Wednesday, September 9, 2009

IRGC implicated in 9/11, according to class-action case in New York Federal Court

(Updated 1:30AM GMT, Thursday, September 10)

Mohsen Sazegara, a founder of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who has become an opponent of the regime, told the Voice of America's Newstalk program on Wednesday evening that a class-action suit filed before New York Federal Court Judge George Daniels contends that the IRGC was implicated in the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Sazegara is a regular guest on the Newstalk show on Wednesday nights. Speaking by satellite from New York, he said that he was in the city to testify before the court as an Iran expert. The call-action suit has been filed by six family members of victims of the 9/11 tragedy and comes after years of independent investigation by the lawyers involved in the successful class-action suit against cigarette manufacturers. It alleges that the IRGC had been in contact with Al-Qaeda since the mid-1990s and aided and abetted the operation that brought down the Twin Towers and killed thousands.

Sazegara, currently the head of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, said that even he had been astonished by the documents in the independent investigation and that he had been given permission by the court to reveal the news, which has not been reported in any other media outlet thus far.

Alireza Nourizadeh, the other regular guest on the show and the director of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, said, 'I have no doubt that there is a close relationship between the Islamic Republic -- the IRGC and its intelligence branch -- and part of Al-Qaeda, particularly Al-Zawahiri's wing.'

The full program can be viewed on Windows Media Player or Real Player.

The following is a transcript of the section in which Sazegara speaks about the case against the IRGC and Nourizadeh provides additional information. It begins at the 10:30 mark.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
Mr. Sazegara, greetings to you in New York. 

Mohsen Sazegara:
I also send my greetings to you, Mr. Nourizadeh, and all the dear viewers.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
You've gone to New York just before the anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. Is this a private visit?

Mohsen Sazegara: 
It has to do with a sensitive issue. A group of prominent lawyers who, several years ago, won a case against cigarette makers who will have to pay billions of dollars to thirty states over a 20-year period... these lawyers have represented six family members of 9/11 victims since 2002. They carried out an investigation which was completed recently, after seven years. They filed a suit before New York Federal Judge George W. Daniels, who decided that the evidence was sufficient for the case to be pursued. According to this case... I'm in a daze over it... the Iranian regime, more exactly the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was in contact with Al-Qaeda from the mid-1990s, and this contact was maintained after September 11. I'm considered an expert on Iran and, in this capacity, the judge wants to question me. But I have to say that I never personally imagined such evidence...that the IRGC not only provided logistical and financial help to Al-Qaeda, but that it engaged in broad cooperation with it. I can't judge this matter, of course, at this time. The American judicial system is independent, and once the trial begins in two or three weeks, the judge will be able to pass a verdict. But the strange thing is that the 9/11 commission report, that was subsequently published as a book, mentions a third country without naming it on pages 240 and 241 and says that eight of the 12 perpetrators of 9/11 traveled to that country. If the judge rules that that third country was Iran, then we must expect there to be a clamor in the US. The Bush administration will be put under question, because we must accept that the American intelligence services possibly knew that the IRGC and the Iranian regime were involved in some way and that nothing was said because they didn't want to enter a conflict with Iran or attack the country. I personally can't make any judgment now, but I can say one thing. The IRGC, with complete irresponsibility and lack of wisdom, as if it owned the country, has become such a leviathan, and has imperiled the future of a nation and country. It has taken and is still taking such dangerous action. It just boggles the mind.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
Has news of this trial and case been reported, at least in the New York media?

Mohsen Sazegara: 
Not yet. I obtained permission from the lawyers and the litigants to talk about this issue, because I believe that the Iranian nation has the priority to hear this news. I'm sure that once the case opens -- and I jotted down the number, 02CV00305 -- it will become the top headline throughout the world.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
When will the case be opened?

Mohsen Sazegara: 
I'm not sure, but I think that within two to three weeks the judge will be ready to summon both sides.

Host Jamshid Chalangi: 
Let's hear what information Mr. Nourizadeh has on this issue before returning to the topic of the program, the recent arrests.

