The Cult of Fakhrizadeh

As more is revealed about activity at Parchin, the future of SPND becomes more and more of an issue. Indeed it seems unlikely that the Head of SPND, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (محسن فخریزاده) is enjoying the same cosy relationship with his new boss Hossein Dehghan (حسین دهقان) as he has with Iran’s previous Defence Ministers. Redline wonders if Dehghan even thought about removing Fakhrizadeh as head of SPND in the early weeks of his new job as Iran’s Minister of Defense last year.

Dehghan is a serious man and a lifelong IRGC Officer; he allegedly planned the 1983 US Marine barracks bombing in Beirut that killed hundreds of US personnel. He commanded Iran’s forces in Lebanon and Syria during the early years of Hezbollah. His appointment by President Hassan Rouhani (حسن روحانی) in August 2013 as Iran’s Minister of Defense was therefore no real surprise.

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Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (محسن فخریزاده) has always seemed to enjoy exceptional levels of patronage from Iran’s Ministers of Defence, and he has needed to. When Ali Shamkhani (علی شمخانی), now Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC, شورای عالی امنیت ملی), was in that job he let Fakhrizadeh get on with the AMAD plan. Shamkhani’s successor, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar (مصطفی محمد نجار), was equally accommodating, defending Fakhrizadeh’s work and shielding him from the IAEA. Ahmad Vahidi’s (احمد وهیدی) stint in the job probably coincided with the low point in Iran’s relations with the West around the nuclear programme but he was unwavering in supporting Fakhrizadeh. Even the Supreme Leader has got in on the act, apparently hailing Fakhrizadeh in April 2014 for his ‘relentless endeavours’ in destroying Iran’s economy nuclear work.

Redline would expect Dehghan to muster similar public shows of support. When he’s not busy commissioning missile production lines and demanding Islamic State fighters are prosecuted for war crimes, he also likes to dip his toe into the nuclear debate. In August last year, Dehghan said the IAEA did not need to visit the now infamous Parchin complex again, claiming surprisingly that the IAEA had accepted “that nothing happened in Parchin” - which is strange because they still seem kinda eager to visit the place.

Unfortunately for those who believe that the negotiations will eventually lead to something, count Redline amongst the believers, Dehghan was probably being genuine. Unlike Shamkhani, Vahidi and Najjar, Dehghan was not around in the days of AMAD. He was busy heading up the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, so his knowledge on the whole PMD issue is probably sketchy to say the least. Who knows what story Fakhrizadeh spun him before he made that statement?

Redline can imagine Dehghan’s epic face-palming when the NCRI revealed new information about activity at Parchin on 7 November, including allegations that Redline favourite Saeed Borji (سعید برجی) was the man responsible for designing and installing explosive chambers at that place that nothing happened in. Dehghan is a politician now, and politicians do not like being embarrassed.

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Fakhrizadeh (فخریزاده) probably had to deal with a lot of that anger directly; everyone has done something to annoy their boss before, but it usually does not involve a seemingly endless set of revelations about a supposedly ‘secret’ nuclear weapons project. And that’s just what Dehghan might have said to Fakhrizadeh’s face; the conversation between Dehghan and his MODAFL Counter Intelligence Chiefs (وزارت دفاع و پشتیبانی نیروهای مسلح) was probably not quite as polite.

Maybe that explains Fakhrizadeh having a security detail bigger than a Mariah Carey entourage. Although the red carpet is probably not being rolled out like it used to: Redline can imagine Fakhrizadeh turning up at MODAFL only to find that his collection of Gholamreza Takhti (غلامرضا تختی – Iranian wrestling champion) look-alike bodyguards are not allowed in the Minister’s private dining room.

Following the Parchin revelations, if Fakhrizadeh, a man so adept at duplicity it is claimed he has three passports, tells Dehghan that this many rials paid for this or the fissile material is kept inside a volcano, why should he believe him? Fakhrizadeh finds himself in the previously unthinkable position of having to convince Dehghan that he is worth keeping around.

For now at least it looks like Fakhrizadeh is keeping his job, but Redline wonders just how close Dehghan came in those early weeks to getting rid of him. At the very least, the elevated status enjoyed by Fakhrizadeh over the last decade appears to be on the wane. Now he’s busy trying to bomb ISIL Dehghan does not need any more revelations like those about Parchin.

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