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Michael Ledeen discusses the Iranian Time Bomb

Thursday, October 4, 2007
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HH: Special hour now on the Hugh Hewitt Show, a conversation with Michael Ledeen about his brand new book, The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest For Destruction. Michael, always a pleasure, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

ML: Hugh, thank you so much. I love you, you know that.

HH: Well, you’re awfully kind. I love this book, and I’m going to be talking about this book a lot over the next few weeks, because I think people need to read it, beginning with the idea we’ve got to remember who Khomeini was, that the revolution wasn’t because the Shah was too oppressive, but because the Shah was too liberal. Give people a walk back as to where Khomeini came from and what he stood for, Michael Ledeen.

ML: Well, he hated the Shah because he saw the Shah as the agent of Western feminism, really, in a way, because what got Khomeini more excited than anything else was the very thought that women could teach boys in school, that women could participate in government, that women were increasingly having equal rights, that they didn’t have to cover up their heads, and so forth. And that just drove him crazy, and they were among his first targets when he took over in 1979. He threw the women out of the boys’ schools, he banned them from high office, and he required this humiliating costume that they all have to wear.

HH: There’s a lot I did not know about the revolution in your book, The Iranian Time Bomb. One of those is that the Republican Guard, the vanguard of the Islamic Revolution, had been trained by Fatah. Has that been known for a long time?

ML: Well, I wrote it years ago. I originally learned it from this fabulous man, Ion Mihai Pacepa, who has a new book out on the Kennedy assassination. And he was at the time the head of the Romanian intelligence service, and they knew about it, because they worked so closely with Arafat on behalf of the KGB. And then I heard it again from an Iranian who was actually present in the training camps starting in the early 70’s in Lebanon, where Arafat was training the Revolutionary Guards. And remember, once Khomeini came to power, the first foreign dignitary to visit Tehran and be honored by the new regime was Arafat himself.

HH: Now like other fascists, Khomeini, you recall and write in the book, used the mass plebiscite to sort of legitimize his dictatorship.

ML: Right.

HH: Has that ever since been challenged? Did they ever come back and ask for a second re-up on the revolution?

ML: No. In fact, it’s the opponents of the regime who call fro referenda. They’re the ones who say let’s have a referendum on the form of government that the Iranian people want. And the regime won’t have it now, because they know that most of the people don’t want them.

HH: Can you briefly describe for us, as you do in the first chapter, how that government operates in Iran now, the role of the supreme leader, the judicial council, the president, and the Revolutionary Guard?

ML: Well, you know, Ahmadinejad has gotten so much press, because he’s such a colorful character, that people have lost sight of the fact that it’s a clerical fascist dictatorship. And there’s a man named Ali Khamenei who’s almost never referred to, but his job title is supreme leader, which tells you something about how important he is. Presidents come and go. There have been exactly two supreme leaders in the nearly thirty years of the Islamic Republic, and they’re not elected at all. They’re chosen by a committee of their peers, and that committee is generally chosen by them for the most part, although there are these phony elections that they have. So that’s the way the system works, and the desires of the supreme leader are enforced upon the society by the secret police, and by the Sharia courts, the Islamic tribunals. And one of the first things Khomeini said when he came in is no more of this Western justice system where you get appeals and justice is delayed, and all of that. No, the case gets to be heard by an Islamic judge. The Islamic judge rules, and that is that. And that’s one reason why you have so many of these executions, public executions, women stoned to death, opponents of the regime thrown into prison for extended periods of time, tortured and sometimes killed. So it’s a very ugly system.

HH: Now the judicial council, can you describe what its role is when it comes to elections?

ML: Well, when it comes…you know, elections in Iran are charades. They’re not elections. And lists of candidates are submitted to these commissions, and the commissions go through them and eliminate anybody they don’t want. So President Kahtami, for example, who’s universally held up as a great example of a moderate, he was number, I don’t remember the number exactly, but something like number 231 on that list. The preceding 230 were unacceptable.

HH: Wow.

ML: So every candidate is screened, every list is filtered, and anybody who’s anybody in Iran has been effectively chosen by the regime, whatever the charade of elections.

HH: I’m getting ahead of myself, but you mentioned towards the end of the book there is concern now that Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard have built a state within a state, one that is advancing, really, a second Islamic Revolution. Can you expand that, Michael Ledeen?

