INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Iran: Where to Go From Here? Xxxxxxxxxxxx Diplomat Shares His Perspective

Published: Wed 16 Sep 2009 11:11 AM
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASHGABAT 001182
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STATE FOR NEA/IR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/16/2019
TAGS: IR PGOV PREL TX UNESCO
SUBJECT: IRAN: WHERE TO GO FROM HERE? XXXXXXXXXXXX DIPLOMAT SHARES HIS PERSPECTIVE
ASHGABAT 00001182 001.2 OF 003
Classified By: Acting DCM Peter Eckstrom, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: XXXXXXXXXXXX's advised in a recent conversation with Ashgabat Iran Watcher that the U.S. would be ill-advised to begin talks with Iran, that it would be great disappointment to Iranians who have found hope in President Obama's message of change. He called Iran's leadership “untrustworthy,” and described the three main groups that he said are sustaining the regime: the “clerical establishment, the paramilitaries and the Bazaaris (merchant class).” XXXXXXXXXXXX finds little difference between any of the major figures in Iran, including most members of the opposition. END SUMMARY.
A TRIANGULAR BASE OF SUPPORT
2. (C) In a XXXXXXXXXXXX conversation with Iran Watcher, XXXXXXXXXXXX described his country's present political climate, stating that “nothing has changed” in either the power structure or how major decisions are made in Iran. He described the Iranian regime as a “total dictatorship,” whose continued survival depends on a “triangular” power base made up of the clerical establishment, the “bazaari” (merchants), and the “paramilitaries” (Revolutionary Guards and Basij). He said the three groups are so enmeshed, so dependent on one another, including through arranged marriages and business dealings, that the severance of any one of the three from the others would cause the regime to collapse. Supreme Leader Khamenei makes no decisions without consulting with son Mojtabah, he said, who is reputed to be “running his father's office,” in close consultation with Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and Kayhan editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari.
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX compared the regime to the dictatorships of Hitler and Mussolini, and said the only difference was that Iran, unlike Nazi Germany, has had the “foresight” not to invade another country militarily, thereby preventing, in his view, any “concerted or effective international response” to its human rights violations or support for terrorism abroad. The demonstrations that began after the June presidential election and continue still are the manifestation of a youthful population that is “fed up” and demanding their “most basic human rights.” He observed that the stress that thirty years of repression is more and more causing the population to suffer from psychological problems.
ENGAGEMENT?…NOT WITH THIS GOVERNMENT
4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX was adamant that for the U.S. to enter into direct talks with Iran's leadership would be a mistake. Not only, he insisted, is the Iranian leadership “untrustworthy,” and dominated by a group of “messianics,” who base crucial decisions about domestic and foreign policy on a belief in the imminent return of the “Missing” (Twelfth) Imam. More importantly, he said, so many Iranians are pinning their hopes on President Obama's message of change, that for the U.S. now to negotiate with a government that continues to repress and violate the most basic rights of its citizens would be a huge disappointment, a blow to their own aspirations for change in Iran.
THIS IS NOT 1980
5. (C) He said Iran is no longer the country or society that rallied around the war effort when Iraq invaded them in 1980. On the contrary, he said, many people he knows are actually saying things like, “Where is Israel? Why don't they just attack us and put an end to this leadership?” He said, however, that new sanctions on necessities such as fuel, would meet with immense public anger as they would mostly affect those who rely on gasoline to commute or make a living.
ASHGABAT 00001182 002.2 OF 003 THE EDUCATION SYSTEM: A TOTAL MESS
6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX estimated that if one counts both teachers and educators, about a third of the country is part of the education system. He lamented the government's “squandering” of its greatest national resource, the 70% of the population who are under the age of 29, with what he called “substandard schooling.” “Such a youthful population, properly educated and trained, could be Iran's greatest asset,” he said. Twenty percent of the population is illiterate, and the rest is comprised of two groups: those who are educated and informed (i.e. the voters who supported Mousavi and Karroubi), and the other, lesser-educated group more likely to follow the dictates of the government and the clerical establishment.
DETAINEES RELEASED AFTER PAYMENTS OF CASH
7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that people detained following the June election have had to pay large sums to be released. He described the parents and grandparents of Nazak Afshar, the French embassy local employee arrested and later released in August, as financially “ruined” after having to pay $500,000 for her release. “It took everything they owned,” he said, “they have absolutely nothing now.” Those whose families have no assets at all “don't have a prayer” of getting out, he said.
AHMADINEJAD OR MOUSAVI: SHADES OF GRAY
8. (C) In XXXXXXXXXXXX's view, the recent presidential election presented no real choice to the Iranian public, just the “facade” of one, because Mousavi “himself is an insider, part of the establishment,” and was even responsible as prime minister during the 1980's for the creation of the dreaded “morality police.” He said that the authorities made a big mistake in not allowing Mousavi to win the election in accordance with the popular vote. “They could have controlled him, nothing would have changed, but their actions have now unleashed a frustration and an anger that they cannot control.” He is equally unimpressed with former Presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani, whom he deems, “just as interested in their personal fortunes over the interests of the people as everyone else,” citing in particular the violent crackdowns on the student population that took place during Khatami's presidency.
THE ANSWER?…STOP THE FLOW OF CASH
9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX sees the sanctions regime as ineffective. The infusion of cash from abroad is keeping the Iranian regime afloat 30 years after the revolution, including (indirectly, mostly through the UAE) from the U.S. and Europe. Large amounts of money for investment in the markets, especially Tehran's booming real estate market, is keeping the Bazaaris content. Investment in the sale of commodities, for example, brings a return of 50% per year, he said, and investors in real estate can double their money in just a few months. “The Bazaaris are the key to everything, just as they were in 1979,” he said. “To see an end to this regime, cut off the funds coming through Dubai. If the regime loses the support of the Bazaaris, that will be the end of it.” He considered it telling that, when the government attempted to impose a V.A.T. last winter, merchants went on strike and the bazaars were closed for several days. By comparison, he said, the bazaar has not closed once since the election in June, even during the demonstrations and mass arrests that followed.
10. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX
11. (C) BIO NOTE AND COMMENT: XXXXXXXXXXXX
12. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX does nothing to hide his disdain for Iran's theocracy. In his view, it is a regime that is fundamentially flawed and incapable of reforming itself, respecting basic human rights, or becoming a responsible member of the international community. His scathing criticism is not directed only at Iran, however. He also expressed disappointment at the UN, and what he termed it's “shameful silence in the face of such blatant human rights violations” in Iran. XXXXXXXXXXXX. END COMMENT.
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