As a former aide-de-camp to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei and one of the founders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Sazegara was once at the radical, sharply anti-American vanguard of that country's Islamic revolution. Operating from Khomenei's exile headquarters in Paris during the 1970s, the U.S.–educated student revolutionary was so close to the theocrats plotting to overthrow the American-backed shah that he ﬂew into Tehran with Khomenei to launch the 1979 revolution -- and later served in several high-level political posts in the Islamic revolutionary government.
More than two decades later, Sazegara -- now 50 years old and wizened from two harsh terms in Iranian prisons -- has returned to the United States with a very different agenda.
For Iranians in exile -- and the Americans who become embroiled in their intrigues -- Paris has long been the city of shadows. This is where the Ayatollah Khomenei awaited the ominous victory of his Islamic revolution; and where the deposed ministers and brutal spies from the late shah's government washed up in the 1979 revolution's bloody aftermath.
For well over two decades now, dreamers and schemers who hope to overthrow the mullahs have been lurking along the banks of the Seine, passing secrets and lies through proxies, back channels, and middlemen. Among the Persian plotters marooned in the French capital is a former minister of commerce in the shah's government, who has recently acquired the code name of “Ali.”
To Washington's small and sometimes fractious community of Iran experts, it was becoming obvious: What to do about Iran and its fast-developing nuclear program was set to rival Iraq as the most pressing foreign-policy challenge for the person elected president in 2004. By the spring and early summer of this year, the city was awash in rival Iran task forces and conferences. Some recommended that Washington engage in negotiations with Tehran's mullahs on the nuclear issue; they drew scorn from the other side, which preached regime change or military strikes.
If one had asked the leaders of the United Nations to choose a test case through which they could demonstrate the organization's efficacy before the world, they would hardly have chosen Iraq. With a volatile security situation, too few peacekeeping troops, and a recent political history that has bitterly divided the members of the UN Security Council, Iraq is just the kind of politically charged, high-risk intervention that has recently overwhelmed the UN in places like Bosnia.
A year ago, U.S. forces airlifted Ahmed Chalabi and his band of freedom fighters into Iraq. Today, U.S. authorities raided his Baghdad house at gunpoint, seizing boxes of documents. What happened? Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Middle East specialist based in Turkey for the Central Intelligence Agency, tries to explain what happened.
Why did the Americans raid Chalabi's offices? What's going on?
It appears the Americans are going after a variety of paperwork. He has an enormous amount of documents in his possession, which the Americans allowed and encouraged him to have for several reasons.