<html><body><P>American Enterprise Institute</P> <P>May 19, 2008</P> <P>[Edited transcript from audio tapes]</P> <P><BR> <TABLE cellSpacing=1 cellPadding=1 width="100%" border=0> <TBODY> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>9:00&nbsp;a.m.&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Registration</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>9:15&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Introduction</EM>:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Danielle Pletka, AEI</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>9:30&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><STRONG>Panel I: The Ahmadinejad Presidency and Its Impact on Iranian Civil and Political Society</STRONG></DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Presenters</EM>:&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Mohebat Ahdiyyih, Open Source Center </DIV> <DIV class=BodyText> <DIV class=BodyText>Ali Alfoneh, AEI and the University of Copenhagen</DIV></DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Hormoz Hekmat, Foundation for Iranian Studies</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Tom Parker, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Moderator</EM>:&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Michael Rubin, AEI </DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>10:45&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><STRONG>Panel II: Iranian Foreign Policymaking and the West</STRONG></DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Presenters</EM>:</DIV></DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Patrick Clawson, Washington Institute for Near East Policy </DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Danielle Pletka, AEI&nbsp; </DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Alex Vatanka, Jane s Information Group&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Moderator</EM>:</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText> <DIV class=BodyText>Michael Rubin, AEI</DIV></DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>12:00&nbsp;p.m.</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Luncheon</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>12:45&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><STRONG>Panel III: The Transformation and Rise of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps</STRONG></DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Presenters</EM>:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Ali Alfoneh, AEI and the University of Copenhagen</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Discussant</EM>:&nbsp;&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Mohsen Sazegara</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText><EM>Moderator</EM>:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>Danielle Pletka, AEI</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText>&nbsp;</DIV></TD></TR> <TR> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText> <DIV class=BodyText>2:00&nbsp;</DIV></DIV></TD> <TD> <DIV class=BodyText> <DIV class=BodyText>Adjournment</DIV></DIV></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>Proceedings:</P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>Panel I: The Ahmadinejad Presidency and Its Impact on Iranian Civil and Political Society</P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Good morning, everybody.&nbsp; Let me invite our panelists, please come sit down.&nbsp; I'm just going to make a brief introduction.</P> <P>Good morning, everybody.&nbsp; I m Danielle Pletka.&nbsp; I m the vice president for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies here at AEI.&nbsp; I m happy to see everybody here on this very nice Monday morning.&nbsp; We have the windows open for once, which is very lively.&nbsp; The title of this conference today is  Iran in Three Dimensions and it is a title that has some logic in our own minds although it may not actually have any logic in anybody else s.</P> <P>Iran is in the pages of the newspapers everyday, but what do we talk about?&nbsp; We talk about the latest utterances of Ahmadinejad; we talk about the fact that he called Israel a stinking corpse; we talk about centrifuges; we talk about Iran s nuclear weapons program; we talk about proliferation; we talk about support for terrorism; we talk about Iran and Iraq.&nbsp; But actually, we do not spend a great deal of time talking about Iran - what the country itself is like, what Ahmadinejad s presidency has meant, what the rise of the Revolutionary Guard has meant.&nbsp; </P> <P>And so some time ago we thought to ourselves that the right questions to ask were, in fact these - that, perhaps, Iran internally will help inform not only where Iran is going in terms of its own foreign policy but it will help inform us about how to approach the problem with a little bit more creativity, certainly, than we have seen to date and, hopefully, perhaps, with a little bit more effectiveness.</P> <P>So what we have today before us are three panels on these questions.&nbsp; The first is to look at the question of the Ahmadinejad presidency itself and its impact on Iranian civil and political society.&nbsp; So I m not going to spend any more time telling you what we are going to be doing; instead, I m going to move over here and turn to our panelists for a discussion of all of these issues and more, I hope.&nbsp; Thank you all for being here.</P> <P>Not quite sure why I did that.&nbsp; I could have done it from here.</P> <P>Well, today our panelists - I m going to go in alphabetical order for our first panel.&nbsp; Mohebat Ahdiyyih -- and you are going to have to forgive my awful Persian pronunciation.&nbsp; Mohebat serves as the senior Iran analyst at the Open Source Center where he focuses on questions of Shiite doctrine.&nbsp; Ali Alfoneh is a researcher-in-residence at the American Enterprise Institute, and a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Copenhagen.&nbsp; Hormoz Hekmat is the editor of Iran Nameh, a quarterly journal published by the Foundation for Iranian Studies.&nbsp; And Tom Parker is the executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.</P> <P>Now, normally speaking, I would have talked to our panelists and asked them in what order they would like to speak.&nbsp; Do you have a preference or shall I just go down the line starting with --&nbsp; </P> <P>Male Voice:&nbsp; I have a preference.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; -- yes.</P> <P>Male Voice:&nbsp; I would like to talk last.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Everybody always wants to talk last.&nbsp; See, you got it in first, though.&nbsp; So, Mohebat, if I can ask you to lead off, that would be terrific.</P> <P>Mohebat Ahdiyyih:&nbsp; Good morning, everybody.&nbsp; Like on the way coming here driving, the traffic from Northern Virginia -- I thought what would be the one thing I should say first at this distinguished assemblage here?&nbsp; I thought, what is the latest thing that has happened in Iran.</P> <P>And you may have heard that the entire leadership of the largest religious community in Iran has been arrested and detained within the past few days and seven top leaders of the Baha i Faith in Iran.&nbsp; And, of course, that is an urgent issue from a human rights point of view.&nbsp; And I m sure Tom, when he deals with the human rights, that may be one of the subjects he addresses.&nbsp; </P> <P>But I thought we need to be conscious of these developments that greatly affect the future of Iran - the issues of human rights of students, women, minorities.&nbsp; That is a very important consideration although, most of the time, our main concern is, apparently, larger issues such as nuclear issue and Iraq and Iran developments.&nbsp; But we should not forget about the people of Iran who are suffering.</P> <P>There is a story; of course, most probably fiction, not true, but it goes back to the early 19th century when the wars between Iran and Russia were going on.&nbsp; And as Iran was being defeated again and again, someone went to the Chief Minister and said,  I have designed a super gun that we can shoot Saint Petersburg from Tehran. &nbsp; Now, we are talking about 1800; of course, such a thing is an impossibility.&nbsp; Of course, Chief Minister laughed and said,  Well, okay, but it is not possible to do that. &nbsp;  It was my patriotic duty to inform you of that.&nbsp; Now, if you do not do it and we are defeated, you are responsible; not me anymore because I told you. </P> <P>So he thought,  Well, maybe he has actually designed something that would work. &nbsp; So he consulted with the king and the king ordered that,  Give him all the resources he needs to build the super gun. &nbsp; So he built the gun and on the appointed time, all the dignitaries, officials all gathered for this gun to be fired so that it can wipe out Saint Petersburg.&nbsp; And, of course, guns in 19th century -- lots of dust and smoke when you fire it and that is exactly what happened.&nbsp; And as the air was filled with dust and smoke, they could hear his voice saying,  If the gun has done this here, imagine what it has done in Saint Petersburg. </P> <P>So a lot of what we hear these days from Iran and the statements and the talk and this tough language sometimes should be looked at in that sense, that is, to create a lot of dust and smoke right there.&nbsp; And they are saying,  Imagine what is happening in Washington as a result of this here. &nbsp; But we have to - since we are going to talk about President Ahmadinejad in this panel, I have to say that - I mean, a lot of things have been said about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mostly unflattering.&nbsp; But there is one good thing about him and that is that he is almost keeping his promises that he made during his campaign, and that by itself represents a certain degree of honesty.&nbsp; Although people may not like that but he has done that.</P> <P>He said when he was running for President that he does not care about diplomatic norms and language.&nbsp; He said he wants to just freely speak what is on his mind and he has done that.&nbsp; In fact, to the extent that he is so uninhibited in his speech that we repeatedly hear other officials who cannot necessarily come out and challenge him directly because - I mean, when he says things about Israel, they just cannot come out and say,  No, no, you are wrong .&nbsp; They do not want him to say that so they use different types of ways to try to convince him not to speak so directly.&nbsp; One of them said,  Well, why do we have to say this?&nbsp; We all believe in that, but we do not have to talk about it. </P> <P>This is the type of reaction that comes out of Iran when we hear comments by other officials about Ahmadinejad.&nbsp; But it is still a refreshing thing for an Iranian leader to talk his mind, considering the convoluted language used by Rafsanjani and Khatami and this philosophizing and this almost deceptive language that is often used by them, although they look more pragmatic and more moderate and more reformist but a lot of it may be just the language.</P> <P>Now, what Khomeini himself said during his time, the founder of the Islamic Revolution, over the years they actually expunged it from the language.&nbsp; They were not repeating what Khomeini had said during Rafsanjani and Khatami s time.&nbsp; So Ahmadinejad has brought that back, too, because another thing he said during his campaign was that the revolution has deviated from its right path and he wants to put it back on the path that Imam Khomeini wanted it to be.</P> <P>For example, for a long time we had not heard that Khomeini had said,  The road to Jerusalem passes through Karbala. &nbsp; Now, that was not repeated much until Ahmadinejad came on the scene and we hear that a lot.&nbsp; In fact, you see the consequences of that with what is happening in Iraq.&nbsp; So going beyond language is the policy that is being also affected and influenced by what Ahmadinejad has brought to the scene.</P> <P>One of the aspects of what he means about revolution being deviated is that those who were true inheritors of the revolution were deprived of the fruits of revolution.&nbsp; So he wants to give them the fruits of revolution.&nbsp; So we see a rise in IRGC, Basij groups that are religiously extremist, Madojan [phonetic], the term that is used these days to explain the kind of lay clerics, pseudo-clerics who have appeared on the scene very much supported by Ahmadinejad as a counterweight to the established clerical system in Iran which has caused a lot of concern for the traditional clerics.</P> <P>Now, because of Ahmadinejad s statements and actions, something else has happened in the Islamic Republic and if they do not fix it, let s say next year by having someone else become president -- someone like Qalibaf is being talked about, mayor of Tehran, and that is a fact that he tipped the balance that existed in the Islamic Republic for years.&nbsp; The politics in Iran -- these factions are at each other s throat.&nbsp; And so at the Supreme Leader level and the council around him, they had been able to balance these factions so that neither one of them could become too powerful.&nbsp; Now that balance is kind of lost a little bit.&nbsp; Now, the question is could they reestablish that balance or not?</P> <P>There are efforts along that line.&nbsp; Larijani gets into election of Majlis and is now in the Majlis trying to maybe replace the Haddad-Adel as their speaker and become a counterweight to Ahmadinejad, and maybe next year become president.&nbsp; Of course, Qalibaf has the same idea but it is not clear whether it can be fixed at this point because it in some ways has gone too far with the power acquired by the most hard-line elements that exist there.</P> <P>The situation, in one word, is unstable in Iran; it is not stable.&nbsp; In fact, the future of Islamic Republic is very much now in the balance.&nbsp; And if they can - and they are probably thinking about it - if they can fix that and bring back stability, they may survive.&nbsp; Otherwise, the way things are as it continues, it is not going to survive.&nbsp; In fact, the situation is so bad that President Khatami, no one less than the former president of the country, said that Iranian hardliners are worse than Al-Qaeda [phonetic].&nbsp; I do not know how many of you saw that statement, but he has dealt with them and he knows who they are, and he called them worse than Al-Qaeda.&nbsp; It is that bad in Iran.</P> <P>Now, to understand how confusing -- of course, you are going to tell me when I have to stop, right?&nbsp; You will tell me, okay.&nbsp; Maybe a couple of minutes to answer this, thank you, yes.</P> <P>To understand how unstable and confusing the situation is, I m going to refer to one episode that happened in April.&nbsp; There was an explosion in a religious center, a complex of mosques and they call it Hosseinieh where, in fact, people gather Saturday nights in large numbers - up to 10,000 sometimes - and they mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and they attack the Baha is - a regular feature of these gatherings - and there was an explosion there.&nbsp; Now, immediately after the explosion happened, the news agencies in Iran, backed by international news agencies, reported that it was either Baha is or the Wahabis who did the blast in this place.&nbsp; </P> <P>So the people who were running the center and maybe some other authorities who were in cahoots with them thought maybe they can use this to start a new kind of surge of persecution of Baha is.&nbsp; Now, then it did not work because, I mean, Baha is do not do things like that and Wahabi is kind of in Shiraz -- not that concerned about the mosque in Shiraz.&nbsp; So different stories emerged over time about what has happened there.&nbsp; No less than an institution than the National Security Council of Iran said that it was not a terrorist attack; it was an accident.&nbsp; Backed by all main officials in Iran.</P> <P>Now, for a while, it went on but the websites and the blogs, those who cover in Iran -- you may have noticed what was going on there, the comments people were putting there about what a lie that is; everybody knows it was a bomb.&nbsp; How could National Security Council and everybody says it was not?&nbsp; So they had to change it.&nbsp; So now they have come out that it was actually a terrorist attack.&nbsp; Just to show you how - just one episode how it is being handled.&nbsp; It was a terrorist attack that was sponsored by the British and Americans and that is where we are now.&nbsp; </P> <P>And the monarchy is, by the way, very involved, too, meanwhile.&nbsp; And a few little details are coming out everyday and as the Ministry of Intelligence and Interior provides these fantastic updates about what actually happened there -- and so at this point, the idea is that they were terrorists and they are going to be tried and hanged right there at the place where the blast took place.&nbsp; Now those poor people -- who knows whose names were drawn to be there, sacrificed for this?&nbsp; Hopefully, they would get help from somewhere.</P> <P>So that is how it is.&nbsp; There is no agreement on even a small issue like that compared to big issues, leave alone larger topics that Iran has to deal with.&nbsp; Now, as I said, the picture could change in Iran if someone else is elected president.&nbsp; But we have  - when we talk about negotiations here in this country, it is kind of - those who are familiar with the way Iranian media reports on the statements by Iranian officials, there is almost a smile on their face - I have seen that - because the question is, negotiate with whom?&nbsp; Who are you going to negotiate with?&nbsp; There is not a single person you can really negotiate if you pick up just one or one faction that you would be able to get anywhere.&nbsp; </P> <P>There are many factions.&nbsp; If you can get them all in one place and have - by the way, negotiating with the President of Iran is not - I mean, President is not the ultimate power in Iran.&nbsp; So if you really want to negotiate, you have to negotiate with the Supreme Leader.&nbsp; That is the one you have to negotiate with.&nbsp; So the fact that Obama and Ahmadinejad may get one day together and talk to each other, that is fine; nice.&nbsp; But that is not going to get anywhere.&nbsp; You have to sit down with the Supreme Leader and that may not be enough because the Supreme Leader himself is just there to balance between the factions.&nbsp; It does not mean necessarily he has the decisive final power to make decisions.&nbsp; </P> <P>You have to get the reformist in the room, the hardliners in the room, representatives of clerics in the room, more than anyone else, the IRGC leadership in the room.&nbsp; And if you get them all in one place and they all agree on one thing, still, more probably it is not going to happen but that may be the first step in successful negotiation when it comes to that.</P> <P>Now, of course, Iranians are very much futuristic.&nbsp; You know, it is a great nation, really.&nbsp; It is sad that they are in this state that they are.&nbsp; At some periods of history, they have done great contribution to civilization and it is on the mind of Iranians.&nbsp; You see that on the mind of Ahmadinejad, but I m going to explain how he wants to accomplish that, to bring back that past glory for Iran.</P> <P>Most Iranians, through reading the poetry and writings of philosophers and all of that, not only know what Iran s past was but also have read about promises about Iran s future.&nbsp; Poets like Ferdowsi, like Hafez, like Rumi all have talked about this great and brilliant future awaiting Iran.&nbsp; </P> <P>Now, the way many see the future is through the Hidden Imam and nuclear weapons, unfortunately.&nbsp; And that is not really what those poets meant.&nbsp; What those poets meant was a peaceful approach to resolving problems of the world; what they meant was unity, unification of mankind.&nbsp; What they meant was collaboration between all nations and religions, not dominance; not becoming the dominant power or regional power there.&nbsp; And the Hidden Imam issue -- I know people think that is just a side show but it is becoming very important in Iran; practically everyday, they are talking about it now.</P> <P>The issue of Hidden Imam and the nuclear issue are merging in Iran.&nbsp; So that means the greatness that Ahmadinejad wants for Iran comes with the Hidden Imam now represented - I mean, usually the Supreme Leader is representative of Hidden Imam but in this case, almost by Ahmadinejad and his government.&nbsp; And then with nuclear weapons combined, that would bring back the past glory.</P> <P>Now, I got the sign there that I have to stop, but I just wanted to say that all of these issues are affecting the Arab world relations with Iran - the economy and the election recently we saw.&nbsp; And that was inconclusive, by the way, this election; again, divisions among the hardliners in the Majlis.&nbsp; It is not clear what is going to happen but I have to say that -- end actually with that.&nbsp; </P> <P>When Ahmadinejad was on pilgrimage recently in Mecca, he gave a speech that was not - by the way, many of the speeches of Ahmadinejad are not reported by Iranian TV and radio.&nbsp; For those who follow that, you will not find it there and because -- I mean it may look surprising but the leadership of state media in Iran does not like Ahmadinejad.&nbsp; It does not mean they are all in one camp; they are different factions.&nbsp; And so they do not report all of his speeches.&nbsp; You have to check in websites and different places to find many of his speeches.</P> <P>So he gave his speech in Mecca, out of all places, recently, to Iranian pilgrims in Farsi language.&nbsp; And he said,  All these pilgrims that are here, it is of no meaning if you do not believe in Lord of the Age, if you do not believe in the Hidden Imam.&nbsp; So, essentially, over a billion Sunnis -- he just wiped them out like that; that they are not true believers because they do not believe in Hidden Imam.&nbsp; He did - he has done the same thing recently in front of like a Gulf Cooperation Council and other places when he said actually a prayer for appearance of Hidden Imam.&nbsp; Can you imagine with all these Arab Sunni leaders there?</P> <P>So that is very much on the mind of Ahmadinejad and it goes back, as I said, to the fact that he wants to restore the greatness of Iran and he actually thinks it will happen in that language and in that manner.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Thank you very much.</P> <P>Tom Parker:&nbsp; That is going to be a hard act to follow.&nbsp; I thought I would very quickly give you a little bit of a sort of tour d horizon of the human rights situation inside Iran and then offer you some thoughts on some of the difficulties that the human rights organizations that take an interest in Iran face as they try and gain leverage over the Iranian regime to try and address these issues. </P> <P>The situation inside Iran is typical of many authoritarian regimes.&nbsp; There is a wide group of minority -- a wide range of minority groups that find themselves discriminated against inside the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; We have talked already today about the Baha i; a very alarming situation is developing regarding the leadership of the Baha i community.&nbsp; Inside Iran, at the moment, it is not the first time that by any stretch of the imagination this community has been targeted.&nbsp; In the past the Islamic Republic has executed three different iterations of the Baha i leadership since coming to power, the last I think in 1983.&nbsp; </P> <P>So it has been a while before we have seen roundups of this nature but it is not a huge leap to think that the seven individuals who are now in custody face a threat to their lives.&nbsp; And we at the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center are extremely concerned for the safety of these individuals.&nbsp; But there are many other minority groups inside Iran that also face threats and it is a wide range.&nbsp; Sunnis -- and we often forget, that there is no Sunni mosque in Tehran, an amazing fact -- always strikes me as amazing fact.</P> <P>Sufis; Sufism is making something of a comeback, particularly, amongst the youth at the moment, and that is causing the regime concern.&nbsp; And so Sufis are being targeted by the regime.&nbsp; We have, thanks to President Ahmadinejad s visit to Columbia University, heard quite a lot about the threat to homosexuals inside Iran.&nbsp; There is something of a debate in the human rights community as to the nature of this threat but there have been a number of executions of homosexuals inside Iran, oftentimes within the criminal justice system, often accompanied by allegations of male rape.&nbsp; But nevertheless we certainly are seeing a lot of executions of gay men, particularly.</P> <P>Trade unionists; the bus workers in Tehran trying to organize their own trade union have been subject to very aggressive intimidation, physical intimidation.&nbsp; They are not the only group of trade unionists to attract that sort of unpleasant attention from the state.</P> <P>Bloggers; the blogsphere, cyberspace, is a fascinating aspect of Iranian society at the moment and it is a subject that the Iranian government is taking more and more interest in.