Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more



WikiLeaks and Iran 2009: Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi "More Powerful Than Ahmadinejad"

Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi is a prominent cleric, politician, and member of the Assembly of Experts. He has been called the "spiritual mentor" of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But is he really "more powerful" than the President?

Well, that is what one source told US diplomats in September 2009. The Tehran University professor, in a wide-ranging discussion on post-election politics, religion, and society, declared that the "profoundly anti-democratic" Mesbah Yazdi was working behind the scenes to shape the Iranian system. He asserted, ""You can't understand what's been going on in Iran without understanding (the beliefs and activities of) Mesbah-Yazdi."

The conversation points to the risks of using single sources to make sweeping assessments of Iran. Other WikiLeaks cables indicate that the US station in Baku, not as well-staffed as other key listening posts like the US Consulate in Dubai, played up the speculations of sources as vital analysis.

In this case, Mesbah Yazdi is undoubtedly a player in Iran's complex political and religious game. But he is only one player. The source has a vested interest in "bigging up" the Ayatollah, as he is the subject of his academic research, and the professor is prone to sweeping assertions on topics from politics to the Internet to drug use in Tehran University's dormitories

More valuable, albeit only as a starting point, is an assessment from the source that goes beyond the cleric: "Supreme Leader Khameini is not personally close to Ahmadinejad, or even strongly in favor of him, but is caught between the "rock" of Rafsanjani/Moussavi and the "hard place" of Mesbah-Yazdi, Ahmadinejad, and their Revolutionary Guard allies."

R 021109Z SEP 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAKU 000695
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2019


¶1. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX, told Baku Iran watcher that the latter is "more powerful than Ahmadinejad," and played a key role in the Iranian election fraud and other regime activities. He described Mesbah-Yazdi's political ideology as profoundly anti-democratic, and argued that his behind-the-scenes influence is underestimated by many foreign observers. The scholar argued that Iran is currently going through a historic psychological and political transformation, and asserted that this process is continuing. He delineated three "critical phases" in this evolving transformation, which he claimed crosses age and class barriers. He portrayed Khameini as caught in this political maelstrom between a rock (Rafsanjani) and a hard place (Mesbah-Yazdi's circle), and searching for room to maneuver. He also stressed the "effective" use by the opposition of the internet and international media in getting their message out. The scholar also commented on Iranian drug addiction problems, noting the widespread and cheap availability of opiates and other addictive drugs. End Summary.


Focus on Mesbah-Yazdi

¶3. XXXXXXXXXXXX, said that for several years he has been researching the life, ideology, and political activities of Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, on whom he now considers himself an expert.XXXXXXXXXXXX .

¶4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXsaid that Mesbah-Yazdi likes to work behind the scenes, and as a result his significance in current Iranian politics (XXXXXXXXXXXX) is widely underestimated. Kaymars said that, like Khomeini, Mesbah-Yazdi sometimes cites Plato, and notably The Republic (as interpreted by him) as a "philosophical" guide. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Mesbah-Yazdi is deeply "anti-liberal democratic," regarding liberal democracy and its trappings as a charade leading to a wrongly-guided state based on selfishness, immorality, and diversion from morally and politically "right" paths.XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that Mesbah-Yazdi has been quietly expanding his influence with Revolutionary Guard and Basij figures for years, and was the single most important player in the election fraud, and also played a key role in many other regime pre- and post- election actions. "You can't understand what's been going on in Iran without understanding (the beliefs and activities of) Mesbah-Yazdi," he claimed.

"Iran is Being Transformed"

¶5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX contended that an historic transformation is currently going on in Iran, unifying wide ranges of classes and ages. He described the transformation as a process with three "critical phases." Phase One, immediately after the election, was characterized by shock, anger, and "people sobbing in the streets." He explained that before the election, many Iranians had argued that there was at least some democracy in the system, and that if left alone the regime would by itself evolve into a more democratic and liberal state. Even system opponents and self-declared skeptics felt that evolutionary change within the system was possible. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the blatantly stolen election and the cynical, repressive aftermath were "blows to the face" that largely demolished this view.

¶6. (C) XXXXXXX called Ayatollah Khameini's June 19 sermon "the second transformational point." He asserted that after Khameini's public anointment of Ahmedinejad, and references to his "divinely inspired" election victory, "Tehran exploded." He compared public reaction in the days after the election to the 1999 Tehran student demonstrations (in which he also participated). He explained that in 1999, "we hoped (in vain) for South Tehranis to join us," but in June and July 2009 "South Tehranis were everywhere."

¶7. (C) In contrast to 1999, he continued, for many days "everybody" protested and/or shouted slogans from the rooftops: &North Tehranis, South Tehranis, students, bazaaris, were chanting death to Khameini, death to the dictator, we are unified,8 and other protest slogans. "A lot of people were in the streets (in the days after the sermon), and a lot of shooting occurred," he said. XXXXXXXXXXXX"

¶8. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, "Phase Three" began with Rafsanjani's re-galvanizing sermon on July 17, and is currently ongoing. "Don't be misled by the current calm surface," he warned, "a lot of political activity is happening." XXXXXXXXXXXX. He nonetheless acknowledged Rafsanjani's "cleverness" and strength of personality, and said he remains important in the near term for intra-regime political maneuvering, and for "funneling money" to support the opposition.

Khameini "Not Close to Ahmadinejad"

¶9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX observed that Supreme Leader Khameini is not personally close to Ahmadinejad, or even strongly in favor of him, but is caught between the "rock" of Rafsanjani/Moussavi and the "hard place" of Mesbah-Yazdi, Ahmadinejad, and their Revolutionary Guard allies. He claimed that Khameini has limited political maneuverability, and is primarily focused on protecting his and his son Mojtaba's future. He asserted that opposition efforts are underway to split Khameini from the Mebah-Yazdi group, and scapegoat the latter for legal and human rights abuses.

Opposition Use of Foreign Media and the Internet

¶10. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that most Iranians are repulsed and embarrassed by the show trials, and despite nagging historical "default" suspicion of Britain, "no one believes that foreign countries were behind the protests." He said that Iranians have no confidence in domestic media, and claimed that Mousavi and his allies are effectively using foreign media and the internet to propagandize and get their word out. He said that, "even in villages, at least one person in every family is internet-literate," and claimed that Iranians have become adept at successfully playing "hide and seek" with the authorities," and are becoming more so." He added that BBC and VOA are widely watched, and are also playing "a very important role" in delivering and spreading opposition-based and other information.

Narcotics and Drug Addiction

¶11. (SBU)XXXXXXXXXXXX related that at three AM in Tehran University dorms, "you can't buy sweets, but can buy all kinds of narcotics," including heroin. One dose of heroin-based &Iranian Crack8 costs one dollar. In addition to the widespread availability of cheap opiate derivatives, he noted that the addictive, &high8 producing pain-killer Tramadol (AKA &Zydol8) is very popular and can be purchased without a prescription at any pharmacy, at the price of ten pills for 50 cents.

Obama/U.S. "Very Popular" in Iran

¶12. (SBU) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Iranians like President Obama very much, and appreciate his outreach efforts. "He's the only politician I've ever liked," he said. In general, the U.S. was and is very popular among Iranians, he noted.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« Latest on Arizona Shootings: 6 Dead & 13 Wounded, Congresswoman Giffords Critical, 2nd Suspect Sought | Main | Terrorism Weekly: What is Behind Britain's Transportation Alerts? »

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>