Suspected VEVAK Agent Poses as Researcher at Harvard & MIT

VEVAK [i] (Farsi: Vezarat-e Ettela’at va Amniat-e Keshvar) is the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (abb.: MOIS) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its principal occupation is intelligence, but unlike the CIA—its rough American equivalent—VEVAK also functions much like the FBI; in effect, VEVAK operates very similarly to the Soviet Union’s KGB. Within VEVAK there is a department whose primary purpose is the dissemination of disinformation. [ii] Iran regularly uses its diplomatic personnel and nationals abroad to further the objectives of the MOIS.[iii] Iranian diplomats are trained in a very similar fashion as were those formerly in the USSR. And they must pass Islamic loyalty tests and be vetted for their Islamic loyalties as well as loyalties to the regime. No Iranian “diplomat” is assigned abroad until his credentials pass rigorous inspection by VEVAK.

This essay seeks to unmask a suspected agent of VEVAK, working as a researcher in two of America’s premier institutions of higher learning, Harvard and MIT. It intends to refute his assertions made recently.

About two weeks ago, The National Interest published an essay entitled “How Iran Became the Middle East’s Moderate Force[iv] by an Iranian former diplomat, Dr. Mansour Salsabili [v]. Salsabili claims that the Islamic Republic of Iran, under the current rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, has changed radically since its founding in 1979 by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Rohallah Khomeini, having matured politically so that today it should be considered “moderate” and “rational”. Let’s see whether his case holds up or not.

Salsabili begins his essay by stating “Yet, three major indicators highlight a deep development in Iranian politics in the region. These signposts include Iran’s constructive regional military presence; its peaceful and balancing role in resolving politico-cultural issues within the UN and regional venues; and its highly educated and modernized society that guarantees the irreversibility of the other two developments.”[vi] Dr. Salsabili, are you serious? Iran is stoking the fires of war throughout the entire region[vii]. In Yemen[viii], in Lebanon[ix], in Syria[x], in the Palestinian territories (both Gaza[xi] and the West Bank[xii]), in the Sudan[xiii], and in Iraq[xiv]. Iran is building an “empire[xv] by using its Shiite proxies[xvi] and Hamas[xvii] to attack its targets.

Dr. Salsabili: do you inhabit an alternate universe? Just where is Iran “resolving politico-cultural issues within the UN and regional venues”? Ali Khederythe longest continuously serving American official in Iraq and special assistant to five American ambassadors to Iraq and senior adviser to three commanders of U.S. Central Command—doesn’t seem to think that Iran has acted in the way Salsabili suggests; indeed, he says just the opposite: the U.S. needs to “curtail Iran’s destabilizing regional hegemonic ambitions and its drive toward developing a nuclear weapon.”[xviii]

As regards “its highly educated and modernized society that guarantees the irreversibility of the other two developments”, I grant that Dr. Salsabili is correct in saying that Iran has a “highly educated and modernized society”, but given the fact that Iranian youth and society in general find themselves under increasing pressure from the regime to adhere to strict Islamist practice[xix], I question the viability of his statement.

Salsabili claims that Iran is the only nation that is aligned with the United States in opposing the Islamic State.[xx] However, Jordan[xxi] is involved in attacking the IS and the Kurds both in Syria and in Iraq are bearing the brunt of the ground war against IS.[xxii] Iran’s IRGC Qods Force officers have been leading the Iraqi militias in the battle for Tikrit[xxiii], but that offense stalled and needed the U.S. to step in and take it over.[xxiv] So too, Egypt [xxv] has attacked IS in Libya. Is Iran the “sole partner” of the U.S.’s attempt to eliminate the Islamic State? Nope.

In his third paragraph Salsabili claims that the Islamic Republic of Iran has retreated from its original goal of spreading the Shiite revolution beyond its borders to create a Shiite empire throughout the Middle-East and beyond and now only wishes to defend its own borders. Given Iran’s recent boasting of having conquered four Arab capitals[xxvi], it seems that Salsabili is out of step with the Supreme Leader[xxvii], or just downright disingenuous.