&nbsp; New laws have been passed to try and restrict the freedom of bloggers to publish things on their websites.&nbsp; It is really the least constrained public space left inside Iran and it is, of course, a youthful public space.&nbsp; </P> <P>And we tend to forget this is a young country.&nbsp; And it is a country, obviously, with a huge and ancient history but it is also a country with a young and vibrant population; a very well-educated, for the most part, young and vibrant population that understands modern technology and understands modern technological tools to get their message out.&nbsp; So this poses a grave threat to the Iranian government and they are clamping down on bloggers.&nbsp; We have seen arrests, we have seen trumped-up charges and, as I say, we have seen new laws passed.</P> <P>Ethnic minorities; Kurds, Azaris, Arabs have all found themselves targeted by the regime in recent years as well.&nbsp; So the human rights situation inside Iran is not good.&nbsp; Of course, the subject of this panel refers to Ahmadinejad.&nbsp; I'm a little skeptical, really, whether that is where the focus should be.&nbsp; I tend to think of him a little bit more as a symptom rather than the underlying cause.&nbsp; You know, you have to look at the nature of the system of government inside Iran if you want to look at human rights abuses in the way that the successive governments have abused the criminal justice system, the rule of law.&nbsp; It does not start with Ahmadinejad; it has its roots long before his presidency.&nbsp; But his presidency has brought us some unique challenges.</P> <P>There is a public information film doing the rounds inside Iran at the moment and it starts with -- it is produced by the Ministry of Intelligence and it starts with a very entertaining computer-generated sequence in a bunker underneath the White House where a cabal of very sinister Americans have got together to undermine the Iranian government.&nbsp; And this cabal is led by two men in particular as well as sort of a generic gentleman from the CIA.&nbsp; One is George Soros and the other, intriguingly, is John McCain, which suggests, perhaps, the Iranian regime knows rather more about American politics than perhaps we do.&nbsp; </P> <P>But they are working together to plan the overthrow of the Iranian government.&nbsp; And the plan they come up with is to use human rights organizations to lead a velvet revolution to undermine the good governance inside Iran.&nbsp; Cut to very less -- a very much live action:&nbsp; Human beings on the streets of Tehran; a young boy who has fallen in with a bad crowd, much to their horror and shame and wistful sadness of his sister and mother.&nbsp; He is meeting with dodgy men in cafes and they all look very sinister and his very decent and law-abiding sister is concerned for his safety and decides to search his room, which is interesting behavior in itself, and comes across a pistol hidden in the drawer of his wardrobe and immediately thinks,  Well, I must tell the security officials. &nbsp;&nbsp; </P> <P>And she goes along to meet a very nice man from the Ministry of Intelligence who is very understanding, very caring; obviously, does not want to cause the family any pain whatsoever.&nbsp; And there is a tasteful and gentle intervention where the young man is -- I hesitate to say arrested -- taken for a chat, and one is led to believe that in the fullness of time, he will rejoin his family reeducated and reoriented towards a brighter future.</P> <P>The narrative, though, is fascinating, this linkage of human rights organizations with violence, with revolutionary activity.&nbsp; And it is a very difficult narrative for human rights organizations like mine and many others, whether it is the Amnesty International, the open society institutes or smaller expatriate groups, to counter.&nbsp; At the end of day, one of the things that I am often accused of -- I know  accused is too strong a word, but a debate that I often find myself drawn into is whether or not the organization I represent is a regime-change organization.&nbsp; </P> <P>Well, you know, it is not.&nbsp; You know, we do not advocate the change of the regime on an explicit level.&nbsp; But I guess we need to take a step back and if you think about it; talking about a real change in a system of government so you have respect for human rights and you have the rule of law and you have respect for a constitution is a regime change.&nbsp; It is not the overthrowing of a government; we like to think about it more about bringing people back to fundamental values that have got deep roots in Iranian soil.&nbsp; But at the end of the day, it is very difficult.&nbsp; How do we get this message across in a way that does not make us look like an enemy; it does not make us look like subversives?&nbsp; And we found this tremendously difficult.</P> <P>A lot of organizations -- nobody has got anybody on the ground inside Iran; it is not safe.&nbsp; And we cannot work with people on the ground inside Iran.&nbsp; Even academic institutions now will think twice before sending anybody into the country to do research.&nbsp; So it is very difficult for us.&nbsp; And the way that we have tried to reach out to people is through transparency, providing information with a great deal of detail and reaching out to the blogsphere to reach out to people in the cyberspace community and engage them in a conversation, a conversation where we provide a lot of facts that we hope they will take away and use for a discussion.&nbsp; </P> <P>We do not want to dictate what the discussion is; we do not want to tell people what to think.&nbsp; What we are trying to give them is information that they can rely on and trust, and that means producing reports that are extensively researched but also extensively footnoted.</P> <P>One of the things I noticed with my time in the human rights business -- a lot of organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, because of genuine and very real concerns about source protection, often, are very careful about sourcing where they get their information from.&nbsp; And so, you have to trust the organization.&nbsp; The organization trades on its reputation and its past history for good and accurate reporting but you have to take their word on trust for the most part.&nbsp; What we try and do is footnote extensively everything we do.&nbsp; We also try and scan it into a database so you can go online and look at the documents that we cite.&nbsp; </P> <P>And the idea is then that you get a report that you can second-guess.&nbsp; You can look through the information for yourself; you can look at where we got our information from.&nbsp; If we are citing a letter, if we are citing a government instruction, a memo or circular, if we have it, you can look at it.&nbsp; You can decide for yourself whether it is a forgery, whether it is a fake, whether you find it convincing.&nbsp; The idea then, at least, is you have got the tools for a debate.&nbsp; And that is all we are trying to do.&nbsp; </P> <P>And I think that is what most human rights organizations are currently trying to do vis--vis Iran.&nbsp; It is get a conversation going.&nbsp; It is not a conversation we even have to be that much of a part of because at the end of the day, it is for Iranians to take this issue forward and it is for Iranians to decide what sort of society they want to live in.&nbsp; But they cannot have that debate without accurate information.</P> <P>And so, now, the focus seems to be, more than anything else, to try to get that information back inside the country.&nbsp; And it reminds me of the old Soviet-era Samizdat publications, all these underground printing presses in basements where people produce copies of books that have been banned inside the East.&nbsp; Well, this is the cyberspace equivalent of that.&nbsp; It is not an underground printing press but it is a website or it is a LISTSERV.&nbsp; And this is a way that we can jumpstart a debate and we do see it happening on the fringes, at least, of the blogosphere; people are talking about it and they are exchanging information.&nbsp; And I think that, at this point, is about as much as we can hope for as human rights activists and that is to get a debate going.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Thank you very much.&nbsp; Ali? </P> <P>Ali Alfoneh:&nbsp; Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.&nbsp; Thank you, Dani, for providing me with this great opportunity to share my analysis with you.&nbsp; It is a great honor to be sitting in this panel, especially sitting beside Dr. Hekmat of the Foundation for Iranian Studies.&nbsp; Dani represented and presented Dr. Hekmat, but failed to mention that Dr. Hekmat has been the editor of Iran Nameh for almost three decades, almost three decades of science production; unpoliticized science.&nbsp; And I really try to do my PhD research in the same tradition that Dr. Hekmat and his associates at the Foundation for Iranian Studies have been doing for the past 30 years.</P> <P>The one piece of information which I think is important for me to share with you, this audience today, is that in my research, I have seen that there is a change in the composition of the political elites of Islamic Republic of Iran.&nbsp; My research field is civil-military relations.&nbsp; I'm mostly interested in studying the relationship between the Revolutionary Guards and the political elites of the Islamic Republic.</P> <P>And as I was doing my research and I was looking at the political elites and composition of the political elites, I have found out that an ever-increasing number of elite members nowadays are former officers in the Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; So for the past 30 years, with some right, people have been calling the Islamic Republic a theocracy, a Mullah regime, a regime dominated by the Shia clergy.&nbsp; But nowadays, I have -- I must say that the nature of the regime is changing into a military dictatorship.&nbsp; And my observations come from, first of all, looking at the composition of the cabinets of the governments.&nbsp; </P> <P>And my discussion of Mr. Ahmadinejad is not so much of Mr. Ahmadinejad as an individual but as a representative of a certain class in the Iranian society, which means the officer class, officers from the Revolutionary Guards.&nbsp; If you look at the composition of the Ahmadinejad government, 11 out of 21 cabinet ministers are former members of the Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; If you look at the latest round of parliamentary elections, you see an increase.&nbsp; I do not have the exact number of parliamentary members who are former Revolutionary Guardists.&nbsp; This is under very -- I'm waiting for information from the Majlis itself, the parliament.&nbsp; They do a very, very good job at informing about social background studies of the members of the parliament.&nbsp; </P> <P>But I can see an increase.&nbsp; I have been looking at the composition of the Iranian parliament, the Islamic Consultative Assembly from 1979 until today and I see an increase.&nbsp; The current Majlis, I think -- I'm not so sure; I do not have the exact numbers of the latest elections -- between one-third and half of the parliamentarians are former members of the Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; This is a significant increase from, let s say, mid  90s.&nbsp; </P> <P>The only one other period in the history of the Islamic Republic in which there has been such a significant presence of former officers in the parliament is the first parliament in the Islamic Republic in which there was a huge representation of members of revolutionary committees, Comite [indiscernible] and, of course, also the ideological commissars in the armed forces who were in the parliament.</P> <P>But not only among the parliamentarians and the cabinet ministers, also among provincial governors.&nbsp; If you look at the governors of the Islamic Republic and go systematically study each governor s social background, you will see three types of individuals.&nbsp; The first group, of course, is the former officers.&nbsp; The second group is officers who have been running the Iranian prison administration system.&nbsp; So somebody who is a prison administrator is appointed governor of this or that province by Mr. Ahmadinejad.&nbsp; This, itself, you know, tells you something about the Kafkaesque nature of the Islamic Republic- that the system considers a prison ward a suitable person to become a province governor.&nbsp; </P> <P>And the third group of individuals that you see being members, being governors in the Islamic Republic is the former associates of Mr. Ahmadinejad from his time and era as Tehran mayor.&nbsp; So his very, very close friends and associates are appointed governors in the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; The fourth group which is -- the fourth administrative layer in the Islamic Republic which is somehow more difficult to analyze because the data is much more difficult to get together is the so-called commanders, farmindars of the provinces.&nbsp; They are appointed by the Supreme Leader and they are all of them, as those whom I have been able of identifying -- all of them are former members of the Revolutionary Guard.</P> <P>Now, I have been trying to understand and comprehend why there is such a necessity of having so many former officers in all these former positions of power, first; and, second, why the system considers it a necessity to replace clerics in these former positions of power with former officers, because for every officer who enters these former positions of power, a cleric goes out.&nbsp; This is a very, very interesting matter to look at.&nbsp; And I see several explanations.</P> <P>The most important is the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership considers itself under a tremendous pressure; pressure from inside Iran, domestic pressure for reform and pressure from outside.&nbsp; Pressure from outside, of course, stems from the Islamic Republic s decision to take a course of conflict with regard to the nuclear issue with the West - with America, with the Europeans - but also with Iran s neighbors, actually; none of them are really that happy with the nuclear programs of the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; </P> <P>And in a situation in which the Islamic Republic has chosen the path of confrontation, it is intolerable for the regime to have people among its midst, among the elites, criticizing the policies of the regime.&nbsp; You always need to portray an image of strength of the regime and portray some kind of unity among regime elites in order to improve your negotiation position, bargaining position, with Westerners, especially in such a high- profile issue that the nuclear issue has become for the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; </P> <P>So in order to have this unity, you need macho officers in office instead of the bureaucratic leftovers from the presidencies of Mr. Khatami and Mr. Rafsanjani.&nbsp; You need a new type of administrator in order to keep the course in the nuclear issue and maintain a very fast and very hard position in that case.</P> <P>But there is also pressure from inside Iran; domestic pressure.&nbsp; And as I see it, there are at least two main pressure groups.&nbsp; And the Islamic Republic is not able to accept such demands for reform, or may be unable to fulfill such expectations for reform.&nbsp; One group is, of course, the economic elites of the Islamic Republic, many of them associates or usually associated with the former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.&nbsp; Those elites are the ones who are bleeding under current sanctions regimes.&nbsp; </P> <P>The Iran bazaar, the economic newspapers, you know, everybody is complaining about the current sanctions regimes.&nbsp; Especially, sanctions in the banking sector are hitting those elites who are close to former President Rafsanjani and who are doing business and who want to get richer, and, therefore, have demonstrated some degree of pragmatism over the years.&nbsp; Now, the Islamic Republic wants to maintain the hard position in the nuclear stance, in the nuclear issue and, therefore, cannot accept reforms in the economic sector.</P> <P>There is also another matter, you know, why the Islamic Republic is not willing to perform any kind of economic liberalization, and it is, of course, that a certain degree of poverty is a control mechanism.&nbsp; If everybody makes his own money, is economically independent from the state, they will also demand political rights.&nbsp; But if they are dependent economically on the state, on the government, our public employees would, of course, also make lesser political demands as we have seen in different places.&nbsp; And it is also  therefore, it is a side discussion, of course, but one might argue that the Chinese model of political non-liberalization but economic openings is maybe not applicable to the Islamic Republic with the current structure that it has.</P> <P>The second, of course, you know, large group demanding reforms and reforms which the system is not willing to give this group is the group around former President Khatami, demanding political liberalization and some degree of democratization even.&nbsp; This is also totally impossible for the Islamic Republic of Iran, at least for the time being.&nbsp; I would even argue that, theoretically, it is impossible forever and ever because the system would totally collapse if you introduce political reforms very much like those which were introduced in the Soviet Union in the last stages.&nbsp; </P> <P>And this is, of course, also the example that the current leadership always uses.&nbsp; It says that Mr. Khatami was Ayatollah Gorbachev.&nbsp; If he introduced that kind of reforms in the system, the entire system would collapse.&nbsp; People would demand for reforms, would accelerate, and the system could not accommodate this kind of systemic change.</P> <P>And besides these two main groups demanding political rights, of course, are student organizations, women organizations; all sorts of smaller grassroots organizations trying to get a foothold and trying to fight for their rights as decent citizens in the Islamic Republic of Iran; not even demanding change of government or anything, just fighting for their rights.&nbsp; But even that is intolerable for the Islamic Republic for the time being because the system believes, for the time being, that it is under pressure and they need to portray themselves as a powerful state.&nbsp; So what you do is that you take some leaders from the Baha i leadership and accuse of them of terrorism.&nbsp; Why do you do this?&nbsp; Or you accuse somebody of being a monarchist.</P> <P>This, of course, is quite interesting.&nbsp; We need to reread our classics of totalitarianism in order to understand the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; It is, of course, true that there are many differences between the totalitarian structures of, let s say, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union and Iran.&nbsp; But there are also some systemic similarities that we should attend to.&nbsp; One of them, as Mr. Ahdiyyih very, very correctly points out, is that the terror does not begin when the revolution is over.&nbsp; The terror regime always begins when the internal opposition is gone, when there is actually no serious opposition challenging the regime because the system is in constant need of enemies.</P> <P>If the Islamic Republic of Iran had not United States of America, they would have sent out the entire Iranian fleet to discover America just to have an enemy.&nbsp; A system like the Islamic Republic is in need of constant enemies, external enemies and internal enemies just in order to maintain control.&nbsp; And hunting, purging the system of enemies of the revolution, of the counter-revolutionaries is also a mechanism of control perfectly well-known from other totalitarian regimes.&nbsp; So there are systemic similarities between what we see in the Islamic Republic and other totalitarian regimes that we have seen throughout history.</P> <P>Now, this terror regime, in my opinion, unfortunately, works; unfortunately, works.&nbsp; This is also what political science tells us.&nbsp; If you install this kind of fear into the hearts of the people, you can control them for a very, very long time, unfortunately.&nbsp; And you see that five percent of the population or so in -- this is an example from occupied France.&nbsp; The five percent to six percent of the population cooperate actively with the occupiers; five percent are resistance fighters; 90 percent just want to survive.&nbsp; This is also true of all other totalitarian regimes.&nbsp; Most people just want to survive yet another day and hope for the best in the future.</P> <P>Of course, there are some very, very courageous figures challenging the regime on its own grounds.&nbsp; You see clerical figures challenging the Islamic legality of the regime.&nbsp; You have someone like Kadivar or Mohsen Kadivar, Abdullah Nouri, former Minister of Interior.&nbsp; These kind of people, they write books in which they say that nothing else has damaged Shia Islam as much as the fact that the Islamic Republic has been in power for the past 30 years because everybody has seen in practice how it has developed.&nbsp; And everybody, nowadays, is telling that, well, the system does not work and the malfunctions of the system are due to Shia Islam, not due to the people who administer this particular interpretation of Shia Islam.&nbsp; So there are very, very courageous people but they are few.</P> <P>And let me just round up this presentation because I have another presentation more specifically about the role of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia later today and I ll return to these issues.</P> <P>This gamble of Ayatollah Khamenei, appointing so many Revolutionary Guardists and keeping people in check, does it work?&nbsp; In the short run, yes, you can control people by fear mechanism, by having experts on violence controlling people and being in administrative positions.&nbsp; But there are several very, very, very, I would say, serious risks involved with this strategy.&nbsp; The first and most obvious is the lesson from civil- military relations everywhere else in the world.&nbsp; It is that when you invite officers into government offices, you cannot throw them out again.&nbsp; This is what we have seen everywhere else.&nbsp; </P> <P>And also, the fact that officers actually, especially of the Revolutionary Guard, are more popular than the clerics.&nbsp; Military personnel are, generally, everywhere in the world - and this is certainly the case in Denmark, also in America and in Iran - more generally considered much more respectable persons than politician types.&nbsp; After all, these people sacrificed everything during the war; they have a certain prestige in the society.&nbsp; And now that they have power, why should they give up their political power?</P> <P>The second challenge to the regime and the strategy of Mr. Khamenei is that Mr. Khamenei is solely basing his rule on the support of the Revolutionary Guardists.&nbsp; This strategy was never the strategy of Ayatollah Khomeini.&nbsp; Ayatollah Khomeini was extremely stubborn; he was old fashioned; he was everything.&nbsp; But he was also very wise in his own, excuse me, old-man ways.&nbsp; He was very wise.&nbsp; He was very wise.&nbsp; In his political testament he wrote,  Never allow the former officers to come into office.&nbsp; Do not involve officers into politics. &nbsp; Why?&nbsp; Because he knew the threats of a military coup.&nbsp; When you invite all sorts of officers, they have weapons; they can control the system totally.</P> <P>Second threat - the third threat is that you can alienate -- by such a strategy, you alienate economic elites of the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; All of them who are supporters of former President Rafsanjani, the economic elites -- they become -- they go  - develop from critics of the regime into enemies of the regime.&nbsp; This is a very costly strategy for Ayatollah Khamenei.&nbsp; </P> <P>And, of course, lastly, you also radicalize the reformists.&nbsp; The reformists also become radicalized because there is no room for expressing their political views and this is, of course, the tragic mistake of the late majesty the Shah of Iran who did not tolerate the opposition and the opposition radicalized.&nbsp; So these lessons -- I hope Ayatollah Khamenei watches this presentation.&nbsp; But these are the threats that such a strategy also entails beside the fact that it stabilizes in the short run.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; In the note-to-self department, I should not be sitting next to Ali anytime soon in case I get referred to as an old lady.&nbsp; Let me turn to Hormoz Hekmat for our last presentation.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Hormoz Hekmat:&nbsp; First of all, I would like to thank American Enterprise Institute for inviting me to be here.&nbsp; It is my pleasure because I have found that, seemingly, no other research institute in the United States that I know of is so in tune with what goes in Iran as this institute.