ML: Yeah, this one, there are a lot of scholars who believe this, who believe that there was an easing of the repression for a few years, and that Ahmadinejad and his cohorts who all come from the Revolutionary Guard’s organization, which is one of the more fanatical military wings of the regime, that they decided that this had to be rolled back. And consequently, they are imposing a kind of new terror on the people.

HH: I’m talking with Michael Ledeen, author of the brand new best selling book, The Iranian Time Bomb. I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. I really recommend you get this if you want to know what this conversation is all about. But back up to Ali Khamenei, Michael Ledeen. What are his ambitions, what’s his knowledge of the sort of extent of Iranian terror from Khobar forward?

ML: Well, you have to keep in mind that the Revolutionary Guards, which is the main instruments of assassination overseas and of supporting foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, that this organization reports directly to Khamenei. It does not go through the government, and it certainly doesn’t go through the regular military. So every major operation that’s undertaken by the Revolutionary Guards goes through Khamenei personally, and is approved by him personally.

HH: So is it fair to say that the Revolutionary Guards is sort of a combination of Gestapo and SS answering directly to the supreme leader?

ML: Yes, I think that’s exactly right, and just like the SS, they swear a personal oath to the supreme leader, and their commander sits in on all the important strategic discussions held by the supreme leader.

HH: Now within the Revolutionary Guards, there are some divisions like the Quds force. I first heard about the Quds force from General Abizaid, oh, a year ago talking about the Iranian incursion into Iraq.

ML: Yeah.

HH: How big, generally, is the RG, and within it, the Quds?

ML: Well, the RG is somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people. It’s a pretty big organization. And the Quds is much smaller, because Quds operates only overseas. Quds has no domestic role at all. So that’s why the various Iranians that we’ve been arresting in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and sometimes they get caught in Lebanon, they’re Quds people, because they’re foreign operatives.

HH: Now you refer often in the book, The Iranian Time Bomb, to the senior Mullahs, many of whom are just absolutely ruthless, like Khalkhali and others that you draw quick pen portraits of. What’s the Mullahcracy’s number? How many Mullahs matter?

ML: Well, the easiest way to think about Iran is that it’s a country of between 70 and 80 million people. It’s a very big country. And of these people, probably, well, for sure, 70%, which is to say about 50 million of them, hate the regime. Some of those people are actually Mullahs. Some of them are even grand ayatollahs, like the Ayatollah Montazeri, who’s been under house arrest now for about fifteen years. In fact, what’s always called the holy city of Qom, which is sort of headquarters for the senior ayatollahs, has the lowest participation in elections, and there are upwards of three thousand of these people imprisoned in Qom. So there’s actually a religious opposition to the regime, because they think Khamenei is illegitimate, and they don’t want an Islamic Republic. They want something more like what Iraq has. So I would say that of the Mullahcracy and their non-turban, secular allies, you can probably count, what, 10 million people, something like that.

HH: Okay, and if you’re talking about the government that matters, are we talking a hundred mullahs, or are there five hundred mullahs? How big is the established order that holds this fascist dictatorship together?

ML: No, there’s thousands of mullahs, not hundreds. Thousands.

HH: Okay, that I didn’t know. A key observation, Michael Ledeen, they are to nationalists, but theocrats. You write, “To ask them to think like a nation state is like trying to use negotiations to convince the Pope that he should think of himself as the grand duke of Vatican City rather than the Vicar of Christ on Earth.” You quote Khomeini extensively on this. This was just…I guess I knew this, but I really didn’t. It’s not a nation state.

ML: No, no it’s not. Khomeini has the great line, which is anybody…I’m not here to fight for Iran, I’m here to advance Islam. And anybody who is in it for Iran is a pagan. That’s pretty strong language.

HH: It is. It’s also an insight into what we’re up against, because it’s not going to respond to the typical carrots and sticks that nation states do.

ML: No, so when a Rafsanjani or an Ahmadinejad says we’re going to bomb Israel as soon as we get atomic bombs, and even if the Israelis respond in kind, so what? Suppose they wipe us all out? We would have killed half the Jews, and there’ll still be more than a billion Muslims.

– – – –

HH: Michael, this segment, I want to talk about the export of the Islamic Revolution, Khomeinism, actually. And I want to begin with the birth of Hezbollah, and with a name I’ll bet you not one in a thousand listeners knows, Imad Mughniyah. I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly. Can you tell folks who he is?

