IRAN: Government on brink of collapse, says man claiming to be former intelligence officer
A man purporting to be a former high-ranking member of the Iranian intelligence services says the Islamic Republic is cracking at the seams and predicts that Iran will undergo "big changes" in the near future.
"The government has already collapsed," Mohammad Reza Madhi, 46, who claims to be a former officer in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard and an aide to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a recent interview with the English-language Thai newspaper Bangkok Post. "There's going to be big changes very soon. Believe me, it will happen soon.”
He says the government is facing widespread opposition to the point that it cannot even trust cornerstone institutions such as the army.
“The government cannot rely 100% on the Iranian army and even on the Revolutionary Guards," he said. "There are now only a few hard-line religious people inside the Revolutionary Guards who are against the people."
Iran dismissed the report. A written response to the article undersigned "Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran" lashed out at the Bangkok Post, saying the newspaper had made an “unacceptable miscalculation” by printing the “suspicious interview."
“The so-called 'revelations’ by the unknown figure reflect everything but the ground truth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The said article seems to have fallen into the trap of some sort of profiteering and the interviewer and its organizers have gambled their credibility,” read the letter.
Madhi was not late to fire back at the note, saying that the claims made about him in the letter were false and that he was embarrassed by the tone of Iran's diplomatic representatives.
According to the Bangkok Post report, Madhi first served in the Iranian army in the early 1980s and then moved on to work in the intelligence branch of the Revolutionary Guard.
At some point in his career, the former intelligence officer said he had a change of heart and claimed he began passing on “secret information” to Iran’s most senior dissident cleric, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died in late December.
Madhi said he was handed a 73-year jail sentence for what he calls a “trivial charge," which made him flee the country.
Since what he described as his escape from Iran in 2008, he has has been devoting much of his time to mobilize Iranian opposition against the government.
On some days, he says, he spends more than 10 hours on the Internet and on the phone talking to people in Iran.
In his interview with the Thai newspaper, Madhi, who is apparently also known as Seyed Reza Hosseini, airs his thoughts on the current political and economic situation in his home country, his claimed previous close relationship with the supreme leader for nearly 20 years, and Iran’s controversial nuclear program, among other controversial topics.
As for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, Madhi finds the current government similar to that of Iran's Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who was ousted in 1979.
“They [the Iranian government] took all the power in the country into their hands and have tried to run the country like it is their kingdom, similar to that of the shah," he said. "The shah wore the crown, but now the ayatollahs wear turbans. It is the same thing. They run the country like a kingdom."
Just as the shah's strategy backfired back in the 1970s, so too will the current government's, he said.
On the topic of the nuclear program, Madhi says he doesn’t think the Islamic Republic is developing nuclear weapons.
But, he adds, it might do so if other countries keep pressuring it.
Spilling the beans as an alleged former intelligence figure does come with a price tag. Madhi says the Iranian government has tried to kill him and discredit him publicly for his outspokenness.
Despite that, he maintains a positive attitude and says he is “looking forward” to at one point going back to Iran to live with his family.
Once there is a change of government, that is.
“I will go back to build my country," he said. "Every Iranian should work to reconstruct Iran. ... I can promise you that I will meet you for the next interview in Tehran very soon."
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: Mohammad Reza Madhi. Credit: Bangkok Post website