Iran and U.S. Terror

“I’ll take you just the way you are!”
(Cross-posted from Nicecore!)

Brand Nubian – Feels So Good

An interesting story emerged late last night, and it’s surprising that it’s getting as much coverage as it is, considering the implications it has for U.S. support of terrorism. I was able to find the story from a few major news sources, but I’ll go with the LA Times, since this is kind of their ‘hood. The story is that Reza Taghavi, an Iranian-American businessman from Tustin, California (a city in Orange County, which itself is home to a large Iranian population — in fact, I’m there quite often for work) has been released from Evin Prison after being held there for over two years. He was arrested in Iran and accused of providing $200 to the LA-based monarchist organization known as Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran (also known as API or the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, which I will say a bit about in a second), was never formally charged or tried, and claims to this day that he gave the money to the organization unknowingly. He is expected to be back in California sometime next week.

Since $200 would hardly be enough to cater lunch at a bi-weekly staff meeting, you might be wondering what all this API fuss is about. The API, originally founded in LA in the form of a TV station for broadcasting anti-Islamic Republic (and generally hateful anti-Islam) propaganda, is now a vast network of operations made up of loosely-connected (and often conflicting) units, all with the common goal of overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to their website, they have tasked Iranians in search of the good ol’ glory days of Cyrus the Great to carry out their five stage Tondar (“thunder” in Persian) movement, which first and foremost involves “subversive action.” I would link to the website, but I’m a little paranoid about doing so (besides, it’s in Persian).

Anyway, the trouble is finding some hard proof that this group is directly or indirectly responsible for terrorism (besides the inflammatory stuff on its website, of course). After the 2006 bombing at the Hosseinieh Seyyed al-Shohada mosque in Shiraz which killed 12 and injured 202, many Western and Iranian news sources reported that the API had claimed responsibility on their website shortly after the attack. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any trace of the statement on the main API website after some heavy searching and the Shiraz bombing Wikipedia article in Persian mentions that the API denied any involvement and cites an interview with Voice of America. Making things even more confusing, spokespeople have denied API involvement in terrorism and in even all but the most peaceful of activities, which contrasts pretty sharply with what’s written on their website. In this BBC Persian report, a spokeswoman for the API denies any API involvement in terrorist activity, but in the next paragraph a spokesman from another group calling itself the API claims responsibility for violent subversive action.

Terrorism takes place in Iran and is the work of a variety of different groups with no singular, monolithic goal. There are all kinds of characters to be found across the landscape of Iranian political dissidence: Jundullah (Sunni Islamists, whose handsome leader Iran executed earlier this year), MEK (sort of Islamic socialists, although the organization is self-described as secular), Pejak (Kurdish militants), and Ahvazi Arab groups have all carried out terrorist attacks to upset the regime and all have different visions for the future of Iran. A common thread likely to be found running between them is U.S. financial support, discussed in this Telegraph piece from two years ago and this one from three years ago. In fact, according to the second Telegraph article I linked to, there was actually an open debate in Washington near the end of the Bush presidency about “when” (and not “if”) to “unleash” Jundullah against the regime. Additionally, George Bush made an appeal to Congress in 2007 for $400 million to step up covert operations in Iran. Mmmhmm.

Anyway, this is all pretty well-documented stuff and I don’t need to go on forever about it, but let’s go back to the first story. Taghavi is planning to sue the man who asked him to transfer the money upon his return to the U.S. and is considering suing the API, so perhaps something will come of that. His lawyer, Pierre Prosper, was responsible for securing his release from Evin Prison and was formerly in charge of the State Department’s Office of War Crimes Issues under George W. Bush. That’s right, friends: George Bush, perhaps without even the slightest hint of irony, had an advisory committee charged with holding other states accountable for war crimes. What a wacky world we live in!

Anyway, my point was that not only has the U.S. been funding terror groups in Iran for decades, but they are allowing them to organize and operate from right here at home. However, this should not be shocking to anyone, as this is consistent with the official U.S. government stance on terrorism: it’s not terrorism if it’s against our enemies.

As a final, interesting linguistics aside, the word in Persian for terrorism is “terrorism,” and the transitive Persian verb meaning “to assassinate someone” or “to murder someone in an act of terrorism” is “terror kardan,” literally translating to “to terror(ize) someone.”

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