- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

When it comes to supporting terror, the brazenness of the Iranian government and its apologists is mind-boggling. Joyce Howard Price reported last Monday in The Washington Times that Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the Iranian film-maker who directed the critically acclaimed movie "Kandahar," is defending one of his actors who has been identified by law-enforcement officials here as a murderer. Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler has said that the star of the film, who calls himself Hassan Tantai, is really David Belfield, a North Carolina native who has admitted killing former Iranian diplomat Ali Akbar Tabatabai on July 22, 1980 in Bethesda and fleeing to Iran.
None of this appears to faze Mr. Makhmalbaf. He backs Belfield, who is thought to have committed the murder acting on orders from the Iranian government, referring to him as someone who, "thinking of other people's freedom, reaches for a gun." Asked if he would have hired the actor had he known he was a killer, the "Kandahar" director replied "Yes, of course," adding that he "would have made a film with him about the murder that he committed, in order to explore why is it that in the civilized and opulent United States, a black man commits a political assassination and then escapes to a country like Iran."
Unfortunately, one reason that someone like Belfield would flee to Iran is that the regime that has ruled there since 1979 has routinely employed murder as a foreign policy tool, a point some U.S. policy-makers may want Americans to forget. The New York Times reported earlier this month that U.S. intelligence officials believe that Washington is failing to pay sufficient attention to Iran's continued support for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. Current and former CIA officials complain that both the Clinton administration and the current Bush administration have been generally reluctant to hold Tehran accountable for continuing to support terrorism. President Bush lent credence to this view when he expressed hope that Iran "would continue to be a positive force" in helping to bring terrorists to justice. In fact, it appears that Tehran is doing precisely the opposite. According to Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials, Iran has recently given refuge to fleeing members of bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group. Bin Laden's deputy former Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is believed to have masterminded the September 11 attacks repeatedly traveled to Iran during the 1990s as the guest of senior government terrorist operatives. U.S. policy toward Iran needs to be based on reality, not feel-good sentimentalism. And the reality is that Iran remains very much involved in aiding and abetting terrorism.


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