Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Mossad's Michael Ledeen on his new friend Hossein Khomeini

AEI - News & Commentary: "Veiled Threats Lure Ayatollah's Grandson Home Print Mail

By Michael A. Ledeen
Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2004
New York Sun
Publication Date: January 6, 2004

Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has suddenly returned to his native Iran after several months in Iraq and a quick visit to America.

Iranian news agencies laconically reported the event on Saturday, but it will shortly become a major cause celebre, since Hossein Khomeini had been unstinting in his criticism of the Iranian regime ever since his arrival in Baghdad shortly after the fall the city, when he announced his delight in being able to live in a free country.

Hossein Khomeini is not a major religious figure in Iran, but his bloodline gives him considerable standing in the country, and his clear separation from his grandfather's creation of a Shiite theocracy in Iran was widely seen as very helpful to the large opposition to the regime. He has studied Western philosophy at the theological schools in Qom, the Iranian holy city where most of the leading ayatollahs live and teach, and in public remarks at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington last fall, he vigorously supported the principles of separation of mosque and state, total freedom of religion, and even "of nonreligion, since religion must be freely embraced to be meaningful." His return to Iran is therefore a surprise, and sources close to the Khomeini family suggest that he was lured back by a combination of threats and promises. He had been unable to obtain permission for his wife and children to join him in Iraq, and his wife had recently been visited by Iranian security agents who told her, "if your children suddenly die in the streets, you must know that it was not our doing."

His grandmother sent him a message a few days ago, which stressed the importance "for the family" for him to return, warned of the danger to his children, and contained a promise from the regime that no harm would be done to him. Thus, according to the family sources, Mr. Khomeini was blackmailed into returning.

The Khomeini family has long been the object of violence. Mr. Khomeini's father, Mustafah, died suddenly in his fifties in Karbala, Iraq, two years before the Iranian Revolution, after opposing Ruhollah's theocratic movement. The grand ayatollah's son, Ahmad, died young, reportedly from opium addiction, and Mr. Khomeini himself was the target of an assassination attempt in Baghdad. He was saved by coalition forces.

Hossein Khomeini has apparently now joined the long and growing list of regime critics suffering at the hands of the professional killers and torturers whose prime mission is to break the democratic opposition.

In the past few days, American leaders, including the president and the secretary of state, have assured the Iranian people of our support for freedom in that oppressed and unhappy country. They, and all Western leaders and human rights supporters, would do well to reiterate these fine sentiments, and include the name of Hossein Khomeini on the list of the regime's victims.

Michael A. Ledeen holds the Freedom Chair at AEI.