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Michael Ledeen’s take on the Iranian election crisis.

Monday, June 15, 2009
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HH: I’m joined now by Michael Ledeen, who probably has forgotten more about Iran than almost everyone commenting on it right now. Michael, welcome, it’s great to have you on today.

ML: Thank you.

HH: Is the regime in Iran in trouble enough that conceivably it could be toppled?

ML: Yes, it certainly is, and the fact that they’re apparently bringing in foreigners for crowd control shows that they do not have confidence even in their own thugs. They seem to have brought in Hezbollah from Syria and Lebanon.

HH: And the fact that…

ML: And there are stories, and there’s rumors, I mean, who knows, but there’s rumors that there are Venezuelans running around, too.

HH: Given that, what are you looking for, Michael Ledeen, as a sign of the regime cracking?

ML: I’m looking for two things. I’m looking for denunciations of the regime and of the elections and of the violence by senior ayatollahs, and I’m looking for significant defections from the Revolutionary Guard. And that may be happening.

HH: And why do you say may be happening?

ML: Because there’s, you know, there’s reports of Revolutionary Guard guys that refused to shoot and wouldn’t beat up people, and told people we’re with them. I mean, this whole thing is being chronicled on Tweeter, as you undoubtedly know.

HH: Yeah…

ML: And I mean, even while we’re, the short time that you and I have been talking, there’s 215 more posts on Tweeter…

HH: Twitter.

ML: On the election.

HH: On Twitter.

ML: Yeah.

HH: Not Tweeter, Twitter.

ML: Twitter, yes.

HH: Michael Ledeen, in terms of the American response from the Obama administration, how do you rate it? What do you want them to do?

ML: I want them to support Iranian freedom. I want them to support the Iranian people. I want them to denounce the violence against peaceful demonstrators. I mean, I want them to stand up for American values all over the world, but they’re not doing it. They’re running away from it.

HH: What did you make of Biden’s comments on Meet The Press yesterday?

ML: Incoherent, as usual.

HH: Yeah.

ML: I mean, Biden is a marvel of incoherence.

HH: In terms of Dennis Ross being relieved as a special envoy to Iran, what’s that tell you?

ML: Well, I don’t know what that means, but I mean it’s certainly lucky for Dennis, because you wouldn’t want to be associated with an administration that closes its eyes to this kind of evil, and you know, go off to negotiate with them. It’s a break for Dennis.

HH: Now I talked to Amir Taheri a couple weeks back, and he described this convoluted governing structure that they’ve got, the six to ten different sources of authority in Iran. Does the Iranian Army have an independent will divorced from the mullahs, Michael Ledeen, that might bring it…

ML: Oh, absolutely. No, the army has made it clear that they’re not going to intervene in this. They’re not going to start shooting citizens. No way. And the regime knows it. And the regime doesn’t even trust the Revolutionary Guards. I mean, what they’re using mostly here are Basij, who are the fanatical, religious sadists that have always been used to put down demonstrations of women and children and so forth, and then these foreigners. I think the regime is extremely worried.

HH: Explain to people who the Basij are.

ML: The Basij are a volunteer force of mostly young, religious fanatics who are sworn to defend the regime and the Supreme Leader at all costs, and so forth, and they’re not very well paid, and they’re not very well treated. I mean, they’re sort of a proletarian force, and widely despised by educated and cultured people. But they are effective at intimidating, and they’re the ones probably who have been doing the killing. They’re undoubtedly the ones who assaulted the University of Tehran, broke into the dormitories and started killing people. And they’re probably the ones who have been doing the shooting in the big rallies. By the way, BBC of all places, which most Iranians think is not sympathetic to their cause, said that there were between one and two million people at that demonstration today.

HH: Yeah, Michael Ledeen, you’ve written not one but two comprehensive books on Iran. Have any of the American major networks called you yet?

ML: No.

HH: Now I am appalled at the nature of the coverage we’re getting. Is anyone doing a good job? I actually think Totten and Sullivan are doing pretty good jobs, but who else?

ML: Yeah, I think Sullivan’s been doing a good job. I agree that Michael Totten’s doing a good job. I mean, but these are blogs. Pajamas Media is doing a great job where I blog. Huffington Post is doing a good job, interestingly enough, even though you know, they’re pro-Obama by and large. I don’t know about the networks. I don’t watch television. People tell me Fox News has been trying to keep up. It’s very hard to keep up with this. I mean, it’s hard for a TV network, because the feed out of Iran is of course censored. And I’m sure that foreign journalists have been thrown out by now. One was arrested, a Belgian journalist.

HH: Now important is Western media coverage to the actual events on the ground, Michael Ledeen?

ML: I don’t know. There are these heartbreaking posts on Twitter and on YouTube from kids over there who are saying where are world leaders? Why is nobody standing up for us? And they follow it, and I’ve seen a couple of enthusiastic things saying ABC News was pretty good. There’s a whole site on Twitter now called #CNNfail, which you can imagine what that’s all about.

HH: What did you make of Ahmadinejad’s press conference with Christianne Amanpour throwing him a softball, having him discard it, and having her throw the softball again?

ML: Well, she’s one of the worst. She’s always been one of the worst on Iran, so that’s no surprise. We knew that.

HH: Presented with that opportunity, what ought serious journalists to pose as a question to him, or should they engage at all?

ML: Well, you know, these people are frightened, I will say in their defense. I mean, these journalists are running around streets where there are thugs on motorcycles with clubs and guns, and who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot them. I mean, they’ve killed foreign journalists before. It’s not new to them. I was talking to a guy from the Guardian today, which has been doing quite a good job, and I commended him, and he said look, we’ve have three journalists expelled from Iran in the last ten years. So that’s what shows you the people who are doing the good reporting. But it costs you, career-wise.

HH: Michael Ledeen, I’m going to have a guy named Frank Dowse on to end the show today. He’s an international security consultant, because he and I agree if the regime gets desperate enough, they’ll start grabbing any Westerner they can, preferably Americans as a way of diverting attention. Do you believe that’s a genuine threat?

ML: Well, they might do that, but this has gone way beyond things like that. I mean, this is an all-out street confrontation right now. And there’s going to be a winner and a loser, and that’s all there is to it. And if the regime loses, we’re going to see hanging from streetlights.

HH: I just had a caller say Mousavi’s got bloodier hands than Ahmadinejad from the beginning of the regime, but it doesn’t matter, he was the vehicle for people’s repressed desire for freedom. Do you agree with that assessment?

ML: Well, we’ve had revolutionaries who turned against the regime in the past. There’s nothing new there.

HH: Interesting.

ML: I mean, the fact is that all kinds of experts, including CIA experts, have been saying for years to people like me who said that revolution in Iran was easy if we would just support it. They were saying that you can’t have a revolution, because there’s no leader. Well, of all the unlikely leaders, here’s Mousavi, who was you know, who was there at the beginning, who was a loyal servant of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and all of that, and yet he is a revolutionary figure. Even more than he is his wife. That’s the revolutionary fact that a lot of people have missed.

HH: Michael Ledeen, we’ll check with you throughout the week. Thank you, friend.

End of interview.

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