In his fourth paragraph, Salsabili continues his completely twisted presentation of history, claiming that Iran has acted moderately and cooperatively with the United States in a variety of situations over the last two decades. He says: “Take, for example, Iran’s tacit cooperation with the United States during the Afghanistan campaign against the Taliban, its calming and controlling of Shiite extremists in Iraq, its role as a middleman between Azerbaijan and Armenia, compelling the Assad regime to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and dismantle its chemical arsenal, its firm stance against the ISIS extremists in Syria and Iraq and its avoidance of radicalization on a range of regional issues, from Chechnya to the Bahrain uprisings. The professional behavior of the Iranian and the U.S. navies in the Persian Gulf over the last two decades is another example of the possibility for harmony and cooperation in the region.”

Let’s begin with the question of cooperation against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Eric Park’s report for CENTCOM[xxviii], “Iranian Weapons Smuggling Activities in Afghanistan” demonstrates that Iran has provided Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) to the Taliban; it’s been quite some time since Iran had a major feud[xxix] with the Taliban so the lie has been put to Salsabili’s claim about cooperation there. As regards “calming and controlling Shiite extremists in Iraq”, Clay Wilson’s report to Congress[xxx], “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan: Effects and Countermeasures” would appear to disarm Salsabili’s claim when it says: “Since October 2001, improvised explosive devices (IEDs, roadside bombs, and suicide car bombs) have been responsible for many of the more than 3,000 combat deaths in Iraq and many of the more than 240 combat deaths in Afghanistan. … Department of Defense (DOD) officials have also charged that Iran may be supplying new IED technology to insurgents in Iraq.”[xxxi] So too, it is reported that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iranian-backed Shiite militias “are killing our troops[xxxii] in Iraq with sophisticated weapons that include lethal armor-piercing versions of IEDs and rocket-boosted mortars. Need I say more? As regards making peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Geoffrey Gresh’s report[xxxiii], “Coddling the Caucasus: Iran’s Strategic Relationship with Azerbaijan and Armenia” indicates that Iran has sided with Armenia against Azerbaijan, and the burgeoning Azerbaijan-Israel relationship[xxxiv] certainly hasn’t improved Azeri-Iranian relations. So, another assertion, rejected. “Compelling the Assad regime to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and dismantle its chemical arsenal”—the facts would seem otherwise as a 2014 report[xxxv] indicates. Well, what about Salsabili’s suggestion of Iran’s “avoidance of radicalization on a range of regional issues, from Chechnya to the Bahrain uprising”? Chechnya—guess again, as Con Coughlin reported[xxxvi] a decade ago. Well, maybe Bahrain? Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service recently wrote:[xxxvii] “Bahrain’s primary foreign policy concern has been Iran. Bahraini leaders, with some corroboration from U.S. and other statements, blame Iran for providing material support to hardline, violent factions in Bahrain. Bahrain has supported Saudi and UAE criticism of Iran not only for its purported activities against Bahrain’s government, but more broadly for Iran’s unqualified support for pro-Iranian Shiite movements and governments in the region.”

Maybe, Salsabili might be correct that “the professional behavior of the Iranian and the U.S. navies in the Persian Gulf over the last two decades is another example of the possibility for harmony and cooperation in the region.” Naval history scholar David Crist testifies that following an April 2011 incident between an IRGC speedboat and the British HMS York, the U.S. Navy suggested that a hot-line be set up between the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and the Revolutionary Guard in Bandar Abbas (Iran) to help defuse any accidental incident arising at sea. Iran refused to discuss the proposal, saying: “The only reason for conflict in the Persian Gulf is the presence of the U.S. Navy. If they leave, there is no conflict.”[xxxviii]

Suggesting that Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas in their “struggle” against Israeli “occupation forces” is only part of a universal Muslim concern for Iran’s Palestinian brothers sidesteps the issue. Israel maintains control over parts of the former Jordanian West Bank; the former Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip is now under the aegis of the Muslim Brotherhood- associated Hamas, not the State of Israel. Iran’s belligerent support of Hamas has already been noted above.