&nbsp; I may not agree with all the solutions that they propose but in terms of recognizing what the Islamic Republic of Iran is, I think no other institute or institution could surpass it.</P> <P>I also would like to thank my friend, Ali, for his very generous comments about my  - what I do, and also take issue with him about the length of my life, how long I have in - 30 years ago, I was actually studying in elementary school in Tehran.&nbsp; I took over the editorship of Iran Nameh only about 14 years ago so I am not that old.</P> <P>Now, I m glad that I wanted to be the last presenter because, now, you are not going to hear much from me; most of what I wanted to say has been already said so I m going to restrict myself to a few points that may not have been developed fully or were not referred to.&nbsp; And, furthermore, I apologize for having to read what I have written; my memory, although I m not that old, is failing me.</P> <P>My comments on Mr. Ahmadinejad and his presidency and the impact of his presidency on Iran s civil and political society is based mostly on my reading of the items carried by the official Islamic Republic of Iran s news agency, IRNA, and some of the more reliable of Iran s semi-independent journals and, particularly, my reading of the almost daily statements, declarations and open letters of various university student organizations across the county and their grievances, demands and hopes.&nbsp; </P> <P>I believe, in fact, that Iranian university students, along with women of Iran, are in the forefront of the long and dangerous and challenging struggle that the Iranians have taken upon themselves against the Islamic Republic of Iran.&nbsp; And I would like to add right here that what we say about the restrictions that this new administration of Mr. Ahmadinejad has imposed upon all layers of Iranian civil society - students, student organizations, women s NGOs, workers attempt to create their unions and women, in general - pales and which restrictions are far more severe than they were before -- pales in the face of the continued resistance and courage of Iranians students who, by droves, go to prison and become tortured, lose their right to continue their education, and also woman who bravely come to the streets once every while who have been active in achieving their goal of a one-million signature campaign that started about a year ago.&nbsp; </P> <P>And for which many brave women have been assaulted, injured, including Iran s poet laureates and the bravest and they are really the most courageous and self-sacrificing intellectuals that we have had.&nbsp; Simin Behbahani who is in her early 80s has been pummeled in the streets several times and she has been threatened by death.&nbsp; So the pressures and restrictions go on but I believe that the spirit of resistance in Iranians, especially in these groups, is not waning; it is increasing.</P> <P>I would like to make two points first.&nbsp; One is that the notion that Mr. Ahmadinejad should be regarded as the main author of his policies and pronouncements even on the most serious consequential issues that touch upon the lives of Iranian citizens is not quite valid, as was pointed out by some of my co-presenters here.&nbsp; Indeed, it was President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University who in his otherwise timely, refreshingly blunt and thoroughly objective descriptions of the current state of affairs in Iran generously elevated Mr. Ahmadinejad to the status of a petty dictator.&nbsp; </P> <P>I think, however, by no means one can consider him at a par with the main architects of the theocratic regime - I still would like to call that regime a theocracy despite the infusion of the Revolutionary Guards in it - or even as one of the most influential members of the exclusive circles of clerics and their military commanders who determine the objectives and the strategy of Iran s domestic and foreign policies.&nbsp; His theatrics and his tendency to evoke the blessings of the Hidden Imam are surely part of his persona; so are his choice of words and perhaps emphasis.&nbsp; He may even be more deeply attached than his religiously clad colleagues, his mentor and even the Supreme Leader to his religious faith, but the originator of the current objectives or policies of the regime is not.</P> <P>A second note  - second point I would like to make has to do with the rather common assumption that Mr. Ahmadinejad in his presentation of the objectives and world view of the Islamic Republic of Iran has little, if any, similarity with his predecessor Mr. Mohammad Khatami; however, apart from the tone and rhetoric, I do not see much difference between the two.&nbsp; It is quite true that Khatami during his presidency allowed for a bit more freedom of expression.&nbsp; We were less likely to become the subjects of abuse and punishment for infractions of Islamic dress code.&nbsp; Journalists and writers had a wider range of subjects to write about.&nbsp; </P> <P>However, in terms of commitment to support and strengthen the essential pillars of the theocratic structure, loyalty to its constitution and, particularly, its world view, the two men can hardly be distinguished apart.&nbsp; Granted Ahmadinejad speaks his mind unabashedly about these issues but Mr. Khatami tries and tried to conceal them in layers of destructive and flowery language and spoke about the rule of law, the importance of civil society and the value of the dialogue between civilizations without much substance and meaning.</P> <P>I m not going to get into the detail of the impact of Mr. Ahmadinejad s administration on civil society and NGOs and different associations because reference has been made to these restrictions.&nbsp; Since not much reference was made to the students, I would like to read a bit from an open letter that was recently sent or addressed to Mr. Ahmadinejad by members of the largest university students association.</P> <P>In this letter, they say -- they criticize Mr. Ahmadinejad for waxing eloquent in his address to Columbia University students about his government s commitment to and respect for freedom and human rights in Iran.&nbsp; Why?&nbsp; Unleashing his security forces to attack and imprison Iranian university students for months mainly for the crime of having an opinion.&nbsp; In the same letter, it is claimed that within the previous two years, 43 Muslim students associations and cultural centers have been shut down.&nbsp; More than 550 students have been summoned before disciplinary committees for expressing their opinions.&nbsp; Many students have also been expelled and imprisoned for bogus or trumped up charges.&nbsp; </P> <P>The letter concludes by affirming the signers commitments to continue the struggle for freedom even while Mr. Ahmadinejad s limitless generosity toward certain countries in Latin America, his inappropriate statements about the Holocaust and his insistence on Iran s right to seek nuclear technology despite international concerns have brought grief, deprivation and sanctions for Iranian people.</P> <P>I would like to add another point here and that is, as far as I can tell - and I refer to the fact that I have been almost meticulously following whatever comes out of these university associations in Iran - I have not once in the last 20 years, at least, seen any single reference to the plight of the Palestinian people, to the United States being a Great Satan, to the invasion or to the occupation of Iraq by the United States and the allied forces.&nbsp; They concentrate simply on implicitly or explicitly criticizing the regime.&nbsp; This has a significant meaning.&nbsp; </P> <P>They could have easily -- if they were of the mind to criticize the Israeli government or the American government, they would have done so.&nbsp; It would have been to their advantage because, then, they would say,  Well, we are with you on these issues, important issues that you consider vital for Iranian -- for your national interest.&nbsp; But at the same time, we want to criticize you a little bit too. &nbsp; They do not do that.&nbsp; That shows, to me, a great distance; quite a great distance between the students who basically, I think, represent the general attitude of the Iranian public because they come from all classes and they number to about  - their number comes to about three to four million across Iran.&nbsp; </P> <P>And while at the same time, before I forget, I would like to add that nearly  - that according to government statistics, between 150 and 200,000 young people, mostly students and graduates from these universities, leave Iran 28 years after the revolution which was suppose to create a utopia in Iran after what the poor old Shah had done to that country during his reign.</P> <P>Finally, I would like to make two points on the political area in Iran, the political arena, political parties and elections.&nbsp; It is assumed -- everybody knows that there are no political parties in Iran but there are elections.&nbsp; However, I wish in English language somebody who would coin a new word that would indicate some elections are not elections which should be some new word - non-election or a show, theatrics.&nbsp; What was going on in Iran during the last 28 years and, especially, in the last election has absolutely nothing to do with the expression of people s wishes and wants and political -- and needs, in terms of electing their representatives who have much less or a congress or a parliament have nothing, nothing, nothing to do.&nbsp; </P> <P>They do not have parties; they cannot aggregate and express their opinions through parties.&nbsp; Individuals can know what they want by themselves in terms of how to present them; their desires for this kind of political participation.&nbsp; No parties, no free press and, more important than that, the local groups, the NGOs have no right to choose their own candidates.&nbsp; The candidates have to go through a vetting procedure, several vetting procedures.&nbsp; At the end, the final decision is made by the Supreme Leader and the members of the Guardian Council as who should be the candidate  - who should be  - who are the candidates - legitimate candidates for the seats in the congress.&nbsp; </P> <P>And then once the phony show is over and the people are elected by less than 50 percent of the Iranian people basically participating in the elections, especially in last election -- I do not know about the percentage but it was very low, lower than the elections before.&nbsp; Now once these so-called representatives get into majlis, they have absolutely no power of making laws because they are superseded by the Guardian Council, by the Expediency Council and, at the end, by the Supreme Leader himself.&nbsp; </P> <P>It is all a charade, and I was really flabbergasted about two years ago when I heard former President Clinton in Davos conference saying that,  Well, when you talk about Iran, you should remember that this country has had regular elections for the last 25 years. &nbsp; How could one say that if one knows what election means in Iran?</P> <P>And finally, I m going to conclude with reading a couple of statements made by  - do I have time for this?&nbsp; Okay, sure, because I cannot find it.</P> <P>Okay, this is a statement made by Ayatollah Montazeri, once the designated successor to Khomeini and long considered  - long consigned to house arrest later and has been -- who has described challenges facing the clerical regime in the following manner.&nbsp; There are signs of unprecedented crisis in Iran with both internal and external dimensions.&nbsp; And the core  - the reasons are, one, none of the promises of the revolutionary leaders have been fulfilled.&nbsp; </P> <P>The lack of experience in governance by an exclusive religious elite - we should add exclusive religious and military elite; the contradictory nature of the Islamic constitution; presidential accountability without the authority which is vested in the office of the Supreme Leader; disregard of the citizens basic rights and freedoms; the airing of the public s faith in Islam.&nbsp; This is a cleric, one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of the main leaders of the Islamic Revolution who is now sitting there and looking at what  - at the failure and confesses the failure of the regime.&nbsp; </P> <P>And more important than that is what Ibrahim Yazdi, with whom I had the dubious honor of being a member of the first Student Association created in the U.S. in the late  60s, committed to the change of monarchical system, change of this regime in Iran and who later became Foreign Minister of the first cabinet in the Islamic Republic under Mr. Bazargan.&nbsp; </P> <P>He says the theocratic system in Iran has failed.&nbsp; He is still in Iran and he is free to react and the once-formidable theocratic system in Iran has failed, and the once-formidable moral herald authority of the Shia clergy has waned tremendously.&nbsp; Ahmadinejad is representing the interest and ambitions of the Revolutionary Guard of which many active members are now occupying prominent and sensitive positions within this government as Ali pointed out.&nbsp; His economic, political and social policies at home and behavior abroad have been far below expectations.&nbsp; </P> <P>The growing resentment of many social groups and classes in Iran, particularly amongst students, workers and woman regarding the prevailing political, social and cultural circumstances in one hand, and the gradual economic and political chaos particularly in recent years on the other may lead Iran towards a detour.</P> <P>And finally, my final word, Mesbah Yazdi, a cleric who is long a religious and ideological mentor of Mr. Ahmadinejad, has summarized the effect of the Islamic Republic on the Iranian society as follows:&nbsp;  The coming generation of Iranians is faced with dire dangers.&nbsp; It is neither informed by traditional values and customs nor influence by Islamic tenets, educated under the influence of Western culture which is ever-present in the media and university classrooms.&nbsp; They have learned nothing except to express their disdain for the government and at times even for Islam.&nbsp; It is time that we all follow scrupulously the instructions of the Supreme Leader for transforming Iran into a truly Islamic society. &nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; I have committed a cardinal sin of moderators, which is to not keep us within our time.&nbsp; But I hope that if our audience and our next panelists will indulge us a little bit, we can take a little bit of extra time for questions and answers about these excellent presentations.</P> <P>It struck me that the criticism of one of our guests was exactly right, and that the Ahmadinejad presidency and its impact on Iranian society is probably not exactly correct and that we should have talked more generally about Ahmadinejad as a symptom growing out of  - growing out of Iranian society and the changes therein.</P> <P>Let me open up the floor to questions.&nbsp; If I can ask everybody to follow our rules - identify yourself and please put your statement in the form of a brief question.&nbsp; Ken, I see your arm back there.</P> <P>Ken Timmerman:&nbsp; Ken Timmerman from the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.&nbsp; I actually have a question for Ali Alfoneh, which I m going to hold until your luncheon panel because it is specifically on the Rev Guards.&nbsp; But in the meantime, Tom Parker, you are a very welcome addition to your organization, which has gotten millions of dollars in State Department funding and I think, thanks to your presence, they are finally doing some things that are useful.</P> <P>You mentioned that it is impossible to work with or hard to work with people on the ground inside Iran.&nbsp; In fact, lots of other organizations are doing that without millions of dollars in State Department funding.&nbsp; I wonder if you could comment on the guidelines from the State Department because I know that they have said to some groups,  Do not work with groups inside Iran because it is too provocative to the regime. &nbsp; Have you gotten that kind of guidelines from the State Department?</P> <P>Thank you.</P> <P>Tom Parker:&nbsp; No.&nbsp; Actually, the State has really given us very few guidelines at all about how to spend their money other than to be a lot more productive than we were in our first two years, which I think was very reasonable of them.&nbsp; Though I have been struck, actually, by the freedom that we have had to choose the subjects that we wanted to research.&nbsp; We have not received any steer at all from State as to what subjects they want us to concentrate on or anything like that.&nbsp; We get money from different pockets of State as well as you point out; it is not that we get one lump sum.&nbsp; We get money from both Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and from the Middle East Program Initiative.&nbsp; So we have different pots of money.&nbsp; </P> <P>But the human rights world is much like any other business; you still have to pay the bills.&nbsp; My organization costs $650,000 a year to run; we have to find that funding from somewhere.</P> <P>A challenge that I should have mentioned -- if you work on Iran, raising money from the Iranian community is very, very difficult.&nbsp; It is a fractured community in many ways; there are lots of different political points of view.&nbsp; It is very difficult to accept money from one person without alienating four others.&nbsp; A lot of people still have family inside Iran; they do not want to be linked to anything that could be seen as being political to jeopardize their ability to travel or to see their family members.&nbsp; </P> <P>So we found it remarkably difficult to raise non-governmental sources of revenue which, dear God, I would love to do because, obviously, receiving large chunks of money from the State Department never looks good for the independence of any organization.&nbsp; Nor would it look good if we were getting large chunks of money from the German government, the British government, or the Chinese.&nbsp; You know what I mean?&nbsp; It just is not great to have one source of funding or one major funder; you want diversity of funding.</P> <P>In the NGO world, we talk about a funding stool.&nbsp; The funding stool is an analogy used to say -- to illustrate the point you should have four funding streams.&nbsp; Your funding streams should be governmental, private donors, foundations and revenue that you generate of which the best is to have revenue you generate; the worst is to have government funding because it is so whimsical and, obviously, dependent on political winds of change.&nbsp; So we would love to broaden our funding sources; it is something that we have tried very hard to do in the past year.&nbsp; But it takes time.&nbsp; And most NGOs take three or four years to get to the point that they receive a broad range of funding.</P> <P>Male Voice:&nbsp; My name is Diwa [phonetic].&nbsp; [Speaks away from the microphone].&nbsp; The leader of Iran had a meeting in Kerman, a city in Iran and declared a kind of nuclear celebration. And he called the diplomacy of [Ahmadinejad] a new brand of diplomacy.&nbsp; It seems that this diplomacy is working.&nbsp; He thanked him and asked him please to continue just fine.&nbsp; The thing that -- what he said at the same time looking at the responses from the other side is that almost every red line set by the Supreme Leader-- the Iranian government has violated all of them and there has been no real reaction to that.&nbsp; My question is that -- do you think that this new diplomacy is really genuinely supported?</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Mohebat, turn on your mike.</P> <P>Mohebat Ahdiyyih:&nbsp; This actually goes back to the more basic question that often comes up that whether the Supreme Leader is really solidly behind Ahmadinejad and supports him.&nbsp; And for those who deal with Iran know that it is very hard to come to a solid conclusion about that.&nbsp; But, at least, the statements the Supreme Leader have made over time since Ahmadinejad has become president has been in his support.</P> <P>Once in a while, he may indirectly adjust something and even change a policy or a move by the president but, generally speaking, he has been supporting him.&nbsp; And what he refers to with Ahmadinejad s policy being successful is what he himself - Ahmadinejad and his supporters - calls aggressive policy rather than passive policy.&nbsp; And they accuse Khatami, especially, of giving in to the West on a variety of issues.&nbsp; And so, they compare that with Ahmadinejad s record and say that Ahmadinejad is not like that; he is bringing back the solid power.</P> <P>For example -- I ll just give you an example; you will see how it works.&nbsp; As there is discussion of negotiating with Iran here, there is also a discussion in Iran, Iranian media, about whether they should negotiate with the U.S. or not.&nbsp; And there are various opinions of that.&nbsp; So at some point, Supreme Leader - Ahmadinejad, obviously, from the beginning did not look like he would be for negotiation.&nbsp; But circumstances eventually were forced and some had to take place, as you know, in Iraq; some discussions have taken place.</P> <P>So the way Supreme Leader solved the problem -- because he had to satisfy the fact that there had to be some talks and then there are these large hard-line factions that do not want to talk.&nbsp; The way he solved the problem which actually shows a bit of genius on the part of Supreme Leader was that he said,  Yes, we are going to sit down and talk with Americans and inform them that they are guilty. &nbsp; And the term he used is [speaks in Farsi/Persian].&nbsp; I know you have a doctorate in law and you know what that means.&nbsp; That means you officially inform a guilty party of the guilt.&nbsp; </P> <P>So Supreme Leader said,  That is the purpose of this discussion. &nbsp; That is how they proceeded in talking with the Americans in Iraq.&nbsp; So they always have, as you know -- you follow Iranian developments.&nbsp; The way to strike this kind of language that would satisfy to some extent different factions.&nbsp; But at this point, hard-line faction is in ascendancy and Ahmadinejad represents that faction.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; I m sure there are plenty of people with whom they would negotiate who would agree with them about our guilt as well.</P> <P>Mohebat Ahdiyyih:&nbsp; Yes.</P> <P>Chris Isham:&nbsp; Chris Isham with CBS News.&nbsp; The question is addressed to Mr. Ahdiyyih but I would be interested in the thoughts of the other panelists as well.&nbsp; You mentioned that you felt the regime was facing serious instability.&nbsp; What is the evidence of that instability?&nbsp; How severe is it?&nbsp; And do you think it is, on the whole, manageable?</P> <P>Mohebat Ahdiyyih:&nbsp; Instability in the sense that there is division in the -- since the beginning of the revolution, there was one thing that was clear.&nbsp; There was a conservative faction, hard-line but kind of pragmatic, that was making ultimate decisions about how things would go.&nbsp; And that practical approach is kind of lost.&nbsp; That was to a great extent represented by Rafsanjani, former president, and his supporters.&nbsp; And if you look at how he has been treated since Ahmadinejad became president, it is astounding the way Rafsanjani is talked about in the Iranian websites supporting Ahmadinejad.&nbsp; And, of course, Rafsanjani is not someone who would easily give up and just go away.</P> <P>In fact, in, I think, 2006, it was elections for Assembly of Experts; it looked like he even rose by becoming -- in fact, overcoming the opposition from Mesbah Yazdi [phonetic] and others and becoming their speaker.&nbsp; So the fact that you have -- if you check closest websites to these leaders - Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad - on a daily basis, it is so unusual, the language that they are using against each other.&nbsp; It is almost like they are ready to kill each other; that is the language they are using.&nbsp; And that is the outward sign of instability.&nbsp; </P> <P>But also the fact that - I ll just give one more example and I ll stop - Rafsanjani has been repeating that Iran faces a serious threat of being attacked by the U.S., and he thinks this is very serious; it could happen.&nbsp; Ahmadinejad and his factional supporters say it is never going to happen.&nbsp; It is just a psychological war waged by the West.&nbsp; So it is just an entirely different world view that they seem to have.</P> <P>And also, both sides are considering what is the reaction of the population.&nbsp; Obviously, Ahmadinejad does not want Iranians to think U.S. is about to attack.&nbsp; In fact, I think if Iranians find out, because they do not know the risks of having this nuclear program which could lead to a military confrontation, the regime would face serious opposition by the large numbers of Iranians.&nbsp; The key is to find a way to communicate with the Iranian people that anyone who finds that probably would win a Nobel Prize for something.&nbsp; How to reach the Iranian population is one of the biggest questions we are facing these days.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Actually, this young man had his hand up.&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; And what I would like to do is just take one more very quick question.