ML: Imad Mughniyah is the operational chief of Hezbollah. And Hezbollah, which is an Iranian creation, totally an Iranian creation, in which responds directly to Tehran on all things, Imad Mughniyah is the guy who coordinates and leads, and often participates in their operations. And Imad Mughhiyah’s the guy, for example, who organized the bombing of the Marine barracks in the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983. And until al Qaeda, he was the number one guy on our list of most wanted terrorists around the world.

HH: Well, for 25 years plus, then, he’s been killing Americans and orchestrating the killing of Americans.

ML: Yes.

HH: Where does he hang out?

ML: He floats back and forth between Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. And for example, the 9/11 Commission found him on an airplane from Saudi Arabia to Iran, and then to Beirut, accompanying some of the 9/11 terrorists. It’s fascinating.

HH: Now Hezbollah, can you describe for people…obviously, they waged war on Israel last year, and at just about the late summer of 2006…but they have been waging war on the West as an extension of Iran for 30 years?

ML: Yeah, certainly since the Islamic Revolution in Iran. They’ve killed certainly hundreds, and probably thousands of Americans. They were involved in everything from the Khobar Towers bombing to the al Qaeda bombings of the American Embassies in East Africa, and on and on. And it turns out that lots of al Qaeda people were trained in Lebanon by Hezbollah. So they served that function for Iran as well.

HH: Not only has Iran armed Hezbollah in Lebanon, they’ve armed the Bosnians. I was unaware of this, this episode, and evidently, the Bosnians have now, like a malignancy, spread out from inside Bosnia.

ML: Oh, the Bosnian story is a huge story, and you’re right. Very few people have looked at it. But there’s considerable literature on it. The Bosnian government, and the Serbs in particular, found handbooks, training books that were used by Iranian terrorists to train other Islamic terrorists in the Balkans in the 1980s, and I mean, they had an extensive network. And probably that network was part of the network organized by Zarqawi, who we eventually killed in Iraq years later.

HH: I was coming to the Zarqawi connection, because although he is a Sunni extremist who would think that every Shia is Takfir, and especially the Iranian Khomeinists, nevertheless he, too, accepted assistance from, and well-documented in this book. Is that widely recognized or acceded to, Michael Ledeen, in the people who study Iran specifically?

ML: No, because most people buy into the meme that Sunnis and Shiites can’t work together. It’s one of the great myths of our time. So even though the Revolutionary Guards were…the super-Shiite Revolutionary Guards were created by the super-Sunni al Fatah, which came right out of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, they think it’s impossible to find Sunni al Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah working together. And so nobody can believe that Zarqawi was operating out of Tehran, even though a year before 2001, the German and Italian governments had evidence showing that Zarqawi was operating a European-wide terrorist network from Tehran, and they have hundreds of intercepts that…and this is public evidence at public trials in both Germany and Italy.

HH: One thing that was not news to me, because I have read The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright…

ML: Right.

HH: …is that while al Qaeda nested in Sudan, and bin Laden was there, that a facility by Hassan al Turabi, there was, in fact, Iranian and Hezbollah contacts with, and assistance to al Qaeda, both in Sudan, and later when they went to Afghanistan in the planning of the African Embassy bombings.

ML: Yes, exactly right. It goes back to the early to mid 90’s. It’s been going on for a long time.

HH: So when someone steps up and says oh, but he bombed the Golden Mosque, what’s your response, Michael Ledeen?

ML: Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the Iranians who bombed the Golden Mosque. They love…people say well, why would the kill their own people, and I say look at Iran. They kill their own people everyday. Every day.

HH: Oh, true.

ML: Back when Allahpundit had his own blog, and was called Allahpundit.com before he went to work with Michelle Malkin at Hot Air, he once had a letter from somebody saying but why are they killing their own people, and he replied don’t these people understand that’s the whole point. They often kill their own people.

HH: They are also embarked upon destroying Lebanon. To what ultimate end? Is that just to create a colony state of Iran, Michael Ledeen?

ML: Well, there’s two goals. They intend to dominate the world, eventually. So this is one more stepping stone. But the immediate objective is the destruction of Israel, and they hope to close in on Israel from both sides, Gaza and the West Bank on the East, and Lebanon on the North and West.

HH: Does anyone dispute that Hezbollah and Iran are arming Hamas, even though that’s a Sunni terrorist organization?

