17 September 2001, Volume
The reactions of Iranians to the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on 11 September have varied greatly. At the grassroots level, Iranians at home and abroad have expressed their sympathies and offered moral, financial, and material support. Iranian political figures of all stripes, from the president to the Friday Prayer leader, have condemned terrorism, too. And as time passes and the global coalition against terrorism begins to take shape, more Iranian political figures have voiced their sympathy for the American people. At the same time, some of these very same political figures, as well as state media and other press outlets, have accused the U.S., Israel, or elements within the U.S. government of direct involvement in the attacks, or they have accused them of taking advantage of the attacks to act against the Palestinians specifically and Muslims generally.
In anticipation of an attack against Afghanistan, Iran has sealed its eastern borders. It continues to back the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Any greater overt involvement in a conflict with the Taliban seems unlikely, in light of Iranian neutrality during the Gulf War. But times have changed, Iranian politicians are more sensitive to their country's place in the world, and it seems unlikely that Tehran will want to be left out of anything which will have such a global impact, especially when it concerns an immediate neighbor. Moreover, Tehran feels little affection for or affinity with the Taliban, who are responsible for the killing of Iranian officials, massacres of Afghanistan's predominantly-Shia Hazara minority, and support for Sunni insurgents. (Bill Samii)IRANIAN PEOPLE OFFER SYMPATHIES...
President George W. Bush urged his fellow citizens on 13 September to treat Muslims with "the respect they deserve.... we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror." In spite of such reminders, there already have been incidents of Americans indiscriminately lashing out at Muslims living in the country. Iranians at home and abroad, however, have expressed their condolences and sympathy for the American people and have rushed to help.
Many Iranians telephoned RFE/RL's Persian Service to express their shock with what happened. For example, a Tehran citizen said that Iranians were shocked and saddened by terrorist attacks on the U.S. and that most Iranians would be willing to donate blood and do anything to help the victims. She said that most people were relieved when President Mohammad Khatami expressed his condolences to the Americans (see below).
"Because of the recent tragedy in the United States, there will be a moment of silence before the [soccer] match starts," the announcer at a 14 September World Cup qualifying match in Tehran said. Tehran witnessed another display of public sympathy for the U.S. when hundreds held a candlelight vigil in a northern Tehran public square on 13 September. Mitra Sadeqi told AP that "We have gathered here to tell the American people that we, too, mourn the death of their innocent beloved ones. We feel as if our own beloved ones have lost their lives in a terrorist attack." Pegah Moazzemi added that "We are showing our solidarity with the American people, who are now victims of terrorism. We condemn the perpetrators of Tuesday's unspeakable attacks."
Parliamentarian Gholamhussein Barzegar told RFE/RL's Persian Service: "As a member of the parliament's sub-committee on national security and foreign policy, I condemn this ugly and unsuitable act." And parliamentarian Shahreman Bahrami-Hasanabadi told RFE/RL's Persian Service: "In the political culture of the Islamic Republic of Iran all terrorism is condemned, especially terrorism against innocent lives." Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, chief editor of the banned dailies "Neshat" and "Asr-i Azadegan," described President Khatami's expression of sympathy for the American people as "lofty and precious," ISNA reported on 14 September.
The website of the "Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran" condemned the events of 11 September and proclaimed it a "Day of Horror." SMCCDI offered its "deepest condolences" to the people of the U.S. and the victims' families. SMCCDI also condemned support for groups or regimes that use terrorism.
The Constitutionalist Movement of Iran condemned the events of 11 September in a letter to President Bush, and expressed its "heartfelt sympathy" to the bereaved families. The Worker-Communist Party of Iran called the attacks an "appalling act of inhumanity" and condemned them. On its website, Marz-e Por Gohar (Glorious Frontiers Party) said that "Our heartfelt condolence goes to the people of U.S. and especially to all affected families of this barbaric act." MPG strongly condemned "any attack on innocent civilians in any part of the world by any terrorist group or state." Marz-e Por-Gohar was established in Tehran by a group of nationalist secular writers and journalists in 1998, but now some of them live in Los Angeles.
