Scott Lucas writes for EA Worldview:
Mohsen Rezaei is a big player in Iranian politics. He was head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for 16 years, and he is now the Secretary of the Expediency Council. In 2009, he was a candidate in the 2009 Presidential election — while his campaign disputed the legitimacy of the vote count that re-elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he distanced himself from the public protests supported by fellow candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. There have been flutters that he would run again in 2013, although these died down quickly when he apparently failed to prompt widespread support.
Given that record, the news this weekend that Ahmad Rezaei, the 33-year-son of the politician, had died on the 18th floor of the Gloria Hotel in Dubai was bound to raise an eyebrow.
And soon the other eyebrow was lifted. While the Dubai police soon said that Ahmad Rezaei had committed suicide, dying from a slit left wrist, the claim was resisted by some media inside and outside Iran. That suspicion intersects with the general tension in the country, amidst the regime’s claims of foreign interference, the explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base, and Israel’s talk of war, but it also draws upon the background of a son who took a very different path from his father.
The claims by DebkaFile, a website better known for its propaganda-laden links with Israeli services than for its reliability, of a “hit” by Mossad can be set aside, even if the Israeli agency assassinated a leading Hamas figure in Dubai in 2010.
More interesting, if far from conclusive, is the chatter in the Iranian media. Aftab News, linked to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, said Ahmad Rezaei was electrocuted, without further explanation. Ammariyon, affiliated with Ansar-e Hezbollah, played the Mossad card.
However, most significant for us is the line put out by Mohsen Rezaei’s camp and the Expediency Council. Shahram Gilabadi, deputy head of public relations of the Council, told Mohsen Rezaei’s website that there were “suspicious circumstances” and the results of an investigation will be published.
But what could be the motive behind any murder? The narrative of Israel eliminating a regime figure, or a close relative of a regime figure, is complicated by Ahmad Rezaei’s story. He moved to the US in 1998 and openly criticised the regime, claiming that -dissidents were killed on the direct orders of the Supreme Leader. Mohsen Rezaei claimed that Americans tricked his son, claiming that they worked for the space agency NASA and could offer him a good life in the US.
Ahmad Rezaei tells Voice of America in 1998 that the Iranian regime is killing its opponents
A website, The Iran Brief, claimed in 1999 that “the Tehran regime is anxious to see the 22-year old son of Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaei return to Iran, and has deployed commercial agents, intelligence operatives, and intermediaries of all stripes in a major effort to squeeze the younger Rezai financially and isolate him, forcing him to leave the United States”. Ahmad Rezaei allegedly told the site that his father had given money to Iranian businessman Hojjabr Yazdani, living in Costa Rica, to take his son away from the Iranian-American community in Los Angeles.
Ahmad Rezaei returned to Iran in 2005. His father, who had said that his prodigal son would be treated like any other regime, only revealed the news in 2006. The younger Rezaei was never prosecuted and later left again for the US. A subsequent attempt to return to Iran was blocked, and he stayed in Dubai.
So, at this point, there is no clarity on the death of Ahmad Rezaei, only speculation. Is that speculation, however, a marker of the uncertainty of an Iranian regime which is unsure about the reality of the foreign threat it perpetually claims? Is it a signal that someone within that regime may have removed the son of one of the Iranian elite? Or is just the noise around the tragedy of an unhappy man who took his own life?