Alireza Nourizadeh: 
I wrote three articles after 9/11. Two of them were quoted by Western newspapers. I also had several interviews with American television channels, including public television. The information that I had, which was published broadly in Asharq Alawsat, was that, from 1994 when Al-Qaeda bought those farms in Sudan, General Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, who worked for the IRGC's intelligence services, brought Hezbollah fighters and terrorists from Egypt and the Maghreb to Sudan for training. Zolghadr and other IRGC officials developed close relations with Bin Laden and in particular Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri over there. After 9/11 and the US attack on Afghanistan, Al-Zawahiri's wife, mother, brother, and sister came to Iran. They were in Iran for a long time and some of them returned to Egypt afterward. Bin Laden's son was in Iran for a long time, as was [Al-Qaeda spokesman] Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. So were many Al-Qaeda leaders. I always said, after the blow that Al-Qaeda received it couldn't fly or sail from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq. The only way was through Iran. The Islamic Republic allowed them to go into Iraq, kept some for future transactions, and extradited a few miserable wretches from Yemen, Jordan, and the Maghreb to their homelands for concessions from those countries. I have no doubt that there is a close relationship between the Islamic Republic -- the IRGC and its intelligence branch -- and part of Al-Qaeda, particularly Al-Zawahiri's wing. [Afghan warlord Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar's son-in-law came to Iran twice to buy dialysis machines for Bin Laden and shipped them to Afghanistan with the help of the IRGC. Yes, I hope that the disgusting offenses of the regime come to light, one by one.

End of transcript at the 19:30 mark.

Iranian Night of the Long Knives? Wave of arrests and closures signals sinister new phase in crackdown

The wave of closures and arrests ordered by Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi yesterday, September 8, signals a sinister new phase in the regime's crackdown.

On Monday, in what should now be considered the kickoff for an orchestrated operation, government agents searched the offices of the opposition committee looking into the abuse and deaths of protesters. The prosecutor's men had an appointment, supposedly to investigate the allegations of abuse, but upon arriving at the offices, they presented staff with a search warrant, sealed the locale, and confiscated documents and computer equipment, according to Alireza Beheshti, spokesman for the committee.
Beheshti, a senior adviser to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, was arrested at home the next day. He is the son of Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, one of the key figures of the revolution and the first judiciary chief of the Islamic Republic. As one of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's close companions, Ayatollah Beheshti, who was assassinated in 1981, is a devotional and iconic personality in Iran.

Alireza Beheshti's wife told Salaam News that five security agents arrived at their home at 5 PM and searched the premises for the next four hours. According to the same report, after arresting Alireza Beheshti, the prosecutor's men went to Ayatollah Beheshti's foundation and archives, where they seized documents and computers before shutting down the place.

The scope and pace of the operation had picked up earlier that day, as security forces raided the offices of Mehdi Karroubi, head of the reformist Etemad Melli Party, in Tehran's Jamshidiyeh district. The search and closure of Karroubi's office began at 3PM, party spokesman Esmail Gerami Moghaddam, who was in a meeting with Karroubi when the raid took place, told BBC Persian. 'The government agents began collecting documents, CDs, computers, and films,' according to Gerami Moghaddam. Karroubi has loudly denounced the abuse and deaths of protesters and has offered to provide judicial authorities with audio, video, and documentary evidence that he has compiled.

'The agents went from there to the Etemad Melli Party offices and sealed that as well,' Karroubi's son, Hossein, said in an interview with Radio Farda.

Security forces later visited the home of Morteza Alviri, head of the opposition committee investigating election fraud and also a member of Beheshti's abuse and deaths committee. Alviri's home was searched and documents and computer equipment were taken, before he was arrested.

The Association for the Defense of Prisoners, founded by human rights activist Emadeddine Baghi, no stranger to Iranian prisons, was also sealed yesterday. Baghi's whereabouts are currently unknown and it is unclear whether he has been arrested. Security agents gave no reason for the closure, but human rights lawyer Farideh Gheirat who runs the association told Radio Farda, 'We had contacts with these opposition committees, but our activities were legal. We provided lawyers for the prisoners. [The reason for the closure] could also be that we had received reports of abuse at Kahrizak detention center for the past two or three years and we had transmitted these reports to the judiciary.'

