Mojtaba Khamenei's responsibility for the Ahmadinejad victory. Writer and broadcaster Alireza Nourizadeh told the American officials, "All his interlocutors in the Moussavi camp believe the entire affair represents a power grab by Mojtaba Khamenei, with tactical and logistical planning for the move going back six months or more. Nourizadeh said he had no direct proof himself of Mojtaba's role but that the Moussavi camp believes Mojtaba's principal allies to be IRGC commander Jafari and Basij commander Hossain Taeb."

Nourizadeh, citing 2009 Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, film director and candidate Mir Hossein's spokesman Mohsen Makhbalouf, and former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Moussavian as sources, offers other interesting claims:

1. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was denounced as corrupt by Ahmadinejad in pre-election debates, reportedly held two meetings with the Supreme Leader before the 12 June vote to assure "election transparency and non-interference". After the election, Rafsanjani liaised with Mir Hossein Mousavi in an effort to get senior clergy to oppose the declared result of the vote.

2. Within three days of the election, the Supreme Leader's representatives offered Mousavi the right to pick "half the Cabinet". Mousavi and Rafsanjani rejected the offer.

So how much credence should be given to Nourizadeh's reports? The American diplomats offer a healthy dose of scepticism:

The backroom charges against Mojtaba, while not implausible in themselves, and though they do echo claims made by Karroubi about Mojtaba after the 2005 elections, provide exactly the narrative that an aggrieved candidate, protesting his own loyalty but seeking major redress, would want to have available if needed. It is also noteworthy that Nourizadeh in his report and analysis of current behind the scenes discussions makes no clear distinction between Moussavi and Rafsanjani as actors or parties of interest.

The assessment continues, "It is at the same time not at all implausible that Nourizadeh, an anti-Shah activist in his youth but now no friend to the Islamic Republic, may be exaggerating or distorting the apprehensions of Moussavi's advisors for [our] benefit, whether due to cynical manipulation or his own wishful thinking."

Yet the fact remains that the US Embassy in London was getting the assertion from not one but two Iranian sources that there had been a manipulation of the Presidential election and that the scheme reached to the highest levels of the regime. Was Nourizadeh in any way aligned with Ayatollah Safavi, with a co-ordination of their stories? Or was the Embassy getting claims, from different parts of the Iranian system --- a day after the largest public protests in Iran since 1979 --- that something was not quite right in Tehran?


O 161555Z JUN 09 ZDK

S E C R E T LONDON 001423


E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2019


¶1. (S/NF) Summary: Moussavi advisor and former Iran nuclear negotiator claims that Mojtaba Khamenei, acting in concert with IRGC Jafari and other officials in the Supreme Leader's office, has been a major force behind vote manipulation, and current measures to repress pro-Moussavi demonstrations in the street, according to expat broadcast commentator and author Ali Reza Nourizadeh. Nourizadeh further reported that Moussavi and Rafsanjani, are beginning to fear being caught in a situation where they must because of the democratic logic and principles espoused by their supporters, make maximalist demands on the regime, but in so doing may undermine the legitimacy of a form of government of which they themselves are founders and major beneficiaries. End summary.

Former Nuclear Negotiator Moussavian the Key Source

¶2. (S/NF) Prior to Iran's June 12 election, VOA contract broadcaster Alireza Nourizadeh told London Iran Watcher (Poloff) of two lengthy one-on-one meetings Hashemi Rafsanjani reportedly held with Khamenei, on June 4 and 9. Media widely reported the second meeting, at the conclusion of which Rafsanjani had declared a positive outcome to his discussions with the Supreme Leader on election transparency and non-interference. Nourizadeh told Poloff his source, ahead of the press reports, for details of these meetings had been "senior advisors" to Rafsanjani and the Moussavi and Karroubi campaigns. In conversations June 14-16 Nourizadeh elaborated to Poloff that his sources included candidate Karroubi himself, film director and now Moussavi spokesman Mohsen Makhbalouf, and former nuclear negotiator and Moussavi/Rafsanjani advisor Hossein Moussavian, with whom Nourizadeh claimed to have met in Vienna in person in May and with whom he claims to speak by phone "more than ten" times per day.

