- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The grandson of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is in Washington this week and giving his blessing to the United States should it decide to invade Iran and throw the clerics out of power.

“The establishment of democracy should be taken very seriously in Iran,” Hossein Khomeini said in an interview.

“Even if the situation necessitates for the United States to take military action in Iran, they should not hesitate,” Mr. Khomeini said.

He called Americans liberators for invading neighboring Iraq and throwing out the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Hossein Khomeini has his grandfather’s eyebrows, dark bushy lines arched like wide triangles over his dark eyes, but similarities to his grandfather, who established Iran’s theocracy in 1979 and labeled the United States the Great Satan, end there.

For the interview, he wore loose-fitting gabardine slacks and a gray long-sleeve T-shirt with the outline of two arrows.

Mr. Khomeini said he opposed Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, a point he made last week at the United Nations for a terrorism conference.

“I like Washington,” he said. “But I really love New York. The city has such a warmth to it.”

Mr. Khomeini, a junior cleric, moved to the Iraqi holy city of Karbala last spring during the U.S. war against Saddam.

While he said he used the occasion of his Friday sermons to criticize the Islamic Republic while he was in Iran, since his arrival in Iraq his words have become sharper.

“The rulers of Iran have to go and they have to go forever,” he said. “If the Iranian people rise up, they will kill them all.”

This may be unsettling news to some in the Bush administration who had hoped for a bloodless revolution in Iran.

The State Department, for example, held preliminary talks last month to discuss how to funnel nonmilitary assistance and training to democratic groups in Iran.

Mr. Khomeini said he believed that President Bush’s encouragement over the last year and a half to the democrats in Iran would ultimately be helpful to their cause.

“If there is honesty in what the president says and he follows up with it, it may not give them the result we want immediately, but in the long run, if the United States is committed to democracy and freedom for Iran, it is going to be effective and not hurt us.”

But he also warned against U.S. policy-makers putting too much stock in the opinions of Iranian Americans.

“The United States should not make the mistake of looking at this generation inside Iran from the perspective [of the] Iranian community here,” he said.

“With all due respect I have for the Iranian Americans, because of the historical baggage they carry they cannot be representatives of the young generation in Iran.”

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