Mohammad Ozlati Moghaddam, in charge of the Mousavi campaign's veterans committee, was among those arrested yesterday. According to Ayandeh news, Ozlati Moghaddam is a retired Revolutionary Guards general who used to be posted to the IRGC Political Bureau. The political bureau operates under the auspices of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Security forces arrived at his home at 8:20 PM, as reported by Mowjeh Azadi.

Also among the arrested is Mohammad Davari, editor of the Etemad Melli Party's Saham News web site, who was at Karroubi's office when it was raided. At 8 PM GMT, Wednesday September 9, the site had not posted any new articles since 9:40 AM GMT, Tuesday September 8.

The last headline quotes Mehdi Karroubi: 'We shall all be present on Ghods Day.'

More than ever, the mass demonstrations planned for Ghods Day, Friday September 18, appear to be a test for the durability of the Green movement.

Dissent at home: Many within our family disagree with Khamenei, says his nephew

Mahin Gorji of Radio Farda spoke to Mahmoud Tehrani, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's nephew, who resides in Paris. Tehrani is the son of Khamenei's sister. Radio Farda is the Persian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, based in Prague and financed by the US Congress.

Mahmoud Tehrani: 
Unfortunately, many Iranians believed until recently that this regime could be reformed... and that this could be done through words and policies. But this election and Ahmadinejad's rise to power made it clear that these people cannot be reformed through civil and lawful words, or through politics. Positions have thus been somewhat radicalized and opposition has become more forceful. These gentlemen (NB aghayoun or gentlemen is widely used in Iran to refer to regime insiders) would not confront the conservative wing [in this manner] several years ago. But after the elections, when it became apparent that they're not even prepared to give the post of president to anyone else and that they're willing to employ force to hold on to the presidency, positions were somewhat radicalized.

I even have news from within our family... many within the family disagreed with Ali Khamenei -- his words or the policies of the Islamic Republic -- but out of consideration [for him] they kept silent until the elections.

Radio Farda: 
After the election, many people like Mehdi Karroubi strived to restore the rights of the citizens, whom they believed had been wronged. Why, in the face of such peaceful actions, are they treating people like Mr. [Alireza] Beheshti (NB head of the committee investigating the deaths and abuse of protesters, arrested yesterday) or Mr. [Morteza] Alviri (NB head of the committee looking into election fraud, arrested yesterday), or even Mr. Karroubi [whose office was shut down yesterday], in this manner?

Mahmoud Tehrani: 
The Islamic Republic has always employed violent words and deeds against the people and any opposition. They started killing from the day they came to power. They see anyone who does not repeat what they say or disagrees with them -- be they clerics or western-suited -- as mohareb or against God. They consider themselves to be God and that's how it's been from the start. Violence, for this portion of the Islamic Republic, has become... not a habit, but a religious duty.

Radio Farda: 
Who's paying the price for this? Political parties, the people, or ultimately the regime itself?

Mahmoud Tehrani: 
Any change has a price. It seems that everyone is paying a price now.

Radio Farda: 
In the past, Ayatollah Khamenei had the last word in resolving political disputes. Has Ayatollah Khamenei been able to handle things successfully until now?

Mahmoud Tehrani: 
I think that my uncle, Ali Khamenei, is a tool for Ahmadinejad, Mesbah Yazdi, and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). If he's not an accomplice in their crimes, he's at least their tool. He can't do anything. If he takes one step back, his leadership will be destroyed and his side will fall apart. I don't even think that he has had much power for years. It is not impossible that all these operations are being led by the IRGC and Ali Khamenei has to go along to hold on to his position. He won't do or say anything. We haven't heard anything in particular from Ali Khamenei since June 14. He's just repeated Ahmadinejad's words.