Claiming that Khamenei is mellower than Khomeini isn’t saying much; besides, the Supreme Leader hasn’t issued a fatwa against the activities of the Qods Force or against the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. President Rouhani simply provides Khamenei with convenient “window dressing”—we’re still waiting to hear the Supreme Leader say that the massacre was a violation of Islamic law.

And yes, the youth of Iran today are very different from their parents who backed the Islamic revolution in 1979, but the youth are not in control of the government, nor do they have the guns, as was demonstrated so sadly in the failure of the “Green Revolution” of 2009.

Dr. Sansabili requests an end to sanctions and respect for “legitimate technological needs”. A saner approach to his demands would require verifiable inspections upon demand and proof of Iran’s changed attitude towards its regional neighbors, Israel, and the United States. As long as the regime refers to one as the “Little Satan” and the other as the “Great Satan”, Iran has not changed its behavior or its attitude to the West. Rewarding it in any way at this point is plain and pure capitulation. Sunset clauses at this point are simply putting an extended-time fuse on an Iranian nuclear bomb. No thanks! And the current proposed treaty doesn’t even take up the question of Iran’s development of ICBMs.

My deduction is that Dr. Salsabili works as an agent for VEVAK, given his essay, despite his professed interest in non-proliferation. But whether he is or isn’t, his conclusions should be rejected completely.

[i] For a detailed report on VEVAK, see: Federal Research Division, “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security-VEVAK: A Profile”, Library of Congress, December 2012, https://fas.org/irp/world/iran/mois-loc.pdf. Additional articles on VEVAK can be found on the web site of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East. See “Press Reports” at www.ADME.ws where the following articles by this author are listed:

“Disinformation Campaign in Overdrive: Iran’s VEVAK in High-Gear”, Global Politician, September 4, 2007, “Iran’s VEVAK Disinformation Inc.”, Global Politician, September 17, 2006, and “Iran’s Foreign Agents of Disinformation:

More About VEVAK”, Global Politician, November, 14, 2006.Iran’s Foreign More About VEVAK

[ii] Clair Lopez, Raymond Tanter, et. al., ” White Paper–U.S. Policy Options for Iran: Sham Elections, Disinformation Campaign, Human Rights Abuses, and Regime Change”, IPC [Iran Policy Committee}, June 30, 2005, http://www.iranpolicy.org/uploadedFiles/ShamElections_RegimeChange_Jun2005.pdf. See p. 7 and the IPC report’s endnotes #1 and #2 on p.23.

[iii] Ibid. See its endnote # 3.

[iv] Mansour Salsabili, “How Iran Became the Middle East’s Moderate Force”, The National Interest, March 20, 2015, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-iran-became-the-middle-easts-moderate-force-12451.

[v] Dr. Salsabili is currently a visiting scholar at the MIT Center for International Studies where he conducts research on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, as well as a research associate at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs where he serves as an Associate for the International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom, http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/experts/2438/mansour_salsabili.html, accessed March 28, 2015. See also: http://www.moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&task=user&id=319:drmansoursalsabili, accessed April 5, 2015.

[vi] Mansour Salsabili, op. cit.

[vii] Riyadh Mohammed, “How Iran Is Taking Over the Middle East”, The Fiscal Times, March 18, 2015, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/03/18/How-Iran-Taking-Over-Middle-East.

[viii] Steve Inskeep, “Is There Evidence That Yemeni Rebels are Backed By Iran?”, NPR Radio, March 27, 2015, http://www.npr.org/2015/03/27/395698502/iran-saudi-proxy-war-touches-on-other-issues. See also: Nussaibah Younis, “The Saudi-Iran powerplay behind the Yemen conflict”, The Guardian, March 27, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/29/iran-saudi-arabia-yemen-conflict, Brian Bennett and Zaid al-Alayaa, “Iran-backed rebels loot Yemen files about U.S. spy operations”, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-us-intelligence-yemen-20150325-story.html#page=1, and Bruce Reidel, “Saudi anguish over Iranian gains”, Gulf Pulse, Al-Monitor, March 23, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/saudi-iran-border-security-yemen-oman-is-houthi-zaydi.html.

