On June 7 we interviewed Mr. Kahlili and are pleased to present excerpts from that interview here.
As an idealistic student studying in the U.S. back during the tumultuous 70s, Reza Kahlili returned to his native country and became active in Iranian politics, inspired by the revolution that swept Ayatollah Khomeini into power, believing - as did many - that Khomeini would usher in a watershed period in the wake of Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was forced to leave office.
Kahlili became involved with the IRG, Iran's Revolutionary Guard at an early point when it was comprised mainly of "common kids from the neighborhood," thinking its intent was solely to "support and protect the country." At the time Khomeini mouthed platitudes such as, "a nation that does not have freedom does not have civilization."
Q. Was it your opinion at the time you started getting involved with these folks that Islam was compatible with a Western conception of freedom, civil liberties, freedom of expression and equal rights for women?
A. "Just a few months down the road I was shocked by what was taking place...the clerics started interfering in the government...they started to construct their power...then they started to form a revolutionary court and prosecute old military officers under the Shah executing thousands...then the trial of 50,000...then the takeover of the U.S. embassy which was a big slap in my face...[it became clear that]...the clerics were going to enforce Islamic law...it was then that I realized that the country was moving towards Islamization and a hard core radical was taking hold of power...universities where shut down...political parties were banned...that was when I thought that I needed to take whatever action I could to confront the regime...it happened very fast...it became the country of the jihadists...that's when I decided to come back to the U.S..."
Q. Do you have any knowledge that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was personally involved in the takeover of the embassy?
A. "...as far as I know...he was part of the Islamic students [who supported] Khomeini...he was involved with the planning of the takeover...
Q. When did you become a member of the Revolutionary Guard, what year?
A. "It was late 1979."
Q. Was the Guard pretty much configured at that point as a fully functioning military power?
A. "No actually it was a common guard for neighborhood...they were coming in with a lot of hope and opportunity, this was the underclass...not much education...so it was not a military power...as the years passed by it became a powerful military entity..."
Q. What's the current political situation in Iran, I realize that's a big question. Does Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still call the shots?
A. "Khamenei still calls the shots but it is much more complicated...there are several divisions within the leadership....the cracks are wider than they have ever been since the revolution...Khamenei is trying to undermine the capability of Ahmadinejad...the hard liners want Ahmadinejad out...it has become a very complex situation...there are many divisions within the Guard, there are some sympathizers with the Green Movement...Khamenei lacks...[the]...authority [of Khomeini]...nonetheless all of those running the country right now...are messianic people...this is a messianic regime..[which believes]...that the 12th Imam appears and kills all the infidels and establishes an Islamic caliphate worldwide...and pursues a nuclear bomb...you must differentiate between the Iranian people and the regime. Because the Iranian people are even more Westernized than when the Shah was there...right now they don't respect Islam anymore, they resent it...they now are truly of the opinion that Islam is a vicious religion, intolerant...I believe that when this regime is gone, the religion will be gone for many years to come..."
Q. So the theological precepts of Shia Islam, especially those concerning the 12th or the Hidden Imam, are driving this administration?
A. "Yes, absolutely..."
Q. Are they so devoted to this, to the point of being suicidal?
A. "...I have no doubt about that...these people are truly messianic they are suicidal...they believe with every cell in their body...[that]...the 12th Imam will appear..." .
Q. So under their theology, the destruction of Israel would the final event to make way for the Mahdi [the 12th Imam]?
A. "Yes, absolutely...[adding]...there are several key Hadiths which have to take place, one of them interestingly is the fall of Yemen, the Yemeni government...[therefore] Yemen is of significant importance to them...they are arming Shia rebels, training and arming them...inciting them..." He goes on to explain that in theory, after Yemen falls then the king of Saudi Arabia must die, then Jerusalem must be conquered in order to bring the prophecy of the Mahdi into reality. They take this literally.
Q. How much influence does Iran have in Syria?
A. A lot...Syria cannot fall...Ayatollah Khamenei has had several covert meetings with Hezbollah and Hamas...[the Ayatollah has given the]...order to kill those who oppose the Syrian government...calling them enemies of God...they've had bases ever since the Iranian Revolution...they do training, they harbor terrorist groups...they have a lot of influence..."
Q. Is there a differentiation between the Assad government and a government which might replace him?
A. "It depends what type of new government...right now...the conflict in the Middle East has turned into a proxy war between Iran the regime and the Saudis...the Iranians are inciting Bahrainis, [in] Saudi Arabia itself in Yemen, in Egypt...and the Saudis have gone on to an aggressive position believing that the U.S. is not doing its job and is not being protective of its assets, that the U.S. administration is very weak and somewhat delusional...they [the Saudis] are helping with the uprising in Syria, are protecting Bahrain's government.." Mr. Kahlili continues, stating that a non-Iranian compliant Syria coming to power would be a huge blow to Iran's plans for regional hegemony..
Q. What is the relationship between the IRG and Hamas?
A. The Revolutionary Guard is doing the same thing with Hamas that they did with Hezbollah, they do train their militias, they provide arms, they provide funds, they provide technologies, they provide rockets [and] rocket launchers...without Iran Hamas could not last..."
Q. Did the U.S. miss a huge opportunity by not speaking out more forcefully in support of the street demonstrations against Iran?
A. "I think that they have missed the biggest opportunity to bring this regime down with [the help of] the Iranian people...which would have changed the geo-politics of the region...a report came from Iran's intelligence apparatus about a year ago indicating that had the demonstrations continued for a couple more months the regime would have fallen...but...they are very smart, the leaders of Iran...they did negotiate over the nuclear issue...Obama sent a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei indicating that the United States does not intend to interfere in the internal matters...[the U.S. and Europe were drawn into negotiations with Iran]...not realizing they were being deceived and the Iranians used this time to suppress, torture, rape, put down the revolution...[and then rejected the results of the negotiations]...shocking the Obama administration...and that has been my message, that these people cannot be trusted..."
Q. What is the relationship between Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad?
A. "It is obviously very close...there are several Iranian facilities in Venezuela...they are being protected by the Venezuelan government...there is a no fly zone over several of them...Hezbollah cells have been sent there from there they infiltrate into Latin America...they've established close ties with the drug cartels and then they get into Mexico...and then into the U.S...there is a secret pact between the Iranian regime and Venezuela for a missile site...20 kilometers off the Columbian border...and it's going to be a direct threat to the U.S. and its national security because those missiles can reach American shores..."
Q. What kind of presence does the IRG and Hezbollah have within the borders of the United States; are there numerous cells; are there no cells?
A. "...I'm going to quote to you Hassan Abbasi...he was the brains behind the strategy to bog the U.S. forces down in Iraq...he says...and he is very open about things...they have recognized about 800 sensitive sites within the U.S....when the time comes and the order comes their cells...will attack many of these sites...so basically they have agents here...they have a large network here through Islamic student associations...they collaborate with the Muslim Brotherhood...they do run a large network through the mosques in the U.S..."
As we have maintained throughout this regime, Mr. Obama has missed numerous, historic and possibly non-recurring opportunities to materially damage the revolutionary Islamist network operating both within and without the United States. Against this promise, the administration's dealings with Iran have been carried out in a self-created atmosphere of ignorance and fueled by a timidity which is hard to fathom. Hopefully the warning presented in part here by Mr. Kahlili will come to the fore in time to avert the catastrophe which looms as a result of Iran's global ambitions.
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