Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ahmadinejad the veteran?

My previous post concerning a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi in the early 1980s provoked an exchange in the comments section between Mark Pyruz, who has a much better knowledge of Islamic Republic military issues than I, and a reader who remained anonymous:

Mark Pyruz: homy, have you seen this photo purportedly of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a soldier during Jange Tahmili (the Imposed War)?
It would be interesting to know the dates of your student Ahmadinejad and this soldier Ahmadinejad, for purposes of authentication. (He's definitely older in the later.)

Anonymous: To Mark Pyruz,
It is not A.N. on that picture taken during the war. The man standing on the right side of the picture is colonel Sayyad Shirazi, perhaps the most famous army commander during the Iran Iraq war.

I won't get into Ali Sayyad Shirazi's military career, which did indeed include senior commands during the Iran-Iraq War. He was assassinated outside his Tehran home in 1999 by members of the MKO who had disguised themselves as garbage collectors. He was at that time a brigadier general, I believe. (If I'm mistaken, I'm sure I will be corrected on this by Mark or another reader). Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mohammad Khatami attended his funeral.

The issue of Ahmadinejad's military career is a much murkier affair. The official web site of the presidency states, 'During the war imposed on Iran, Dr. Ahmadi Nejad was actively present as a member of the volunteer forces (Basij) in different parts and divisions of the battlefronts particularly in the war engineering division until the end of the war.' Rumors have circulated for years that Ahmadinejad has exaggerated his war record, but the dissenting voices have grown louder since the disputed election of June 12.

Towards the end of July 2009, conservative Tehran Mayor (and Ahmadinejad rival) Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf uttered some extremely harsh words about Ahmadinejad's management and policies: 'I don't consider Ahmadinejad a revolutionary or a member of the party of God or a follower of the Leader or a manager or honest. Mr. Ahmadinejad, with all his being, fools himself and then fools everyone else.' But more relevant to the issue of Ahmadinejad's military career, Ghalibaf, who fought in the Iran-Iraq War from an early age and was the commander of the Panj Nasr division by the time he was 22, said, 'Ahmadinejad does not have even one day's experience prior to the revolution, he did not receive even one slap for the cause of the revolution. If he did something, he should come and tell us where. Ahmadinejad did not see the war or the front. If he had been on the front for only one day, he would have boasted about it for a thousand days.'

More recently, on February 28, 2009, Mehdi Khazali, a medical doctor who owns a publishing house, wrote a scathing piece on his blog entitled 'Ahmadinejad's mischief in his biography.' Before getting to the blog post, a few words on Khazali and, perhaps more importantly, his father.

Mehdi Khazali is the son of Ayatollah Abolghassem Khazali, member of the Assembly of Experts since its inception, one of the authors of the final draft of the Islamic Republic's constitution (he claims that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini did not want women to become president, which could be true), the head of the Ghadir Foundation (he famously called for the Muslim celebration of Ghadir to replace Now Rouz as the Iranian new year's day) and one of the most mealy-mouthed, blubbering, and Messianic supporters of Ahmadinejad to roam the land of Iran. Sorry to have lost my journalistic objectivity there for a second, but Ayatollah Khazali actually said that Ahmadinejad's election to his first term was supported by the Hidden Imam, or Messiah, of Shiites. In short, not exactly an unbiased observer when it comes to Ahmadinejad. The ayatollah's son, however, begs to differ.

Mehdi Khazali has been such a regular critic of the government that the Guardian Council disqualified him from running in the last legislative elections and he was prevented from being a candidate in the national medical organization's board elections. On June 29, 2009, Mehdi was arrested for participating in street protests and for slandering the president by claiming on his blog that Ahmadinejad has Jewish roots and that he was compensating by being zealously Muslim and anti-Israel. Mehdi was inexplicably tried by the Special Court of the Clergy and was released on bail a month later. In the mean time, his father had disowned him in a highly publicized statement.

Mehdi Khazali's short prison stay did not calm his ardor and he has been writing on his blog on an almost daily basis. Which brings us to his February 28 post.

'In the half-finished biography on his personal web site, Ahmadinejad has craftily mixed himself up with the warriors [of the Iran-Iraq War],' Mehdi Khazali began. 'I knew he had never been to the front, but out of caution, I asked the commander of the Revolutionary Guards during the Imposed War, brother Mohsen Rezai (NB One of the four presidential candidates on June 12 and not a great admirer of Ahmadinejad). He also confirmed the absence of the aforementioned on the battlefronts. Of course, the heads of the other two branches of government (NB Speaker Ali Larijani and his brother judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani) never saw the front either, but at least they do not make any pretenses about war and being warriors.'