&nbsp; If you would be kind enough to keep it super brief because we need to wrap up.</P> <P>Alex Vatanka:&nbsp; Good morning.&nbsp; Alex Vatanka from Jane s.&nbsp; A question for Mr. Ahdiyyih.&nbsp; You mentioned Mahdism and, you know, we have talked about Ahmadinejad and the Hidden Imam agenda.&nbsp; Now, in Iraq, Mahdism, essentially neighboring Iraq - the holy sites of Najaf and Karbala - the debate over there is to fight against the Hoza [phonetic].&nbsp; That is Mahdism in Iraq.</P> <P>How can Ahmadinejad in Iran be moving towards Mahdism if the theocracy that is in place has resulted in becoming the president?&nbsp; Essentially, what I m saying is Mahdism in Iraq is rejectionist.&nbsp; Ahmadinejad is not a rejectionist.&nbsp; How do you -- how does he work that one out?&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Mohebat Ahdiyyih:&nbsp; Fascinating.&nbsp; I wish we had more time to just address this one topic.&nbsp; But just in one minute or two it is -- the dynamics that is going on in Iran right now regarding Mahdism, Ahmadinejad, clerics, secular hardliners is one of the most interesting things to watch in Iran because there is one thing clerics in Iran wanted to hide and did not want that to come out at all since the beginning.</P> <P>In fact, they even revised books of traditions as old as centuries like Haviz as they call it.&nbsp; They changed it; the words were taken out because there are certain things about Mahdism, about Mahdi, about Hidden Imam that these people find out about that.&nbsp; It is so astonishing.</P> <P>For example, the fact that the greatest enemies of the Hidden Imam are going to be the clerics, that is right in the traditions.&nbsp; And that, in fact, one of the main accomplishments of the Hidden Imam is going to be the defeat of the clerics that kind of wiped them out.&nbsp; So here is a situation that you have a theocracy establishment run by the clerics and here is a president who believes in Mahdism and how is he going to handle this.</P> <P>In early months of his presidency, it was not unusual to hear from Ahmadinejad advisers that would actually openly say,  When Hidden Imam appears, he will slaughter the clerics. &nbsp; They were coming -- statements like that were coming out of Iran, which actually frightened the clerical establishment and until today you hear and you read complaints coming out of Qum [phonetic] about the fact that Ahmadinejad s government does not take clerics seriously; they are being disrespected and that they are being undermined.</P> <P>&nbsp;And, in fact, that is not only true; Ahmadinejad seems to be pushing for another class to replace them and that is Maddaham [phonetic] which are connected with IRGC and Basij.&nbsp; That is a pseudo class of lay clerics that are becoming very powerful, and, in fact, one of them won the second place in the recent election of the Majlis which was very unusual for them.</P> <P>Thank you.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; I think Ali had a last comment.</P> <P>Ali Alfoneh:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; In Washington D.C., there is almost a consensus that the Iranian president s remarks about the Twelfth Imam and that kind of thing is because he is mentally unbalanced.&nbsp; But I totally agree with Mr. Ahdiyyih.</P> <P>This Mr. Ahmadinejad is brilliant in many ways.&nbsp; He is fairly well educated, he is very well read and he also knows Machiavelli s Principe by heart.&nbsp; He knows that you can manipulate people with the help of religion.&nbsp; You can use religion instrumentally, and instrumental use of religion in the case of Dr. Ahmadinejad - he is a doctor, let s not forget - is to use this Mahdi phenomenon to promote his matters.&nbsp; </P> <P>What he is doing is quite interesting for anybody who knows the history of Christianity -- development of Christianity.&nbsp; When President Ahmadinejad says that he communicates with the Twelfth Imam somehow, he sends a letter into a well and he receives some kind of answer about which ministers to appoint for his government.&nbsp; He is secularizing access to God.&nbsp; He is democratizing access to God Almighty and to the Twelfth Imam.&nbsp; Why?&nbsp; Because, then, you no longer have the clergy as middle-men between the individual and God Almighty.&nbsp; </P> <P>So, in a way, this could be -- and this is my interpretation and this is nothing that I hear anywhere else but Mr. Mohebat s comments today that this could have tremendous effects about the future developments of Shia Islam.&nbsp; I know that Dr. Mehdi Khalaji from the Washington Institute totally disagrees with us, and I wish he was here to discuss this issue.&nbsp; He has a doctorate in theology.&nbsp; I wish he had been here to make his remarks.</P> <P>Thank you.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; He was out of town.&nbsp; I m going to apologize to the gentleman who had his hand up because I really think we need to move on.&nbsp; Let me encourage you to approach our panelists afterwards.&nbsp; We are going to take a very small - if I may ask your indulgence - break and move to our next panel.</P> <P>Thank you to our panelists.&nbsp; Excellent presentations.</P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>Panel II:&nbsp; Iranian Foreign Policymaking and the West </P> <P>&nbsp;Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Can I ask everybody to be seated, please?&nbsp; In an effort to keep you all on your toes, Michael Rubin and I have switched places.&nbsp; I m going to moderate and he is going to speak, which I think will be of great benefit to all of us, me included.&nbsp; Our next panel is on Iranian foreign policymaking in the West.&nbsp; Again, I think what we are interested in doing here is not talking as much about the symptoms, and talking a little bit about how Iranian foreign policymaking comes together, how we respond to it, trying to look at it from a slightly different perspective than, perhaps, is normally done in coverage of issues that I know are familiar to everybody.&nbsp; </P> <P>We have three panelists to discuss these issues: Patrick Clawson, who is practically an honorary scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, although I m not going to tell the board or Rob Satloff at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.&nbsp; But Patrick is the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute.&nbsp; He is a well-known expert and authority on Iranian issues and on Iranian economic questions, as well, and writes frequently on these issues.&nbsp; </P> <P>Alex Vatanka, who will present first, is the managing editor of Jane s Intelligence Digest and Jane s Islamic Affairs.&nbsp; And he is the resident specialist at the Jane s Information Group on Iran.&nbsp; I do not think that Alex has spoken here before, have you?</P> <P>&nbsp;Alex Vatanka:&nbsp; No.</P> <P>&nbsp;Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; So I m very happy to have you among the many recidivists.&nbsp; Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.&nbsp; He is also a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School s Center for Civil Military Relations and the editor of the Middle East Quarterly.&nbsp; I know that everybody here is familiar with his writing on Iran.&nbsp; And I m glad that he was willing to trade places with me.&nbsp; </P> <P>Let me also ask if our panelists can turn off their Black Berries.&nbsp; Apparently, that is a part of what is causing some of our sound dodginess.&nbsp; I m going to be the first to do that, as well.&nbsp; Alex, over to you.</P> <P>&nbsp;Alex Vatanka:&nbsp; Well, good morning, everyone, and thank you again to the American Enterprise Institute for inviting me this morning.&nbsp; Very tough to obviously say anything half decent after what we heard already, so forgive me for not telling you anything that you have not already heard.&nbsp; But the focus, at least, in the couple of minutes I have will be on the foreign policy aspects when it comes to Iran.&nbsp; </P> <P>Those of us who sort of follow the Iranian news on a daily basis are faced with this diversity of opinion coming from Iran.&nbsp; There is debate on all sorts of issues: domestic, social, economic, political, and so forth.&nbsp; This is not a country that is not having -- opinions have been expressed publicly inside the country.&nbsp; That is the case.&nbsp; Well, when you actually think about the most critical issues that are facing Iran, that is where you do not have the debate.&nbsp; At least that is my reading, and I would love to hear other people s opinions.&nbsp; </P> <P>Those are the issues where you do not have the debate that is obviously necessary.&nbsp; I have called it red lines.&nbsp; I do not know if it really make sense, but you often hear this phrase,  red lines. &nbsp; The Iranians love to say,  That is our red line. &nbsp; A couple of days ago, an Iranian official was told what happened in Lebanon, what happened with Hezbollah.&nbsp; The official kept talking about the governor of Lebanon having crossed Hezbollah s red line.&nbsp; So you hear this again and again.&nbsp; </P> <P>So what are these red lines in Iran?&nbsp; As far as I can tell, the three red lines, as far as Iranian foreign policy relations with the West and the U.S., in particular, are concerned -- these relate to the nuclear dossier and Iran s nuclear program, Iranian interventions in Iraq, and, obviously, the last one which is the future of U.S.-Iran relations, a direct head-on issue that concerns the entire regime.&nbsp; These are the red lines.&nbsp; The fact that they are red lines and are not part of that debate that is going on inside the country over other issues, I think, from my reading, my humble understanding, is because they are directly related to the interest of the Supreme Leader.&nbsp; That is the only reason why they are red lines.&nbsp; </P> <P>If Ali Khamenei was not the Supreme Leader, they would not have been red lines.&nbsp; They would have been issues that could have been debated in a much more sophisticated, systematic way than they are being debated at the moment.&nbsp; And for Ali Khamenei, these are critical issues because they are directly, from his perspective, tied to his future.&nbsp; And that is why they are red lines.</P> <P>Let me start with this.&nbsp; And again, I think I m the only one today who is going to have a PowerPoint and I apologize if this is going to annoy anyone here.&nbsp; So there is a debate and criticism is occurring on a daily basis.&nbsp; Let me give you an example.&nbsp; Ahmadinejad s overseas trips are very often criticized massively by various media in the country.&nbsp; Ahmadinejad s, for instance, adventures in Latin America - very frequently criticized on all different levels by the media.&nbsp; </P> <P>But when it comes to the nuclear issue, when it comes to his attitudes towards the United Nations, when he comes up with things like  The Iranian nuclear program is a locomotive without brakes on, you do not hear criticism of Ahmadinejad.&nbsp; I think the reason for that is by criticizing Ahmadinejad, what that newspaper or that official is doing is indirectly criticizing the Supreme Leader.&nbsp; And that is where the red line is.&nbsp; If a policy seemed to be sanctioned by the Supreme Leader, you stay away from it.&nbsp; That is just to be on the safe side.&nbsp; </P> <P>I just heard Mr. Ahdiyyih say before that Khamenei does not have decisive power, and I agree fully with that.&nbsp; He does not have decisive power; I wish I have brought one of these diagrams which show the distribution of power in Iran.&nbsp; But it seems to me he does have a decisive interest, which is for him to stay on in power and for the Islamic republic to continue and the office of the Supreme Leader in Iran to continue to exist the way it had existed since the creation of the Islamic republic.&nbsp; That is one decisive interest that he does have, despite the fact that he does not have decisive power.&nbsp; </P> <P>So all he seems to be doing is making sure the regime continues.&nbsp; And if there is one issue in his mind that would undermine the regime and if there is one issue that scares him more than anything else is U.S. opposition to the regime.&nbsp; That is why the U.S and everything -- any single issue where the U.S. is involved vis--vis Iran, again, be it nuclear, Iran s involvement in Iraq, sponsorship of terrorism, and so forth, if it involves the U.S., it becomes a Khamenei-type of state of affairs.&nbsp; Hence, the debate is not taking place because nobody in this system is able to pick up a fight with the Supreme Leader.&nbsp; </P> <P>And there is a second point there.&nbsp; I mean, broadly speaking, from what I can detect - and I have really simplified this - where you have a reformist, people like Mohammad Khatami, the former president; people like, arguably, Mehdi Karubi, who is trying to run perhaps, again, for the presidency in 2009, sort of center-left.&nbsp; You have got the conservative pragmatists, which is now in Iranian political terms the big bloc, and it is a messy bloc.&nbsp; Anybody can walk into this bloc and walk out again tomorrow, depending on where the wind is taking you.&nbsp; </P> <P>It is a confusing one, yet it does have the upper hand at times.&nbsp; The most notable individuals that belong to the conservative pragmatic camp are people like the former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani; people like Ali Larijani, the chief nuclear negotiator, who is probably going to be running for the presidency in 2009; people like Hasan Rohani, the former chief nuclear negotiator.&nbsp; It is a big bloc.&nbsp; And then you have got the far right, best represented by the face of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and people like him.&nbsp; </P> <P>I would say the reformists are the tiniest of these three blocs.&nbsp; The far-right is probably second in terms of size, perhaps not influence; it might be more influential but in terms of size and where debate might emanate from, in terms of individuals who stand up and say,  All right, I have something to say about the long-term strategic interests of Iran, if we are expecting a particular face to come out, I think we should look out for a conservative pragmatist because, as I said, just because of numbers.&nbsp; </P> <P>Finally, if there is time I would like to touch on this issue of the Supreme National Security Council.&nbsp; This, as far as the Iranian constitution is concerned, the constitution that was revised in 1989, is the body that decides strategic national security issues in Iran.&nbsp; There is nobody else that has the power invested or organ that has these types of powers invested as the Supreme National Security Council.&nbsp; And the Supreme National Security Council was created in 1989 after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder.&nbsp; And the reason seems pretty obvious.&nbsp; Look, nobody is going to be able to match the prestige and power and authority of Khomeini.&nbsp; How do we do it?&nbsp; How would we bring consensus about, hence, the creation of the Supreme National Security Council?&nbsp; </P> <P>So it is supposed to forge foreign policy consensus but I have some thoughts on that; I ll have a slide later on.&nbsp; But I would say, actually, it does not seem to be forging or bringing about consensus at all.&nbsp; If there is one entity in the Iranian system where you can every time and again see the hand of one all-powerful individual or entity, it is the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who I say is sufficiently powerful to coordinate internal regime disagreements.&nbsp; </P> <P>Look, we have to remind ourselves the pressure that Iran is under.&nbsp; I mean since the republic was created in 1979 you have not heard these types of statements that Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of back in April that the Pentagon is preparing for possible military action against Iran, and that Iran has expressed long-term goals to be the regional power.&nbsp; You have had three sets of sanctions imposed on Iran because of its non-failure to act upon the resolutions taken against it; three sets of UN resolutions, which could turn out to be much more penalizing in months to come, depending on what happens at the UN Security Council among the permanent five plus Germany.&nbsp; </P> <P>You have Arab states in the region who are directly or indirectly saying to the Iranians,  Look, we do not like what you are doing in Lebanon.&nbsp; We do not like what you are doing in Gaza.&nbsp; We are suspicious of your ambitions in Iraq. &nbsp; So you have -- combine these three issues - the fact that the U.S. has not been putting pressure on Iran to this extent ever, since the creation of the Islamic republic; UN is now in the fray; and you have got neighboring states, states that you actually have borders with, telling you they are kind of anxious about what you are doing - these things to me suggest you should have a very dynamic and hot debate inside Iran.&nbsp; And that debate is taking place, but it is divided.&nbsp; </P> <P>First, let me point out that, as I think was pointed out before, there is no real debate inside Iran about whether the U.S. is going to attack Iran over its nuclear program militarily.&nbsp; I do not see that debate.&nbsp; That might have happened in 2004, 2005, but it is not there anymore.&nbsp; It is not there anymore.&nbsp; And I will get to that; that is actually the point that follows.&nbsp; But, look, in Iran it seems that the debate is about the U.S. trying to weaken Iran in the Middle East.&nbsp; So those who are debating this issue are saying,  Look, never mind the idea that the U.S. is going to attack us, but we do have an adversary here and we have interests in the region.&nbsp; How do we best secure our interests? &nbsp; And there is a clear division there.&nbsp; </P> <P>Second to that, you have worries inside the regime about what is the U.S. government going to do undermine the regime?&nbsp; We heard about the Shiraz bombing; very interesting.&nbsp; We have heard about the ministry of intelligence last week come out with all sorts of accusations about the British and the Americans being involved.&nbsp; The reading -- at least the debate is, about subversive elements inside Iran being aided and guided and so forth by foreign powers.&nbsp; Obviously, they refer to the U.S. and UK every single time.&nbsp; </P> <P>This is not something new.&nbsp; This goes back to 2004 with the first beheading of the IRGC members at the hands of Jundullah, the Sunni insurgents back then.&nbsp; But it is escalating and there is more and more of this in the media in Iran.&nbsp; Now, this is a sidekick to what I m saying here, but you could imagine what tool this is in the hands of hardliner if you were trying to bring about any kind of reform in this system.&nbsp; Anything you will try and do, they will label you a counterrevolutionary, somebody who has an agenda that is actually trying to promote the interest not of the Iranian people but of the United States.&nbsp; It is an amazing, powerful tool in the hands of the hardliners in Iran.&nbsp; </P> <P>Another thing about the Iranian hardliners is they talk about military action against Iran; statements, as I put up there, by Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen [phonetic] as a bluff.&nbsp; They see only a carrot; they do not see a stick.&nbsp; They say,  Look, the U.S. is totally bogged down. &nbsp; The phrase they love to use is  quagmire ; the Iraqi quagmire for the Americans, the quagmire in Afghanistan.&nbsp; </P> <P>There is no prospect for a U.S. military action against Iran.&nbsp; All they say to you is go and read your U.S. media.&nbsp; Where is that going to come from?&nbsp; With what force and capability?&nbsp; So they are saying,  Resist it.&nbsp; Resist the rhetoric that is coming from Washington because if you resist, you will get the concessions that you have been seeking. &nbsp; </P> <P>But the reformists take another attitude to this.&nbsp; And again, this often is implicit because in a system like that of Iran, the red lines being in place, criticizing the nuclear program -- what the Iranians are doing in Iraq and so forth could easily end up making you serve time in a prison somewhere.&nbsp; But as I said, there is a concern.&nbsp; I think with Mohammad Khatami the last two weeks have been saying about,  Look, what are we doing in neighboring states? &nbsp; </P> <P>He did not say,  What are we doing in Iraq? &nbsp; He was more indirect because he has to be.&nbsp; He has to be very careful what he says.&nbsp; But there is this concern that Iran is overplaying its hand.&nbsp; This assertiveness that define in certain factions within Iran - as I said, primarily among the far right - does not have the full support.&nbsp; </P> <P>A very interesting editorial that I just picked up from the 11th of May from Kayhan; this is the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei s office.&nbsp; The chief editor of Kayhan, Shariatmadari, is appointed by the Supreme Leader.&nbsp; So in many ways people read Kayhan thinking,  This is what the Supreme Leader thinks. &nbsp; If you read this today, I would suggest what an assertive tone for a country that is faced by UN Security Council resolutions time and again; threat of U.S. force, the mightiest military power that the planet has ever seen; your Arab neighboring states are saying,  What are you doing, and you come up with something like this.&nbsp; </P> <P>The power game in the Middle East does not have more than two players, namely Iran and America.&nbsp; Where is the mention of Arab states?&nbsp; Where is the respect that Saudi Arabia feels it is entitled to?&nbsp; There is none.&nbsp; Saudi Arabia is not even seen as a player.&nbsp; It is between Iran and the U.S.&nbsp; And when they find a grand bargain that they can sort of agree to, then that is the solution.&nbsp; </P> <P>I m running out of time, but I m more than happy to give you the slides later.&nbsp; But look at this sort of a slightly different take by a reformist newspaper, which is actually affiliated with Mehdi Karubi s.&nbsp; It says,  Look, the P5 plus one is drawing a plan, an incentive package for Iran to solve the deadlock over Iran s nuclear program.&nbsp; And Iran has proposed a package, which includes solution in four global areas, including global security, democracy, energy, and the economy. &nbsp; </P> <P>Basically, the issue is  Who are you kidding? &nbsp; With what tools in the toolbox are you going to go out there and try and achieve these grand, wonderful visions?&nbsp; What about eradicating poverty in Iran first?&nbsp; And it says,  Mr. President, many of the countries that you denounce and intend to export spirituality to are dream places that our compatriots are seeking to get visas to. &nbsp; </P> <P>So again, there is a debate.&nbsp; But, you see, you do not have those red lines here.&nbsp; There is no issue of the nuclear program mentioned here, or Iran in Iraq.&nbsp; You ve got to be very abstract about it.&nbsp; And I think that abstractness is one of the major issues that you somehow have to work out with.&nbsp; How do you get more specific?&nbsp; </P> <P>Okay, I m going to wrap up.&nbsp; But very quickly, these are the figures here that you have in the Supreme National Security Council.&nbsp; And if the Supreme National Security Council in Iran headed by Ahmadinejad is the organ that is supposed to bring about consensus, just look at who is in that council; you see there is never going to be a consensus coming out of this organization.&nbsp; </P> <P>I mean, I want to get into a bit of detail here.&nbsp; I mean, we heard somebody say they want to kill each other.&nbsp; I bet that will happen at some point in my lifetime.&nbsp; That leaves this guy in charge of the whole thing.&nbsp; And that is why we spend too much time on Ahmadinejad, not enough time about this guy, why he is worried, where he is coming from, where he wants to go.&nbsp; With that, thank you very much.</P> <P>&nbsp;Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; And I m sorry to make you accelerate.&nbsp; I hope we will be able to post Alex s PowerPoint presentation on our website.&nbsp; Let me turn to Patrick.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>&nbsp;Patrick Clawson:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; There has been concern in Washington and the West, in general, about an apocalyptic tendency in the Islamic Republic s foreign policy.&nbsp; Most of us do not know very much about apocalyptic thinking in Shia Islam but what little we learn suggests that, indeed, the return of the Mahdi will be a very bloody moment by many traditions; he will kill two-thirds of humanity.&nbsp; But as far as we can tell, there is no indication whatsoever that at any point, anyone around Ahmadinejad or the president himself has ever suggested that the way to hasten the return of the Hidden Imam is through launching a bloody war.&nbsp; </P> <P>Let me just repeat that.&nbsp; There are no indications, whatsoever, that either Ahmadinejad himself or the people around him think that the way to hasten they return of the Hidden Imam is through launching a bloody war.&nbsp; Indeed, in his many statements, if you look at them carefully, watch his body language, he is deeply convinced that - and so are many of the people around him, many of his advisers - that the Hidden Imam is going to return first but they are not even consistent or clear in saying that any human action can bring that about.