Cablegate: (C) Iran: A Xxxxx Contact Shares Views From a Rafsanjani Business Ally On Khamenei's Cancer and Rafsanjani's Next Steps
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHIT #0336/01 2401409
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281409Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9152
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISTANBUL 000336
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TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS ECON ETRD IR TU
SUBJECT: (C) IRAN: A XXXXX CONTACT SHARES VIEWS FROM A RAFSANJANI BUSINESS ALLY ON KHAMENEI'S CANCER AND RAFSANJANI'S NEXT STEPS
Classified By: Consulate General Istanbul Deputy Principal Officer Win Dayton; Reason 1.5 (d).
1. (C) Summary: A XXXXXXXXXXXX businessman who represents the XXXXXXXXXXXX company XXXXXXXXXXXX shared with us a discussion he recently had with a XXXXXXXXXXXX he described as close to Rafsanjani. The XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed Rafsanjani told him Supreme Leader Khamenei has terminal leukemia and is expected to die in months. As a result, Rafsanjani decided to stop challenging Khamenei, and instead is preparing the ground to have himself appointed Khamenei's successor. If he succeeds he will dismiss Ahmadinejad and call for XXXXXXXa new election, according to the XXXXXXXXXXX. The XXXXXXXXXXXX told our contact there was a growing “invisible general strike” in Iran, whereby hundreds of thousands of workers were going to work but not really working, to show their dismay at the election results. XXXXXXXXXXXX End Summary.
2. (C) We met XXXXXXXXXXX with XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX recently returned from meetings in Tehran with XXXXXXXXXXXX executives, including a Board of Directors member named XXXXXXXXXXXX.
3. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXX is a strong Mousavi supporter who expected to be a potential candidate for Minister of Industry in a Mousavi government. XXXXXXXXXXX said that XXXXXXXXXXXX explicitly described the June 12 election results as massive fraud, a view he said was shared by almost all business executives and company directors throughout Iran. He claimed the fraud was perpetrated by “six or seven Sepah (IRGC) Generals” who were afraid the IRGC would be sidelined if Mousavi won. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted to XXXXXXXXXXXX that he personally knew the director of information technology for the Interior Ministry's election supervision office. XXXXXXXXXXXX described this official as being involved in tabulating the vote count electronically XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX told XXXXXXXXXXXX that this official was promptly arrested by IRGC security agents, jailed, and eventually executed. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the real tabulation results showed Mousavi winning 16 million votes in the first round, with Karroubi coming in second place and Ahmadinejad lagging in third. (Comment: These figures track with the supposedly genuine vote tally figures circulated after the election by pro-Mousavi supporters.)
4. (C) Khamenei has cancer: XXXXXXXXXXXX told XXXXXXXXXXXX that Rafsanjani remains vehemently opposed to Ahmadinejad but is biding his time because of a serious health crisis affecting Supreme Leader Khamenei: a terminal case of “blood cancer” (leukemia). XXXXXXXXXXXX told XXXXXXXXXXXX that he heard from Rafsanjani that Khamenei is likely to die within a matter of months. As a result, Rafsanjani has stopped campaigning within the Assembly of Experts to challenge Khamenei, and now is focused on “letting nature take its course.” Following the Supreme Leader's passing, Rafsanjani will try to mobilize the Assembly of Experts to appoint him as the new Supreme Leader. If he is successful – though clearly he would face stiff opposition from Ahmadinejad allies in that Assembly – he would then invite Ahmadinejad to resign and call a new election. Because Rafsanjani, Mousavi, and their close supports are anticipating this scenario, they are currently “laying low.” XXXXXXXXXXXX told XXXXXXXXXXXX that he did not expect to see opposition leaders calling for any further demonstrations or provocative activities in coming months that might undercut Rafsanjani's efforts to position himself as a future Supreme Leader.
5. (C) “Invisible” general strike: XXXXXXXXXXXX said XXXXXXXXXXXX told him that a growing portion of the Iranian workforce was ISTANBUL 00000336 002 OF 003 engaged in an “invisible general strike” against the regime to protest the contested election result. He claimed that hundreds of thousands of Iranian workers in all sectors (public and private) throughout the country had superficially resumed their pre-elections routines and habits. They were going to work every day, but once at work they were doing nothing or working at a bare minimum pace. The realization that such an “invisible strike” could hurt the regime almost as much as an overt general strike, but without the same risks, was spreading. XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted to XXXXXXXXXXXX that Iran's manufacturing and industrial production levels, already strained, are starting to suffer even more precipitously as this effort becomes more widespread. Seeking Commercial Advice ————————
6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX
7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX
8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX
9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX has proved to be a credible interlocutor in the past and XXXXXXXXXXXX favorably predisposed to the United States. This is the first time he shared observations from the XXXXXXXXXXXX. We cannot independently assess the veracity of that information, but we note that rumors have long circulated that Supreme Leader Khamenei has cancer and is in rapidly declining health. If true, Khamenei's departure would indeed offer Rafsanjani a propitious opportunity to exert control over the appointment of a successor, though such an event would likely precipitate factional infighting extending well beyond the closed-door confines of the Assembly of Experts. That Rafsanjani would be able to secure his own appointment as Iran's next Supreme
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Leader in the event of Khamenei's near-term death is far from certain, and indeed is only one of many potential succession scenarios that could unfold. The observation about an “invisible general strike” is noteworthy, but we have not heard similar descriptions from other contacts; we will query several Iran-based contacts on it.
10. (C) As a businessman, XXXXXXXXXXXX's primary motivation in pursuing deals with Iranian companies is, of course, the profit motive. But XXXXXXXXXXX, he is a true believer in the idea that significantly expanding western commercial relations with Iran would raise pressure on Iranian companies (and indirectly the Iranian government) to reform their economic behavior and modernize the way they do business, resulting – potentially – in a more moderately-behaved Iran. From our perspective such a linkage is unlikely in the current political climate in Iran. XXXXXXXXXXXX.