ROVING EYE An ill wind in Iran By Pepe Escobar
As the dogs of war
ominously circle the Persian Gulf, regime change
in Iran could become a distinct possibility - but
not exactly according to the desires of US Vice
President Dick "all options are on the table"
Cheney, whose supreme obsessions are oil, war and
their mutual intersection.
Western energy consultant, who prefers to remain
anonymous, went to Tehran in early February and
personally met with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
He tells Asia Times Online
according to his assessment, Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "has a couple of months at
most - prostate cancer".
On this extremely
sensitive matter, he is contradicted by a
Western-educated political analyst in Tehran, who
for security reasons also prefers to remain
anonymous: "There is no consistent proof that
Khamenei's cancer is serious and he is dying." In
Iranian state media, this topic is taboo.
The Western consultant's top sources also
told him the Supreme Leader "will not be replaced,
but a triumvirate/council will replace him,
consisting of Khatami, Rafsanjani and Kharroubi".
Former president Mohammad Khatami is a reformist.
Mehdi Kharroubi - the Majlis (parliament) Speaker
- is a moderate. And former president Hashemi
Rafsanjani, a Machiavellian pragmatist, is in fact
the next notable in the line of succession,
according to the current rules (he would be chosen
by the Council of Experts, of which he is the top
Were such a triumvirate to become
a reality, it would represent a constitutional
nightmare. According to the Iranian political
analyst, "It would require an amendment to the
constitution. The talk of a council replacing the
leader is not new but it is chock full of legal
and religious issues."
arrangement, nonetheless, is feasible. Khamenei
rose to power basically because of an
unconstitutional white coup after ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini's death in 1989. The new "coup"
would in fact extinguish fears among the Iranian
elite that wily Rafsanjani - even though he is
correctly positioned from a legal point of view -
could be allowed the same overarching position as
Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Revolution in
1979. Rafsanjani is overwhelmingly regarded by the
clerical establishment as not exactly a paragon of
The key merit of the triumvirate
solution would be the isolation of Ahmadinejad.
Khatami coined the "dialogue of civilizations" and
Rafsanjani is in favor of normalization of
relations with the United States. In the Western
consultant's assessment, "only a wave of populism
caused by a US attack can rescue Ahmadinejad from
being chucked out pretty soon".
Western consultant corroborates insistent
speculation in sectors of the Iranian press, and
already reported by Asia Times Online (see Ahmadinejad be damned,
January 19), according to which Ahmadinejad has
fallen from favor among the ruling elites. The
last straw was the US sanctions on operations
involving Iranian banks and companies (Washington
is pressing the European Union and the United
Nations Security Council to adopt this escalation
as punishment for Iran's nuclear program).
Tehran did not expect these sanctions,
which have taken a toll. "The bottom line is that
the elite are seriously worried about the flow of
oil money into their accounts and the restricted
uses to which they can now be put," said the
"They've made alternative
arrangements for sure, by moving accounts into
euros and opening new ones with Malaysian and
Indonesian banks in particular, but being frozen
out of the Western financial system is in fact the
only sanction that works, and the elite is
basically pissed off because of this."
the same time, with an insider's knowledge of
Iran's nuclear dossier since the Khatami
presidency, the Western consultant said, "Iran's
nuclear capability is to all intents and purposes
non-existent due - as I am painfully aware - to a
management deficiency of cosmic proportions." The
Russians, as the builders of the Bushehr nuclear
plant, are also aware of this "cosmic" deficiency.
So much for Israeli assertions that Iran's bomb is
just around the corner.
As to speculation
that Ahmadinejad and his Republican Guard allies
are betting on a US preemptive strike so the whole
country will be united under his presidency, the
Iranian political analyst insisted, "Neither the
president nor the Republican Guards want an
American attack. What Ahmadinejad wants is to come
out of this as the man who stood up to the
Americans and made them back down."
bottom line in all this is that Iran will not
suspend uranium enrichment under pressure -
especially when totally encircled by US troops,
military bases and aircraft-carrier battle groups
as well as being infiltrated by US special forces
east (Sistan-Balochistan) and west (Khuzestan).
Respected former chief UN weapons inspector Hans
Blix, at a recent conference on international
security in New York, has laid down the law: "To
sit down with them in a direct talk rather than
saying to them, 'You do this, thereafter we will
sit down at a table and tell you what you get for
it.' That's getting away from a humiliating
neo-colonial attitude to a more normal [one]."
But as the diplomatic neo-colonial ballet
at the UN drags on, a deadly quartet, in parallel,
develops a covert agenda. The quartet consists of
Cheney; Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott
Abrams; former ambassador to Kabul and Baghdad
Zalmay Khalilzad; and Prince Bandar bin Sultan,
Saudi national security adviser and ambassador to
the US for 22 years. Their objective: the
destabilization and fragmentation of Iran.
A new variable - the Supreme Leader's
health - is now introduced. The next true deciders
may be much more amenable to serious discussion.
But will regime change in Iran - not provoked by
bombs but by natural causes - be enough to quench
the United States' war thirst?