&nbsp; And in the face of criticism from many of the devout, they will retreat into ambiguity on that very question as to whether or not it is possible for human action to bring about this event, which they expect to happen soon.&nbsp; </P> <P>That said, I should warn you that a great deal of what Ahmadinejad says -- and not just Ahmadinejad personally but many other people around him, many other people in the Revolutionary Guard Corps and, for that matter, frankly, many of Khamenei s best friends and Khamenei himself.&nbsp; Much of what they say is entirely divorced from the great philosophical traditions of Shia Islam and that by his very training and orientation and his entire life experience, Khamenei - not Ahmadinejad, but Khamenei - has been opposed to the application of reason to the matters of religion and has believed in deeply superstitious things.&nbsp; This is a man who is repeatedly on record as believing that with enough sufficient faith he can teleport himself any place on earth physically.</P> <P>So this is not somebody who is going to be necessarily constrained by the great philosophical traditions.&nbsp; This is not Khomeini.&nbsp; This is not the people of Qom.&nbsp; Indeed, one of the reasons we published a methodology study was to show precisely how the great philosophical traditions of Qom have little impact upon this current government in Iran that is much more dominated by people from Mashad who have always opposed these philosophical traditions.&nbsp; </P> <P>Well, the apocalyptic strain is not what worries me about the war generation of which Ahmadinejad is a member.&nbsp; And we heard much about how the military, in general, and, specifically, veterans of the war are taking over.&nbsp; I do not think that is surprising.&nbsp; After all, many countries which go through such a bitter experience as the Iran-Iraq War -- 20 years down the road the veterans of that experience think that they saved the country and they have the moral right to run the place.&nbsp; </P> <P>What worries me, instead, is two characteristics that Ahmadinejad typifies but he is by no means alone in sharing.&nbsp; And number one is ignorance about the outside world.&nbsp; This is a generation which has not traveled abroad much, which has not studied abroad much, which does not care about the outside world very much, which in many cases, does not know foreign languages and is not bothered by that in the least.&nbsp; And therefore, their image of what happens in the outside world is quite unrestrained by reality.&nbsp; </P> <P>If we take a look at Ahmadinejad s statements, he is more blunt than some of his counterparts but he really does believe what he has been saying vigorously the last three weeks that the countdown to the disintegration of the corrupt West has begun.&nbsp; It is not just Israel which is shortly going to fall apart; it is the entire corrupt West.&nbsp; And by the way, it is not just on foreign policy that we see this kind of ignorance.&nbsp; If you look at the statements he has been making in the last couple of weeks about economic matters, they are jaw dropping because they fly in the face of the experience of many in Iran.&nbsp; And this time, he is getting spectacular pushback from the elite.&nbsp; So that is one characteristic, is ignorance.&nbsp; </P> <P>The other characteristic, which is even more troubling, is arrogance.&nbsp; The arrogance of this generation is hard to understate.&nbsp; They are firmly convinced that they saved Iran through their revolutionary lan and that with enough dedication to those principles, they can accomplish whatever they want.&nbsp; Again, we see Ahmadinejad is perhaps being blunter than most about this in the last month.&nbsp; One of his main themes which he is returning to repeatedly is that Iran has become the greatest power on earth.&nbsp; Not will become, not is metaphorically, not spiritually, but Iran is the greatest power on earth.&nbsp; </P> <P>I mean, this is a man who, when Kofi Annan was making his goodbye-trip around the world before leaving the secretary generalship at the United Nations -- when Kofi Annan stopped in Tehran, according to the New York Times account, Ahmadinejad complained in the meeting with Kofi Annan that the structures of the United Nations, like the Security Council, represent, too much, the power realties of 1945.&nbsp; Okay, fair enough.&nbsp; Ahmadinejad went on to explain that,  Britain and America may have won the last World War, but we intend to win the next one. &nbsp; </P> <P>As the New York Times describes, what truly shocked Annan and his aides was just how sincerely Ahmadinejad believed this.&nbsp; The man really does think that Iran leads the world s 1.2, 1.4 billion Muslims, and that they will win.&nbsp; Or they destroyed one superpower - in their view, the Soviet Union - and they expect to destroy another.&nbsp; </P> <P>So that is the problems we face with this revolutionary generation.&nbsp; But as Alex was just telling us, it is Khamenei who is the one you have to keep your eye on who really has the power at the moment.&nbsp; And we have always said that Khamenei is very cautious.&nbsp; Is that still true?&nbsp; Yes, it is.&nbsp; Khamenei is extremely cautious about what he sees as the great threat facing the Islamic republic.&nbsp; He has been very clear for 15 years on what is that threat.&nbsp; </P> <P>And he has gotten to be much more articulate about it in the last couple of years.&nbsp; And that is the threat of cultural invasion, not of military invasion.&nbsp; This man worries about Hollywood, not about Washington.&nbsp; He has made it very clear and he has a very articulate theory to explain how in his view postmodern imperialism - that is the term he uses - postmodern imperialism works, namely, that the way in which great powers make their influence felt these days is through things like civil society organizations and propaganda and through cultural influences, which will undermine the heart and soul of a country, and therefore, allow them to take over.&nbsp; </P> <P>That is his reading of 1989, of the Velvet Revolution, and that is reinforced by his interpretation of what happened in Iran in 1997 to 1999, with, first, Khatami s surprise election and then the student demonstrations in December of 1999.&nbsp; He is firmly convinced that the youth, the women, and the intellectuals in the Islamic republic do not support the regime and could turn against it, and that it could fall very, very quickly.&nbsp; I think he knows something about the country, so I presume that there is some reality to this.&nbsp; But in any case, that is his viewpoint is that this is the real threat.&nbsp; This is the real problem that Iran faces, and therefore, that is what he worries about.&nbsp; </P> <P>By the way, we should understand this because when we talk about engagement with Iran, well, what do you think he hears?&nbsp; What he hears is that this is our plan for advancing the Velvet Revolution.&nbsp; I mean, there is a reason this guy throws a 67-year-old grandmother into jail for eight months because he is afraid she is going to bring down the Islamic republic.&nbsp; And then put on television shows in which the ministry of intelligence explains that George Soros and George Bush meet regularly to conspire to how to bring down the Islamic republic.&nbsp; They believe that stuff.&nbsp; They really do believe that stuff.&nbsp; </P> <P>So therefore, when we talk about cultural contacts and exchanges, this is exactly what Khamenei has in mind.&nbsp; I mean, in that television show the deputy intelligence minister explained that any university professor who has contact with a foreigner is a potential spy and should be regarded with suspicion.&nbsp; Think about that.&nbsp; And he specifically had in mind, by the way, natural scientists who exchange email messages with other natural scientists.&nbsp; So in this context where Khamenei is worried about a cultural revolution, he is quite prepared to support the exercise of hard power.&nbsp; He thinks that hard power is where Iran has got a great advantage.&nbsp; </P> <P>And that is why he has been prepared to be so bold when it comes to support for terrorism and military confrontation.&nbsp; Iran is placing a huge bet on hard power.&nbsp; That is what it is doing at the moment, whether it is in Iraq, whether it is against the United States with the nuclear program or, for that matter, in the Levant.&nbsp; </P> <P>Now, many of us talk about Ahmadinejad s nasty words against Israel.&nbsp; The Israelis, frankly, they are used to nasty words.&nbsp; That they can live with.&nbsp; The issue here is not the threat to wipe out Israel.&nbsp; The issue is the $200 million a year that Iran is spending to fund, arm, and train those who are on the ground carrying out the actions to wipe out Israel every day and killing Israelis every week.&nbsp; That is the issue.&nbsp; It is not the nasty words; it is the massive armaments.&nbsp; </P> <P>According to the Israeli Defense Forces, Hezbollah has got itself 500 Zelzal missiles, which can reach Tel Aviv.&nbsp; It has got between 2,000 and 4,000 Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles which can reach Haifa, and it has got 20,000 Katyushas.&nbsp; Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, disagrees; he says he has got 40,000 rockets.&nbsp; That is the issue here.&nbsp; And it is not Ahmadinejad s sponsoring conferences about the world without Zionism.&nbsp; </P> <P>If Iran has made a huge bet on hard power, it has given up on soft power.&nbsp; Let s be blunt.&nbsp; Not even the Iranian regime attempts to portray life in Iran as this paradise on earth that anybody should want to imitate.&nbsp; There is just absolutely no attempt on the part of the Iranian regime to explain how Iran has solved its social problems.&nbsp; I mean, they would be laughable.&nbsp; Whether it is Iran s drug addiction, whether it is the rampant prostitution, whether it is the unemployment, whether it is the inflation, nobody in the regime wants to imitate how Iranian society is run today.&nbsp; </P> <P>And the contrast between the attitudes towards Iran and the attitudes towards Dubai is stunning.&nbsp; Everybody in the region has Dubai envy, and they wish that they could have that kind of excitement and pop and real world-class presence that Dubai has got.&nbsp; And Iran?&nbsp; Phew, come on.&nbsp; So how is Iran doing with its exercise of hard power?&nbsp; I would say mediocre, very mediocre.&nbsp; That in very favorable circumstances for Iran where the United States is bogged down, Iran has not been able to get very far.&nbsp; </P> <P>And meanwhile, it s been the basis for tremendous problems going forward because Iran has managed to persuade other countries in the region to place orders for somewhere between US$60 and US$100 billion of arms the last three years.&nbsp; Iran does not have the money to keep up with the arms race that it is starting, and I m just talking about conventional arms.&nbsp; But we all know that there could be more than that in this arms race.</P> <P>&nbsp;Meanwhile, Iran is engaged in tremendous overreach.&nbsp; It has been trying to bet on every horse in the race in Iraq but it is ending up with losing -- if you buy every lottery ticket, you end up losing the lottery and that is what the Iranians seem to be doing here.&nbsp; And meanwhile, I think, similarly, in Lebanon, it is conceivable that Iran will overreach there.&nbsp; Certainly, General Aoun looks pretty stupid for having thought that he could work with Hezbollah.&nbsp; And I would say that even on the nuclear program, Iran dramatically exaggerates the progress that it has been making.&nbsp; If you read these IEA reports, the progress Iran has been making on its program is a nuclear crawl, not a nuclear arms race here.</P> <P>And finally, we should remind ourselves that we have often accused the Europeans of being weak-kneed and of giving in at the first sign of resistance.&nbsp; And yet here we are years into the negotiations with the Iranians and we see absolutely no interest on the part of the Europeans in allowing Iran to have any enrichment whatsoever inside the country; none.&nbsp; I think there are very few analysts in this town who would have anticipated in the summer of 2003 that five years on, the European position would remain no enrichment - none, nothing, nada.&nbsp; So I would say that Iran s bet on hard power has so far produced mediocre results and is leaving Iran very poorly positioned going forward.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Thank you, Patrick.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Thank you very much.&nbsp; When Dr. Hekmat was in high school, I was Patrick Clawson s intern.&nbsp; And so it is an honor to follow Patrick on this panel, although I do have to say that I disagree with you a little bit on terms of soft power and so, perhaps, what I ll do is start my presentation with that.</P> <P>There are different forms of soft power.&nbsp; And to put it crudely, with oil being US$128 a barrel, the amount of money which Iran can spread abroad in pursuit of its foreign policy objectives contributes to a different sort of soft-power influence than perhaps the leadership by example and its obvious failures, which Patrick highlighted.&nbsp; It does seem, for example, that when we focus on the Iranian challenge in the immediate region, in the Persian Gulf, in Afghanistan, one can argue that is -- of course, Iran has as with any sovereign nation a right to pursue its interest in its region and so forth.&nbsp; </P> <P>However, looking at Iran, it seems that Iran no longer sees itself - and I would agree with was said before here as well - just as a regional power and, indeed, there has been a discourse in Iranian officialdom about Iran as a  pan-regional power, whether that be looking towards the Persian Gulf on one hand and the greater Middle East and then South Asia on the other.&nbsp; But when one looks at the Iranian expenditures and so forth, at least the announced expenditures, which, even if they do not come true, still have some resonance if people believe they come true, one then sees what Iran is doing in Africa and in Latin America.&nbsp; </P> <P>And in these cases, it does not just seem to be soft power and spending money for the sake of soft power and building alliances.&nbsp; There does seem to be a strategy there.&nbsp; As many people have said, we play checkers; Iran plays chess.&nbsp; One has a situation where it seems that Iran is actively cultivating both those non-permanent members of the Security Council or those whom they believe will be on the Security Council soon.&nbsp; Nowhere is this more evident than Nicaragua, which was part of the great compromise after the Venezuelan attempts for the Security Council and so forth.&nbsp; And it is ironic that the largest embassy in Latin America right now is Tehran s embassy in Managua.&nbsp; Of all the embassies in Central and South America, it is quite striking.</P> <P>One also looks at the fact that, I think, we are now on our fifth or sixth visit between the president of Senegal and the president of Iran.&nbsp; And that is only if we count Ahmadinejad and the president of Senegal; one also has to look at Ayatollah Shahroudi and his frequent trips to Africa.&nbsp; When in terms of the U.N. Security Council and the issue of expenditures - I guess, the international predilection to vote buying, which many countries do and we should acknowledge it - one has to look at all the back and forth with regard to South Africa in this case, too.&nbsp; But in addition to which Iran does seem to be making a consistent effort to build up its influence through diplomatic, political, economic aid to revive the Non-Aligned Movement.</P> <P>And so on one hand, you have targeted assistance; on the other hand, in terms of countries like Zimbabwe, for example, or like Sudan, Iran is willing to perhaps take the strategy which Russia did when Russia was down and out 15 years ago and to look for any allies they can get at the cheapest possible price; a gallery rogues if you will, but there has been a great amount of rhetoric about reviving this Non-Aligned Movement.&nbsp; Therefore, I would say that, at least, diplomatically, in terms of the U.S. debate about multilateralism and in the presidential context and so forth about what our relation should be with multilateral organizations, Iran to some extent has changed the playing field by playing the multilateral organizations and regional groupings quite aptly.</P> <P>Now, the other topic I want to talk about briefly is the whole issue of rogues in Iranian foreign policymaking.&nbsp; There has been a great deal of debate, both to some extent in the news media, to a larger extent in the interagency process, the intelligence community and the policy community about the whole issue of what is a rogue action; what is operationally controlled by the leadership in Iran and what is not.&nbsp; The biggest example of this, of course, was the seizure of the British sellers in the Shatha Arab, the disputed Aravant [phonetic] the disputed waters and so forth.</P> <P>The discussion here was how it was a rogue operation.&nbsp; What struck me was last -- I believe it was February 13th or 14th when in a military parade in Tehran - and this did not hit the Western press - the boats that had been seized from the British were paraded down the streets of Tehran in front of a review panel of the leadership of the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; </P> <P>The commander of this operation has since been named and, unfortunately, I forget his name but when he was acknowledged and glorified in the Iranian press, including in Kayhan, as Alex was talking, perhaps often interpreted as the voice of the supreme leader, it does give an indication that what sometimes we see as rogue action among the Revolutionary Guards, who, when one looks at the development of the Revolutionary Guards - and this, really, I ll leave for the third panel - are the ideological guardians, the loyalists of the regime, it raises the question about whether it is the Revolutionary Guardsmen who are the rogues or perhaps, if I could be provocative, whether it is the reformists because if the definition of rogue is not in terms of hard line versus moderate but is in terms of acting in concert with a national strategy or branching out and acting unilaterally on their own, there is a large question here.&nbsp; </P> <P>This was perhaps -- a light was shone onto this with regard to Khatami s recent speech in Gilan when he went back to the notions of soft power and said,  In terms of export of the revolution, we have lost our way, because when Khomeini talked about export of revolution, he meant soft power in the sense which Patrick Clawson was speaking about.&nbsp; And I do agree with Patrick Clawson s point on that issue of soft power as an example, as opposed to financial soft power.</P> <P>And instead, what we see is export of revolution through explosions and support for insurgence.&nbsp; And he was shot down.&nbsp; There was a great reaction, and he retracted his words and so forth.&nbsp; But this suggests that those who are following Mohammad Khatami are those that do not necessarily have the support of the regime anymore.&nbsp; And for a diplomatic sense and in terms of relations and the nuclear issue in the U.S. and the West and the diplomacy in general, it raises the issue about -- if we negotiate with these people who see themselves as reformists or technocrats, whether it is Khatami, whether it is Rafsanjani, whether it is the Swiss ambassador Tim Guldimann that it raises an issue about whether they are speaking on anyone s behalf but their own.&nbsp; And the last thing we want to do in terms of a diplomatic engagement with Iran is talk to people that do not have the support of the powers that be.</P> <P>Now, I do want to just add and conclude, really, that we have a couple other issues of note.&nbsp; Iran does seem provocative, and portions of Iran have been provocative under Khatami; before that, under Rafsanjani and so forth.&nbsp; But it now seems that for every single report in the New York Times about some outrageous Iranian statement or every five reports about an outrageous statement on some report, there is actually about a hundred.&nbsp; It has become quite common.&nbsp; Today, for example, in Press TV, Iran s English-language television service, there is a feature story about how Auschwitz did not really have gas chambers.&nbsp; There is no point of that except to provoke, and Iran gets a lot out of it.&nbsp; </P> <P>I m afraid that we and perhaps the Europeans have made a mistake in terms of our diplomatic approach to Iran and reinforced the wrong side because, for example, by welcoming Khatami to the national cathedral, to Harvard University and so forth, what we saw in terms of the parliamentary election debate was Ahmadinejad saying,  You can say I do not know what I m doing.&nbsp; You can say that I m just this poor guy who does not understand the real world.&nbsp; But who was the one that brought the Americans to the table?&nbsp; Who was the one that brought the Westerners to the table? &nbsp; </P> <P>I do not want to demean Iran because I do agree with Ali that they are brilliant tacticians, the current government and so forth.&nbsp; But we have created a negative Pavlov reaction if you will that our response to the most outrageous statements is to be far more flexible and that is not necessarily a trend in which we want to partake.</P> <P>There is no doubt - and I m concluding now - that the U.S., in many ways for Iran is a foil - the arrogant powers and so forth.&nbsp; We see this with not only the explosion in Shiraz now suddenly being blamed upon the U.S. and the British through a German operator, actually, but almost in terms of inflation, that the inflation is not the work of us.&nbsp; Iranian inflation is different, and we are actually responding to things the arrogant powers are doing.&nbsp; When Patrick was talking about the arrest of 67-year-old grandmothers and so forth, what I would like to caution against in a policy sense, if I may, is this idea that we have to be so understanding of the Islamic Republic s sensitivities.&nbsp; </P> <P>And I differentiate between the Islamic Republic and Iran at this point and ordinary Iranians that we have to be so understanding in terms of civil society discussion, in terms of freedom of the media, in terms of, as we talked about -- as Mohsen brought up at the very beginning of his talk, the arrest of the Baha is.&nbsp; That we should not say anything because in many cases, we have a situation where we do so much navel gazing.&nbsp; It is not all about us.&nbsp; Iran is using us as a foil, and we need to recognize that, not be so flexible that we eviscerate any action whatsoever.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Thank you very much, Michael, and to all our panelists.&nbsp; It struck me that we talked about Iran foreign policymaking in the West, and we did not talk about a lot about the West.&nbsp; One of the things that rang true in your discussions about how the regime is thinking forward its own strategy -- and I think they really do have a very coherent strategy in the region.&nbsp; One of the ways that they are thinking it forward is not matched by our own consideration of their intentions nor, indeed, of our own consideration of our best approach.&nbsp; And as a result, we hopscotch around with different ideas about how to reach out, how not to reach out, how to stand firm with the notable exception, as Patrick says, that we all agree about enrichment, if nothing else.</P> <P>But one of the things that we really have failed to appreciate - and I hope someone will do some thinking about this; I know that we will be working on this in the future - is the fact that the pillars that we discussed, the disruption of the peace process, support for terrorism and the nuclear program - and now we also throw in the interference in Iraq - are, in fact, tools for a larger agenda for the regime.&nbsp; They are not ends in and of themselves.&nbsp; And if, in fact, they are tools to achieve a larger goal, what is that larger goal?&nbsp; We have talked about domination of the region, but that is a very abstract goal.&nbsp; </P> <P>It is important for us to actually try and get a better grip on that because I think we see, as Patrick nicely says, that they are moving the chess pieces forward, whether it is in Lebanon or elsewhere.&nbsp; Yes, with occasional setbacks in Iraq, there is no question, but I would say, generally speaking, actually, forward and without sufficient appreciation from the West or, more pointedly, from Washington as to what their broader goals are.</P> <P>That is my piece.&nbsp; Now, over to you.&nbsp; If you would play by the rules, wait for the mike; hopefully it will work.&nbsp; Let me call on this gentleman over here who I cut off last time.&nbsp; If you would identify yourself first, sir --</P> <P>Hamed [phonetic]:&nbsp; Thank you very much.&nbsp; I am Hamed from Open Source World.&nbsp; I had a question from previous panel, but I forgot that one.&nbsp; And right now, I have a question for Mr. Alex with regard to those red lines that you mentioned.&nbsp; Obviously, they are for Mr. Khamenei.