Iranian President Ahmadinejad has been traveling, looking for someone who would recognize him as the legitimate head of government. Most Iranians certainly don’t, and his stock is pretty low in his own region. So he flew to South America, from Brazil–where President Lula was very friendly–and continued to Venezuela to visit his co-conspirator Hugo Chavez. He arrived to considerable pomp, but the military band at the airport played the pre-revolutionary (i.e., the shah’s) anthem, which could not have pleased the little leader.
But the alliance with Chavez is working well, which troubles one of the best men on the continent, Alberto Nisman, Argentina’s courageous prosecutor who has indicted Iranian and Hezbollah leaders for the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Social Center. Nisman appeared at an event sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (where I hang my cloak), and warned about the Iranian penetration of Latin America.
He said that Iran, particularly through Lebanese proxy Hizbullah, has a growing presence in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, using techniques it honed in Argentina before the country took measures to counter Teheran following the AMIA bombing.
He described sham operations involving taxi drivers, who conducted surveillance without arousing suspicion; fake medical school students, who could stay in the country for many years without raising eyebrows; and business fronts that helped funnel cash to operatives.
Meanwhile, the Iranians cultivated ties at the local mosques to search for people who could be radicalized.
It’s a template developed in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is now the dominant political force, and we had better pay attention, because it is undoubtedly being applied here. Hezbollah cells were already present in the United States back in the 1980s, when I was privy to such information.
On the other hand, the revolutionary clock is ticking inside Iran, as the last drops of legitimacy drain from the dying body of the Islamic Republic. When Ahmadinejad returned to Iran, he went to Isfahan for a public event, but very few folks showed up. And Tuesday was “Parliament Day” in Tehran, but less than a third of the invited VIPs came. For that matter, less than a third of the Majlis members came!
Monday is “Student Day,” and the regime is bracing for big demonstrations. The usual warnings have been issued, and internet will be jammed as of Sunday. For once, the opposition is giving the regime a taste of its own electronic medicine, hacking into state-run media and putting “Green” messages on their web sites.
In a sort of preemptive bribe, the regime declared a long holiday, starting Thursday, and encouraged people to celebrate in the countryside. But the weather is not inviting, and a quick look at Twitter (#iranelection is probably the best) will show you that preparations for the anti-regime demonstrations are going ahead. Both Mousavi and Karroubi, the top two leaders of the Green Wave, have said they will be with the students.
They are receiving very strong support from leading clerics, above all Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who declared the movement to be “the real representation of the legitimate demands of the majority of the Iranian nation, over many years.” And he delivered a fierce denunciation of the regime:
Once again I emphasize and repeat, I warn the rulers that the way you are walking on, will bring nothing but damage and destruction not just to the religion, but also to the ‘earthly’ issues – both on yourselves and on the nation. Being loyal to the law and respecting the nation’s right is the best way to show a ruler’s good will. Selfishness, greed, domination and the acts of violence against the nation – the irreligious & illegal show trials of respected politicians, and the heavy sentences for them, will have the outcome of isolation of the country and the system in the world. And puts even more distance between the people and the rulers, and is destroying the face of the ‘oppressed Islam’. And in the end it will bring God’s anger.
Which pretty much sums it up. The wrath of God. Will it fall Monday?