London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Major General Mohsen Rezai, former Supreme Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and current Secretary of the State Expediency Council (headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani) is famous for his candor, which has cost him much during his years as commander of the IRGC and in his political duties.
It is this frankness that makes the Iranian street receptive and attentive to his statements; amongst which are warnings that he addressed to the Iranian leadership about the serious risk of Iran being subjected to a broad American military attack. In an interview with the Iranian Channel Two, Rezai said that the US had already begun implementing a clear plan against Iran during the past six months, and that it is expected that the political arena will start to witness indicators of a new American strategy that aims at resolving the Middle East crisis and the Palestinian issue, in addition to undermining Iran’s influence.
Obtaining his doctorate degree three years ago from the University of Tehran in economics and international relations, Rezai believes that George Bush’s new strategy is founded on the basis of ‘all or nothing’, meaning that the American administration sees that defeat in Iraq would signify the end of the American empire, which is why it strives with all its strength towards achieving a victory there, after which it will resolve the situations in Lebanon and Palestine. He pointed out that Iran is an obstacle to the American strategy, which makes it a primary goal in Washington’s new strategy.
Moreover, the US military’s arrest of five senior intelligence officials from the IRGC who are also prominent leaders of the Qods (Jerusalem) Force in the northern city of Abril in Iraq is another factor that increases officials’ concerns in Tehran, especially the heads of the IRGC and the Qods (Jerusalem) Force. A close source to the Commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) Force, Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, revealed to Ashaq Al-Awsat that the detainees are privy to serious information relating to the IRGC and the Qods (Jerusalem) Force networks, in addition to information regarding Iranian Intelligence agents and their collaborators in Iraq. The longer the period of their detention lasts the more anxious the Iranian intelligence services become, both the military and the non-military. The source revealed that the arrest of two officers from the Qods (Jerusalem) Force at one of the of the Supreme Council for Islamic Resistance in Iraq’s (SCIRI) headquarters nearly three weeks ago led the Americans to ‘Iran’s liaison office’ headquarters in the capital Kurdistan.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary, Ali Larijani, headed to Damascus after a weeklong visit to Saudi Arabia. According to well-informed sources, Larijani harbored some of the Iranian leadership’s same concerns regarding the recently published news about the secret contacts between Israel and Syria on the one hand, and Damascus, London and Washington on the other. Syria’s strategic accomplice called for regaining the transparency and truth about what is being said in terms of the possibility of Damascus getting out of the ‘marriage of pleasure’ that ties it to Tehran as soon as it fulfills its ‘marriage of interest’, which would guarantee it political and economic privileges from Washington and the European Union.
The subject raised by Rezai’s televised appearance, which was not broadcast in full in accordance with a report that was posted on his website for reasons that were not stated, is the reflection of the concern that surrounds what is known as the ‘pragmatists’ in Iran’s political arena, who are spearheaded by Rafsanjani and his ally, former reformist President Mohammed Khatami. This anxiety comes at a time when the country is suffering an economic crisis. Some accuse President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stating that his economic policy is the cause for the absurd hike in food prices over the past two months whereby a kilo of tomatoes, for example, at the end of last week had reached 3,000 Toman after it cost 400 Toman last October [Iranian currency is Iranian Rial. There exists another unit called Toman, which is equivalent to 10 Rials. Toman is more common in oral quotes, while Rial is the official unit and is used in most documents]. The price of the local ‘sangak’ bread stands at 100 Toman, while the inflation rate, according to the Central Bank, exceeds 14.5 percent. However, a prominent economist told Asharq Al-Awsat that the rate of inflation exceeds 20 percent. As for unemployment, figures stand at 22 percent of the work force, which means that 5.2 million Iranians are without jobs, of whom 9 million people live below the poverty line – as was acknowledged by Iran’s Deputy Minister of Finance.
The conflict between Ahmadinejad and the ‘Pragmatics’ group, which started long before Ahmadinejad assumed power has presently deepened so that several of the hardliner neoconservative MPs no longer conceal their resentment of the president’s policies and his convulsive rhetoric which was the primary factor behind the UN Security Council reaching an agreement against Iran. The parliament has recently witnessed a brutal confrontation between one of the most prominent fundamentalist members, Elias Naderan, and Esfandiyar Rahim Mashaei, a deputy of President Ahmadinejad and the head of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization following footage that was displayed on Iranews agency’s website of the latter’s visit to Turkey, where he was said to be going under the pretext of attending a meeting for tourism officials of the member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The footage revealed Mashaei watching a Turkish singer and dancer performing to the participating members of the scheduled meeting. Naderan accused Mashaei and the government of hypocrisy, demanding of the president that he be, “truthful and transparent”. Furthermore, it has been said that Ahmadinejad has lost the bulk of his following as a result of the deterioration in the economic situation and living conditions despite the rise in oil prices and the current government’s revenues thrice exceeding that of Khatami’s.
Just last week, Ahmadinejad faced scathing criticism in the media despite the fact that the last independent newspaper, ‘Sharq’, having been closed down at the behest of the Iranian Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance, Hussein Safar-Harandi nine months ago. There are three newspapers; ‘Hamshahri’, which is the most widely distributed and is affiliated to the Tehran municipality, and ‘Etemade Melli’, which is the mouthpiece for Mehdi Karoubi’s party, who is the former speaker of parliament, and ‘Kargozaran’, which is the mouthpiece for the cadres of Rafsanjani’s Executives of Construction Party – all of which have to heed the red lines so as to avoid being closed down. The fact is, the criticism directed at Ahmadinejad comes from the papers that had until recently been very enthusiastic about the president and his slogans, such as the extremist ‘Jomhouri Islami’ and the newspaper, ‘Resalat’, which is the mouthpiece for the traditional conservatives.