Paris, 5 May (IPS) The surprise detention of a senior Iranian diplomat and former nuclear negotiator on alleged charges of espionage and passing sensitive nuclear information to foreigner is likely to ignite an unprecedented power struggle at the highest echelon of the Iranian clerical establishment, political analysts expects.
The fifty years-old Mohammad Hoseyn Moussavian was arrested on Monday first of May 2007 at his residence in Tehran by plainclothes security agents and taken immediately for interrogation to the notorious Evin prison while another group of agents was raiding his office, taking away his computer and all other documents, according to un-identified official sources.
The arrest of Mr. Moussavian is a direct attack on Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani.
A former ambassador to Moscow and Berlin, Mr. Moussavian, a deputy to Hojjatoleslam Hassan Rohani, the former Secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security (SCNS) and top coordinator of Iranian nuclear negotiators under the presidency of Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami is known to be a a close aide and “protégé” of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the virtual number two man of the Iranian regime after Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The arrest of Mr. Moussavian is a direct attack on Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani. At the same time, no authority could dare to take this decision without the prior authorisation from Mr. Khameneh’i”, one highly informed analyst told Iran Press Service, adding: “however, by giving his green light to the arrest of Mr. Moussavian, whom some consider as the Achilles Heel of the powerful Chairman of the Expediency Council (Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani), Mr. Khameneh’i might have himself crossed a red line”.
School mates as theological students and as followers of Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini fighting the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the relationship between the two revolutionaries turned to a “velvet fight” after the death of the founder of the Islamic Republic in 1989, when Mr. Khameneh’i was elected by the Assembly of Experts – mostly thank to the behind the scene maneuvering of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani -- as the new Head of the Iranian theocracy and his friend was elected as president.
Quickly, they became know as the “two wings” of the regime, Mr. Khameneh’i taking the leadership of the hard line faction and Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani symbolising the so-called “pragmatic” group of the ruling establishment, with the fight between the two wing centering of the major issue of normalizing relations with the United States, the deposed Shah’s major ally and protector the leader of the Islamic Revolution had labeled as “the Great Satan”.
One must not forget that ever since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1980, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani has always been the number tow man after the founder of the Iranian theocracy, as the speaker of the Majles (Iranian Parliament) and the coordinator to the eight years war against Iraq while Mr. Khameneh’i was a powerless president, the affairs of the nation being conducted by Mr. Mir Hoseyn Moussavi, then prime minister.
”Khameneh’i always suffered a terrible inferiority complex facing Hashemi Rafsanjani. He was dubbed as Ali geda (Ali the beggar) and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as Akbar Shah. So, once solidly installed in the char of the leader, his first thought was to revenge all the years he was in sidelined by his comrade, looking for the best ways to crush him”, observed Mr. Alireza Nourizadeh, a veteran independent journalist based in London.
“To destroy the political-financial of the Hashemi Rafsanjani empire, Khameneh’i, known to be utterly revengeful, narcissistic, egocentric and stubborn, needed a robo-cop, a fanatic-ambitious adventurer. All the people he had tried for this operation had evaded the responsibility, knowing the power of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani. Finally, his head hunters found Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, an obscure former revolutionary guard officer teaching civilian engineering at the Tehran University”, he added.
Ushered into the presidential race of 2005, he did not minced his words promising to fight big “corrupt fishes” until “uprooting them”, letting it be known that he is aiming the former president and his family, believed by many Iranians to be among the 100 richest families of the world.
Once elected as president with the help of ayatollah Khameneh’i, Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad renewed his attacks against Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani to the point that the Chairman of the Expediency Council openly complained to the leader, warning him to shut the new President or he would “open the Pandora Box”.
Khameneh’i, nicknamed Ali geda (Ali the beggar) always suffered a terrible inferiority complex facing Hashemi Rafsanjani, dubbed as Akbar Shah.
For some insiders, the fact that the seasoned diplomat and nuclear negotiator was detained on charges of espionage and passing nuclear information to foreign agents is not a coincidence, taking into account that there are more and more talks about a possible compromise in the nuclear standoff between Iran and the 5+1, namely the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany in the one hand and rumours about possible direct meetings between Tehran and Washington concerning normalization of relations.
“If Mr. Moussavian is not freed in a relatively near future, one might expect further arrests and on bigger scale, including some higher ranking personalities like Mr. Rohani”, speculated Mr. Ali Afshari, a former students leader now attached to the Democracy Centre in Washington D.C.
On Saturday 5 May, the Public and Islamic Revolution Prosecutor for Tehran, Sa’id Mortazavi, a protégé of Mr. Khameneh’i, became the first official to confirming that Mr. Moussavian is arrested and in the custody of the Information (Intelligence and Security) Ministry, which in general deals with anti-State, anti-revolutionary and espionage activities.
While the authorities have until now refused to spell out the exact charges against the former senor nuclear negotiator, a new service close to the Revolutionary Guards said two days ago that Mr. Moussavian had been detained on accusation of espionage and passing nuclear information to foreigner, whom the Fars news agency did not named.
Whatever the reasons, political observers have no doubt that the detention of Mr. Moussavian, a personality much respected outside the country, would backfire on both the leader and the president as well as on the Iranian regime.
Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani has suffered many humiliations at the hands of Mr. Khameneh’i and every time, he has bowed, probably aware of the fact that in case he rebels, it could cost the whole of the theocratic system. But it seems that this time, the threats against him and his family by the hard liners, led by Mr. Khameneh’i, is getting too close for not reacting. ENDS MOUSSAVIAN 5507