The enemy next door

"The enemy next door" Continued...

Issue: "Weapons of mass hysteria," March 15, 2003

The Guards went on to establish bases in Lebanon, where Mr. Zakiri said they met Mr. Mughnia. They used the bases "for recruiting and training the revolutionaries and gradually bringing them into their schemes against the Americans, such as blowing up the Marine headquarters in Beirut and attacking the American embassy." Imad Mughnia and Revolutionary Guard officers, he said, "had a major part in these actions."

Neither the death of the popular Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini nor, more recently, parliamentary elections changed the Security Ministry's close ties to terrorists. In fact, the new ayatollah-Ali Khameini-moved to establish an independent security bureau reporting directly to him, after Iranians overwhelmingly elected a moderate leader, Mohammed Khatami, as president in 1997.

Fundamentalist clerics led by the ayatollah, who favor strict Islamic government, control Iran's Guardian Council. In spite of the polls, they oversee elections, certify candidates, and control the police. The Guardian Council thwarts Mr. Khatami's reforms in parliament and still controls the all-important judiciary. Lawmakers who speak out against the court system are regularly imprisoned. Police reverse parliamentary decisions to open independent presses and allow women to receive education abroad, and they invoke other restrictions.

According to defector Zakiri, Ayatollah Khameini's security ministry controls the Revolutionary Guards and intelligence officers of the judiciary. "These apparatuses are today in shameful violation of the law when they arrest reformists, close down newspapers, and beat and kill people," said Mr. Zakiri.

And what about ties to Iraq? The Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary units under them set up smuggling operations, said Mr. Zakiri, to export and sell Iraqi oil and dates in violation of UN sanctions. Until about a year ago, when the trade ceased, they shared proceeds with an Iraqi company headed by Saddam Hussein's son Qusay. Iraqi and Iranian security bureaus also cooperated to establish and protect Ansar al Islam, a terrorist organization operating in northern Iraq that has sheltered al-Qaeda fugitives.

Mr. Zakiri would not answer some questions because his family is not yet secure, he said. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat would not disclose his whereabouts. Neither the State Department nor the White House have officially commented on his statements. Mr. Bodansky, an adviser to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, told WORLD that Mr. Zakiri is "a good source." Defectors, however, "are never perfect, never error-free in what they can say," he said. Imad Mughnia, he said, "remains a large threat, a major threat," whose whereabouts, officially, are unknown.


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