&nbsp; Just picture those red lines, but do you think that he just reserves the right to pass the lines for himself as he did in his speech in Yaz [phonetic] and talking about the relationship between United States -- negotiation with United States and Iran, which could be just by himself?&nbsp; He is the one who has to decide about it.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Alex Vatanka:&nbsp; Thank you for the question.&nbsp; If I remember correctly, that speech was given the 3rd of January and the speech basically said,  Look, we never said we are never going to have relations with the U.S.&nbsp; And when the day arrives when we are having relations with the U.S. is to the benefit of the Iranian people, I will be the first one to raise my hand. &nbsp; All you have to do in that paragraph is to remove the words  in the interest of the Iranian people and put in Ali Khamenei s name.&nbsp; If it is to his interest, then, yes, he will be the one to raise his hand because in some ways you can look at Ali Khamenei in terms of his pet projects.&nbsp; </P> <P>And then, when you look at what he is really excited about, it seems like, for instance, his idea of Iran as the -- or the Iranian ummah, or part of the ummah, the clergy being the leaders of the Muslim world, it seems to be something that a lot of these people actually have time for.&nbsp; And as Patrick, I think, just said, it is strange to us when we look at Iran as a Shia and a Persian state and how they can then seriously think they can get away with it, but they do.&nbsp; They do believe in it.&nbsp; All you have to do, for instance, is look at the amount of money the Iranian regime spends printing religious literature for export.&nbsp; So there is that pet project going on.</P> <P>But that said, I think Khamenei is also a realist.&nbsp; And I think I ll put it up there.&nbsp; The day comes when he gets what he wants, then, yes, I think he will fulfill what he said in January, and that is to accept relations with the U.S.&nbsp; The question is what is it he wants, and is the U.S. willing to give it to him.&nbsp; And obviously, that is where we are right now.</P> <P>Sean Kim [phonetic]:&nbsp; My name is Sean Kim from Chusan, Korea newspaper company.&nbsp; I would like to hear some comments about that Iranian-North Korean nuclear proliferation issue.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Who is going to take that red meat?&nbsp; Michael?</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; I d like to suggest you, Danny.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; Always a pleasure.&nbsp; I do not know.&nbsp; The question is about Iran and North Korea.&nbsp; And it is a very broad question.&nbsp; I would invite our panelists to add to it, but what I would say very simply is that the Iranians, I think, have watched very carefully, as indeed, that the Libyans, who made a move, probably, in their assessment, too early.&nbsp; The Iranians have watched the North Koreans very carefully and seen that, in fact, North Korea has done exactly what they have stated they intend to do and that they have benefited a great deal from it; that, in fact, the United States, after all of our rhetoric about unacceptable and intolerable, has, in fact, accepted the unacceptable and tolerated the intolerable and that we are, in fact, perpetuating the regime.&nbsp; </P> <P>That seems to me to be a very good lesson.&nbsp; And if I were they, I would say,  I get how to go forward. &nbsp; I think there is also a world to talk about in terms of cooperation between the Iranian regime and the North Koreans about proliferation, about specific cooperation between the IRGC and North Korea.&nbsp; Perhaps, Patrick, I think you were [cross-talking] --</P> <P>Patrick Clawson:&nbsp; Sure, Danny.&nbsp; If I may start out, fortunately, the Iranians are not as smart as you because the lesson I would learn from the DPRK s experience is that if you promise them anything, you can get away with murder.&nbsp; And the Iranians have not been prepared to promise that they are going to give up their program.&nbsp; The North Koreans keep saying,  Well, we are going to give up our nukes but it is going to take a while and we have to have conditions and we are going to get stuff for it. &nbsp; And, therefore, they can get away with murder.&nbsp; </P> <P>If the Iranians had said,  We agree that we are going to give up our enrichment, but it may take us a few decades to get there, they would have gotten a great deal more than they have gotten with their constant no s, no s, no s, nevers.&nbsp; So I actually think that the North Koreans have been much smarter in their negotiations and have gotten more as a result of it.</P> <P>But if I may, a somewhat different point, which is to say that Iran is not only pursuing a uranium route to a nuclear weapon; it is also pursuing a plutonium route to a nuclear weapon.&nbsp; But it has already got a heavy-water plant, which is up and operational and it says it is building a heavy-water reactor, which looks like it may be ready to become operational at roughly the same time that its centrifuge capabilities could become operational.&nbsp; And, of course, the plutonium route is the one that the North Koreans have mastered, and it is a more complicated route.&nbsp; It is harder to have the weapons assigned, and there are many other problems with it.</P> <P>And so what we may face in a few years is a situation in which then the North Koreans would be in a good position to provide Iran with technical assistance for this research reactor at Iraq.&nbsp; That would be very troubling because much of the reason that I m optimistic that the centrifuge program is going poorly is because the Iranians constantly have to reinvent the wheel.&nbsp; They do not have anybody they can go to and ask how to make things work.&nbsp; And so they have had a lot of problems figuring out how to make these things work.&nbsp; And if, with Iraq, they could go to the North Koreans and get practical advice about how to make these things work, that program could advance disturbingly quickly.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; I m going to just address a different aspect of that, building on what Danny said, in that oftentimes we talk about this issue in terms of North Korea and Iran, but it is not only an issue of relationship, if I may, among rogues but also parallels among allies.&nbsp; What concerns me in this example is that in the North Korea diplomacy, in a way we make concessions through Japan under the bus in terms of commitments which we had made to the Japanese and so forth, and the Japanese were quite surprised and shocked when we did this.&nbsp; </P> <P>That action also has reflections upon the way the European allies look at the strength of our diplomacy when in terms of insistence about absolutely no enrichment - this was talked about earlier in the panel - if we are willing to undercut the interests and our commitments to allies such as Japan in the case of North Korea, the Europeans have to be asking about how strongly they should go to bat for us, given that example and without all my interjection.</P> <P>Alex Batanka:&nbsp; Very quickly, if I may, just to follow up what was said -- the big difference between North Korea and Iran, I think, many ways on this issue of nuclear is, look, the societies are so different.&nbsp; In North Korea, the regime could withstand hundreds of thousands dying of famine in the 1990s.&nbsp; If you had anything like that in Iran, the whole regime will collapse within, I would argue, months.&nbsp; The Iranian regime is not that strong.&nbsp; It is not like North Korea in that way.&nbsp; You cannot go through that kind of pressure and come out of it and survive.</P> <P>The other point about Iran and North Korea - and I think it is largely the whole of the Asia region - is I had a picture of him before, Saeed Jalili, the new chief nuclear negotiator in Iran, who was also handpicked by Ahmadinejad.&nbsp; His thesis was Southeast; that was his IR thesis, which is the West has declined.&nbsp; They are demographically declining.&nbsp; Do not invest too much in the West.&nbsp; Their days are numbered.&nbsp; Look East.&nbsp; So there are people like that who look at Asia and Asian states as partners.&nbsp; </P> <P>Having said that, slightly complicated -- for Iran is far more interested in keeping good ties with China, its now biggest trading partner, and Japan, one of its biggest partners, than to put everything in the basket of North Korea for the sake of ballistic missile technology, which is roughly what they have from the North Korean regime.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; I have to say I do think that is an important point.&nbsp; I do not think that the Iranians think that they need to make the concessions that the North Koreans need to make.&nbsp; But Patrick and I can battle this out afterwards.&nbsp; The only thing that nobody mentioned is the fact that we entitled this conference  Iran in 3-D, and we are still taking a relatively two-dimensional approach to it.&nbsp; </P> <P>But, of course, the Iranians are believed to have been cooperating with the North Koreans to help build the reactor in Syria.&nbsp; Maybe they did; maybe they did not.&nbsp; I do not think we know for sure.&nbsp; But certainly, if they did it there they can do it again and they can do it, as the panelists suggested, later.&nbsp; This gentleman back here, right there.</P> <P>Gordon Barry [phonetic]:&nbsp; Gordon Barry, Army retired.&nbsp; It has been a few months now since the infamous NIE on Iranian nuclear programs.&nbsp; Could I ask any and all of the panelists to assess the intermediate-term impact of that analysis?</P> <P>Patrick Clawson:&nbsp; I think it s had dramatic impact on U.S. discussion about policy vis-a-vis Iran.&nbsp; It has had much less impact on European policy vis-a-vis Iran.&nbsp; And, indeed, it reinforced the trend in Iran to think that the United States is bogged down and has not been able to do very much.&nbsp; But I do not see evidence of dramatic impact inside Iran.&nbsp; </P> <P>That said, certainly, right after it came out, there was the widespread theory floating around the Middle East that, effectively, the United States and Iran had done a deal in which the U.S. would back off from the nuclear program and Iran would back off on Iraq.&nbsp; And I do not think there was any deal like that but I do think it is fair to say that the Bush administration made a decision partly because of the NIE that the nuclear issue was going to be primarily resolved into the next U.S. administration and not its final term in office.</P> <P>And I do think it is fair to say that the Iranians came to the decision that the United States was not going to be chased out of Iraq like a dog with its tail between its legs.&nbsp; There were not going to be helicopters lifting off from the roof of the Green Zone and that it is fair to say that in some sense, therefore, each of the two sides has backed off from a more confrontational stance.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; I would just like to make a brief amendment to what Patrick said with regard to the Europeans.&nbsp; I would fully agree that the European official discussion has not altered with regard to Iran s program.&nbsp; However, I do think that the release of the NIE broadened the gap between European officials and the European public.&nbsp; The European public looks at Mohammad El-Baradei as -- his reputation is salvaged.&nbsp; They see him in a much more positive light than many of the press will treat him in the United States.&nbsp; After all, he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.&nbsp; </P> <P>And as we move forward, one of the issues which is not in the press but I do think is going to have serious impact on how this plays out would be whether El-Baradei ends up serving a fourth term as the IAEA chief at a point after the Bush administration had made such a strong stance that no U.N. official should serve more than two terms.</P> <P>Danielle Pletka:&nbsp; The one part that nobody answered you -- and I m going to have to wrap up because we have actually answered every question a little bit longer than earlier.&nbsp; But the one point that nobody has mentioned is the reaction in the Arab world to the NIE.&nbsp; And I think we spent some time tracking deals, investment, business transactions with Iran, and a lot of transactions that have been on hold, I think, went forward after the release of the NIE.&nbsp; And I also think that we had spent some time in the previous year at the highest levels of our government - presidential and Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense - importuning our Sunni Arab friends to stand with us against the Iranian threat, to make sacrifices, to do what is necessary to isolate the regime and then, to use Michael s felicitous phrase, we threw them under the bus.&nbsp; </P> <P>I m not entirely sure of that wisdom of that strategy in the first place, but what you saw was that the Saudis immediately began what I view as a rapprochement with the Iranians after the release of the NIE.&nbsp; And I think that is a very important thing that happened, and I do not think that that can be worked back without something extraordinarily frightening happening in Iran.&nbsp; And even there, I think, that may precipitate further rapprochement between the Iranians and the Arabs.&nbsp; So I believe that it was an enormously damaging development.&nbsp; And, of course, that was fundamentally its intent.</P> <P>With that and with apologies to Ken, who was very patient, I m going to cut things off because we need to turn to lunch.&nbsp; Let me invite everybody to our buffet outside.&nbsp; Let me thank our panelists and you for tolerating our presto-change-o of lineup.&nbsp; This was a most interesting debate, and it will be followed up by one at 12:45.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>Panel III: The Transformation and Rise of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps</P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Thank you very much.&nbsp; I hope you all enjoyed your lunch.&nbsp; We are now on to Part three:&nbsp; The Transformation and the Rise of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.&nbsp; In many ways, it seems that we have saved the best for last.&nbsp; This is one of the most important subjects to be cognizant of when trying to analyze and understand Iran.</P> <P>I m thrilled that we have two exceptional panelists and, on top of which, we are fortunate to have Mohsen Sazegara as the discussant on this panel.&nbsp; What I do want to do is just, first of all, thank the three.&nbsp; Ken, I believe, will be going first.</P> <P>The full biographies are in the folders.&nbsp; Ken is the Iran and Iraq specialist at the Congressional Research Service.&nbsp; Many of the best and most factual reports out there - the nuts and bolts which all of us other analysts use - usually involve Ken in some way.</P> <P>Ali has already been thanked.&nbsp; I do want to actually say Ken also has one of the definitive books about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.&nbsp; He had done his Ph.D. dissertation on it, and it is still both a rare resource and something which I do hope will be reprinted at some point.</P> <P>We are also fortunate to have Mohsen Sazegara who is now the president of the Research Institute for Contemporary Iran.&nbsp; Again, I do not know of anyone else who is as foremost a specialist on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially its early origins, and of course, for those of you who have been following Ali Alfoneh s work at American Enterprise Institute and his various Middle East outlooks, some real path-breaking analysis has been out there Ali has authored on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps far and beyond whatever else I see in the Western press.</P> <P>With that, what I would like to do is turn it over to the panelists.&nbsp; I m going to ask each one to speak for about 10 minutes so that we have plenty of time for questions and answers.&nbsp; Ken, thank you.</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; Thank you very much.&nbsp; Unfortunately, Westview Press made the mistake of signing the rights to my book over to me, so more to follow on that.&nbsp; I would like to thank AEI for asking me back to speak on this subject, which is obviously near and dear to my heart.&nbsp; Unfortunately, I have not had the time that I had in the early  90s to follow it as minutely as I did then.&nbsp; However, let me make some observations on it.</P> <P>I want to just first clear up, even in a town that follows things so minutely as Washington, the Revolutionary Guard has not been designated by the administration as a foreign terrorist organization, and the amount of misperception on this is incredible.&nbsp; It has been designated under Executive Order 13382 as an entity of proliferation concern.&nbsp; The Quds Force, the export of the revolution, the foreign arm of the Guard, which I ll be speaking about mostly today, also was not named.&nbsp; Neither was that named as a foreign terrorist organization.&nbsp; It was named in October as a terrorism-supporting entity under Executive Order 13224.&nbsp; Neither of them are  foreign terrorist organizations. </P> <P>Well, let me just say both houses of Congress have voted to recommend naming the Guard as an FTO, but I want to clarify that step was not taken; these alternate designations were taken.&nbsp; I have been asked today to talk about the transformation of the Guard, and over the past 10 years there has been a lot of discussion of the Guard s supposed transformation.&nbsp; This talk, I believe, began with stories about how over half the Guard rank- and-file voted for Mohammad Khatami in the 1997 presidential election, and then there was analysis that the Guards days of exporting the revolution and challenging the United States were over or had faded.</P> <P>Needless to say, I was skeptical of this talk and I m pleased that I held my ground because I think the last few years demonstrates that the Guard s hard-line ethos, its spirit, has not altered one bit and it may now even be entering a new and even more challenging phase for the United States.</P> <P>My view is that the Guard has not transformed but it has evolved.&nbsp; The trends I saw in the early  90s have continued and even accelerated.&nbsp; Even in the 1980s, it was evident the Guard was well on its way to being the preeminent force in Iran; the regular military would continue to become marginalized.&nbsp; This trend has now been confirmed.&nbsp; The Guard is now in control, basically, of all Iranian naval operations in the Persian Gulf.</P> <P>Current analysis of the Guard s extensive role differs little from where I saw it in the early 1990s.&nbsp; In addition to its military role, the Guard, particularly through the Basij, the mobilization of the oppressed, plays a key internal security role, particularly against large demonstrations or restiveness by ethnic minorities, Kurds in the northwest, Arabs in the southwest.&nbsp; Small levels of unrest are handled mainly by the police and the ministry of intelligence and security.</P> <P>The Guard, as reiterated in these designations I talked about plays a key role in developing and testing Iran s ballistic missile force, including the Shahab-3, and the Guard s foreign policy role is as it has always been - promoting and supporting like-minded movements throughout the region that I will discuss.</P> <P>The only truly new feature I can see in the Guard s recent years is its foray into business and commerce.&nbsp; The October 2000 designations included several Guard companies as proliferation entities, including Khatamolanbia, the GHORB construction company through which the Guard is involved in petroleum production and major construction.&nbsp; However, even here I would dispute that this is truly new.&nbsp; Before, the Guard was able to procure technology off the books so to speak, off official budget and line items through partner organizations - the Foundation for the Oppressed and Disabled, Bonyad Mostazafan va Janbazan.</P> <P>The Guard also made substantial use of another organization, the Construction Jihad, which is like an army corps of engineers that helped it build berms in the Iran-Iraq war and combat engineering.&nbsp; It used the Construction Jihad to help build out WMD infrastructure.&nbsp; I would argue the Guard s corporate involvement is not even necessarily truly new but it has evolved substantially.&nbsp; </P> <P>What I would like to focus in my remaining minutes is the Guard s foreign policy role, which is probably more extensive than it has ever been even though the Guard does not appear to be meddling as much in the GCC, the Gulf countries, as it did in the  80s and early  90s.&nbsp; To a large extent, I would say the Quds Force is now the most active and most threatening component of the Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; Because of these successes, the Quds Force is showered with resources and prestige and the Quds Force apparently has its own ties to Ayatollah Khamenei, in some ways able to bypass even the Guard leadership and the joint staff.&nbsp; </P> <P>The Quds Force grew out of the unit that built Hezbollah s military wing, later was active in Sudan and the Gulf states.&nbsp; Quds now has about estimated 5,000 personnel.&nbsp; It has a formal commander, Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who is in fact named under the October designations as well as U.N. Resolution 1747 as an entity with which business cannot be transacted.</P> <P>I would describe Quds Force s members as somewhat a combination of U.S. Special Forces and intelligence officers.&nbsp; They do not really do any combat.&nbsp; I do not remember a Quds Force soldier anywhere being captured in a combat role.&nbsp; They are primarily agents.&nbsp; Their main role is to work channels, develop, recruit people, and particularly secure and arrange for weapons deliveries to these movements that the Quds Force is supporting, and that is, obviously, Iraqi Shiite militias, Muqtada Sadr s Mahdi Army, of course, the Taliban.&nbsp; We have some recent information - Hezbollah, obviously Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others; PFLP-GC to some extent.</P> <P>The Quds Force, I would say, is in many ways the main instrument of Iran s national security policy right now.&nbsp; The Quds Force is developing the leverage Iran feels it needs to forestall any U.S. attack on Iran s nuclear infrastructure.&nbsp; This is particularly true in Iraq where the Mahdi Army has demonstrated its ability to attack the Green Zone, to kill U.S. soldiers using explosively-forced projectiles.&nbsp; The head of the Quds Forces Ramazan garrison, Ahmad Forouzandeh, is the lead person in arranging weapons shipments to the Mahdi, and he is named as, under a new executive order, a recent executive order, a threat to stability in Iraq.&nbsp; Suleimani was widely reported as a key broker of the ceasefire between Sadr and the Maliki Government that ended the fighting in Basra.</P> <P>The Quds Force may have about 150 personnel at any one time in Iraq moving in and out; maybe about the same number in Lebanon.&nbsp; Obviously, when they went to build Hezbollah s military win they had at the apogee about 2,000.&nbsp; Then that drew down and it went down to as little as 50 before the summer war with Israel, and then it ramped up again when Hezbollah was in combat with Israel.</P> <P>So clearly and obviously, Hezbollah is a key instrument of Iranian national security.&nbsp; If the United States were to strike Iran, obviously, there was some thinking that Iran would unleash Hezbollah perhaps to revive rocket attacks on Israel; talked about the Mahdi Army.&nbsp; Quds Force assistance to Hamas is putting pressure on Israel.&nbsp; Its armed takeover of Gaza was a clear effort to U.S. efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace and represented another step in the growing ascendancy of pro-Iranian hard-line rejectionist forces in the region.</P> <P>Quds Force support to Hamas, much like its support for Taliban militants who are opening yet another front against the United States, building more Iranian leverage against the United States and Afghanistan, as well as Iran s aid to the PFLP-GC, shows that the Iranian strategy is not merely to work with Shiite groups.&nbsp; They will work with Sunni groups; as we said, Hamas, the Taliban, and PFLP-GC.</P> <P>So I believe that one of Iran s missions is to protect the Shia world, so to speak.&nbsp; Iran sees itself as a protector of the Shia world.&nbsp; Iran believes that the Shias have been oppressed and abused by the majority Sunnis throughout Islam s history since the split.&nbsp; One of Iran s missions -- I think, they see their mission is to protect the Shia world and bring it up from the oppressed to a more equal level with Sunnis.&nbsp; But as a national security goal, Iran will work with Sunni movements if they can help Iran build leverage against the United States.</P> <P>Iran s goal -- and Danny asked this question in the last panel,  What is Iran s goal? &nbsp; My view is Iran s goal is absolute security, the ability to make the United States, particularly, think twice, three or four times before taking any action against Iran.&nbsp; Again, I mentioned the striking trend of the Quds Force aid to the Taliban, which is quite striking since Iran almost went to war with the Taliban in 1998.