[ix] Jonathan Masters and Zachary Laub, “CFR Backgrounders: Hezbollah (a.k.a. Hizbollah, Hizbu’llah)”, Council on Foreign Relations, January 3, 2014, http://www.cfr.org/lebanon/hezbollah-k-hizbollah-hizbullah/p9155.

[x] Will Fulton, Joseph Holliday, and Sam Wyer, “Iranian Strategy in Syria”, The Institute for the Study of War, May 2013, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/IranianStrategyinSyria-1MAY.pdf.

[xi] —, “Iran confirms military aid to Hamas, sending long-range missile technology”, RT News, November 21, 2012, http://rt.com/news/iran-hamas-aid-missile-256/.

[xii] Mehrdad Moarefian and Amir Toumaj, “Iran News Round Up – November 25, 2014”, AEI Critical Threats, November 25, 2015, http://www.criticalthreats.org/iran-news-round-november-25-2014, (See section “Official statements: Khamenei hailed the Iranian nuclear negotiations team and reiterated call to arm Palestinian resistance groups”, especially bottom of the section presenting statements from the Office for the Preservation and Publication of the Works of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei)

[xiii] Al Arabiya with Agencies, “Sudan-Iran ties eyed as Israel says Khartoum aids Gaza arms smuggling via Egypt”, Al-Arabia. October 25, 2012, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/10/25/245938.html.

[xiv] Martin Chulov, “Qassem Suleimani: the Iranian general ‘secretly running’ Iraq”, The Guardian, July 28, 2011, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/28/qassem-suleimani-iran-iraq-influence, See also: Michael B. Kelley, “Iran’s Military Mastermind Is ‘The Leader Of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, And Yemen’”, Business Insider, December 5, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/ali-khedery-talks-qassem-suleimani-2014-12.

[xv] Abdullah al-Thuweini, “Tehran official: ‘Baghdad is capital of new Persian empire’”, al-Araby, March 10, 2015, http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2015/3/10/tehran-official-baghdad-is-capital-of-new-persian-empire.

See also: Jonathan Spyer, “The Middle East: In the Shadow of the Gunmen”, PJ Media, April 4, 2015, http://pjmedia.com/blog/shadow-of-the-gunmen/, or http://www.meforum.org/5161/mideast-shadow-gunmen.

[xvi] Jonathan Spyer & Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamim, “How Iraq Became a Proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran”, The Tower, Issue 21, December 2014, http://www.thetower.org/article/how-iraq-became-a-wholly-owned-subsidiary-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran/.

[xvii] See note 10, above.

[xviii] Ali Khedery, “Lost in the Middle East”, Politico Magazine, August 12, 2014, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/5-ways-to-save-the-middle-east-109957.html#.VRiOS-EYGoZ. See especially page 3, Section 5: “Identify your enemies—and confront them”.

[xix] Elliot Friedland, “Fact Sheet: Human Rights in Iran”, The Clarion Project, 2014 (?), http://www.clarionproject.org/sites/default/files/Human%20Rights%20in%20Iran%20-%20Factsheet.pdf, and

David Menashri, “Reform Versus Radicalism in the Islamic Republic”, in Current Trends in Islamist ideology

Vol. 10, Hudson Institute, Washington, DC, October 18, 2010, http://www.hudson.org/content/researchattachments/attachment/1289/menashri.pdf. See especially pp. 67-70.

[xx] Salsabili, op. cit.. See his second paragraph.

[xxi]Alastair Jamieson and Ziad Jaber, “Jordan Tells ISIS That Revenge Airstrikes Are Just ‘The Beginning’”, NBC News, February 6, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/jordan-tells-isis-revenge-airstrikes-are-just-beginning-n301366. See also: Micah Halpern, “The Cold War Between Jordan and Syria Heats Up”, New York Observer, February 11, 2015, http://observer.com/2015/02/are-jordan-and-syria-burning-for-a-fight/.

