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Rafsanjani and his hitmen

ImageIran’s murder network nearly killed me
By Hossein Abedini

The Washington Times, June 16 – It was 15 years ago, but still seems like yesterday. In mid-afternoon on March 14, 1990, I was sitting next to the driver taking me to the Istanbul airport, when we hit a traffic jam caused by an accident. Suddenly, a car carrying four men blocked our path. Another car pinned us in from behind. Seconds later, two men, one from the front car and one from the car behind, raced out with automatic guns.

As they approached, I opened the car door and rushed at them carrying only a small briefcase. One of the men fired nine bullets; the other man’s gun jammed. I was shot in the chest and stomach and gravely wounded. The assailants fled.

Luckily, we were close to Istanbul’s International Hospital, where I was rushed. I was in a deep coma for 40 days, and unconscious for three months. With 80 percent of my liver gone, I barely survived and was written off by my doctors more than once. One bullet hit very close to my heart. I went through 14 operations and was given 154 pints of blood.

I am a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the coalition of Iranian opposition movements. The assailants were acting on behest of the clerical regime, the main state sponsor of terrorism. Ironically, as later became evident, the hit men weren’t after me. Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI, was the real target, as Iranian state radio confirmed.

Even so, this didn’t end the attempts to kill me; there were two efforts to finish me off in the hospital. Once, assassins disguised as Turkish police approached the hospital; luckily, the Turkish police came to the hospital at the same time and foiled the plot. Another time, two men pretending to be friends came to my room. They were the mullahs’ men. Once again, I was fortunate; several real friends came to visit me at the same time, and the murderers fled.

I am one of very few who has survived mullahs’ assassination attempts. My episode is relevant now because all this took place when Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was the clerical regime’s president. With new Iranian presidential elections approaching, he is touted as the front-runner, and some in the West are hoping to be able to strike a grand bargain with him.

It is important to know that there was a clear pattern of assassination and murders during his previous term.

Professor Kazem Rajavi, Iran’s most renowned human-rights activist, was gunned down in broad daylight by the mullahs’ hitmen while driving near his house in Geneva in 1990. The Swiss implicated 13 Iranian officials with passports stamped "Special Mission." Documents released by Mr. Rajavi’s family showed that in 1997 a Swiss magistrate "clearly" had enough evidence to justify an international arrest warrant against Iran’s then-Intelligence Minister, Ali Fallahian.

The Rajavi murder was not an isolated incident during Mr. Rafsanjani’s presidency. Several Iranian Kurdish leaders were murdered in Vienna in 1989 and in Berlin in 1992. The list goes on.

A Berlin court ruled in 1997 that a secret committee comprising supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Mr. Rafsanjani, then-Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati, and Mr. Fallahian, had ordered the 1992 assassinations.

The mullahs’ terror targets were not only Iranians. The FBI established undeniable evidence that Tehran had masterminded the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, resulting in the deaths of 19 American servicemen. Nor is Mr. Rafsanjani’s mischief-making limited to terrorism; he is an ardent proponent of Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons.

For two decades, Europe’s appeasement policy has failed. The notion of fishing up a moderate from within the regime has been offered in different wrappings for different occasions, all to no avail.

The West’s greater blunder was trying to placate the mullahs by labeling as terrorists the People’s Mujahedeen, the principal Iranian opposition, 120,000 of whose members and sympathizers have been executed so far. The Mujahedeen also has played a paramount role in exposing the mullahs’ nuclear program and terrorist network.

This terror-listing decision — denounced by renowned jurists as baseless and devoid of any legal basis — has only emboldened the regime’s most extreme factions in suppression, nurturing terrorism, and the quest to acquire nuclear weapons.

All signs indicate that the Iranian people are completely disenchanted by the clerical system and desire fundamental changes for democracy. It would be naive and shortsighted to pin any hope on a spent force like Mr. Rafsanjani. The West must ally itself with the Iranian people’s cry for freedom. A first step would be to remove the Mujahedeen from the terror list it never should have been on. The West should declare in no unequivocal terms that it does not recognize this sham as an election.

Hossein Abedini is a member of the the National Council of Resistance of Iran.