Friday, 1 November 2013

The grim Lockerbie shadow over Iran’s new president

[This is the headline over an article by David Wolchover published yesterday evening on the Jewish News website.  It reads as follows:]

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly this month, Benjamin Netanyahu memorably described Hassan Rouhani, the recently elected president of Iran, as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, cautioning that we should not be taken in by his “charm offensive” on the West.

Is this any more than bombastic alarmism, cried out in desperation by a worried man in charge of an increasingly-beleaguered Israel or is there substance in the warning? Analysis of Rouhani’s biography will provide a clear answer and it is chilling. His ostensible career as a serious-minded and seemingly decent person begins promisingly enough.

Educated at the prestigious Qom seminary with a clerical career beckoning, he went on to obtain his doctorate in Constitutional Law from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1999 with a thesis worthily entitled “The Flexibility of Shariah (Islamic Law) with reference to the Iranian experience”. Yet Rouhani’s distinguished scholastic attainment contrasts with a rather less happy connection with Scotland a decade earlier.

On 3 July 1988 a jumpy radar analyst on board the US Navy’s Gulf-based missile cruiser Vincennes identified an approaching aircraft as an Iranian F-14 Tomcat. Two missiles were launched but the target proved to be an Airbus, IranAir Flight 655, making the short hop from Bandar Abbas to Dubai with 290 passengers and crew.

Instead of eating humble pie, the Reagan administration ineptly tried to justify the tragedy as the consequence of a legitimate measure of self-defence and rubbed salt in the wound by awarding the hapless “air warfare co-ordinator” a navy medal for “heroic achievement”. Absurdly, the Iranian government claimed the destruction of Flight 655 was intended to celebrate the Fourth of July and with its traditional penchant for “symmetry” determined on revenge in like measure.

Following his 1986 showdown with the Regan government, Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi made a show of “going straight”, including cutting off funds from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine: General Command, whose founder, Ahmed Jibril, was forced to seek fresh sources of revenue. To Jibril, the Airbus incident seemed like manna from heaven and with its network of informants on the ground Israeli intelligence soon learnt he was serenading the Iranians with an offer to execute a contract of revenge. Using their combined technical resources, Mossad and the CIA obtained clear evidence of a deal between Jibril and Iran’s powerful hard-line interior minister, Hojatolislam Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, by which Iran agreed to pay the PFLP-GC a bounty running into millions of dollars if it managed to destroy a packed American airliner.

The upshot was the destruction over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 of Pan American Flight 103, with the loss of only 20 souls fewer than went down with the Airbus. The US chose to accuse Libya instead of the PFLP-GC, but even a cursory reading of the evidence against the only man to be convicted of the bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, shows the case against him, and by extension Gaddafi, was tosh. This article is not about retrying Megrahi, dead now for 18 months.

President Rouhani is the subject. But what has he to do with Lockerbie? For those who know their history of Iranian revolutionary power-politics, the answer is not difficult to infer.

We need to look at his connection with Mohtashemi, the Lockerbie deal-maker. As ambassador to Syria, Mohtashemi had a key role in the creation of Hezbollah in the Lebanon and although appointed interior minister in 1995 continued an active association with Syrian military intelligence in the Lebanon.

In that capacity, he was the natural choice to talk to Jibril and in agreeing to pay out millions of dollars for an act of war against the US we can be certain he was hardly engaging “on a frolic of his own,” as lawyers might put it. As a mainstream politician it is inconceivable that he was not plenipotentiary for his government and the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Supreme Leader had been quite prepared to sacrifice hundreds of thousands as cannon fodder in the Iran-Iraq war, demonstrating no aversion to the shedding of innocent blood, especially of citizens of the “great Satan,” the USA.

So to the supposedly-moderate figure of Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani, later to become president of the Republic. In June 1988, backed by Khomeini, who had at last seen the light, Rafsanjani was working on ending hostilities with Iraq. His star was in the ascendant but Mohtashemi saw the downing of the Airbus as a perfect opportunity to strike at Rafsanjani and discredit the rising influence of the moderates. Rouhani, born in 1948, was a contemporary of Mohtashemi’s, born in 1947, and had already been marked for high office, elected to the Majlis, the parliament, as early as 1980, and, importantly, a member of the Supreme Defence Council in the crucial period from 1982 to 1988. He held top military positions during the Iran-Iraq war, and was heavily involved in the Iran-Contra episode.

He held diverse positions of executive authority over Iran’s intelligence, security and clandestine operations establishment for a number of years straddling the fateful year 1988 and was plainly a significant player. As such it is inconceivable that he could have had no knowledge of the deal with Jibril.

Of course, exercising all due forensic restraint, it can be argued that knowledge of a plan is no proof of complicity in its execution or of having aided and abetted the instrumental perpetrators. Yet knowledge of the existence of a secret conspiracy is usually regarded as the best evidence of participation. The deal with Jibril can only have been authorised on the highest authority.

Rouhani was a high official in intelligence and security. He was a close ally of Mohtashemi in their opposition to Rasfanjani. Can he conceivably have played no role with others in formulating the terms of the contract and authorising his intimate associate to close the deal? Metaphorically speaking, the fingerprints of President Rouhani are all over the bomb that shattered Flight 103 over Lockerbie.

• David Wolchover is a barrister. He has written extensively on the Lockerbie bombing


  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2013 - (google translation, german/english):

    After the secret meeting of the German Green politician Hans-Christian Stroebele, with the U.S. informant Edward Snowdon, also Edwin Bollier (MEBO Ltd) tried to get a meeting in Moscow for information in connection with the "PanAm 103- bombing" over Lockerbie (1988) and from the "Communication-Monitoring" against Switzerland and their banks, private companies and other.

    in german language:

    Nach dem geheimen Treffen des Grünen Deutschen Politikers Hans -Christian Ströbele mit dem US-Informanten Edward Snowdon, versucht Edwin Bollier (MEBO Ltd) ebenfalls ein Meeting in Moskau zu bekommen.
    Bollier möchte Informationen im Zusammenhang mit dem - "PanAm 103" Attentat über Lockerbie (1988) und über das "Kommunikations- Monitoring" gegen die Schweiz und deren Banken, privat Firmen und andere - zu erhalten.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Communication Switzerland. Webpage:

  2. Considering that PFLP-GC was a rag-bag gun for hire outfit thoroughly infiltrated by everyone, it’s surprising that CIA/Mossad haven’t offered up any evidence of Iran’s involvement considering their relentless anti-Iranian warmongering.

    Indeed so thoroughly infiltrated that if we give any credence to Wolchover’s comments and the ‘revenge theory’ then Lockerbie becomes a CIA/Mossad atrocity!


  3. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2013 - (google translation, german/english):

    LIBYA Before (Libya Now) have nothing to do with the 'PanAm 103 bombing' - supported on the circumstantial evidence - the crucial, manipulated, MST-13 timer fragment (PT-35) - presented (2000/01) by Scottish Justice !

    It's that simple - the supposedly discovered in Lockerbie MST-13 timer fragment (PT/35) is fabricated (manipulated) from a prototype circuit board and has
    8 layers of fiberglass.

    The supplied to Libya MST-13 timers were supplied with circuit boards consisting of 9 layers of fiberglass.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL:

  4. "’s surprising that CIA/Mossad haven’t offered up any evidence..."

    CIA/Mossad will know a lot, but there will be much more they don't know.

    If two men meet and make a deal there may easily be no evidence at all.

    Unless you very clearly can point to why there would have to be evidence, "no evidence" does not really constitute "evidence for the opposite".

  5. If you can bribe someone to give false testimony in public, I’m sure rewarding someone anonymously for truthful information would produce results!

  6. "... I’m sure ..."
    I know.

  7. Follows on from "I assume".

  8. SM

    A US Senator told Martin Cadman, “Your government and ours know exactly what happened ... but they’re never going to tell”.

    Do you think CIA should offer the Senator a reward for his information and solve the case, or do you think if the Senator knows the CIA know too?

    Or do you definitely think the Senator was making it up?

  9. Only the Senator knows whether he was imparting a genuine insight, or merely expressing his personal opinion.

    I seriously doubt either government knew or knows "exactly what happened".

  10. Sophistry at its finest!

  11. There are men/women whose statements for empirical reasons carry great weight with me, personally.

    But for the rest, regardless of whether a it supports my own views or the opposite, a statement given without ability/opportunity/obligation to produce and discuss evidence, means little to me and is hardly worth mentioning.

    US politicians falls in that second group.