Cablegate: Iran: Expat Source's Information and Views On
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLO #2169/01 2341510
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 211510Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9558
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 LONDON 002169
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/19/2018
TAGS: PINR PGOV PTER PHUM IR UK
SUBJECT: IRAN: EXPAT SOURCE'S INFORMATION AND VIEWS ON
MOJTABA KHAMENEI, AND THIS SOURCE'S PITCH FOR USG FUNDS
REF: A. SECSTATE 83513 B. LONDON 365 AND PREVIOUS C. 07 LONDON 3310 Classified By: Political Counselor Rick Mills for reasons 1.4 (b) and ( d)
1. (S) Summary: Mojtaba Khamenei, son of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, reportedly is widely viewed within the regime as a capable and forceful leader and manager who may someday succeed to at least a share of national leadership; his father may also see him in that light. A close ally of Tehran Mayor Qalibaf, Mojtaba is seen by many as second only to Golpayegani within the Office of the Supreme Leader. Mojtaba is close to and well briefed by IRGC senior leaders. He is well aware of the distinct limitations his own relative youth imposes on him in the political culture of the Islamic Republic.
2. (S/NF) Summary cont. This view of Mojtaba Khamenei was given by UK-based Iranian expatriate broadcaster XXXXXXXXXXXX, who provided input in conjunction with his own plans to move to the United States and to apply for a USG grant to create an Iran "information bank." XXXXXXXXXXXX will soon visit Washington and will try to promote his idea to Department and other USG officials. XXXXXXXXXXXX claims a senior Iranian official has recently tried to bribe him to halt his broadcasts, and also claims HMG security officials have told him he may be in some physical danger in the UK. End summary.
3. (S) In response to Department's request (ref a) for information on Mojtaba Khamenei, son of and deputy to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, London Iran Watcher (Poloff) queried UK-based Iranian area experts and bloggers, but received few useful replies beyond rhetorical responses, information available in media, or derivations of recent work by respected U.S.-based scholars Mehdi Khalaji and Karim Sadjadpour.
4. (S/NF) In contrast, VOA contract Iranian expatriate broadcaster Ali Reza Nourizadeh (ref b) provided a detailed, nuanced response, attributing his information, described in paras. 8-16, to various sources in Iran, including an unspecified regular contact of his in the Supreme Leader's office, and to what he called "fairly common knowledge" among observers in Iran. Embassy Comment ---------------
7. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX offered the below account (paras. 8-16) of Mojtaba Khamenei to stir USG interest and possible support for his own USG grant application (discussed paras 17-19 and 24). XXXXXXXXXXXX's information, views, and conjecture on Mojtaba Khamenei should be evaluated in that light, as possibly tailored to the needs and predilections of a USG audience. Mojtaba: Marital Details ------------------------
8. (S) Mojtaba Khamenei is approximately forty-one years old. His marriage, to the daughter of former Majles Speaker Hadad Adel, followed two "temporary marriages" (available under Iranian law) and occurred relatively late in life, reportedly due to an impotency problem treated and eventually resolved during three extended visits to the UK, at Wellington and Cromwell Hospitals, London. Mojtaba was expected by his family to produce children quickly, but needed a fourth visit to the UK for medical treatment; after a stay of two months, his wife became pregnant. Back in Iran, a healthy boy (now about one year old) was born, named Ali for his paternal grandfather. Mojtaba: Talented, Connected, and Coming ----------------------------------------
9. (S) Within the Supreme Leader's office, Mojtaba works in his father's shadow and in strong partnership with, and under the tutelage of, one of the Supreme Leader's leading deputies, Asghar Hejazi. Mojtaba is reportedly considered by informed observers and regime officials to rank second within the office behind Office Director Golpayegani; he is seen as an intelligent manager and a strong, capable leader with a forceful personality. His father-in-law Ghulam Hahdad-Adel reportedly is an influence on Mojtaba.
10. (S) Mojtaba is said to have a fair degree of control over access to his father and stays very close to him, including during the Supreme Leader's travels in Iran. LONDON 00002169 002 OF 004
11. (S) Though there has been no formal announcement nor any internal acknowledgment of succession plans or expectations, Ali Khamenei is reportedly seen by some within the Leader's Office as treating and consulting Mojtaba as he would an eventual successor to his responsibilities, rather than purely as an advisor. Mojtaba also reportedly has a leading, central oversight role for "all" political and security matters handled by the Supreme Leader's Office.
12. (S) Mojtaba is reportedly extremely well-informed, his principal sources including IRGC general officer Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr and IRGC commander Mohammed Ali Jafari.
13. (S) Mojtaba reportedly has long maintained a very close relationship with Tehran Mayor and presidential hopeful Mohammad Baqr Qalibaf; Mojtaba was reportedly the "backbone" of Qalibaf's past and continuing election campaigns. Mojtaba is said to help Qalibaf as an advisor, financier, and provider of senior-level political support. His support for and closeness to Qalibaf reportedly remains undiminished. But Too Young to Go It Alone ----------------------------
14. (S) Mojtaba is reportedly widely regarded in regime circles as possessing formidable and growing power and political stature, but is also seen as still much too young, by Islamic Republic norms, to aspire to the mantle of national leadership by himself. Another limiting factor is Mojtaba's limited level of clerical training and achievement: he is reportedly not expected ever to achieve by his own scholarship the status of "mujtahid," far less that of ayatollah. Mojtaba reportedly is quite aware of his own limitations and does not appear to harbor an expectation of becoming sole Supreme Leader in his own right. Mojtaba As Part of a Triumvirate? ---------------------------------
15. (S) Mojtaba is, however, due to his skills, wealth, and unmatched alliances, reportedly seen by a number of regime insiders as a plausible candidate for shared leadership of Iran upon his father's demise, whether that demise is soon or years in the future. Observers reportedly reason that the additions of Rafsanjani, whose wealth and experience keep him in play but whose age and corrupt image disqualify him for sole rule, and of a third, reliably conservative stakeholder, such as judiciary head Shahrudi, would provide a balanced triumvirate. Some insiders reportedly see Shahrudi as unworkable since he is originally Iraqi; they reportedly propose the late Ruhollah Khomeini's grandson Hassan Khomeini, despite his current marginal role in governing, as a possible third, junior leg of a hypothetical triumvirate, along with Rafsanjani and Mojtaba Khamenei.
