Ahmadinejad conducting purge of Iranian intel

posted at 10:11 am on August 11, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The Iranian revolution of 1979 continues to eat itself as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has started off his second term by purging Iran’s intel agency of any hint of moderation.  In fact, Ahmadinejad has made himself, at least temporarily, the head of the Intelligence Ministry, as Ali Khamenei’s “divinely authored” victor in the rigged June elections bounced at least one senior official close to the Supreme Leader.  All of this has Russia wondering whether it should start distancing itself from the mess in Tehran:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tightened his grip on Iran’s powerful intelligence services, ousting four senior officials in a widening purge against authorities who challenged the harsh crackdowns after June’s disputed elections, lawmakers and media said Monday.

The shake-up at the Intelligence Ministry – the nation’s main spy agency – deepened the rifts straining Iran’s conservative ranks over Ahmadinejad’s strong-arm political tactics and the crushing response to the pro-reform opposition since the June 12 election.

It also sought to bolster Ahmadinejad allies in the Revolutionary Guard, which led the assaults and arrests against protesters who claimed the election was rigged. But now officials from other groups, including the police and judiciary, say abuses occurred and have called for investigations into the deaths and alleged torture. …

The Intelligence Ministry sweep came less than two weeks after Ahmadinejad angered conservatives by firing the intelligence minister, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, in an apparent dispute that reportedly included the handling of the clampdown on the unrest.

The Washington Post’s matter-of-fact reporting style puts Ahmadinejad at the center of this power play, but the better analysis would have the IRGC at the center.  Both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei owe their position and their safety to the IRGC, which intervened in the protests when they reached their zenith and managed to intimidate enough Iranians through murders and threats of more to gain control of the situation.  The removal of these people, especially those previously close to Khamenei who questioned the IRGC and Basiji actions in June and July, appears to be payback for their continued support and protection of the regime.

The IRGC runs Iran now.  The removal of the Supreme Leader’s former fair-haired boys from the Intelligence Ministry all but confirms it.

That has some in Russia questioning Moscow’s immediate embrace of Ahmadinejad, and wondering where Russia will stand if the regime collapses:

According to an Aug. 6 piece published by the privately owned Nezavisimaya Gazeta, it’s time to give the divisive president the heave-ho.

“It appears that recent events in Iran, when the opponents of Ahmadinejad shouted slogans of ‘Death to Russia,’ indicate that Moscow’s defense of Ahmadinejad’s government has not been met with approval among a considerable portion of the Iranian population,” the editorial said.

“It appears that the idea that Iran is a regional power which Russia could use as a trump card in relations with the West has turned out to be mistaken,” the editorial says. …

The editorial pointed out that Russians are being singled out by the West and Iranians themselves as the primary backers of Ahmadinejad, possibly to Moscow’s disadvantage.

If and when a counter-revolution occurs, the government that replaces the current regime will remember who gave the mullahcracy succor, especially when it turned from a mullahcracy to a military dictatorship.  The Russian “great game” goal would get blocked if a new Iran looks West rather than East as a consequence of Moscow’s support for oppressors.  How do we know this?  It’s the reverse of what happened in 1979, and it’s the exact dynamic that occurs in every revolution.

Russia has gambled on the ability of the IRGC to hold Iran long enough for the mullahs to regain popular legitimacy.  It looks like a bad gamble these days.

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without pre-condition

rob verdi on August 11, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Which is part of why the so-called Iranian uprising was allowed.

Friendly21 on August 11, 2009 at 10:16 AM

This is good news, no?

bridgetown on August 11, 2009 at 10:21 AM

Obama was no friend of the protesters either. He only wants to support the winner of this internal battle; principles do not matter.

WashJeff on August 11, 2009 at 10:21 AM

I called the Pasdaran coup the Saturday after the election. I’m glad the Washington Post now agrees with me almost 2 months after the fact. Morons.

elduende on August 11, 2009 at 10:22 AM

I knew Ahmadinejad was crazy, I just did not think he was that stupid. I have read assessments in mainstream media suggesting Iran’s intelligence service may be the most efficient in the world. Certainly compared to the CIA, well, … my teenage son’s texting network may be better informed and less concerned with covering its own as than the CIA.

doufree on August 11, 2009 at 10:25 AM

Things would improve in Iran if only they had nuclear bombs.

Bishop on August 11, 2009 at 10:27 AM

Purge the guys who’s job it is to keep you in power.

That’s not a smart career move.

