Getting Iran Wrong --Again

ByKenneth R.Timmerman
|March 16, 2006

When making a revolution,allies matter. So do enemies. If you can't identify your friends andtarget your enemies, you're better advised to do nothing.

And that is just what our enemies hope we will do.

Washington Post reporter Karl Vick, reporting from Tehran thisweek, trumpeted that the new U.S. strategy to help pro-democracygroups inside Iran "could backfire," by tainting activists asAmerican agents.

"We are under pressure here both from hard-liners in the judiciaryand that stupid George Bush," he triumphantly quotes an Iranian"human rights activist" as saying.

The only problem is, the "human rights activists" and "pro-democracy"folks Karl Vick quotes are nothing of the sort. They are members ofthe discredited "reformist" movement, which ruled Iran from 1989until last year.

The reformist movement is not happy with the election of Iran'scurrent president, Revolutionary Guards officer and former Tehranmayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Their candidate was Hojjat-ol eslam AliAkbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who as Majles speaker in 1986 launchedIran's secret nuclear weapons program, then lavished it with moneyduring his eight years as president from 1989-1997.

The only change the reformists want to see is an end to Iran'sisolation and to U.S.-led sanctions, so the regime can be free todevelop nuclear weapons in peace. In other words, they are a shillfor the regime.

America's enemies are very eager for us to get it wrong. And theIslamic Republic of Iran is a sophisticated enemy. Their intelligenceservices were trained by the KGB at the height of the Cold War. Weshould never forget that.

The Soviets mastered the use of "active measures," aimed at plantingdisinformatzia and bogus stories to discredit the enemy, andmaskirovka, strategic deception. They taught those techniquesto the Islamist intelligence service in the early 1980s. Iran'sconspiracy-minded clerics and spymasters turned out to be starpupils.

Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright fell for Iran's strategicdeception campaigns repeatedly. So did the Europeans, who believedall during the 1990s they could engage in "constructive engagement"with a regime whose sole goal was to acquire European technology tobuild better missiles and nuclear weapons.

Today, the Washington Post is falling for it, too. They arefollowing the lead of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which in 1997allowed a newly-created "surrogate" Radio Free Iran to be transformedinto "Radio Khatami." (Known officially as Radio Farda ("Tomorrow"),the radio got its nickname because of its sycophantic treatment ofRafsanjani's "reformist" successor, Hojjat-ol eslam MohammadKhatami.)

It's absolutely critical that we get Iran right. On one side, we havea fake Iranian "resistance" group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which hasjinned up a massive lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. They arehoping to convince Congress to get the administration to lift theState Department's designation of the group, which dates from 1994,as an international terrorist organization.

"Imagine the message that would send to the Iranian people," oneadministration official who is appalled at the MEK lobbying effortstold me. "So we're telling them they should be ruled by some crazyterrorist cult?" As I
reportedrecently, the MEK helped bring Khomeini to power in 1979, but had afalling out two years later over how to share power. Call them Iran'sTrotskyists, if you will.

On the other hand, you have the "reformists," the Rafsanjani-Khatamiclique that ruled Iran until just last year. On their watch, regimeintelligence officers brutally hacked to death the leadinganti-regime activist in Iran, Darioush Forouhar, and his wife,Parvaneh. They sent out hit squads that murdered more than 200Iranian dissidents overseas. They murdered Iranian journalists,tortured Iranian students, closed universities, and machine-gunneddemonstrators.

And yet, the Washington Post calls members of this failed"reform" movement "human rights activists."

So, apparently, did the State Department, misled as ever by theCouncil on Foreign Relations and its acolytes. State careerists choseself-styled "reformists" to take part in workshops aimed at trainingIranians in the history of non-violent conflict that were held lastyear in Dubai.

This is a recipe for failure. Iran's "reformists" are not America'sfriends, nor are they the people we should be supporting inside Iran.Once again, strategic deception is at work.

There was a real reformist movement at one point, but itdidn't last long. It emerged in the early months after Khatami'sfirst election in 1997, but was crushed by Khatami himself when heput down the July 1999 student rebellion at Tehran University.