&nbsp; Iran actually mobilized to the border and was nearly going to enter Afghanistan.&nbsp; In fact, this was one of the few times that I have seen in this town where people were actually hoping Iran would go across the border.&nbsp; So hated were the Taliban in this town at the time, but they did not do it because they were not confident in their abilities.</P> <P>This is the fundamental point I want to end with, which is the Quds Force has helped Iran develop a tremendous amount of leverage for Iran against the United States.&nbsp; However, this is still -- if you compare what the Quds Force can do to the United States and its abilities, there is, in my view, a tremendous disparity.&nbsp; I draw the analogy of those who tease the great white shark once too much.&nbsp; Eventually, the great white shark might bite you.&nbsp; I think Iranian strategists need to be concerned that they might be taunting the shark a little bit too much.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Thank you very much, Ken.&nbsp; Without much further ado, let me turn it over to Ali.</P> <P>Ali Alfoneh:&nbsp; Thank you, Michael.&nbsp; In my first presentation, I proposed the hypothesis that I have that the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially the political leadership, considers itself under great pressures both from inside and from outside.&nbsp; In order to deal with this type of pressures, they engage the officer corps as the new managers, the new executives of the Islamic Republic at different levels of government.</P> <P>Let me in this presentation show you some of the weak points of such a strategy but also begin first with the legal framework for doing such an operation, going on to the economic activities of the Revolutionary Guards and then end up with the discussion about the internal enemy because if you read the Iranian Press and also the statements from Revolutionary Guard commanders inside the Islamic Republic, all of them continuously talk about internal enemies who are in need of being kept in check in order to preserve the political order.</P> <P>Actually, I have to say America is mentioned less in the internal communiqus, in the speeches of the Revolutionary Guards commanders to their rank-and-file and officer corps.&nbsp; The internal enemy is much more important than the external enemies.&nbsp; To begin with - and this is something that you can also read in Dr. Katzman s book, which is really the best book on the Revolutionary Guard - the Revolutionary Guards Corps was, of course, created because the system did not believe and did not trust the army of the Shah.&nbsp; They believe that the army was loyal to the imperial regime and to the Shah personally.&nbsp; The Shah was still alive and they did not want to trust them to guard the revolution and its achievements.</P> <P>Of course, as the historical developments afterwards showed, the army was perfectly loyal towards Iran, and they were very good patriots and they fought very bravely in the war.&nbsp; The only one person who did not keep his promise was Grand Ayatollah Khomeini who executed the generals, the generals whom he had said,  You would be safe.&nbsp; Give up fighting and do not fight the Revolution.&nbsp; Do not stand in the way of the people and you will be preserved. &nbsp; They were killed.&nbsp; They were executed.</P> <P>In order to balance the army of the Shah which was considered disloyal, the constitution of the Islamic Republic had one article, Article 150, which states the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps organized in the early days of the triumph of the revolution is to be maintained so that it may continue in its role of guarding the revolution and its achievements.</P> <P>So this is a strange formulation.&nbsp; It does not tell us anything about the sphere of competence of the Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; It does not tell us if this military force is to guard the system against external enemies or internal enemies.&nbsp; But as we have seen in consequence, historical developments, the main focus of the revolutionary guards, especially right after the revolution was the matter of internal security.</P> <P>The statute of the guards, which was published first in Payam e Enqelab which was the membership organ of the Revolutionary Guardists, states these points as the main sphere of competence of the Revolutionary Guards.&nbsp; So it is cooperation with the government in military and security matters including pursuit and arrest of armed counter-revolutionary movements; disarming unauthorized persons and hand-over of weapons and explosives to the authorities; investigation and intelligence gathering within the resort of the IRGC; preserve the public order at demonstrations and gatherings in order to prevent disruption of law and order. </P> <P>Support to freedom - and this is the export of revolution paragraph in the statute of the revolutionary guards.&nbsp; We are very thankful that Iran is a country whose bureaucracy is inspired by the French, so everything is stated and written in documents.&nbsp;  Support to freedom and justice-seeking movements of the oppressed people under supervision of the council of the revolution. </P> <P>So everybody who is saying that the Revolutionary Guard is active in the business of exporting the revolution without the authorization from above -- it is a lie.&nbsp; You can see that in the statute of the Revolutionary Guards.</P> <P>So Payam e Enqelab would identify afterwards -- and this is the next step - how to identify who the internal enemy is because the Islamic Republic, especially in the beginning, tolerated some kind of opposition.&nbsp; They were, after all, the former allies of Grand Ayatollah Khomeini.&nbsp; After the revolution, the aim was to marginalize them somehow.</P> <P>So at the very same time that you had the transitional government of Engineer Bazargan running the country, you had articles being published in Payam e Enqelab, the member organ, the mouthpiece of the Revolutionary Guards, saying that these people were infidels; they were Western-educated; they were infected by the wrong ideas.</P> <P>So the minds among the members of the Revolutionary Guards were prepared to fight against the internal enemy.&nbsp; The people who were running the country were portrayed as some kind of opposition.&nbsp; This type of politicization of the armed forces continued and has continued until this day.&nbsp; After the system actually had cleansed up totally the internal opposition, anybody who had dared to oppose Khomeini s rule, the Payam e Enqelab went on to attack anybody else trying to oppose the total power of Grand Ayatollah Khomeini.</P> <P>The mechanism was very simple.&nbsp; Their names would be published in Payam e Enqelab and then individual commanders of the Revolutionary Guards would know now it is legal to attack these persons at their demonstrations.&nbsp; Now, it is legal to beat them up.&nbsp; Now, it is legal to burn down their offices.&nbsp; It is in very good order and in -- of the things to shut down their office in the provinces.</P> <P>Then, you have one thing which in many ways rescued the revolution in its early days.&nbsp; It was not for nothing that Grand Ayatollah Khomeini called the Iraqi invasion of Iran and the war with Iraq a divine blessing; he called it the divine blessing.&nbsp; Why?&nbsp; Because it gave him perfectly good opportunities to call all his internal opponents.&nbsp; The agents of the Americans, the agents of the Iraqis -- everybody was in pay of somebody else.&nbsp; You see that at the same time that the Revolutionary Guard is engaged in war with Iraq, you see the internal security apparatus of the revolutionary guards and the Basij militia, some kind of a volunteer corps, suppressing internal opposition.</P> <P>Basij needs more discussion as I see it because besides being this oppressive organization, especially in the big cities, in the urban areas, suppressing the middle class, well-educated, maybe Western-oriented middle-class who is critical of the West, they have a completely different role in the rural areas, in villages.&nbsp; I know that many of the people present here and those watching this on the Internet may be offended when I say this, but the truth is that the Basij organization and the Basij commanders at provincial level, even village level, are in some ways much more progressive than the local areas in which they operate.&nbsp; </P> <P>So if the local area in, let s say, a very far-away village in Fesh [phonetic] is culturally extremely conservative and there are so many social rules of conduct which are totally archaic, the Basij introduces new ways of doing things in that small village.</P> <P>The Shah tried to do exactly this thing to civilize far- away regions by sending, let s say, a health corps to those villages.&nbsp; But the locals were very skeptical of anything coming from Tehran.&nbsp; So there is this wonderful story of an Iranian doctor trying to improve public health because he was a member of the health corps of the Shah in the village, but nobody would come to the clinic.&nbsp; At some point, he goes to the village elder and asks,  How come people do not get sick in your village? &nbsp; The village elders laughed and said,  Doctor, you are from Tehran.&nbsp; You know nothing. &nbsp; </P> <P> The local medicine man and the local mullah, the local Shia cleric, they have conspired against you.&nbsp; They spread the rumors that you have brought some pills with you from Tehran and you give them to the kids.&nbsp; The kids go to bed as devout Muslims, and the next morning, they wake up, they are Jews. &nbsp; People are horrified of that kind of thing.</P> <P>Now, you have the Basij militia whose work has the blessing of the local cleric doing developmental work in the far-away villages.&nbsp; But, of course, besides this kind of developmental role, they have also the intelligence cell organization.&nbsp; You go after all to the mosque in order to hear the latest gossip, and the mullah knows everything about what is happening in the village.&nbsp; All the organizations of the Basij are not physically based in a, let s say, Basij building.&nbsp; It is happening inside mosques.</P> <P>This type of organization has been much more successful than the Komsomol of the Soviets.&nbsp; I have done some kind of comparative studies with Komsomol in Soviet Union, and I have to say that the Iranian Basij model is much more efficient, especially because it relies on the legitimacy that religion gives the operatives of the Basij in the rural areas.</P> <P>The next thing that I would like to say - a few remarks -is about the role of the Revolutionary Guards in the economy.&nbsp; Right after, we see a great increase after the end of the Iran-Iraq war in Revolutionary Guards activities in the economic sector, in the business sector.&nbsp; Many - and I am one of those - interpret the increased activity of the Revolutionary Guards in the economy as a way of bribing this one-million-man army who have been fighting a hopeless war which is now lost.&nbsp; After all, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini said,  War until victory, and victory was not achieved, and now you have people coming back to unemployment.</P> <P>So what the system did was to engage the Revolutionary Guards in some kind of postwar reconstruction activities.&nbsp; But postwar reconstruction also gives some very difficult competition to the private sector.&nbsp; Nobody in the private sector can compete with the cheap, not to say free labor, of the Revolutionary Guards when they come with their force and say that we can do this project for this and that money.&nbsp; When they are out bidding projects, the Revolutionary Guard surprisingly wins all the bids, and the public sector of course itself is being the biggest employer.</P> <P>The last thing -- of course, I would like to mention before going to the discussants-- I have to say this.&nbsp; This system seems fairly stable.&nbsp; Do you know why?&nbsp; This can go on forever and ever.&nbsp; But I really think the system also has some weaknesses.&nbsp; One of them, of course, is that when you use Basij members from the villages, to have them in buses going to big cities and tell them -- the local mullah tells them,  These university students who protest against the regime, they are enemies of Islam.&nbsp; They are Americans in disguise, American agents dressed up as students. &nbsp; </P> <P>At some point, some of these Basij members find out that this is such a terrible lie and the students are their brothers and sisters and they are not American agents.&nbsp; This is one of the big weaknesses of such a system of systematic indoctrination and lying to members of the Basij militia and the Revolutionary Guards.</P> <P>Revolutionary Guards, believe me, are some of the brightest minds in that country and they are not nearly as corrupt as many of the other political elites of the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; One of the leading examples, the conscience of the guards, is sitting beside us.&nbsp; So if all the members of the Basij militia and the revolutionary guards end up being like Dr. Sazegara when they have seen through the charade and lies of the Islamic Republic and the deficiencies of the propaganda and indoctrination, then there is still room to be hopeful for the future of the Islamic Republic.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; On that note, I want to turn the floor over to Dr. Sazegara but I also do apologize to Dr. Sazegara.&nbsp; Within the packet where we have the biographies, we failed to update for the most current biography.&nbsp; I should note again, and I hope that Dr. Sazegara will say a couple of words about his new position, that he is now the president of the Research Institute for a Contemporary Iran.&nbsp; Dr. Sazegara?</P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; Yes, this institution is a nonprofit institution which was established a year ago in Virginia, and its name is Research Institute for a Contemporary Iran.&nbsp; We are concentrated on post-revolution Iran.</P> <P>So far, we have started to -- Farsi websites for Iranian university students and Iranian businessmen.&nbsp; We tried to transfer some good articles here, especially with respect to privatization and the other aspects which we think is useful for Iranian businessmen to translate them to Farsi, and several other projects.</P> <P>I just want to add some comments to what Ken and Ali said about Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; First of all, I want to put you in the picture that the Revolutionary Guard is not something like a unified political party.&nbsp; There are several branches in that.&nbsp; For instance, the body of Revolutionary Guard runs 120,000 members of Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; The body of Revolutionary Guard is like the other people of Iraq.&nbsp; You can see amongst them many people who are not satisfied with the present situation.&nbsp; They have economic difficulties.</P> <P>I remember that once in Tehran, it is very common that motorcycles, they transfer you one-by-one; especially with the heavy traffic, it is very efficient.&nbsp; I remember that once I got on one of those motorcycles going to bazaar of Tehran at the center of downtown of Tehran.&nbsp; During the way, we were talking.&nbsp; He was a member of Revolutionary Guard and said that,  Two o clock when the job is finished, I hurry to work with my motorcycle to afford my family. </P> <P>In Tehran, many people -- they use their cars like a taxi.&nbsp; I used to take many of them, and you can see many members of Revolutionary Guard and even members of army of Iran; in the afternoon, like civilian people, they drive their car like a taxi.</P> <P>The body of Revolutionary Guard -- they have the problem that the other people of Iran, they have those problems.&nbsp; But amongst the commanders, again, there are several branches.&nbsp; During Khatami, when that letter was signed by 22 commanders of Revolutionary Guard in a seminar, more than 400 of commanders of Revolutionary Guard one by one, many of them, went to the microphone and talked and said to Khatami, the reformist president,  That letter is not our opinion.&nbsp; We support the reform movement. &nbsp; I think that now, the last parliamentary  election in Iran -- and quote election because there are lots of problems in elections in Iran - the Council of Guardians and cheating in the election.</P> <P>Anyway, the faction, its name is [speaks in Farsi/Persian].&nbsp; I do not know how to translate it -- Comprehensive Principalists Front.&nbsp; Morteza Rezaei, who was the chief commander of Revolutionary Guard and now works as the secretary of Expediency Council, and Qalibaf who is mayor of Tehran and used to be the commander of Air Force of Revolutionary Guard and was one of the signatories of that letter against Khatami on those days, one of those 22 persons.&nbsp; But now, he is with this new front, and Ali Larijani who was for a while a deputy of ministry of Revolutionary Guard which was later dissolved in the defense ministry.</P> <P>These three persons were supported by some parts of Revolutionary Guard in the last parliamentary election, and right now, they claim that they have 77 seats in the parliament, and Ahmadinejad has only 51 seats in the parliament, his political party.</P> <P>The top commanders of Revolutionary Guard who resigned from Revolutionary Guard and became candidates for this parliamentary election, we have only 15 of them in the parliament of Iran.&nbsp; They are from the faction of [speaks in Farsi/ Persian] which is very close to Jafari who is the chief commander of Revolutionary Guard.</P> <P>What I want to say is although we have a Gang of Seven - they are famous in Iran as the Gang of Seven - of commanders of Revolutionary Guard who are now in political affairs of Iran, it seems that they are still supporting Ahmadinejad, although they have some difficulties with Ahmadinejad and they are very close to Ayatollah Khamenei.&nbsp; But amongst the commanders of Revolutionary Guard, we have another faction that some of them are now in the parliament, some of them are out of that, and they do not think like them.</P> <P>I think that in the next presidential election, these parts of Revolutionary Guard are thinking about Qalibaf maybe or Larijani to support one of them for presidential candidacy.</P> <P>What we are talking about when we are talking about Revolutionary Guard, we have to [background noise].&nbsp; Okay.&nbsp; Just leave it.&nbsp; Sorry.</P> <P>I think that we have to keep in mind that this is like the other organizations of Iran, like army of Iran, like even ministry of intelligence of Iran, like ministry of foreign affairs of Iran.&nbsp; This is not something -- you must not imagine an organization which is unified; everybody is saying just the same thing and they are supporting all the policies of Iran.&nbsp; This is not like that.&nbsp; I think that especially because of the economic crisis in Iran, these problems will become worse and worse inside Revolutionary Guard. </P> <P>The second comment that I wanted to talk about is economic activities of Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; Nobody knows how many companies Revolutionary Guard owns.&nbsp; The last estimation shows more than 850 companies, and they are involved in more than 1,500 huge projects of Iran.&nbsp; Most of the time, they get the big projects and second-hand, sometimes third and fourth-hand, they give it to some private contractors in Iran.</P> <P>Recently, they have bought -- for instance, Basij that Ali mentioned, they have a very big investment company.&nbsp; Its name is Mehr Investment Company.&nbsp; They have bought, for instance, 40 percent of the shares of a tractor manufacturing company in Tabriz, which was one of the huge industrial plant projects of Iran that I finished while I was at the head of IDRO.&nbsp; It is very suitable.&nbsp; Actually, it consists of five factories.&nbsp; It is very good if you convert it for making military equipment by casting, rolling machinery that we have in that factory.&nbsp; It is very cheap; the money that they have paid is only around $160 million.&nbsp; </P> <P>Now, we have lots of problems amongst the stock market of Iran that how come Basij has bought such a huge manufacturing company of Iran so cheap from the government.&nbsp; It has happened several times.&nbsp; It happened last week.&nbsp; In their economic activities, although they are everywhere, now, when I talk to many of my friends in Iran industries and in construction companies everywhere, they say that the companies of Revolutionary Guard and Basij are everywhere.&nbsp; But again, they have produced lots of problems and many backlashes amongst the businessmen of Iran and, more than that, inside the Revolutionary Guard because, now, the persons who were fighting in the war fronts 10 years ago to 12 years ago, now they are active in economic affairs, getting money benefits.&nbsp; Some of them are not good to be businessmen, for instance.</P> <P>The third comment that I wanted to say is about Quds Force and the direct relationship to Ayatollah Khamenei, the leader.&nbsp; That is true.&nbsp; Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Quds Force, gets its orders directly from Ayatollah Khamenei.&nbsp; But this is the type of management of Ayatollah Khamenei.&nbsp; He runs not only Revolutionary Guard like that but the army as well.&nbsp; Directly, he has connection to sometimes two or three levels lower commanders of these organizations and sends his orders to them, talks to them, sometimes change them.&nbsp; </P> <P>So somebody who is at the head of the army or Revolutionary Guard - for instance, General Jafari, who is now head of Revolutionary Guard - they have to accept that they do not have any authority on the commanders under the order.&nbsp; Ayatollah Khamenei directly talks to them, sometimes appoints them, sometimes dismisses them.&nbsp; This is the way of his management.&nbsp; Anyway, that is true.&nbsp; The Quds Force works directly with Ayatollah Khamenei.</P> <P>The other thing that I wanted to say is about the internal enemy.&nbsp; When Mr. Aziz Jafari became the chief commander of Revolutionary Guard last year, in a speech he announced that the main objective and goal of Revolutionary Guard in this critical stage of Iran and revolution in Iran is confronting the internal enemy.&nbsp; He said that this is the guideline of the leader for Revolutionary Guard.</P> <P>We can see that they have done it.&nbsp; They have tried by using Basij in universities, in factories and everywhere to suppress the opposition groups and, especially, they are afraid of a Velvet Revolution.&nbsp; They think that this is the way that the United States will overthrow an Islamic Republic of Iran, the model of the Velvet Revolutions in communist countries.&nbsp; So they are very alert to such activities, and they think that now the main mission of Revolutionary Guard is confronting the velvet revolutions in Iran.</P> <P>The last thing I just want to add to what my two friends said is the economic situation of Iran, which, I think, by the mismanagement of Mr. Ahmadinejad and what he has done, especially liquidity of Iran, which has been twice during the last three years, and the inflation rate officially is around 20 percent but many people believe that it is more than 30 or 35 percent.&nbsp; And recession at the same time because of importation of several cheap Chinese goods to Iran, and we have now problem in Iranian factories, and corruption in many levels and layers of the government.&nbsp; </P> <P>It is something that I think will put pressure on all the relationships in Iran, not only on the relationship of the people with respect to government but inside the government in relationship between Revolutionary Guard and other parts of the government and inside the Revolutionary Guard as well, because now everybody in Iran feels the problem of inflation and economic problem of Iran.&nbsp; I think that for any assessment about the future of the politics of Iran during next year and especially presidential election that we will have next May - and the competition will start from January-February - you have to have one of your eyes on the economic problem of Iran and the impact of this problem on all political affairs in Iran.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Thank you very much.&nbsp; I would like to now go into questions and answers.&nbsp; Just to reiterate, we are going to do Jeopardy rules.&nbsp; Please wait for the microphone, state your name, your affiliation.&nbsp; There is no one in Washington that does not have an affiliation.&nbsp; Make your statement in the form of a question.&nbsp; You can ask as many questions as you would like but I m going to direct the panel only to answer the first so that we can have as many questions and audience participation as possible.&nbsp; With that, why don t we start over here and work our way around the room?</P> <P>Male Voice:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; The name is [indiscernible] from WRC.&nbsp; I have two questions.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Sir, one question only please.</P> <P>Male Voice:&nbsp;&nbsp; I ll try to make it one.