16. (S) Reportedly, neither Larijani nor Ahmedinejad, and least of all Khatami, figure into insider debates over a workable future Supreme Leadership structure. Source XXXXXXXXXXXX Would Be "Info Bank" on Iran, Seeks USG Funding, Fears For Safety ----------------------------------------- 17. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX, a UK citizen, has previously stated a growing desire to work in the United States due to Iranian threats to his security in the UK (ref c). He told Poloff he has near-term plans to move to Washington, D.C., where he claims he could be a ready reference and "information bank" for USG on Iranian personalities and events. He intends soon to submit to the State Department a proposal, under the newly restructured Support for Civil Society/Rule of Law in Iran Program, for funding an NGO with such a capability, which he would head. XXXXXXXXXXXX claims he seeks "less than three hundred thousand" dollars for a year's operations; he would continue his VOA and other broadcasts, keep his present London premises and staff (of two), hire "from five to eight" more clerical and research staff for London, Washington, and Tehran to field the calls and e-mails from Iran that his broadcasts generate. Poloff told XXXXXXXXXXXX he could make no promises or estimates about USG ability to support his arguably unorthodox funding proposal; Poloff also noted USG funds cannot now be spent in Iran. 18. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff he has received U.S. private sector offers, but claims to prefer no association with the political "branding" he feels Western NGOs and think tanks carry. XXXXXXXXXXXX, who periodically complains in private to Poloff about his contractual difficulties with LONDON 00002169 003 OF 004 VOA, also hints he will be unable for financial reasons, apart from security considerations, to continue his present London operation for long. 19. (S/NF) Finally, XXXXXXXXXXXX stated he has been visited recently by HMG security and intelligence officials, of long-standing acquaintance, who allegedly detailed for him, as they reportedly have in the past, their belief he has been targeted by Iranian operatives and may be in danger. The HMG officials reportedly reviewed his home and office security practices. XXXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff he is under increasing pressure from his family to move to the United States, at least temporarily, for his own safety. Poloff has not attempted independently to verify these alleged threats to XXXXXXXXXXXX. Poloff likewise has not encouraged XXXXXXXXXXXX'S desire to re-locate to the U.S.; that desire appears to have grown in response to XXXXXXXXXXXX'S family's fears for his safety. XXXXXXXXXXXX'S Views/Credentials -------------------------------- 20. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX is an ardent Iranian nationalist and supports constitutional democracy for Iran, and non-violent regime change from within. He is, according to Poloff contacts ranging from regime supporters to regime change activists, generally seen by Iranian experts, and trusted by Iranian citizens, as one of the better-informed, more balanced (though not non-partisan) commentators on Iran's politics. Listeners seem to respond to his humane but nationalistic sentiments, and his time is in constant demand. Fairly widely published in Farsi and Arabic on Iranian and Lebanese history, XXXXXXXXXXXX appears to owe his wide connections in Iran to his broadcasts and to pre-1979 family and professional connections (ref b). The breadth of his contacts is reflected in Embassy reporting, and in the meetings XXXXXXXXXXXX has offered which Poloff has declined (from ex-President Khatami to IRGC confidant Salman Safavi to the Supreme Leader's UK representative to Crown Prince Pahlavi). 21. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX, as previously reported, claims his broadcasts, particularly recent ones about corruption among Ali Khamenei's family and associates, are the subject of close regular attention by senior regime figures. XXXXXXXXXXXX. Upcoming Washington, DC Visit ----------------------------- 22. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX, a regular visitor to USG officials in Washington, D.C., and to expats in Southern California, will visit Washington again reportedly beginning in the second week of September. As on previous Washington visits, XXXXXXXXXXXX will likely seek appointments with any USG officials interested in discussing personalities or conditions in Iran, including the substance of this report. Poloff expects XXXXXXXXXXXX will also raise his "Iran info bank" proposal. XXXXXXXXXXXX does not, due to his already well-known support for USG policy, see USG financial support as compromising his present public credibility. 23. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX complains of the logistical limitations of his current broadcast and research operation, at the tiny Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London. He claims he can monitor only part of the information flow from Iran his broadcasts generate, and argues any significant information he has given Embassy to date is "a fraction" of what he probably possesses but is unable to process. Comment ------- 24. (S/NF) Poloff is inclined, based on observation of XXXXXXXXXXXX's office operations, to credit his claim about the volume of information he may potentially have available; the information's quality, however, can perhaps only be validated by a fluent reader of Farsi with ample time to sample XXXXXXXXXXXX's files and publications. XXXXXXXXXXXX's personal apprehensions about his physical safety in the UK appear to be genuine and growing, as does his stated intention to move to the U.S. Department may in any case wish to consider ways to sustain and leverage XXXXXXXXXXXX's deep Iran contacts and knowledge in the near and medium term. LONDON 00002169 004 OF 004 Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX