Monday, September 12, 2005

Tomorrow, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly should order his men to escort the new hard-line president of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Kennedy International Airport, the minute he finishes speaking to the U.N. General Assembly at 3:10 p.m.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took office in August after disputed elections, is not just any head of state. He has a terrorist pedigree that should make him an unwelcome guest in any civilized country, if having a terrorist “watch list” serves any purpose. But perhaps “civilized” is not an adjective that applies to the United Nations, which has standards all its own.

The State Department found Aug. 31 that the Iranian president was “excludable” by law from entering the United States, since he met the definition of an “international terrorist.” Nevertheless, the wise heads at Foggy Bottom decided to waive the law.

The U.S. was bound by the Host Treaty agreement to allow anyone — absolutely anyone — to address the U.N. if they represented a sovereign state, the State Department lawyers argued. Besides, Mr. Ahmadinejad would not be allowed to travel more than 25 miles outside New York.

But that restriction has not dampened Mr. Ahmadinejad’s plans to gather Iranian-Americans for a series of private meetings in Manhattan, where he plans to encourage them to lobby the U.S. government against the policies of the Bush administration, according to individuals who have been contacted by the Islamic Republic’s U.N. delegation to attend the meetings.

Specifically, Mr. Ahmadinejad wants their support in discouraging the United States from referring Iran’s violations of its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions. He also wants pro-regime Iranians in the United States to lobby Congress and the White House to lift the U.S. trade embargo on Iran.

If Mr. Kelly and the New York Police Department feel they cannot prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad from addressing the U.N. General Assembly, they should escort him directly to Kennedy airport after his 5-minute speech so he can’t turn the visit into a lobbying tour. There is nothing in the U.S. treaty with the U.N. that says we have to sponsor international terrorists who have come to the United States on a lobbying mission.

Here’s what we know about the Islamic Republic’s boy president.

As a 23-year-old engineering student at Elm-o Sanaat University in Tehran, Mr. Ahmadinejad played a critical role in seizing the U.S. Embassy on Nov. 4, 1979.

Several former U.S. hostages have identified Mr. Ahmadinejad from contemporaneous photographs as one of their most vicious interrogators, according to reports first published in The Washington Times. While Mr. Ahmadinejad has denied he was ever inside the embassy during the hostage-crisis, evidence is mounting to the contrary.

According to former President Abolhassan Banisadr, who was a member of the Revolutionary Council at the time of the hostage crisis, Mr. Ahmadinejad was assigned guard duty inside the U.S. Embassy compound. “This has been confirmed to me by one of the former student leaders of the hostage-takers,” Mr. Banisadr tells me.

A profile of Mr. Ahmadinejad that appeared in a hard-line Web site run by former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai, noted that the new president “took part in all revolutionary activities” during the hostage crisis, and was “one of the architects of the Islamic Students Association,” the group that spawned the hostage-takers and their leaders and to whom they reported.

Not long afterward, Mr. Ahmadinejad worked at Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison, where his tasks reportedly included using a revolver to deliver the coup de grace to political prisoners condemned to die by the new Islamic regime.

Once war with Iraq broke out, he joined the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and was sent to the war front. In the mid-1980s, he helped establish the Qods (Jerusalem) Force, the overseas strike force of the IRGC. Their job was to spread Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s vision of radical Islam by force throughout the world, by eliminating the regime’s enemies and helping its friends.

The Qods Force garrisoned troops in Lebanon and the Sudan, where they established an intelligence relationship with Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s. Qods force teams also were dispatched to assassinate Iranian dissidents living overseas.

One victim of these government hit teams was Iranian Kurdish dissident Abdulrahman Qassemlou, gunned down in Vienna, Austria, on July 13, 1989.

The Austrian police found the murder weapons (two automatic pistols with silencers), and detained two of the three suspected murderers, but subsequently let them go. All three suspects had traveled to Austria on diplomatic passports.

Now, 16 years later, the Austrian Interior Ministry says it has evidence Mr. Ahmadinejad was involved directly in the Qassemlou murder as a member of a backup team that handled logistics and obtained the murder weapons from the Iranian Embassy in Vienna. If the first hit team failed, Mr. Ahmadinejad was ordered to carry out the murder himself, according to a former member of the hit team who has now testified to the Austrian government.

Apparently, that’s not the only murder in which the new president was involved. “I first heard his name at the time of the Bakhtiar assassination in Paris,” former President Banisadr recalls. Bakhtiar, a former prime minister, was brutally hacked to death by a regime hit squad outside Paris on Aug. 6, 1991. “Ahmadinejad was mentioned to me as one of those who organized and carried out that assassination,” Mr. Banisadr said.

One month before taking office, Mr. Ahmadinejad celebrated a new suicide martyrs brigade being formed in Tehran while he was still mayor. The day he took office, on Aug. 3, he announced the Islamic Republic would continue its nuclear programs in open defiance of its commitments to the international community.

Mr. Kelly: if you must hold your nose and allow this terrorist into Turtle Bay, at the very least have the decency to escort him to the airport the minute his speech is over.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is president of the Middle East Data Project Inc. and author of “Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran.”

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