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Iran's new President has a past mired in controversy

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2606 Iran’s new President has a past mired in controversy Iran Focus Tehran, Jun. 25 –
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 25, 2005
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      http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2606

      Iran’s new President has a past mired in controversy


      Iran Focus

      Tehran, Jun. 25 – “Ahmadinejad? Who’s he?”

      This was the typical reaction of most Iranians a day
      after the first round of presidential elections in
      Iran, when they heard that the two candidates facing
      each other in the run-off were veteran politician
      Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the
      little-known, ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran,
      Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

      Last week’s surprise was all forgotten by the much
      bigger shock on Friday, when Ahmadinejad defeated the
      former President and iconic figure in the ruling
      theocracy in a landslide victory that consolidated
      power in the hands of the ruling Islamic clerics.

      With spotlights now trained on the small, bearded
      figure in a trademark dilapidated grey suit,
      Ahmadinejad’s murky past is causing deep anxiety in
      Iran and growing concern abroad over the new
      President’s policies and orientation.

      Born in the desert town of Garmsar, east of Tehran, in
      1956, Ahmadinejad was the fourth child of a working
      class family with seven children. His father, who was
      a blacksmith, moved the family to Tehran when
      Ahmadinejad was barely a year old. He was brought up
      in the rough neighbourhoods of south Tehran, where a
      cocktail of poverty, frustration and xenophobia in the
      heydays of the Shah’s elitist regime provided fertile
      grounds for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

      After finishing high school, Ahmadinejad went to Elm-o
      Sanaat University in 1975 to study engineering. Soon
      the whirlwind of Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah
      Ruhollah Khomeini swept him from the classroom to the
      mosque and he joined a generation of firebrand Islamic
      fundamentalists dedicated to the cause of an Islamic
      world revolution.

      Student activists in Elm-o Sanaat University at the
      time of the Iranian revolution were dominated by
      ultra-conservative Islamic fundamentalists.
      Ahmadinejad soon became one of their leaders and
      founded the Islamic Students Association in that
      university after the fall of the Shah’s regime.

      In 1979, he became the representative of Elm-o Sanaat
      students in the Office for Strengthening of Unity
      Between Universities and Theological Seminaries, which
      later became known as the OSU. The OSU was set up by
      Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, who was at the time
      Khomeini’s top confidant and a key figure in the
      clerical leadership. Beheshti wanted the OSU to
      organise Islamist students to counter the rapidly
      rising influence of the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq
      (MeK) among university students.

      The OSU played a central role in the seizure of the
      United States embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
      Members of the OSU central council, who included
      Ahmadinejad as well as Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, Mohsen
      (Mahmoud) Mirdamadi, Mohsen Kadivar, Mohsen Aghajari,
      and Abbas Abdi, were regularly received by Khomeini
      himself.

      According to other OSU officials, when the idea of
      storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran was raised in the
      OSU central committee by Mirdamadi and Abdi,
      Ahmadinejad suggested storming the Soviet embassy at
      the same time. A decade later, most OSU leaders
      re-grouped around Khatami but Ahmadinejad remained
      loyal to the ultra-conservatives.

      During the crackdown on universities in 1980, which
      Khomeini called the “Islamic Cultural Revolution”,
      Ahmadinejad and the OSU played a critical role in
      purging dissident lecturers and students many of whom
      were arrested and later executed. Universities
      remained closed for three years and Ahmadinejad joined
      the Revolutionary Guards.

      In the early 1980s, Ahmadinejad worked in the
      “Internal Security” department of the IRGC and earned
      notoriety as a ruthless interrogator and torturer.
      According to the state-run website Baztab, allies of
      outgoing President Mohammad Khatami have revealed that
      Ahmadinejad worked for some time as an executioner in
      the notorious Evin Prison, where thousands of
      political prisoners were executed in the bloody purges
      of the 1980s.

      In 1986, Ahmadinejad became a senior officer in the
      Special Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards and was
      stationed in Ramazan Garrison near Kermanshah in
      western Iran. Ramazan Garrison was the headquarters of
      the Revolutionary Guards’ “extra-territorial
      operations”, a euphemism for terrorist attacks beyond
      Iran’s borders.

      In Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad became involved in the
      clerical regime’s terrorist operations abroad and led
      many “extra-territorial operations of the IRGC”. With
      the formation of the elite Qods (Jerusalem) Force of
      the IRGC, Ahmadinejad became one of its senior
      commanders. He was the mastermind of a series of
      assassinations in the Middle East and Europe,
      including the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader
      Abdorrahman Qassemlou, who was shot dead by senior
      officers of the Revolutionary Guards in a Vienna flat
      in July 1989. Ahmadinejad was a key planner of the
      attack, according to sources in the Revolutionary
      Guards.

      Ahmadinejad served for four years as the governor of
      the towns of Maku and Khoy in northwestern Iran. In
      1993, he was appointed by Minister of Islamic Culture
      and Guidance Ali Larijani, a fellow officer of the
      Revolutionary Guards, as his cultural adviser. Months
      later, he was appointed as the governor of the
      newly-created Ardebil Province.

      In 1997, the newly-installed Khatami administration
      removed Ahmadinejad from his post and he returned to
      Elm-o Sanaat University to teach, but his principal
      activity was to organize Ansar-e Hezbollah, a radical
      gang of violent Islamic vigilantes.

      Since becoming mayor of Tehran in April 2003,
      Ahmadinejad has been using his position to build up a
      strong network of radical Islamic fundamentalists
      organised as “Abadgaran-e Iran-e Islami” (literally,
      Developers of an Islamic Iran). Working in close
      conjunction with the Revolutionary Guard’s, Abadgaran
      was able to win the municipal elections in 2003 and
      the parliamentary election in 2004. They owed their
      victories as much to low turnouts and general
      disillusionment with the “moderate” faction of the
      regime as to their well-oiled political and military
      machinery.

      Abadgaran bills itself as a group of young neo-Islamic
      fundamentalists who want to revive the ideals and
      policies of the founder of the Islamic Republic,
      Ayatollah Khomeini. It was one of several
      ultra-conservative groups that were setup on the
      orders of Ayatollah Khamenei in order to defeat
      outgoing President Mohammad Khatami’s faction after
      the parliamentary elections in February 2000.

      Ahmadinejad’s record is typical of the men chosen by
      Khamenei’s entourage to put a new face on the clerical
      elite’s ultra-conservative identity. But beyond the
      shallow façade, few doubt that the Islamic Republic
      under its new President will move with greater speed
      and determination along the path of radical policies
      that include more human rights abuses, continuing
      sponsorship of terrorism, and the drive to obtain
      nuclear weapons.
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