Dissidents Warn Iran's Supreme Leader

Ever since the fraudulent Iranian elections of 2009 -- in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader -- cracks within the Islamic establishment have widened to unprecedented levels.

Many within the Revolutionary Guards, the very force that has protected the clerical regime since its inception in 1979, have become disgruntled.  Former high commanders have publicly criticized Khamenei, something that courts execution, as the regime's clerics have stated that obeying the supreme leader is like obeying Allah; those disobeying him will be considered a "Mohareb," an enemy of God, and therefore killed as justified under Islam.

Former senior Revolutionary Guard commander Hossein Alaei, in an op-ed in a state-owned newspaper, openly criticized the Islamic leadership for suppressing the people and not allowing criticism of the supreme leader and of the direction of the country.  He came immediately under attack by Khamenei's supporters, the piece was pulled from the paper's website, and radicals attacked his home.

Last month, Iranian state-owned media announced the death of Ahmad Sodagar, a high-ranking Guard commander.  The cause of death was listed as heart attack.  Interestingly, he was the fifth Guard commander to have "died of a heart attack" last month.  Reports from within Iran revealed that he had stated in his will that if he died soon, it would be because of his belief in justice.

Sodagar, a major general, had served as the head of security and intelligence of the Guards' Khatam-al-Anbia Base and was the chief commander of the Guards' Prophet Mohammad Division.  He had served in the Iran-Iraq War and, at the time of his death, was the head of the program "Defaeh Moghadas," or Holy Defense.

All commanders who have mysteriously died recently were in their early 50s.

The objection to Khamenei's iron-fisted rule is not limited to the Guards.  Many dissidents, once loyal to the regime, have been voicing their resentment openly and are paying the price.

Mehdi Khazali, an ophthalmologist and the son of prominent hard-line cleric Ayatollah Khazali, has long blogged about his opposition to Khamenei and the crimes committed under his rule, revealing the cruel conditions under which prisoners are held after phony trials. Many, he says, were convicted as payback for their disagreement with regime officials.

Mehdi has been in and out of prison for several years but was detained on Jan. 9, and after 70 days of a hunger strike -- the only option available to political prisoners in Iran to get the word out to the world -- the regime was forced to release him just days ago from Evin Prison.

Mehdi, now a hero to Iranians with his defiance of Khamenei's dictatorship, is not alone.  Another dissident, Mohammad Nourizad, a conservative journalist who himself continues to criticize Khamenei and the regime despite being jailed, beaten, and threatened, recently wrote his 25th open letter to Khamenei brazenly warning that not only clerics, but Islam itself will be annihilated within the country due to the resentment by the people against the regime.

In his last letter to Khamenei, Nourizad said, "In the years after the revolution, we under the banner of Islam have murdered many, confiscated people's belongings, have filled our prisons with disgruntled people and have expanded ignorance. What are our clerics hoping for, what miracle are they looking for? ... I have one solution for this great sin to be washed away, and that's for the clerics of Iran to burn themselves."

He warns that the ayatollahs and their supporters should not take his words as a metaphor or as scoffing, but rather as a serious way out of this dilemma.  If they don't set themselves on fire because of the regime's heinous actions and save their souls, he said, "they must be ready to carry the coffin of Islam over their shoulders and every day witness people's hatred for Islam, which must be worse than dying a thousand times for them."

The burning of the ayatollahs will be the least cost, Nourizad said, in helping with the collapse of this criminal regime and in preventing more killings and chaos.  He said he is ready to do the same in protest against the crimes being committed by the regime and that if only a handful of ayatollahs would follow suit, their names would "be carved in history that they were aligned with the oppressed, wanting to free themselves from the tyrant."

Nourizad and many others in Iran have warned Khamenei and the clerics that power is not everlasting, that they should look at history, and that the day will come when people will have their say and justice will be served.

Though tens of thousands have lost their lives at the hands of the Islamic regime and tens of thousands wallow in prison, the West remains quiet and still hopeful of negotiations.  However, Khamenei and his cronies are determined to see their mission, as they see it, completed: they are mandated by Allah to defeat America and Israel, they believe, for Islam seeks blood, and the mission won't end until Islam's flag is raised in all corners of the world.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and the author of the award-winning book A Time to Betray.  He is a senior fellow with EMPact America, a member of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, and teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA).

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