Teetering on the Brink; A Clash of Wills in Iran Offers an Opportunity for the U.S

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Byline: By Reza Kahlili, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Iran is teetering on the brink of political chaos in the wake of last weekAAEs news that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was arrested, questioned and warned to shut up by the heads of the Islamic regimeAAEs security forces before being released seven hours later.

With a candidacy-filing deadline at hand for those who would succeed Mr. Ahmadinejad in next monthAAEs presidential election, according to the regimeAAEs media outlet Baztab, the president warned that if his handpicked candidate Au close confidant and adviser Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei Au were not allowed on the ballot, he would release a tape that proved his 2009 re-election was a fraud, engineered by the regimeAAEs supreme leader. After publishing that news, the Baztab website was immediately taken down by security forces and its editor arrested.

The report of the arrest came from a source in the regimeAAEs intelligence apparatus but was denied by the regime itself. However, Mr. Ahmadinejad a week earlier said he had been warned that if he released information embarrassing to the regime, he would be taught a lesson. He said he wonAAEt back down and that he has files that, if revealed, would implicate certain officials.

As I reported recently from a Revolutionary GuardsAAE intelligence unit source, Mr. Ahmadinejad taped a phone conversation between himself and Vahid Haghanian, the head of the office of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The two discussed fraud in which Mr. Haghanian said election officials added millions of votes to Mr. AhmadinejadAAEs tally to declare him the winner. While the two argued about the fraud, Mr. Haghanian told Mr. Ahmadinejad what Ayatollah Khamenei, the real power in Iran, expected of him.

The man who lost the official vote to Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2009, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has been under house arrest since February 2011. Millions of Iranians took to the streets after that election, calling Mr. AhmadinejadAAEs reported 62 percent tally of voters a fraud and demanding a free election. Thousands were arrested, with many tortured and executed.

The Obama administration, which was engaged in back-channel negotiations with Iran at the time over its illicit nuclear program, stayed out of the debate on fraudulent elections, claiming any support would jeopardize the protesters, thereby missing a great opportunity as millions of Iranians chanted death to the dictator.

Information leaked from the regimeAAEs intelligence service months later indicated that had the protests continued for several more weeks, the regime would have fallen. Though the Islamic leaders promised to collaborate with President Obama once the masses were suppressed, Iran announced that not only was the offer by world powers no longer acceptable, but it had reached a milestone by enriching uranium to the 20 percent level, which is well on the way toward use for nuclear weapons.

While Mr. Ahmadinejad was under arrest April 29, he was warned not to talk about matters detrimental to the Islamic regime, apparently a reference to his threat to release the damning tape. …