ML: I don’t think so. I think everybody accepts it. I think even the intelligence community in the United States, which has fought against this for decades, now accepts that, I mean, certainly Petraeus says that openly, and our military guys do, that Iran is arming both sides in Iraq today. They arm both Sunnis and Shiites.

HH: You also point out in the book that recent evidence shows that not only are they arming the Iraqis on both sides, they’re now arming the Taliban again.

ML: They were always arming the Taliban. I mean, that’s old news. Back before we went into Afghanistan, we had evidence that they were arming the Taliban, and that in fact, they sent Iranian hunter-killer teams into Afghanistan to kill our guys.

HH: Would you…is it now obvious to everyone that this has been an open war at least since Khobar, and if not since Khobar, in the last two years in Iraq. Does anyone dispute this, Michael Ledeen?

ML: Yeah, I think they do, because they all argue, they all argue that we can negotiate our way out of this, that we can make a deal with the Iranians. I don’t see how you can make a deal with somebody who’s been waging war against you for thirty years, and who says every day, death to America.

HH: Now my…I share your disappointment with Secretary Gates’ hedge, because obviously, you esteem his abilities. Why do you imagine he refuses to state the obvious when he is, as you say, one of the greatest analysts we’ve had working in this area in the last, you know, generation of analysts?

ML: Well, this administration is a mystery to me in many ways. But I imagine that what happened is that Secretary of State Rice is insistent that we follow the diplomatic track all the way down to the bottom, and that therefore, premature evidence of the Iranian role in various murderous activities gets in the way of negotiations, and gets in the way of making a deal. As I…one of the main points of The Iranian Time Bomb is that every administration since 1979 has convinced itself that it’s possible to make a deal with these people, if only we’d find the right combination of carrots and sticks. And every one of them has come to grief. It has failed every single time. And so I say look, Einstein’s definition of a crazy man is somebody who keeps doing the same thing, hoping to get a different result this time.

– – – –

HH: This segment, Michael Ledeen, I want to focus in on the fact that American presidents, as you said last segment, have always fallen prey to the temptation of the grand bargain, and I blame this, to some extent, on my first real boss, Richard Nixon, for establishing sort of the China lure out there, the myth that you can Nixon-to-China in different settings. And they all want to, whether it’s Carter or Reagan or Bush, do it with Iran. It won’t work.

ML: No, it won’t work.

HH: Carter began it, and he tried, and this came as a surprise to me, he armed the Mullahs and pleaded with the Mullahs, rather than resisting the Mullahs.

ML: Yeah, well, he wanted, he had various reasons. First, he was completely misled on the nature of Khomeini. Nobody in the American government at that time understood what a monster Khomeini was, and how terrible this regime was going to be. Secondly, he desperately wanted to show that he had not lost Iran, because if it turned out that Iran had fallen into the hands of these evil people, they were afraid in Washington that they were going to be blamed for it. And so in a lot of the cables back and forth, you find people saying you see, we haven’t lost Iran after all, we can make an agreement with these people, these people are reasonable, we can work with them, etc. And then as time passed, and it became more and more urgent to deal with the Iranian threat in one way or another, all the diplomats argued that anything can be negotiated, and we can negotiate it with these people too, just have patience.

HH: Even after the hostage crisis and the embarrassment of Carter, and the freeing of the hostages on the first day of the Reagan administration, one would have thought that Reagan and Bill Casey and George Schultz and the rest of them would have been on guard against this, but as you recount, Reagan fell for it, too. Can you tell our audience how?

ML: Well, Reagan was sucked into the Iranian matter by the hostage crisis. The various Americans were taken hostage by Hezbollah, which is to say by Iran, and the it became possible to negotiate with the Iranians to ransom out some of the hostages. And so they got involved with that, and once they were involved in talking to them, then they said well, now we’re talking to these people, we can talk about broader things. And in fact, from the very beginning, the Iranians kept on saying, you know, let’s reach some kind of modus vivendi, because we don’t have to hate one another. Remember, there was still a Soviet empire then, and the Iranians were very active against the Soviet empire. And there were actually things on which there was convergence of interest between the United States and Iran, namely the Soviet business.

HH: But after the interregnum that is Bush 41, and after Iran-Contra, everyone leaves it along, arrives Bill Clinton, and again, falls for it hard, for the temptation of the Iranian thing. And why the Albright apology? It’s one thing to hope for something, but it’s another thing to embarrass yourself in the quest for that which isn’t being delivered.

