With nationwide protests now entering their fourth month, Iran’s regime leaders are grasping for ways to change the narrative away from demonstrators’ plaintive chant of “Women-Life-Freedom!” They now want the public to believe that the 475 protesters killed since September are all victims of “Kurdish separatists” and “foreign interference.”
Leading the charge in revising the narrative is Mohsen Rezai, a terrorist suspect notorious for twisting stories — and even possibly ordering the murder of his own son — in order to save his skin.
Mohsen Rezai, the regime’s vice president for economic affairs, is an international outlaw. Argentina wants him and several other top Iranian officials for their direct involvement in the murder of 85 people at the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994. According to prosecutors, Rezai was a member of a secret top-level security committee within the Iranian government that ordered the AMIA attack.
Twice over the past ten months, the government of Argentina has requested that Rezai be arrested while traveling overseas — to Nicaragua in January and to Qatar in October — in accordance with an Interpol Red Notice. The government-owned Tehran Times savored Rezai’s success at slipping the noose, calling his official travel a “slap in the face” to the US.
And yet, back in Washington in March, a US House of Representatives resolution opposing the removal of terror designations and sanctions against Rezai and two others won just 65 co-sponsors. None of them were Democrats.
Rezai, at 68, is among the youngest of the first-generation Islamic revolutionaries in Iran. He continues to pose a threat to this country.
Trained as a guerrilla fighter by the PLO in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in the late 1970s, he was part of the inner circle that planned and carried out the Feb. 11-12, 1979 putsch that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power. Khomeini rewarded him by tasking him to create an instrument of Islamic terror that would act as secret police and enforcer of the new regime, which ultimately became the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Rezai served as IRGC commander for nearly 20 years, building an extensive patronage network of senior commanders, who continue to support his political ambitions today.
But Rezai’s career as one of the Iranian regime’s top terror planners nearly crashed and burned in 1998 when his eldest son, Ahmad, defected to the United States, becoming the highest-level informant the CIA had ever recruited inside the Iranian regime until then.
Rezai’s rivals had already forced him to resign as IRGC commander, and I gave Ahmad refuge in my basement in Kensington, Md., for a time, while he awaited new papers from the US.
“My father is a terrorist,” Ahmad told me while he lived with us, learning English from Jackie Chan movies. In recognition of his services to America, Ahmad was awarded a US passport and a new name — Tom Jay Anderson.
The elder Rezai, meanwhile, became a top recruitment target of a US intelligence agency (the name of which I can’t disclose).
In 2002, Rezai met twice with US government officials in Frankfurt and in Rome, as part of a recruitment effort. In June 2003, he met in Athens with a former CIA officer, Flynt Leverett, thinking he was a US government emissary.
The Iranian regime found out — and Rezai almost ended up in prison.
But Rezai is a survivor, and a ruthless one to boot. To rescue his career, he convinced his son to return to Iran in 2004 and recant the statements he had made in the US about Iran’s involvement in international terror attacks. He also forced him into an arranged marriage with the daughter of an IRGC colleague, enticing him with black market business deals with the IRGC.
Even so, his son’s defection continued to rankle inside the regime. Former president Rafsanjani publicly criticized Rezai for his handling of the Iran-Iraq war and privately repudiated him because his son had become a US citizen. And the IRGC’s internal bulletin, circulated only among top officials, accused the IRGC general of plotting a palace coup with US help.
In an effort to revive his revolutionary credentials, Rezai ran for president in 2009. When his son returned to Iran to join his campaign, security officials detained him at the Tehran airport, eventually releasing him once his father’s security guards found where he was being held. As Ahmad described the scene to me later, it was a “Mexican standoff” between the two groups, weapons drawn.
For several years, Rezai lowered his profile and kept his head down, teaching economics classes in Mashad.
Then, on Nov. 13, 2011, his son was found dead in a Dubai hotel room, allegedly of an overdose of antidepressants. The family gathered in Tehran for a very public funeral — and suddenly Rezai’s political problems vanished.
(I went to Dubai to investigate Ahmad’s death and discovered that a Russian wanted by Interpol had checked into the same hotel the day before he passed, paying a month’s rent in advance, only to leave the day after Ahmad died.)
Afterward, Rezai adopted the political rhetoric of a rabid anti-Israel, anti-American politician. When the Trump administration deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln to the region in June 2019 as a check on what it believed were impending Iranian attacks, Rezai warned that if the US “takes the smallest action, the whole region will be engulfed in fire.”
He also called for Iran to attack British ships in the Persian Gulf and blustered that President Donald Trump had “crossed the red line” by killing Quds Force commander Qassem Suleymani on Jan. 2, 2020.
Most recently, he condemned Iran’s enemies for spawning nationwide protests, claiming they were trying to create a civil war in the country. “Iran cannot be turned into another Syria or Lebanon by carrying out violent acts,” he said on November 18.
After his fourth failed campaign for president, in 2021, he was appointed vice president for economic affairs by President Raisi, who himself has been criticized for his role in the 1988 massacre of tens of thousands of dissidents held in regime jails.
The Tehran regime in Iran is full of terrorist thugs like Mohsen Rezai. Interior minister Ahmad Vahidi is also wanted by Argentina for his role in the AMIA bombings, as is Ali Akbar Velayati, the chief foreign policy advisor to the Supreme Leader. Former defense minister Mohsen Dehghan, now a defense advisor to the Supreme Leader, has been indicted in the US for his role in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings.
And these are but a few.
Meanwhile, the Biden regime continues to seek a nuclear deal with the terrorists who want us dead.
That is the very definition of folly.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is the best-selling author of “And the Rest is History: Tales of Hostages, Arms Dealers, Dirty Tricks, and Spies.” He lectured on Iran at the Pentagon’s Joint Counter-Intelligence Training Academy from 2010-2016.