MarkTheGreat on August 11, 2009 at 10:29 AM

Could the Russians have miscalibrated?

fourdeucer on August 11, 2009 at 10:30 AM

what if all the conventional wisdom we have about how Iran is governed . . is. . wrong?

vinman on August 11, 2009 at 10:32 AM

who’s worse, oboobi/washington or ackmydumdjihad/teharn

SHARPTOOTH on August 11, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Hey Russia: The violently insane are a danger to all around them.

mojo on August 11, 2009 at 10:41 AM

This is most likely good from the sense of having a negative effect on the quality of the Iranian intel service, but potentially bad in the sense of making them fall more in line with Ahmadinejad

exhelodrvr on August 11, 2009 at 10:43 AM

Back in Washington D.C., Bambi continues to suck his thumb while Secretary of State Bill Clinton licks his chops at the possibility of a trip to Iran because of all those hot Persian women.

Percy_Peabody on August 11, 2009 at 10:49 AM

who’s worse, oboobi/washington or ackmydumdjihad/teharn

SHARPTOOTH on August 11, 2009 at 10:41 AM

That is what Israel would like to know.

fourdeucer on August 11, 2009 at 10:51 AM

who’s worse, oboobi/washington or ackmydumdjihad/teharn

SHARPTOOTH on August 11, 2009 at 10:41 AM

That is what Israel would like to know.

fourdeucer on August 11, 2009 at 10:51 AM

+1
excellent

cmsinaz on August 11, 2009 at 10:55 AM

It would be ironic if Putin realizes the advantage he’d get for Russia in the region by assisting in the overthrow of the Mullahs.

What a switch, Russia enabling a relatively peaceful transition to popular rule in Iran while the USA is slugging it out in Afghanistan.

rcl on August 11, 2009 at 11:04 AM

As the IRGC tightens its power and purges even past presidents and presidential candidates, the possibility of a successful revolution receeds, probably by decades. And the probability of an Iranian bomb, sooner rather than later, increases.

I’d dearly love to be wrong about this.

NeighborhoodCatLady on August 11, 2009 at 11:05 AM

@rcl – That’s interesting.

@NeighborhoodCatLady – I think continued Russian sponsorship, rather than more power consolidation within the IRGC, is a more likely determining factor.

vinman on August 11, 2009 at 11:12 AM

If Russia continues sponsorship, the IRGC retains power. If Russia scales back sponsorship, that does nothing to encourage revolution. So I don’t see Russia’s path affecting the short- or medium-term power of the IRGC, or life of the Iranian military dictatorship. (Especially if China continues sponsorship.)

If Russia decides that an Iranian revolution is beneficial to Russia, then all bets are off. But I don’t see that happening. I don’t think that Russia wants either an unstable Iran or a west-leaning Iran.

NeighborhoodCatLady on August 11, 2009 at 11:33 AM

Obambi – desperately grasping for that clenched fist. How totally pathetic. When he finds it, America will get a black eye. Actually when Gibsy told the world that Imadinnerjacket was the lawfully elected president of Iran – we got a self inflicted black eye. That has to just about be THE STUPIDEST thing any administration has done regarding foreign policy in the last 25 years (at least until Jimmah was in office).

johnnybgood on August 11, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Russia has gambled on the ability of the IRGC to hold Iran long enough for the mullahs to regain popular legitimacy.

President Obama’s made a similar gamble.

Not about regaining popularity perhaps; but about being a legitimate negotiating partner.

SteveMG on August 11, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Were a US Administration in office which showed even a smidgen of competence in international affairs, I would see this as a golden opportunity to take advantage of the disarray in the Iranian Intelligence community and insert some assets (possibly even turning some disaffected former agents).

As it is, I see only another glimmer of lost hope, soon to be receding in the rear-view.

Noocyte on August 11, 2009 at 12:06 PM

Well at least the Iranian behavior is starting to make sense now. Why they were letting the opposition coexist was perplexing. After all, these are the folks that parade down the street on any given afternoon beating women for sport.

patrick neid on August 11, 2009 at 12:28 PM

Maybe Russia will rethink the Iranian claim on the Caucuses.(sp?) and take it a tad more seriously now.

elclynn on August 11, 2009 at 1:07 PM

The Iranian revolution of 1979 continues to eat itself as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has started off his second term by purging Iran’s intel agency of any hint of moderation … All of this has Russia wondering whether it should start distancing itself from the mess in Tehran

What, did Russia just lose their main guys on the inside? ;-)

RD on August 11, 2009 at 1:49 PM

The Iranian Equation:

Streetlamps + mullahs + ayatollahs + rope = Persia’s Liberty.

profitsbeard on August 11, 2009 at 6:03 PM

Don’t worry, Mr. Putin…I’m sure this government will fix everything to both Moscow’s and Tehran’s benefit at the expense of the U.S. President Carter is hanging around, perhaps they can send him over there! :-)

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 11, 2009 at 6:29 PM

This might actually be good news. The ideological hard-liners are not necessarily the most effective analysts. I’d speculate they have their posts more because of their hard-line positions than because of their abilities. And the more widespread the purge, the more useful it might be.

Of course, they may also be more ruthless, but that’s direct action, not intel.

njcommuter on August 12, 2009 at 11:05 AM