He continued in his post, 'I remember the good old days, when I told my interrogator that the heads of the three branches had never been to the front, and that when we were fighting in the war, many others were jockeying for appointments and consolidating their positions. The interrogator responded, That's not a criteria! I told him, If the Iraqis had made it to Tehran and your honor had been in their hands, you would have understood whether its a criteria or not.'

Khazali later quoted from Ahmadinejad's personal web site, 'Read this paragraph from the biography of Mr. Ahmadinejad: At the beginning of the war, I was 25 years old. My mother and my wife, and all the mothers and wives whose children and husbands were defending their country on the fronts, were patiently raising a resistant, brave, and pious generation.' Khazali accuses Ahmadinejad of equivocation in this sentence in order to pretend that he was also fighting on the front.

Khazali then wrote in his deliciously irreverent style, 'Dear Haj Mahmoud, stop grandstanding. When were you on the front? Which division, which battalion, which area, which operation? No dear one, in those days you were again behind the lines, jockeying for position. Even afterwards, you ran Hashemi Rafsanjani's campaign in your neighborhood so you could get a job in Hashemi's government. You kissed the hands of the gentlemen so they would pat you on the back and... Come on, be yourself. Don't run after halos and battlefronts (NB The halo refers to Ahmadinejad's claim that a halo formed around his head as he was addressing the UN General Assembly in 2005.'

I've posted the photo purportedly showing Ahlmadinejad during the Iran-Iraq War and referred to by Mark Pyruz below. It should be pointed out that even if the person in the photo is Ahmadinejad, it does not clarify the question of whether he ever saw any combat or whether he spent the war years behind the lines:

Here are several shots of Ali Sayyad Shirazi, which my anonymous reader says is the person in the photograph above:

I'd be interested to know what the readers think and invite you contribute any additional information you may have on this issue.


  1. That's definitely not "Mard-e-Foulad" Shirazi in the foreground-center.

    The Colonel (Sarhang) in the foreground-left appears to be Shirazi, but keep in mind he was already a General by 1982.

    That could be a Basij uniform worn by the "Ahmadinejad" figure in the photo, which could explain the lack of rank insignia. Interesting that the sidearm is worn in European fashion.

    If it isn't the future President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it sure looks like a "dead ringer".

    Anyway, homy, I'll make a couple more inquiries and try to get back to you on the matter.

  2. Hi .
    A very interesting post.

  3. Yes, interesting. From a photography point of view, in the 'group' photo, the purported Ahmadinjad figure is standing back from the general, and should appear shorter than he actually is.

    Yet, in the group photo, the 'Ahmadinejad figure' appears taller than the general. Either the 'Ahmadinejad figure' is a very tall person, or the general approaches dwarfhood, about which I cannot know.

    Today, Ahmadinejad is a genuine shorty, isn't he? So unless the general is very short, the conclusion here is that the 'Ahmadinejad figure' in the photo is too tall to be the man himself.

  4. Speaking of 'dead ringers' don't forget the gentleman who caused a stir in Syria in January 2009 when they mistook him for the dear prez. [Syrian police mistake man for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - The Guardian -]

  5. All, I have to apologize. I should have collaborated with my Iranian military historian contacts before bringing this to homy's attention. (the matter had been on my backburner, but homy's post prompted me to mention it.)

    The figure on the left is indeed the heroic Colonel Shirazi. (He was Colonel up to 1987, which provides a range for the date of the photo.

    The other figure is not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is a Sergeant Major from the 58th Special Division (Jolfaghar).

    Gotta admit, quite a resemblance, though!

    Anyway, again, my apologies homy.

  6. Khazali is also an anti-Semite who previously wrote, falsely, that Ahmadinejad was born a Jew, and that he intends to harm Islam from within like Jews have done in the past.

    You surely know how to use worthless evidence.

  7. Thank you for your comment concerning the worthlessness of the 'evidence' I use...

    I don't know whether Khazali is an anti-Semite or not, but this alone does not disqualify someone from being an interesting and credible source. Khazali brings up several matters which have yet to be cleared up by Ahmadinejad two decades after the war: which division, which battalion, which operation...?

    Furthermore, Khazali has been used as a source by among many others, the Telegraph:
    The Jewish Chronicle:
    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
    The Jerusalem Post:

    Although I appreciate the fact that you think my humble blog should employ even more stringent criteria than these outlets in choosing its sources, I think otherwise.

    But thanks for your valuable comment anyway.