IRAN: Police chief's expanded brief includes fighting in trenches of ideological war
Most police officials around the world prefer to stay aloof of politics, concentrating their attention on mundane matters of law enforcement and insisting on their integrity, in the face of pressures from City Hall or partisan interests.
Not so in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Police Chief Gen. Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam sees fit not only to take sides in the ongoing factional political fight within Iran's establishment, but to opine on matters of foreign policy and comparative social science.
"Iran is not Europe where thousands of vehicles are set afire during their New Year festivities," he said in comments published Saturday on the official news website of Iran's police force (in Persian). "A small incident happens here and foreign media trumpet their horns, while they remain silent when 12,000 cars are torched in France."
It turns out Ahmadi-Moqaddam is an officer who's also an expert on the intricacies of international espionage. He equated giving interviews to the popular BBC Persian and Voice of America to collaborating with Western intelligence. "Certain people inside and outside the country are accustomed to contacting MI-6-led BBC and the CIA-run VOA to release statements against the Iranian nation," he said.
"These are unjustified behaviors aimed at undermining Iran's intelligence service," he said. "Those who are cooperating with foreign news agencies by providing them with news feeds, photos and films should know that they are under control and we register everything in their files."
And like a latter-day Rousseau or Descartes in an olive-green uniform, Ahmadi-Moqaddam even waxed philosophical about the nature of society.
"Freedom is different from chaos," he said. " We are not supposed to tolerate spies in our free society and we are not supposed to allow action against national security under cover of freedom."
Analysts say Ahmadi-Moqaddam is a confidante of Mojtaba Khamenei, the mid-ranking cleric close to the Revolutionary Guard who is the hard-line son of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many consider Ahmadi-Moqaddam's comments a reflection of the younger Khamenei's worldview.
Without naming them, Ahmadi-Moqaddam took potshots in his statement at opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who called on supporters to take to the streets on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
"This guy issues a statement to make an appointment [with his supporters on Feb. 11]," the police chief said.
"He gives signal for operation against the Islamic revolution and then he distances himself from counter-revolutionaries," he said. "He utters stupid remarks and considers us to be idle here. We will put all of them back in their places. There should be no room for seditionists to maneuver in the society. As long as the sedition exists, we are obliged to impose security restrictions."
Those nasty words didn't seem to scare off Karroubi and Mousavi, who met Saturday for the second time since Wednesday to discuss future strategies for the battered but not down opposition movement born out of last year's disputed presidential elections.
And that may be the real reason behind Ahmadi-Moqaddam's harsh words. Iranian opposition supporters are gearing up for a possible round of protests on the night of March 16, the last Tuesday night of the Persian calendar year.
The Zoroastrian holiday, called Chaharshanbeh Souri, is an apocalyptic night of fireworks and bonfires during the best of times. Ahmadi-Moqaddam warned that authorities would carefully monitor proceedings.
"We will firmly stave off any incident" on the holiday, he vowed. "Families should also take care of their children. We allow celebrations with low-risk materials before the eyes of their parents, but will confront those who may block streets and disturb people."
Photo: Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam. Credit: Iranian police news website