- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

If there is a silver lining in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as president of Iran, it is that it will be more difficult for people in the West to delude themselves into thinking they are dealing with so-called pragmatists or reformers who want to end the clerical dictatorship that has brutalized the Iranian people. Such an exercise in self-deception will be far more difficult to engage in now that Americans taken hostage by Iranian students who invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, say that Mr. Ahmadinejad played a central role in the takeover, interrogating American captives and demanding harsher treatment of the hostages.

In an interview with The Washington Times, one of the Americans, Army Col. Charles Scott said he was one of the “top two or three leaders” of the gang that took over the embassy. Col. Scott, recalled that when one of the Iranian guards permitted two Americans to visit another hostage in a nearby cell, Mr. Ahmadinejad admonished the guard, telling him: “You shouldn’t let these pigs out of their cells.”

Early in 1979, Mr. Ahmadinejad became a leader of an organization called the Office for Strengthening of Unity Between Universities and Theological Seminaries, known as the OSU, which helped orchestrate the seizure of the embassy. The organization was set up by Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, then a close confidant of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The following year, when Khomeini staged what he referred to as an “Islamic Cultural Revolution,” Mr. Ahmadinejad and the OSU helped purge dissident students and university lecturers, many of whom were arrested and subsequently executed.

During the early 1980s, he worked in the Iran Revolutionary Guards, where he developed a reputation as a brutal torturer and interrogator. His Iranian enemies claim he worked as an executioner during the 1980s at Evin Prison, one of the most brutal detention facilities run by the Iranian regime. In 1986, Mr. Ahmadinejad became a senior officer in the Special Brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which carried out attacks outside Iran’s borders, including murders of dissidents. He is said to have masterminded a series of assassinations in Europe and the Middle East, including the July 1989 assassination of Abdorrahman Qassemiou, an Iranian Kurdish leader who was gunned down in Vienna. In 1997, he organized Ansar-e-Hezbollah, an Islamist vigilante group best known for beating up students and other dissidents inside Iran.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is “Khomeini at a younger age, with more zeal than the old lunatic had,” according to Aryo Pirouznia, an Iranian dissident who runs the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, which is working to replace the Islamist dictatorship. Mr. Pirouznia points out that Mr. Ahmadinejad (one of eight candidates left in the race after the ruling mullahs disqualified more than 1,000 others) has no mandate from the Iranian electorate. Indeed, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory suggests that the darkest elements of the Iranian regime are ascendant. President Bush would do well to remind our European friends that we ignore such unpleasant realities at our peril.

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