[xxii] Sylvia Westall and Raissa Kasolowsky, “Kurds battle Islamic State in Syria, U.S.-led coalition jets strike”, Reuters, March 14, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/14/us-mideast-crisis-syria-northeast-idUSKBN0MA0C120150314, and Jane Arraf, “Kurdish president weighs broader role in Islamic State fight”, PBS, March 11, 2015,   http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/kurdish-president-islamic-state-fight/. See also: Dilar Dirik, “The ‘other’ Kurds fighting the Islamic State”, Aljazeera, September 2, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/other-kurds-fighting-islamic-stat-2014928753566705.html, and Vivian Salama and Bram Janssen, “Westerners join Kurds fighting Islamic State group in Iraq”, AP, February 4, 2015, http://news.yahoo.com/westerners-join-kurds-fighting-islamic-state-group-iraq-070100956.html.

[xxiii] Jack Moore, “Tikrit Offensive Stalls Due to ‘Hundreds’ of ISIS Explosives”, Newsweek, March 23, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/iraqi-offensive-tikrit-slows-due-thousands-isis-explosives-316060.

[xxiv] Luis Martinez and Alexander Mallin, “Tikrit Offensive: Iranian General Steps Out, U.S. Steps In”, ABC News, March 26, 2015, http://abcnews.go.com/International/tikrit-offensive-iranian-general-steps-us-steps/story?id=29930338.

[xxv] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Egypt Launches Airstrike in Libya Against ISIS Branch”, The New York Times, February 16, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/world/middleeast/isis-egypt-libya-airstrikes.html?_r=0. See also: Holly Yan, “Egypt’s President: It’s time for an Arab coalition against ISIS”, CNN, February 23, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/23/middleeast/isis-crisis/.

[xxvi] Davud Doud, “The Rise of the Iranian Empire”, The Tower Magazine, Issue 23, February 2015, http://www.thetower.org/article/the-rise-of-the-iranian-empire/.

[xxvii] See notes 11 and 14, above.

[xxviii] Eric Parks, “Iranian Weapons Smuggling Activities in Afghanistan”, CENTCOM/Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, 2010 (?), https://info.publicintelligence.net/JIEDDO-IranWeaponsSmuggling.pdf.

[xxix] Wikipedia, “1998 killing of Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_killing_of_Iranian_diplomats_in_Afghanistan.

[xxx] Clay Wilson, “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan: Effects and Countermeasures”, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, August 28, 2007, http://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RS22330.pdf.

[xxxi] Ibid, See “Report Summary”.

[xxxii] David Wood, “Iranian Weapons ‘Killing Our Troops’ in Iraq, U.S. Says” The World Post, July 7, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/07/iranian-weapons-iraq-us-troops_n_892399.html.

[xxxiii] Geoffrey Gresh, “Coddling the Caucasus: Iran’s Strategic Relationship with Azerbaijan and Armenia”, Caucasian Review of International Affairs, Vol. 1 (1), Winter 2006, pp. 1-13, http://www.cria-online.org/1_1.html.

[xxxiv] Gallia Lindenstrauss, “Israel-Azerbaijan: Despite the Constraints, a Special Relationship”, INSS Strategic Assessment, Volume 17, No. 4, January 2015, pp. 69-79, http://www.inss.org.il/uploadImages/systemFiles/adkan17_4ENG_7_Lindenstrauss.pdf.

[xxxv] Associated Press at the United Nations, “Syria discloses four secret chemical weapons facilities, UN says”, The Guardian, October 7, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/07/syria-secret-chemical-weapons-facilities-un-says.

[xxxvi] Con Coughlin, “Teheran ‘secretly trains’ Chechens to fight in Russia”, The Telegraph, November 27, 2005, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/1504038/Teheran-secretly-trains-Chechens-to-fight-in-Russia.html.

[xxxvii] Kenneth Katzman, “Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy”, Congressional Research Service, February 20, 2015, http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/95-1013.pdf, See “Summary”.

[xxxviii] David Crist, The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran, The Penguin Press, New York, 2012, p. 360.

 

 

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