by David Wolchover, Barrister and author of Culprits of Lockerbie
Not long after Hassan Rouhani became president of Iran, Benjamin Netanyahu grimly described him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Islamic Republic’s so-called “moderate” president may have gently smiled his way to a milestone deal over his country’s nuclear development programme and a warm welcome in European capitals, but Israel’s premier was spot on.
Under Rouhani’s administration, a staggering 2,000 people have been executed, mainly by the “traditional” method of slow hanging. For all his cherubic twinkling, Rouhani is as bloodthirsty a customer as the very cruellest of his fellow clerics.
Moreover, his career as a purveyor of death goes way back. In 2013, by simply drawing together biographical details in the public domain, I explained why he was probably implicated in the worst atrocity ever perpetrated in the UK – the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.
Now, however, that which was mere supposition has become hard fact, avowed to me by an informant in circumstances lending credence to the individual’s claim to be speaking on behalf of Israeli intelligence. But why do they not come right out with it if they know? Very simply, they are shy of proclaiming officially what they know privately. I’ll come to that.
But first, forget Libya and the two indicted Libyans Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah and Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi. The case against them was palpable nonsense, cobbled together unconvincingly for reasons of state still only half understood. However, before the US government changed course and blamed Libya, it had already accurately identified the true culprits. Lockerbie was retaliation for Iran Air 655, a packed Airbus negligently shot down by an American warship in the Gulf on 4 July 1988, in the mistaken belief it was a hostile warplane.
Selected journalists were briefed about a trawl of National Security Agency telecom intercepts, which furnished clear proof that Iran’s powerful interior minister, Hojatislam Mohtashami-Pur, had contracted Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command to blow up an American airliner in revenge for IA 655. The PFLP-GC needed the money and had expertise in planting bombs on passenger planes and it is almost certain the device that destroyed Pan Am 103 was the gang’s own barometric pressure type employed by them repeatedly over many years.
Significantly, the NSA intercepts were corroborated and enlarged upon by parallel Israeli intelligence obtained by secreting agents into the heart of terrorist groups. Citing intelligence from such infiltration, my informant asserted the Iranians had not simply been the paymasters but had lent decisive logistical aid. It is certain, contrary to the Crown’s case, that the Lockerbie bomb was planted inside Heathrow’s “interline” shed in the portable luggage receptacle, which in due course was loaded on board the 747.
Records later showed that during the narrow window of opportunity the terrorists had, an IranAir cargo plane was parked not 200 yards from the shed, and departed for Tehran just minutes after the window closed.
In my online treatise Culprits of Lockerbie, I surmised that a terrorist flew in on the cargo jet with the bomb and, masquerading as a baggage handler, placed it in the receptacle. He then immediately flew out on the same plane.
My informant agreed and added that the “porter” was the PFLP-GC’s expert in airport and airline security, Marwad Bushnaq, Ahmed Jibril’s nephew, nom de guerre Abu A’Ali.
Even before Lockerbie, Israel discovered Heathrow was a likely target and warned MI6, but the warning was spurned because of a major row between British and Israeli intelligence services.
Where does Hassan Rouhani fit into this?
Published details about him show three points of particular interest, the first that Rouhani held senior executive positions in intelligence, security and special operations and was on the Supreme Defence Council. In 1989, he was offered the job of minister of intelligence, though he opted instead to become new supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s plenipotentiary on the Supreme National Security Council and its first secretary.
Point two: Mohtashami-Pur was deeply antagonistic to the genuinely more moderate future president, Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani. In June 1988, mounting opposition to the war with Iraq led the original supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, to charge Rafsanjani with bringing hostilities to an end. With Rafsanjani eclipsing the extremist Mohtashami, the destruction of the Airbus on 4 July presented the perfect opportunity to spike his opponent’s rising influence.
Three: Rouhani had a very special motive to conspire with Mohtashami in their shared opposition to Rafsanjani. As so often in political intrigue, the key to understanding alliances often lies rooted in personal vendetta. In 1980, Rouhani had joined the Supervisory Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Authority. Rafsanjani was chief executive and Rouhani was deeply critical of the policy of televising foreign – un-Islamic – content. By 1983, Rouhani was council chair and engineered a revolt against Rafsanjani, triumphantly replacing him at the helm. But Rafsanjani had Khomeini reinstate him, and the egg on Rouhani’s face (for once devoid of smiles) doubtless sowed the seeds of deep and lasting enmity.
We know from informal briefings by US and Israeli intelligence after Lockerbie that the Mohtashami/Jibril deal was sealed in the interior minister’s Tehran office in late August 1988. There was much more. Two senior Iranian officials attended the meeting with Mohtashami. One, Mehdi Karroubi, custodian and treasurer of the Martyr’s Fund, would fund the multimillion-dollar bounty. The other didn’t say much but smiled a lot and was obviously more than a neutral observer. He was none other than our cherubic friend, Supreme Defence Council member Hassan Rouhani.
Why has Israel never breathed a word of this publicly? Since 1989, the United States has turned away from accusing Iran, will hardly do so now and has anyway invested too much in the story of Libyan guilt to relent after all this time. Israel for its part dare not break ranks publicly with its benefactor but, the informant asserted, hoped that a leaked but “plausibly deniable” narrative would do enough damage to the prospect of a nuclear accord without jeopardising relations with US intelligence.
Of course, Bibi could well have ordered the whole thing to be invented to condemn Iran, with your writer as his useful idiot. Who knows?