ML: Well, you see, what happened was that in the meantime, Khatami, the so-called great moderate, had become president. And so all the experts in the State Department and the intelligence community went to Clinton and Albright and said everything’s changed, Iran is now a moderate country, now is the time to go all out to normalize relations. And so we did all these terrible things. We enabled the Russians to sell nuclear technology to Iran, and to sell weapons to them. In open violation of American law, we permitted the Iranians to smuggle weapons into the Balkans, which made it possible for them to set up their terrorist network there, and to expand it. And then you know, we let the Iranian wrestling team into the country, the usual symbolic gestures, we eased some of the banking restrictions and so forth. And Khamani spit in our faces. And my grandmother always used to say when somebody spits in your face, don’t pretend it’s raining.

HH: (laughing)

ML: But once we were committed to that negotiating track, we just plowed on. And Mrs. Albright even apologized for things we hadn’t done, let alone things we had done. She said she apologized, for example, for helping Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, when the first assistance we gave went to Iran, not to Iraq. And I think that on balance, we helped the Iranians more than the Iraqis.

HH: Well, W. originally called it spit and not rain in the Axis Of Evil speech in early 2002, but after that, became, in your argument in The Iranian Time Bomb, befuddled or, I don’t know what happened to him, but certainly less than serious about regime change. Is that changing back now, Michael Ledeen?

ML: Not that I can see. I mean, I read all these fantasy stories in the New Yorker and so forth, that claim we’re going to bomb the whole country. No, the latest version is no, we’re just going to bomb some military targets. I don’t think we’re going to bomb anything.

– – – –

HH: Michael Ledeen, you quote the great American scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis, as saying we are at a real turning point, and he likens it to the fall of Rome, the time of the discovery of America, and it really goes down to an image you have on Page 201 of a cabinet meeting called by Ahmadinejad where they all pledge allegiance to the 12th Imam.

ML: Yes.

HH: It’s surreal.

ML: Isn’t that a great scene?

HH: Explain to people what was going on there.

ML: Well, Iranian Shiites, so-called twelver Shiites, believe that their messiah, a little boy who vanished in the 9th Century to escape his assassins, has been living ever since in the bottom of a well in Iran, and that at the end of times, he will reemerge and lead them to greatness and glory, and a successful jihad against all the infidels. They think that time is now rapidly approaching, and so this cabinet sat down, wrote a contract with this little boy, signed it, had it hand carried to that well and dropped down the well so that the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, would know that he had a loyal government in Tehran.

HH: Now when you bring up stuff like this to apologists for Ahmadinejad, they say oh, he’s not really in power. But in this chapter as well, the what is to be done chapter, you point out that the Revolutionary Guards and he are very, very tightly connected, and are building an even more radical state within an already radical state. Is the West much aware of this?

ML: I don’t know what the West is aware of. I don’t think anybody in the West is in any serious doubt about the intentions of this regime. I think that they all know that this is a lunatic fanatical regime that intends to first destroy Israel, then expand throughout the Middle East, and ultimately, attack all of us. I don’t think anybody has any real doubt about that. But it’s a step, a big step, from recognizing that fact to taking action against it.

HH: Now Michael Ledeen, you point out we need to provide hope, information and material support, and people have to read the book to get the details on that. It’s the most detailed expression of soft aggression against Iran in the hopes of spurring a counter-revolutionary revolution, and you have lots of documents in here about the number of times Iranians have tried this and been murdered or tortured for this. I think that was a revelation as well. This goes on all the time. People do try to fight back against this regime all the time in Iran.

ML: Think Burma. Look at Burma.

HH: Yup.

ML: Who would have thought that the Burmese people would rise en masse against their regime? And yet, it happened. Who would have thought a few months before the Ukrainian revolution that Ukraine would have a democratic revolution? Nobody. And yet, in Iran, not a week goes by without some big demonstration against the regime, without people standing up and saying down with the regime, let us vote, let us elect our own people, let us create our own form of government.

HH: Now you do point out you are against a major military attack, and you advise against using the CIA. Can you explain to people why that is your position on both counts?

ML: Well, the CIA is the easy one. Nobody in Iran trusts the CIA, and they will run away, for the most part, whenever a CIA person approaches them.

HH: This goes back to Mossadegh?

