August 24, 2009

Iran - Quds Force commander named defense minister

In yet another move that will be less than well received in the West, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad named a controversial nominee as his new defense minister. The recently re-elected president named former special operations chief General Ahmad Vahidi to the position.

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Interpol poster - click for larger view

Vahidi is the subject of a 2007 Interpol detention order at the request of Argentina for his alleged complicity in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. He is in stellar company - the order also includes former director of intelligence Ali Fallahian; former cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires Mohsen Rabbani; and former diplomat Ahmad Reza Asghari.

Interpol also named Lebanese Hizballah operations chief 'Imad Mughniyah as allegedly involved in the incident, however, he was killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria, in February 2008. I have absolutely no remorse over the killing of Mughniyah - he was responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans going back to the 1980's.

Vahidi was the commander of the Quds Force, the overseas special operations wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He directly oversaw lethal operations in Lebanon, the Balkans and Chechnya, among others. He was in command of the Quds Force on July 18, 1994 when a truck bomb destroyed the five-story building which housed the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association - 85 people were killed in the blast and building collapse. The actual perpetrators are believed to be Hizballah operatives operating at the behest of the Quds Force.

The Quds Force is by almost everyone's definition, a terrorist organization. The forerunner of the Quds, the IRGC Syria and Lebanon contingent (IRGC-SL), was responsible for the creation of Lebanese Hizballah in 1982 - Ahmad Vahidi was part of that effort. It is possible that he was indirectly involved in the bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983 in which 229 American military personnel (220 of them U.S. Marines) were killed.

The United States, which has sought to reach out to Iran under President Barack Obama, has said Vahidi's presence in the Cabinet would be "disturbing."

Disturbing? This ought to be the final straw in President Obama's efforts to engage the Iranian regime. The President has given the Iranian government ample opportunities to accept an improvement in relations between Washington and Tehran. At every turn, they have refused to do so.

This appointment is just another indication that the Iranians have no interest in improved relations with the West in general or the United States in particular. Look at the words of the chairman of Iran's parliamentary committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, "The allegations will not have any negative impact on the assessment, rather, it may increase his vote in the Majlis (parliament)".

These are the people Mr. Obama wants to deal with?

It is time to face reality that the Iranians are not interested in serious dialogue with us. They are intent on antagonizing the West, intent on developing nuclear weapons, intent on emerging as the principal power broker in the region. Mr. President, they do not want to talk to you. You are big on being "clear" - how clear do they have to make it?

It is time for this administration to consider supporting (or effecting) regime change in Tehran. As I have said before, that's change I can believe in.