A key leader of that movement was Mohsen Sazegarah, a founder ofIran's dreaded Revolutionary Guards corps. After leaving governmentin the late 1980s, he published newspapers that were repeatedly shutby the regime. After two stints in jail, he left Iran last year andtold me flat out that the reform movement was "dead."

"This is the first time in our history that the Iranian people areturning to a foreign country for help," he told me. "I think theUnited States government can help the Iranian people very much."

That is a message Iran's leaders - and the anti-Bush crowd here athome - don't want Americans to hear. So their latest strategy is toundermine the just-announced U.S. policy of spending $75 million tohelp the pro-democracy movement inside Iran.

Sazegarah believes the main tool the U.S. should use is politicalrecognition of the opposition. He urged a boycott of last year'spresidential elections, as a first step toward convincing theinternational community to reject as illegitimate Iran'sStalinist-style elections. The reformists, on the contrary, are stillhoping to change the face of the current regime, to make it morepalatable to the West.
The CIA has also fallen for Iranian maskirovka, repeating yearafter year in unclassified intelligence assessments that "no viableopposition" exists in Iran.

This is strategic deception at its best. You'd think that the fewCold Warriors left at Langley would teach their younger colleaguesthe old Soviet tradecraft.

In fact, the Tehran regime is going to extraordinary lengths todiscredit, dismember, and discourage real opposition inside Iran. Notonly are they murdering opposition leaders wherever possible, butthey coopt activists during torture sessions in jail, then set themup with "false flag" organizations to discredit the real oppositionleaders who remain underground.

The message is clear to the meek and the merely disorganized: opposeus if you dare.

And yet, despite this extraordinary level of intimidation,demonstrations erupt in one Iranian city or another virtually everyweek, but they get little coverage in the Western media.

On March 12, for example, violent clashes rocked the predominantlyKurdish city of Piranshahr, near the border with Iran, as angryresidents attacked government buildings, banks, security patrol carsand trucks. The protests followed the murder of a town resident byIslamist militiamen and the refusal of the local authorities torestitute the body to his family.

On March 8, thousands of women demonstrated peacefully in Tehran'sLaleh Park to commemorate international women's day.
Digitalvideo images, sent viathe Internet to Iranians overseas, showed the brutal crackdown byregime security troops, led by an intelligence officer in civilianclothes. Hundreds of women were beaten and at least sixty werejailed, but little mention of the crackdown appeared in the West.

On February 13, Revolutionary Guards troops stormed a Sufi Muslimshrine in Qom, razing it to the ground and arresting upwards of 1,000Sufi worshippers. Even Radio Free Europe acknowledged that the "scaleand violence of the crackdown on the Sufis is unprecedented in theIslamic Republic." The regime's actions were strongly condemned byAyatollah Ali Hossein Montazeri, a respected cleric who has beenunder house arrest since losing a power struggle to become SupremeLeader in 1989.

In recent months, anti-regime riots have erupted in Ahwaz, alongIran's southern border with Iraq; in Iranian Kurdistan to thenorthwest, and in Iranian Balouchestan, along the border withPakistan.

Concerned about the rising tension and the efforts by Iranianjournalists to report on it, the regime apparently sabotaged agovernment C-130 packed with nearly a hundred Iranian journalists onDecember 12, killing everyone on board. (One journalist managed tocall his wife on his cellphone shortly before the crash to report thecrazed behavior of the pilot - a young replacement who boarded theplane under official escort shortly before takeoff).

No opposition in Iran? Here is a country that is falling apart. SinceSeptember, Tehran's bus drivers have been on strike to receive backpay and better work conditions, and have braved regime hooligans dayafter day. In January, workers from the Miral Glass factory walkedout, also to protest not being paid.

Every time there is a soccer match, tens of thousands of Tehranistake to the streets, chanting anti-regime slogans. The events havebecome so notorious as anti-regime protests that the regime has triedto outlaw them, without success.

Disinformatzia and maskirovka. The Islamic Republic'smassive strategic deception is aimed at making the West believe thiscrumbling regime stands on solid ground, and that any Westernchallenge to Iran's nuclear weapons program will be met with astinging defeat.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

This time around with Iran, we need to get it right. The lives ofmillions of people depend on it.

ClickHere tosupport