ML: Mossadegh is I think not a big part of it. I think it’s just looking at the way the CIA operates, and the things the CIA says, and horror stories about…I mean, the CIA has several times created some sort of network inside Iran. They’ve all been rolled up. They just don’t trust them. They have no confidence in them. And whether that’s justified or not is way above my pay grade, but it’s what they think. They do trust the military, so you know, let some guy with a lot of medals on his chest show up and start talking to some Iranians, and it’ll be better. How to do it? Just the way we did it to the Soviet empire. Support the people. But it has to start with the President coming out and saying we want an end to this regime. That has to happen, and no president in 28 years has said it.

HH: What about the reaction to bombing on the nuclear facilities, Michael Ledeen? If the President, supported by Europe, even, and France is making these noises, certainly…

ML: Yeah.

HH: …says we cannot allow the wide-scale enrichment of uranium, and that happens, what will go on inside the country?

ML: Nobody knows. That’s the simple answer. It’ll depend on lots of other things. It’ll depend on the context, the background, what is said, how it’s explained, it depends on a million things. There was a poll a couple of months ago, I don’t know what it’s worth, but it was a fairly extensive poll taken by telephone from Washington by Farsi speakers calling Iranians, and one of the questions was how would you feel about being bombed? And the answer was basically, if you’re going to bomb us to get rid of the regime, okay. But if you’re just going to bomb us to get rid of some nuclear facilities, no. So that’s some kind of an indicator, and I like that result, because it coincides with my policy advocacy, but I don’t know if it’s true.

HH: How tenacious a military capability do the RG’s possess?

ML: Well, not so great that the regime thoroughly trusts them, because they’re purged all the time. The top RG people are replaced with amazing frequency. And a spectacular number of military aircraft containing high-ranking RG officials crash in Iran, and I don’t think maintenance is that bad.

HH: And a number of them disappear.

ML: Yes, they do.

HH: Now maybe into Western hands, and maybe just disappear…

ML: Yeah, well, some of them, we’ve had some number of RG defectors in Iraq. And there’s this spectacular case of General Asgari, who was one of the highest ranking of all the Revolutionary Guards, one of the two people who created Hezbollah, who was organizing the smuggling network from Syria into Iraq via Turkey, and he just disappeared several months ago, and nobody knows where he is. I don’t know where he is.

HH: Now Michael Ledeen, one of the interesting meditations in The Iranian Time Bomb is the dilemma that Prime Minister Maliki faces, and I thought it was provocative, that if he was certain we were staying, and we were seeking regime change, he could become the sort of Shia official that we need in that region. Can you expand on that?

ML: Well, thanks, Hugh. I think that every leader in the Middle East, and I took Maliki because his name is better known than others, but every leader in the Middle East looks at their future, and says well now, what’s going to happen here? The Americans are going to leave, whether it’s next month or next year or five years from now, but they are going to leave. And the Iranians are going to stay. So I’m going to have to take out insurance with regard to the Iranians.

– – – –

HH: Thank you, Michael Ledeen, for spending an hour with us. A couple of big questions to conclude this time together, the book is The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest For Destruction. It’s brand new, on best-seller lists in bookstores everywhere. I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com, it’s available at Amazon.com, the last name is Ledeen. Michael, if insipient populist counterrevolution comes to Iran, will the Revolutionary Guards simply sit up and mow them down in the streets?

ML: It depends on where and when, and how it happens, and it depends on how many people there are. If it’s a thousand people, the Guards will shoot. If it’s 10,000 people, it’s less likely. If it’s 100,000 thousand people, it’s possible, but unlikely. And if it’s a million people, they’ll join the revolution. So it all depends.

HH: And looking ahead to the near time, Khamenei is ill, as you detailed…

ML: Yeah.

HH: …inoperable cancer. He will be replaced by this council out there. What do you expect? A 12th Imamist? Or a return to sort of the mercantile Rafsanjani, make a buck and move along guys?

ML: Well, but Rafsanjani…Rafsanjani is a mass murderer. He’s wanted for murder in Europe.

HH: I agree, I agree. But he’s not as…

ML: And so what’s the difference? Yes, I mean, some of them are more mercantile than others. Rafsanjani has extensive land holdings in Southern California, where he produces pistachio nuts, for example. They’re very busy. And they’re all exporting their money, by the way, Hugh, which is one of the main indicators of a regime that does not expect to last. Who will replace him? I don’t think it much matters, because whoever replaces him is going to be a man of the regime. It’ll be just another one of them.

HH: And just as committed to the export of Khomeinism?

ML: Yes.

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