Alleged Backroom Discussions Between Moussavi/Rafsanjani and Khamenei's Office

¶3. (S/NF) Nourizadeh's incremental verbal reports to Poloff cite Moussavian as his principal source on efforts by Rafsanjani and Moussavi to enlist the support of senior clergy in Qom in opposing the election results and on complex, behind the scenes talks the Moussavi camp is allegedly holding with the Supreme Leader's office. Karroubi, though apparently not Rezai, is a party to such talks.

Logic of Election Protests Dictates Maximalist Demands by Moussavi

¶4. (S/NF) Nourizadeh claims that on June 14 and again on June 15 (unspecified) Supreme Leader representatives had offered the Moussavi camp, in which Nourizadeh says Rafsanjani is "of course" included, the right to pick "half the cabinet" (ministries unspecified), an offer Nourizadeh said Rafsanjani/Moussavi had rejected out of hand as inadequate and politically untenable in any case. Nourizadeh explained that anything short of a complete change of the election result would cause both Rafsanjani and Moussavi to lose all credibility with their currently impassioned supporters. Nourizadeh argued that a maximalist demand, for nullification of Ahmedinejad's victory and a two-candidate runoff between Moussavi and Ahmedinejad, is the only politically viable position or goal the Moussavi camp can espouse.

"Debates Were a Mistake"

¶5. (S/NF) Early on June 16 Nourizadeh said the Moussavi opposition leaders were distressed by the fatalities of the evening before but were determined to press their case through expanded street demonstrations today. The Moussavi camp reportedly was nervous, for the first time, telling Nourizadeh it is concerned over what it may have started, and that holding the TV debates "may have been a mistake" given the alienation produced within Iran.

Moussavi Advisors' Claims about Mojtaba

¶6. (S/NF) Asked by Poloff to reconstruct what personalities and forces lay behind the apparent regime attempt to grossly manipulate the election -- Nourizadeh claimed that all his interlocutors in the Moussavi camp believe the entire affair represents a power grab by Mojtaba Khamenei, with tactical and logistical planning for the move going back six months or more. Nourizadeh said he had no direct proof himself of Mojtaba's role but that the Moussavi camp believes Mojtaba's principal allies to be IRGC commander Jafari and Basij commander Hossain Taeb. Nourizadeh commented that Qalibaf had long been a focus of Mojtaba's support and aspirations but that Qalibaf had, by his own repeated comparisons of his own potential to the late strongman Reza Khan (Reza Pahlavi's father), irretrievably alienated Supreme Leader Khamenei.

¶7. (S/NF) Nourizadeh further alleged that, according to his interlocutors in Moussavi's camp, Supreme Leader Khamenei had begun personally to weaken under the tremendous pressure of events in recent months, and that his general medical condition, exacerbated by opium abuse, have contributed to a stronger behind-the-throne position for Mojtaba and his IRGC allies. Nourizadeh claimed the publicly released photos of Khamenei and Mojtaba's recent visit to Sanandoj were the first public photos of the two together and for that reason quite significant. Nourizadeh said his interlocutors indicate that Mojtaba is far less risk-averse than his father. He also opined it is highly unlikely the Supreme Leader on his own would have risked alienating so many other major figures among regime founders, but that Ahmedinejad is attractive to Mojtaba as an executive whom Mojtaba reportedly believes he and his key allies can control much more easily than elder statesmen such as Rafsanjani or Moussavi.

Energy Levels High As Expats Sweat for Moussavi

¶8. (SBU) The feverish atmosphere in Nourizadeh's London office (at the NGO Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies) June 16 was that of a political campaign office late on election night. The lightly-orchestrated chaos included Nourizadeh rushing between simultaneous meetings in different rooms and on different phone lines with callers and delegations from Arabic, Farsi, and U.S. media and activists while his small staff monitored Iran video and websites and fielded a deluge of phone calls from Iran and elsewhere. Poloff was able for the most part to stay out of sight. By way of flagging his own role in shaping public opinion in Iran and various Arab countries, Nourizadeh listed for Poloff the Arab, French, UK and U.S. media for whom Nourizadeh said he has been doing a dozen or more Arab and Farsi language interviews and commentaries daily for the past week in addition to his usual VOA and Radio Free Europe venues: Al Arabiyah, LBC of Lebanon, Radio Zamaneh, Nile Satellite channel and several Egyptian and Morrocan channels, Al Jazeerah (David Frost), and BBC Arabic and English -- Nourizadeh claimed to have turned down repeated BBC Persian interview requests.