The American-Iranian Council condemned the terrorist attacks "in the strongest possible terms" and expressed its "deepest sympathy to the victims and their families." AIC urged its membership to provide assistance to those who are suffering, especially by donating blood and financial support. AIC's sponsors include Arco, Ashland Oil, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon, Mobil, Shell, and Unocal, and it also is associated with American universities and think-tanks.
So too did the Iranians for International Cooperation, which says on its website that it has over one thousand members in countries such as Australia, Germany, Canada, Sri Lanka, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. IIC President Mohammad Ala said that his organization is "saddened and devastated by this tragedy." He urged the organization's membership and Iranian physicians to offer assistance and aid to the victims and their families, such as donations of blood and money.
Several other expressions of sympathy and support have been organized by Iranians in the U.S. Javann Galleries of California, for example, has organized a Night of Solidarity & Support for the Victims for 15 September, and this will feature a candlelight vigil and donations to the American Red Cross.
In spite of these expressions of support, attacks against Middle Easterners in the U.S. have been reported, and in Illinois a mob tried to march on a mosque. Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic relations reminded RFE/RL of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and he said "we hope that there isn't a similar situation developing here, in which there's unjustified backlash against ordinary American Muslims and Arab-Americans." Lancaster University's Professor Gerd Nonnemann told RFE/RL of his concern that even if such a thing is not legislated, attitudes towards "anybody who is identified as having dark skin or a mustache or is Muslim or is Arab or Iranian in origin" would change from the grassroots up. (Bill Samii)...AS DOES TEHRAN.
"I condemn the terrorist operations of hijacking and attacking public places in American cities which have resulted in the death of a large number of defenseless American people," Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said in a statement read out on state television on 11 September. Khatami went on to say that the world public should identify and take steps to eliminate the roots of terrorism. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 16 September acknowledged President Khatami's statement -- "Iran made a rather positive statement for Iran" -- but he added that "We have serious differences with the government of Iran because of their support for terrorism."
It is unlikely that Tehran is behind the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. But Tehran nurtures the roots of terrorism that Khatami mentioned. Hate-filled and anti-American statements by Iranian political leaders send the message that violence against the U.S. is not only acceptable but desirable. Tehran does not just promote terrorism verbally, furthermore, it contributes to the problem financially and materially, according to the U.S. Department of State, which in its "Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2000" report designated Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism."
"Death to America" is the popular public chant at Tehran's weekly Friday Prayer sermons. After telling the congregation that America supports Israel during his 7 September sermon, former President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani suggested to "the people of Palestine" that "Any martyr that you offer today, his or her blood will be avenged extensively from the Zionists and their supporters in the future."
Khatami himself said about "American statesmen" in a 1 September press conference: "These statesmen are supporting Israel wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and blatantly, in spite of all the atrocities that the Israelis are committing, and this support is to the detriment of the oppressed people of Palestine."
Presidential Adviser Mohammad Reza Tajik condemned the terrorist attacks and then warned that "the rightists and the American and Israeli Zionists will take great advantage of this situation and will attempt to materialize their objectives and interests under such desperate and agitating circumstances and the consequences which arise from this threat," ISNA reported on 12 September. Moreover, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi accused Israel on 13 September of exploiting the attacks against the U.S. to cause problems in the Middle East. The pro-Khatami Islamic Iran Participation Party also condemned the attacks and it went on to criticize the U.S. government for "staunchly supporting the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, Israel," IRNA reported on 12 September.
Such comments could be dismissed as being pro forma after 20 years, but words are translated into action by men like Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, who currently serves as a member of parliament and a foreign policy adviser to President Khatami. Mohtashemi is better known as a founding father of Lebanese Hizballah (which the State Department identifies as a terrorist organization) when he was ambassador to Damascus in the 1980s. During that time, Mohtashemi was instrumental in the 1983 suicide bombing in Beirut that resulted in over 200 dead U.S. Marines.
Suicide bombings in Israel by members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have increased recently, and the U.S. State Department acknowledges Tehran's financial support for these two groups. Mohtashemi looks set to reprise his role as a promoter of terrorism, as he spent much of the first week of September touring Middle Eastern capitals and meeting with Lebanese, Syrian, and Jordanian political leaders. Moreover, Hizballah is seen as a model to emulate in the occupied territories, where some crowds actually cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center.
In April 2001, Tehran hosted a conference at which representatives from Hamas, Hizballah, and the PIJ, as well as other terrorist organizations, participated. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said at the time that "the global arrogance, led by the American regime" is responsible for pressure on Iran. Khatami echoed Khamenei's statements, and the two then held individual meetings with their guests. A similar conference was held in 1990.
There are several other recent examples of Tehran's hostility to the U.S. In August, Tehran hosted a series of "Anti-Zionist" rallies, and the resolution passed at the end of these events declared that Iran continues to regard the U.S. as "the Great Satan." In June, Tehran was identified in a U.S. indictment that said Iranian officials supported and directed those responsible for the June 1996 attack against U.S. Air Force housing in Saudi Arabia, an incident that killed 19 American servicemen and wounded 372 other Americans.
Tehran also regularly stages a number of events to show its hostility to the U.S., although public enthusiasm for such events is waning. Every April, Tehran holds rallies to commemorate the death of American servicemen in the 1980 hostage-rescue mission. Every November, Tehran commemorates the anniversary of its 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy. The annual Qods (Jerusalem) Day rallies, which are held in December, and in which Khatami is a participant, include the ritualized chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."
Whoever they are, the culprits are likely to pay the ultimate price for their crimes. At the same time, Tehran's ritualized anti-Americanism and its support for terrorism could come back to haunt it. "The Washington Times" reported on 13 September that "a much broader war on Middle East-based terrorist organizations" could involve attacks on training camps in Iran as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. (Bill Samii)IRANIAN MEDIA LOOKS AT THE U.S.
Official Iranian condemnation of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. was matched with allegations in some Iranian newspapers and media that such events are the work of Americans or are the natural outcome of U.S. support for Israel.
"The planning of operations, the selection of targets and the savage way in which the operations were carried out in America show that non-American groups are incapable of carrying out such attacks," Tehran radio asserted on 12 September. The next day it reported: "There is no doubt that some American circles, backed by international Zionism, are trying to blame the Muslims for the suicide operations in New York and Washington, and use this as a pretext to justify the Zionist regime's atrocities against Muslims in the occupied territories."
The Azeri service of Iranian state radio said, "There is no doubt that nobody could have carried out such a major operation without support and aid from internal factors." And on the Turkmen Service, Pakistani politician Morteza Puya said, "Only those who set down deep roots in America's state structures are responsible for these explosions and it is Zionists who have put down deep roots in the American state."
The English-language "Tehran Times," which is published by the official Islamic Propagation Organization and the leader of which is chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote about "Paying the price for its blind support of the Zionist regime" on its front page. "When a government is prepared to go against all internationally accepted principles in its support of a racist and criminal regime, it cannot expect to escape unscathed," the daily said.
"Kayhan" said that the attacks "were the natural results of countless crimes which the United States, its Zionist masters, had carried out throughout the world." "Kayhan" is produced by the Kayhan Institute, which is under the supervision of the Supreme Leader's office. A "Kayhan" editorial alleged that the hijackings were part of "an uprising by part of the American establishment against their plundering and blood-thirsty government." A later Kayhan editorial also claimed that the attacks were the result of a conspiracy within the American government.
"Resalat" Managing Editor Morteza Nabavi told the Iranian Students News Agency on 14 September that "The extent of these attacks shows that they were masterminded by elements inside the American intelligence and security apparatus." If the hijackings are linked with foreigners, an editorial in "Resalat" asked, "why did Washington's statesmen bring about such hatred against their own people?" "Resalat" is associated with the Resalat Foundation, which gets backing from conservative bazaar merchants. The daily also suggested that the incidents might be linked to "elements inside America," citing the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Taha Hashemi, managing editor of Qom's conservative "Entekhab" daily, said on 13 September that one should determine who benefits from terrorism. He suggested that "the transfer of the center of world attention from the occupied territories to America was the objective pursued by the perpetrators of these attacks and explosions." An editorial in "Entekhab" on the same day, on the other hand, said that "We hope that the incidents in America are never going to be repeated, not only in America but in fact anywhere else in the world."
The hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami" said on 14 September: "The point is that whenever the American authorities find themselves in need of covering up their own failures, they try to use a number of Muslims as a scapegoat." Any military actions by Washington or statements on its part are merely propaganda, according to the daily.
Some Persian-language dailies -- "Aftab-i Yazd," "Hamshahri," "Hayat-i No," and "Noruz" -- published mainly factual reports about the events of 11 September, and their later commentaries generally called on the U.S. to determine the causes of terrorism. Other English-language newspapers, such as "Iran News" and "Iran Daily," for the most part stuck to factual reports about the incidents the day after they occurred. "Iran News," furthermore, went so far as to express sympathy for the victims and condemn the "atrocity." (Bill Samii)FRIDAY PRAYER LEADER CONDEMNS TERRORISM AND U.S.
The substitute Friday Prayer leader for Tehran, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani, said on 14 September that the terrorist attacks against America were "heart-rending...Everyone condemns, denounces and is saddened by it." He went on to state that Iran condemns the attacks. Then he said, "Israel and the usurper Zionist regime are the number one state terrorists. They are causing havoc like this.... America itself, the White House and the prevalent policy in the United States, most of which is in the hands of the Zionists -- they condone these crimes which are perpetrated here and there."
In fact, Emami-Kashani often discusses the U.S. and links it with Israel in his sermons. Emami-Kashani said on 17 August, "We can see what adverse situation America has created in the world.... What benefit will the resumption of ties with this world-devourer bring to our country?" On 27 April, Emami-Kashani declared that "The American government has become the mouthpiece of the Zionists." He urged Americans to "think about this cancerous and infected tumor [a disparaging reference to Israel]," and he urged Americans to put their government on trial. He warned, "The world will be mobilized against you, God willing."
Discussing the martyring of Palestinians in November 2000, Emami-Kashani said, "in their crimes they [the Israelis] enjoy America's support." He cited Holocaust rejectionist Roger Garaudy and said that Zionists dominate the U.S. economy, so "We can therefore conclude that the bullets which hit the people of Palestine are in fact bullets purchased by American dollars. The clenched fists which smash the chests of the Palestinian people are in fact the clenched fists of the American regime. May God curse and damn the White House and these criminals a thousand times." (Bill Samii)AMMAN WELCOMES ADVICE BUT NOT ACTION.
Visiting Iranian presidential adviser and member of parliament Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur advised the president of the Jordanian Senate, Zeid Rifai, on "how to coordinate Arab stances to support Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising)" when they met on 10 September, Amman's official news agency reported. He also urged Arab and Muslim countries to sever their diplomatic ties with Israel and to "review" their relations with the U.S., which he described as the "only country that supports Israel's racist policy," the "Jordan Times" reported on 13 September.
Advice of this sort apparently is welcome, but the attendance of the Iranian ambassador at a 7 September political rally in Amman was not as well-received. London's MBC television reported on 7 September that Amman summoned the ambassador to protest strongly his participation in the demonstration. A Jordanian source said that the ambassador's participation was Iranian interference in Jordanian internal affairs. This may be because the rally was organized by the Islamic Action Front, which is the political arm of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood. Amman did not object to the fact that one of the speakers at the event was Abd-al-Aziz al-Rantisi, a leading figure in Hamas. (Bill Samii)FINGER-POINTING BEGINS.
Philippine Immigration officials detained an Iranian named Sadeq Salimi because he was trying to enter the country on a stolen Filipino passport. They said he was behaving suspiciously and could not speak Tagalog, Manila's "Kabayan" reported on 15 September. Salimi's fiancee was holding a British passport with multiple Iranian entry and exit stamps. The "Pilipino Star Ngayon" reported on 16 September that Salimi had been questioned in September 2000 when maps of the U.S. embassy in Manila and in Cagayan de Oro City were found on his person. Three of the 12 areas marked on his Cagayan de Oro map were bombed in late 2000.
An Iranian national who is being held in a German prison twice tried to warn the U.S. intelligence community that such attacks would occur, Hanover's "Neue Presse" reported on 14 September. Local Justice Ministry officials confirmed that he had spoken with U.S. officials, according to Deutschlandfunk, Germany's government-funded radio. Two days after the attacks, Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) personnel questioned the Iranian in the presence of U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation officers. It became clear that the Iranian had not known anything about the attacks, did not know who the perpetrators were, and his warnings to U.S. authorities were limited to "vague claims about danger to world peace and the world order," according to Berlin's ddp news agency. This is not the first time that an Iranian overseas has tried to link Tehran with terrorist incidents. In the summer of 2000, for example, an asylum-seeker in Turkey claimed that Tehran was behind the destruction of Pan American flight 103.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's aide Gianni Baget Bozzo wrote in a 12 September commentary for Milan's "Il Giornale" that either Iran or the Taliban is responsible. Most of Bozzo's commentary was an anti-Islamic screed, claiming that "The persecution of Christians is essential to Islam, as is its hostility to the West.... the Muslim world will be celebrating over the humiliation which the courage of Muslims has inflicted on the Great Satan, as Iranian Imam Khomeini used to call the United States." (Bill Samii)MASOOD ASSASSINATION FELT IN TEHRAN.
Northern Alliance military leader Ahmad Shah Masood's death was announced by Iranian state radio on 14 August. Five days earlier, Masood spokesman Mohammad Yunis Kanuni told RFE/RL's Persian Service that his boss had been "the target of an assassination attempt organized by the Pakistan ISI [military intelligence] and Osama Bin Laden. It was a suicide attack." Kanuni added that the two Arab suicide bombers died in the attempt. Kanuni repeated, in a 10 September interview with Mashhad's Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Dari Service, that "the act was organized by the Pakistani intelligence."
Iranian state television had announced on 10 September that most of Afghanistan's neighbors plan to hold a meeting to discuss the immediate situation and the impact of the assassination attempt, but the meeting would not include Pakistan. Nevertheless, Masood's death will have a serious impact on the situation in Afghanistan and could allow the Taliban to gain control of the entire country. From the time of the Mujahedin conflict with Soviet invaders, Masood was recognized as one of the most charismatic commanders, as well as one of the most militarily adept, earning him the "Lion of Panjshir" nickname. In terms of personality, therefore, his loss could turn into a loss of confidence by his subordinates.
Observers had different predictions on the impact of Masood's leaving the scene. Sergei Kazyennov of the Institute for National Security and Strategic Research in Moscow predicted that "If he's dead, the war will go into a much more active phase." Kazyennov explained in an interview with the 12 September "Christian Science Monitor" that "The Taliban and [alleged international terrorist leader Osama] bin Laden will definitely be stimulated by this. Outside participants, such as Iran and Russia, will move to organize a big coalition against the Taliban because, for surrounding countries...the Taliban represents an enormous danger." Grigorii Bondarevsky of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow and a former adviser to the Soviet forces that occupied Afghanistan, had a quite different view. "If Ahmad Shah Masood is dead, the anti-Taliban alliance is also dead," Bondarevsky said. "Masood was the single figure capable of uniting the diverse opposition, and also obtaining some recognition for the alliance abroad."
On 13 September, Afghan President Burhannudin Rabbani appointed General Mohammad Fahimhan as the Northern Alliance's military leader. The same day, senior diplomats from Iran, Russia, India, and other countries hostile to the Taliban met in Dushanbe to discuss ways to continue the fight. An RFE/RL correspondent in the Tajik capital said the meeting was held behind closed doors, but officials said the diplomats discussed the possibility of providing military and humanitarian aid to Afghan opposition forces. It remains clear, however, that Tehran's involvement with Afghan politics will continue as long as the Taliban continues to support terrorism and narcotics smuggling, and their activities cause continuing refugee flows. (Bill Samii)TEHRAN BRACES FOR WAR.
Khorasan Province security chief Hussein Zare-Sefat said that Iran would defend its territory and would not let any damage be inflicted on its borders, IRNA reported on 16 September. His statement could be a reaction to Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen, who on 15 September issued a warning that could have been meant for Iran. Shaheen said: "If neighboring countries or regional countries, particularly Islamic countries, gave a positive response to American demands for military bases, it would spark up extraordinary danger. Similarly, if any neighboring country gave territorial way on airspace to the U.S. against our land, it would draw us into an imposed war." Moreover, Al-Jazirah Satellite Television reported on 14 September that the Taliban have deployed missiles along Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Iran.
Tehran claims to have taken other steps in anticipation of U.S. military action against the Taliban. The Interior Ministry announced that Iran would close its roughly 900 kilometers of border with Afghanistan for fear of a refugee influx after a military attack, and it described the deployment of security forces along the borders for the same reason. In the past, Tehran has ascribed the border closures and deployment of security forces to narcotics interdiction and to reducing criminality within its border provinces. (Bill Samii)WOMEN'S WEEK AND COOPERATIVES WEEK COINCIDE.
In a Women's Week speech to a mostly female audience on 10 September, President Mohammad Khatami noted the dilemmas that they face. He said that they play a key societal role, but their social growth requires participation in managerial fields. The low level of women's participation in management results from this dilemma, he said, which contributes to their having few opportunities to demonstrate their potential and talent. Khatami called for the revision of legal issues by judges to reflect current developments. A similar call came from parliamentarian Jamileh Kadivar the next day.
Zahra Shojai, Khatami's adviser on women's affairs, said that the failure to fully utilize women's potential and talent had resulted in some social problems, according to IRNA. Speaking at an event in Arak, Tehran parliamentarian Fatemeh Rakei said that the predominance of male culture had prevented the realization of women's aspiration to achieve their proper civil and social status. She went on to say women are viewed as second-class citizens, and she said that the inclusion of women in Khatami's cabinet was the least that could be done. But, she added, some members of the clerical community threatened to react against any such appointments.
In Tehran, female politicians object to the way women are treated professionally. In the provinces, reports about Cooperatives Week show that women are concerned with more mundane matters. A one-week exhibition of women's capabilities was held in Gorgan, Gulistan Province, and 12 out of the 24 pavilions featured the work of women's cooperatives. Saffieh Rahimzadeh, the director-general of the province's women cooperatives, told IRNA that the problem of women's unemployment would be solved if credits were allocated to the women's cooperatives.
Mansur Hejazi-Nia, the director-general of Sistan and Baluchistan Province's cooperatives department, said on 15 September that some 1,350 women are active in 160 women's cooperatives in the province. During his visit to Chah-Bahar's "Banuy-i Bahar" women's cooperative, he said that the cooperatives deal with agriculture, mines and industries, services, housing, credits, and consumption, according to IRNA. The cooperatives do not reach their full potential, he said, because "ethnic problems, and misunderstandings, have created obstacles for cooperatives, thus disrupting their extensive and effective activity." (Bill Samii)HIZBULLAH INTERNAL POLITICS REVEALED.
Mashhad Hizbullah leader Hamid Ostad spilled the beans on the internal politics of Iran's best-known hard-line pressure group in an interview with the 9 September "Noruz." According to Ostad, Hizbullah spokesman and managing-director of the weekly "Yalisarat al-Hussein" Abdolhamid Mohtasham is vying with Hizbullah leader Hussein Allah-Karam for control of the organization. Because the Mashhad Hizbullah is loyal to Allah-Karam, Mohtasham set it up to attack the venue featuring a performance by the comedian known as Iran's Mr. Bean (Hamid-Reza Mahisefat). Ostad and one of his companions were convicted for this incident on 4 September. In reality, according to Ostad, some security officials persuaded him to enter the concert hall, beat him up, and then put him in handcuffs and announced that they had caught him. Mohtasham is trying to create a "Greater Mashhad Ansar-i Hizbullah," Ostad said, but Ostad explained that he and his followers are in almost daily contact with Allah-Karam. (Bill Samii)