&nbsp; One of them is what is the relation - especially for Dr. Sazegara - of the IRGC with other mullahs, other important ayatollahs of Iran, except Ayatollah Khamenei?&nbsp; The second is that how much is the possibility of IRGC making a coup in Iran if they see things are going the wrong way as they see?&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Dr. Sazegara?</P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara:&nbsp; I remember that once in the parliament of Iran, the late Ayatollah Mahalati who was the representative of the Leader on those days in Revolutionary Guard -- later, he was killed in an airplane crash.&nbsp; Ayatollah Anwari [phonetic] had a discussion with him; I was over there.&nbsp; That was in the  80s.&nbsp; Ayatollah Anwari, who was an influential Ayatollah, especially, with respect to Imams of the mosques in Iran - he is responsible for all of them - he insisted Ayatollah Mahalati that,  Why do you support so much these Revolutionary Guard members?&nbsp; At last, they will kill us. </P> <P>I think that the relationship of Revolutionary Guard members and ayatollahs in Iran is not so good.&nbsp; Especially by intelligence activities of Revolutionary Guard in that parallel secret service, they have tried to control many ayatollahs in Qom, and they have done that.&nbsp; During the last 30 years, they have been in charge of security of ayatollahs, many of the clergy houses.&nbsp; So many of the members of Revolutionary Guard are well aware of the inside activities and relationships of their houses as well so they do not respect them so much like the ordinary people.&nbsp; They know about the corruptions.&nbsp; They know about the ethical problems.&nbsp; </P> <P>Very simple; I think that when you weaken that social civil society, then the bare power like Revolutionary Guard will be more effective.&nbsp; They have the gun.&nbsp; They have the security.&nbsp; So they do not pay attention to ayatollahs so much like the first years of revolution.&nbsp; Especially after Ahmadinejad, he has tried to say that he is related to the Hidden Imam directly so he does not need any predecessor of the Hidden Imam like the [speaks in Farsi/Persian], the Leader.</P> <P>So I think that -- anyway, yeah.&nbsp; This is something -- sometimes I say that Ayatollah Khamenei has marginalized all the social groups especially middle class of Iran in the politics of Iran.&nbsp; The last group which is going to be marginalized in the politics of Iran is the clergy.&nbsp; Sorry.&nbsp; What was that second part of your question?</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; We are only considering one question for each guest.&nbsp; I would actually like to turn this over just for a second to Ken.</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; I differ on this point.&nbsp; My view is that all the Guard leaders believe that their mission is to defend and protect the system that Ayatollah Khomeini set up, and to seize power would be to directly undermine that very system that caused them to exist.&nbsp; So I m very doubtful that they would move militarily like that.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Just my prerogative as a moderator -- there is also -- I would first want to emphasize what Dr. Sazegara said and draw it out that in many ways, a lot of the discussion of Mahdism and the messianism is a way to use folk religion to bypass the clerical hierarchy.</P> <P>On the other hand, I would agree with much of what Ken said except for the notion that one can have a virtual coup without having a formal coup in which one basically creates a puppet.&nbsp; But putting that aside, I would like to take more questions.</P> <P>Michael Connell by the window.</P> <P>Michael Connell:&nbsp; Mike Connell from Center for Naval Analysis.&nbsp; I got a question, actually, for Ken.&nbsp; You had brought up the instance of Qassem Suleimani orchestrating a tone-down of hostilities in Basra and in Baghdad.&nbsp; What do you think is the reasoning behind that?</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; My personal view is that, basically, Muqtada Sadr asked him to broker that ceasefire.&nbsp; Muqtada Sadr on March 30th saw that Gen. Petraeus was going to get involved in the Basra situation.&nbsp; Maliki sent the forces into Basra.</P> <P>I believe knowing full well that they would disintegrate and not handle the Basra operation well, and I believe he counted on Gen. Petraeus to come to his rescue.&nbsp; Gen. Petraeus began to come to his rescue and Muqtada Sadr very cleverly headed that off by signing the ceasefire.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; We have two questions up here.&nbsp; I would like to take the gentleman on the left first only because he has not asked a question first.</P> <P>Amin Nashati [phonetic]:&nbsp;&nbsp; Amin Nashati with Open Source Works.&nbsp; It is a brief question.&nbsp; I have yet to hear a good explanation for why Yahya Rahim Safavi was suddenly replaced by Jafari.&nbsp; If any of you have anything to comment on about that--</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Just as a clarification for the general audience, we are talking about the change in the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.&nbsp; Why do we not start with Ali and just move over to Dr. Sazegara?</P> <P>Ali Alfoneh:&nbsp; In Iranian history there are lots of precedence for removing officers when they get too strong; the Shah did that before; Khomeini did that, and now Khamenei is doing the same.&nbsp; But the big problem of Khamenei is that when you engage and make the Revolutionary Guards intervene at all levels of government, you militarize the society.&nbsp; This also bypasses all the control mechanisms that the system has within the military force.&nbsp; So when the Guardists are inside the Guard -- you have ideological commissars looking after them making sure that there is no military coup.&nbsp; </P> <P>But when you have ex-officers infiltrating all spheres of political and social and even religious life, then it does not make such a big difference to remove Yahya Safavi who has become too strong a leader.&nbsp; Then you have a society which is developing in a way, a path which is challenging, and will at some point challenge the authority of Ayatollah Khamenei.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Dr. Sazegara?</P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara:&nbsp; I can give you two reasons for that substitution.&nbsp; First, Aziz Jafari was at the head of the strategic studies office of Revolutionary Guard for more than three years.&nbsp; That is almost the most important think tank of Iran right now.&nbsp; Many of the assessments of Ayatollah Khamenei, the leader, come from that office of the Revolutionary Guard.&nbsp; In that office they prepared, as I have heard, a report for Ayatollah Khamenei that described the problems, the crisis in the region, confrontation with U.S. in Kurdistan, the PEJAK, and many other things.</P> <P>For that assessment, they recommended to Ayatollah Khamenei that it would be better to have a powerful man at the head of Revolutionary Guard to control inside Iran as well.&nbsp; This is the reason that Aziz Jafari, who before that position was the commander of ground forces of Revolutionary Guard -- he is at the same time not only the chief commander of Revolutionary Guard but the commander of Basij Force as well for internal affairs of Iran.</P> <P>I mean that they prepared, Jafari and his friends, an assessment for Ayatollah Khamenei that according to that assessment, they recommended to him to have somebody more powerful than Rahim Safavi because Rahim Safavi was famous even from the years of the war that he is a very soft man and he is not good for tough positions.</P> <P>The second reason that I can say is the problem of Morteza Rezaei - not Mohsen Rezaei - Morteza Rezai, who was the chief commander of Revolutionary Guard at the first two years of war.&nbsp; Then he was out of any position for 10 years.&nbsp; But after the leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei he was returned to his office.&nbsp; He was invited by Ayatollah Khamenei, and behind the scenes he is very powerful.&nbsp; Morteza Rezaei is at the head of the intelligence and counterintelligence of Revolutionary Guard and head of the council of that parallel secret service of Ayatollah Khamenei.&nbsp; And he had lots of problems with Rahim Safavi. </P> <P>When he was appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei as the vice commander of the Revolutionary Guard, everybody knew that after a few weeks or months Rahim Safavi should go from Revolutionary Guard, and it happened.&nbsp; Now, Jafari is the chief commander of Revolutionary Guard and Morteza Rezaei is the vice commander of Revolutionary Guard.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Ken, just a brief insertion.</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; No.&nbsp; You ve clarified it.&nbsp; Morteza is the deputy commander.&nbsp; I would add Morteza Rezaei was also named under Security Council Resolution 1747 as a sanctioned person.&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; What we can all conclude in general is that the reasons for the change in leadership were quite different than those that affected commander Rezaei of the IRGC in Tehran.</P> <P>[Dead air up to 04:17:23]</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Okay.&nbsp; Dr. Sazegara?</P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara:&nbsp; I think that the first thing that you have to expect from the next majlis is changing Gholam Haddad-Adel, the speaker of the parliament.&nbsp; It seems that there is a kind of agreement amongst all the groups to change Haddad-Adel, and the only problem is Ayatollah Khamenei because Haddad-Adel is father-in-law of his son.&nbsp; But it seems that now there is a kind of agreement, and they have the agreement of Ayatollah Khamenei as well.&nbsp; </P> <P>The next parliament will be against Ahmadinejad, but I think that they will wait.&nbsp; If Ayatollah Khamenei continues the support of Ahmadinejad as he has done so far, they will wait until the end of his term which is next June.&nbsp; But the economic problem, I think, that will affect the 8th parliament too much like the other parts of the country --</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; I would like to limit only to one question, please, so that we can get as many people in the audience as possible.&nbsp; What I do want to just add is looking ahead of the economic problems.&nbsp; There are two that I take a personal interest as they insert themselves into debate.&nbsp; One is the back-and-forth about whether after the imposition of rationing, whether the executive in Iran, whether Ahmadinejad s government ordered foreign currency reserves to be used against the parliament s wishes to import refined gasoline in contradiction to the rationing plan, which the government itself had used.</P> <P>Of course, starting today there has been discussion vis--vis inflation about knocking off a zero from the currency.&nbsp; This is a debate which can be very popular but it does not affect the root causes of inflation but it does bring the discussion over inflation; it amplifies it into the public sector when one talks about replacing all the currency with that.</P> <P>What I would like to do is go to the back of the room and then we will go around first to the gentleman over there standing up, and then in front of the pillar and then up front.</P> <P>Ken Reynolds:&nbsp; Hi.&nbsp; I m Ken Reynolds from Physicians for Social Responsibility.&nbsp; This question is directed to Mr. Katzman.&nbsp; You mentioned that the Revolutionary Guard was directly funding Iraqi militia and that up to 150 members of the Revolutionary Guard may be up in Iraq at any moment.&nbsp; I guess my question for you is:&nbsp; with increasing rhetoric from the U.S. military about the dangers of the Revolutionary Guars and the Iranian military to American goals, do you think the Iranian military and the Revolutionary Guard actually poses the threat that the U.S. military says it does, or is this more of a political ploy?&nbsp; Thank you.</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; I have no reason to doubt the evidence that the U.S. military has presented showing that most of the 107-mm rockets that fired into the Green Zone at a rate of approximately 15 per day are indeed manufactured in Iran.&nbsp; I have no reason to doubt Gen. Petraeus assertion that Iran is using Hezbollah operatives to train and direct special groups of Mahdi offshoot fighters.</P> <P>I see a lot of the speculation in this town that this is going to lead to some confrontation; I personally do not see that yet.&nbsp; I would not rule it out entirely but the U.S. military is taking losses from these rockets.&nbsp; This is a serious issue.&nbsp; The U.S. military rhetoric has gotten quite hot the past couple of weeks, but I think both sides have an interest in -- I think the U.S. has an interest in finding other ways to curb this other than some strike across the border into Iran.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; There is a question over here, and then we will work our way forward and around.</P> <P>Mokhtar Ibrahim [phonetic]:&nbsp; Mokhtar Ibrahim from [indiscernible] program.&nbsp; My question is for Mr. Mohsen.&nbsp; How do you evaluate the punishments against Revolutionary Guards from the United States here?</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; How do you evaluate the sanctions and the coercion directed towards the Revolutionary Guard from the United States?&nbsp; Dr. Sazegara?</P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara:&nbsp; For sure, it has affected Iran projects as well because they are involved in many projects.&nbsp; They know how to confront that, I think.&nbsp; They have several companies.&nbsp; They have several investment companies, commercial companies; they are active in the names of the Imam Zahde [phonetic], the sons of the Imam shrines, holy shrines in Iran.&nbsp; For instance, Shahr-e-Ray, which is a very famous holy shrine near Tehran, the ex-minister of intelligence of Iran, Mr. Rayshahr-e [phonetic] is now at the head of financial and economic huge, I can say, organization which is working under the name of that shrine.&nbsp; And they have very good relationship with some companies of Revolutionary Guard.</P> <P>So I think that they very easily -- now they work with the hands of the other companies.&nbsp; There is a network.</P> <P>Male Voice: Do you have a recommendation?</P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara: I do not know.&nbsp; What kind of recommendation did you expect me to say?&nbsp; No, I have no recommendation how to confront that but I think that if you want&nbsp; to make sure that what is going on, you have to watch really carefully inside the system of the network of the companies in Iran, especially lots of nonprofit organizations which comes from the holy shrines.&nbsp; They have very good relationships with Revolutionary Guards.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; A question up here.&nbsp; I apologize for the long delay.&nbsp; Then, we will work our way back.&nbsp; I ll take two more questions over here and then we re finished with Mr. Timmerman.</P> <P>Heidi Berg [phonetic]:&nbsp; Commander Heidi Berg from the Navy.&nbsp; I was wondering in light of we have agreement that, either tacitly or explicitly the IRGC, does not act without the approval of the regime, so in looking at the almost daily confrontation that we have between the IRGC and the U.S. Navy, what do you think would be the strategic objectives behind that and the best possible outcome that the Iranians are looking for in these confrontations in the Gulf?</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; My personal view is to demonstrate that the United States is either afraid of or not willing to confront the IRGC in the Gulf.&nbsp; I believe they have made that point quite effectively.&nbsp; We can debate whether such a confrontation would be wise or not, but I believe that they are, as I said, taunting the shark, trying to show that they are not scared of the shark.&nbsp; I believe they have been quite effective at that.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; If I could just insert, from a policy perspective it also suggests that there is a danger of over- confidence perhaps in the part of the Pasdaran of the Revolutionary Guard but one of the dangers which exist out there is the constant taunting suggest that the Iranians are testing a red line; that they are not certain that that red line for us really is a red line; that it is set in stone.</P> <P>My biggest fear would be that they will miscalculate, perhaps, as Hezbollah did versus Israel in 2006, and that will amplify into a larger dispute.&nbsp; It is one of those reasons why I do not believe the reticence on the part of some in Washington to be very soft with regard to the rhetoric is actually a smart move if one wants to involve kinetic action because I would argue what -- the greatest danger would be stumbling into some sort of conflict, and the best way to defend against such an unintended conflict is to make the red lines as clear as possible, and that will better enable diplomacy to work as soon as a mutual understanding as to what the point of no return is.</P> <P>There were two more questions.&nbsp; First, up here, and then we will end in the back.&nbsp; If there is time I ll try to squeeze in one more.</P> <P>Dan Moore [phonetic]:&nbsp; Dan Moore from the Army-Directed Studies Office.&nbsp; A question:&nbsp; Why from an Iranian strategic or strategy perspective such support to Sadr and the Mahdi Army and not Maliki and ISCI when you -- their strategy -- why not other than he has continued to kill Americans?</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Just for the benefit of the transcribers, ISCI is the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, formerly known as SCIRI.</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; The Iranians are not supporting the Supreme Council and the Dawa Party as much any more because their militias are being trained by the United States of America.&nbsp; Those militias are not going to attack the United States of America because we command them, basically.&nbsp; The only Shiite militia that is going to attack the United States of America is Sadr s Mahdi Army and thus, Iran has perfect rationale to be supplying them.</P> <P>Male Voice:&nbsp; Is this working?</P> <P>Kenneth Katzman:&nbsp; Yeah.&nbsp; They are creating leverage.&nbsp; They are showing that if you strike us, we can hit you.&nbsp; Yes.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; To roll out one more point, the very discussion that we are having here is indicative of the fact that the idea of just a tripartite federal solution in Iraq is not going to bring security because there is no such thing as Kurdish unity; that really is an oxymoron.&nbsp; The issues with regard to Sunni unity are clear and lack thereof, and Shia unity is often expressed kinetically, if you will.&nbsp; With that, let me go back to Ken Timmerman and then we will have one final question over here.</P> <P>Ken Timmerman:&nbsp; Ken Timmerman.&nbsp; First of all, Ali Alfoneh, I wanted to ask you earlier on.&nbsp; You made a very good comparison or you pointed out contradictions --</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; There is only going to be one question, so make it good.</P> <P>Ken Timmerman:&nbsp; There will be only one question.&nbsp; You pointed out the apparent contradiction between the Revolutionary Guards in the government and yet the Rev Guard officers were critical of the government.&nbsp; I think that is something that is not very well understood here in Washington and Dr. Sazegara, I think, has made this point as well.&nbsp; </P> <P>The question to both of you would be:&nbsp; What will the Revolutionary Guards do, both those inside of government and those outside of government, in the event of a major U.S. air strike on Iran?&nbsp; For instance, an air strike that is not just limited to Quds Force bases but an air strike which attacks leadership facilities?&nbsp; What would the reaction in the Rev Guards be?</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; Does anyone want to take that?</P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara:&nbsp; It is a really difficult question.&nbsp; I think that it depends on the behavior of the United States and what they do.&nbsp; If you can show that your goal and aim is only the top leadership of Iran and the Revolutionary Guard, and you do not want to confront the faith of the people, the religion of Iran, something that -- during the last few years, it happened, unfortunately, from some satellite TVs.&nbsp; People in Iran saw some satellite TVs which were broadcasting from the United States.&nbsp; </P> <P>At the first years, I remember I was in Iran.&nbsp; Ordinary people thought that this is the United States, and they saw the people who are insulting their religion, their beliefs, everything - Quran, the prophet.&nbsp; And they still are doing it from Los Angeles.&nbsp; Fortunately, VOA, Voice of America, was very effective to show the people that this is the United States -- that they were just some people.</P> <P>I think that if you want to say to the members of Revolutionary Guard that they must not be united behind their leader, for instance, definitely, you have to show them that you do not want to attack their religion, the independence of the country and their beliefs.&nbsp; It is as simple as that.&nbsp; So I think that, definitely, it depends on what will be their goals, what will be their aims.&nbsp; For instance, if some members of Revolutionary Guard will be killed in any strike, naturally, they have some reactions to that.</P> <P>Male Voice:&nbsp; [Inaudible] </P> <P>Mohsen Sazegara:&nbsp; No, not the top commanders.&nbsp; It depends on the places that you do.&nbsp; For instance, if you just attack some oil platforms and say,  There is nobody on that, or, already, you say that, yes, these are the places because of the terroristic actions and these are the documents that we want to attack, it is quite different that if you attack just an ordinary base of Revolutionary Guard with ordinary members in that.&nbsp; So I think that it would be definitely related to the behavior of the United States.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; I m reminded I m going to move on to the last question right now for the sake of speed, but I m reminded of Former Secretary Donald Rumsfeld s comments about unknown unknowns, somewhat unknown unknowns, and known unknowns.&nbsp; I think we will just put this in the category of unknowns.&nbsp; There is a question here.&nbsp; Please?</P> <P>Ciara Elliott [phonetic]:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; Ciara Elliott, Congressional Research Service.&nbsp; My question is about the economic role of the IRGC.&nbsp; I have seen literature suggesting that the IRGC is a direct economic beneficiary of international sanctions just as foreign businesses pull out and the IRGC gets contracts.&nbsp; I am wondering if you see any implications for Iran s economic viability or potential for economic reform based on this.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; That is a very good question.&nbsp; I m going to direct it to Ali.&nbsp; I ll give an advertisement for his essays, so keep it brief.</P> <P>Ali Alfoneh:&nbsp; Thank you.&nbsp; As we see, it is getting still more difficult to reform the Iranian economy because, of course, it is a state-directed economy, planned economy dependent heavily on oil and everything.&nbsp; But I have tried, too, to discuss this issue in my little piece in which I actually say that if there are general sanctions hitting the entire economy, the only beneficiaries would be the companies owned by the Revolutionary Guards which can go in and take orders from the government.&nbsp; </P> <P>They are actually not so uninterested in having general sanctions against the Islamic Republic because it diminishes competition.&nbsp; If there is something that the Revolutionary Guards have understood from capitalism, those are the benefits of monopolies from their perspective, of course, in the Iranian market.</P> <P>The studies that are done are very small.&nbsp; I m not so progressed in my own research, but the numbers coming out -- the degree of outcry from larger businessmen and the bazaar community saying that they are bleeding under the sanctions regime right now.&nbsp; And these are those people who are, maybe, rightly or wrongly, associated with Rafsanjani.&nbsp; </P> <P>But essentially, the bazaar class which is business oriented.&nbsp; They are very dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, especially with regard to the banking sector.&nbsp; The banking sector is a pressure point against the Islamic Republic, and they are doing an outcry.</P> <P>Michael Rubin:&nbsp; With that, I would like to just give a quick advertisement.&nbsp; Ali has done several different recent essays about different aspects of the Revolutionary Guards including a lengthy one on the Revolutionary Guards economic wing.&nbsp; All these essays are available at <A target=_blank href="http://www.aei.org/meo" target=_blank>www.aei.org/meo</A>.</P> <P>[End of File]</P> <P>[End of Transcript]</P> <P>&nbsp;</P></body></html>