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.