Saturday, February 27, 2010

Khamenei to Support Hezbollah Despite of Ezzedin's Case

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Iran’s Leader Ali Khamenei stated: "Iran will continue to support Hezbollah despite the case of Salah Ezzedin", and despite Internal Economic Problems. An emergency meeting was held in the Leader Ali Khamenei's bureau, at the firstweek of Jan. 2010, on a demand of Hezbollah leader Nassrallah. The meeting was held after few delays and an urgent demand from Nassrallah, who complained that Iran is not assisting its strategic ally in its economic crises. The background for the demand is that Hezbollah had incurred huge financial losses because of the bankruptcy of Lebanese businessperson, Salah Ezzedin, a fact that became known few months ago. The meeting's (that was summoned by a request of the Intelligence minister) purpose was to evaluate Iran's policy and framework as well as safeguard regarding the future financial assistance to Hezbollah. The meeting was attended by the intelligence minister Khidar Mahdavi; a representative of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Quds Force commander, Hassan Mahdvi; the head of the Iranian Shahid Foundation(*) Hussein Dehqan; and Mahdi Ali Kanbari, who is in charge of the Iranian Shahid Foundation's international relations.

At the meeting, Khamenei ordered the participants to thoroughly investigate the embarrassing loss of money that had come from Iranian funding, mostly allocated through the Shahid Foundation. The loss is estimated at approximately 700 million USD. The money was to have been channeled to several areas, including the funding of Hezbollah's routine activities, renting and buying houses and warehouses forHezbollah's military activity in southern Lebanon. It was also to have covered the cost of the compensation paid to the families of the Shahids in the Lebanon War in 2006 and to the Bekaa residents who incurred damage to their property, were wounded, or lost members of their family. Khamenei ordered the participants to compile a report for him and submit it to his bureau within 14 days. The report is to include explanations for what had happened,especially for the two following issues. The first is why the money Iran transferred to Hezbollah was invested in risky channels, such as the businessman Salah Ezzedin,without lran's knowledge or involvement. The second is why the private money of senior Hezbollah and Iranian officials in Lebanon was put into the same basket as money coming from Iran. (Note: At the meeting, Khamenei hinted that senior Hezbollah officials were involved in corruption, but did not say this outright.However, he stressed that he believed in the integrity of senior Hezbollah officials despite the reports on the casein the Arab media).

As previously mentioned, the meeting was held by a request of the Intelligence Minister after Nassrallah's demand. The Intelligence Minister demanded that the responsibility to the strategic connection with Hezbollah, will be returned to his office. He said that the IRGC officers that gradually took over the intelligence ministry ties with the organization do not tit to run a sensitive military and political connection like this. However, the Leader decided that the IRGC would be the body which keeps on running the connection with Hezbollah. Furthermore, at the meeting, Khamenei decided that the organization would get another 100 Million dollars, in several payments, despite what he referred to as "the embarrassing case", which demanded a thorough investigation of Hezbollah. He said that Iran would continue to support the organization financially, operationally and morally. Moreover, Khamenei said that despite the economic difficulties with which Iran was contending because of the damage caused by the sanctions and the possibility of further sanctions, extra money (added to the 100 millions) would be added to Hezbollah‘s budget, that will enable the organization go on working on its"holly mission in Iran's name". Khamenei said, "Iran will maintain its financial support of the resistance, even at the cost to its citizens."

However, Khamenei instructed that at this stage, and until the case of Salah Ezzedin became clear, Iran's financial support of Hezbollah will be closely monitored. As part of this monitoring, in the coming days, an organized monitoring plan would be submitted to him written by a special financial team, directly subordinate to his bureau. The team would be responsible for Hezbollah's budget. Following are the main points of the monitoring plan:

A. Hassan Mahdvi will be the only person responsible on Hezbollah's behalf for transferring money from Iran to Hezbollah and for continuing to invest the money in Lebanon whenever necessary.
B. Mahdvi will be responsible for remaining in direct contact with representatives of the Iranian foundations directly subordinate to Khamenei's bureau (including the Shahid Foundation) and to update them on every financial activity made with the money transferred from Iran (such as investing the money in commercial channels).
C. Every quarter, Mahdvi is to submit a financial report to Iran, summarizing Hezbollah's expenses, its various investments, and financial reserves and whenever possible, predict its future expenses.
D. Towards the end of each year, there is to be an organized meeting in Khamenei's bureau, in which Mahdvi will present reports that sum up Hezbollah's expenses over the year, any financial investments made and expenses to be made in the course of the following year.
E. Iran retains the right to send representatives on its behalf to the assistance foundations and/or senior IRGC officers involved in funding Hezbollah for ad hoc checks and for monitoring the routine funding of Hezbo1lah's activities.

(*) The Shahid Foundation supports terror organizations whose activities serve the interests of Iran's regime. Hamas and Hezbollah are the two key bodies supported by the Shahid Foundation. In October 2007, the Shahid Foundation was designated by the U,S. Treasury. As part of the designation, the Foundation's Lebanon branches and the Goodwill Charitable Organization in the U.S. were also designated.Attachment: Salah Ezzedin According to recent Arab media reports, Hezbollah has suffered losses estimated at about 700 million USD, as a result of the bankruptcy of the Lebanese businessman Salah Ezzadin, who had invested the organizations money in different financial channels. He organized pilgrimages to Mecca, ran a major Beirut publishing house and a children’s television station, held major investments in east European oil and iron conglomerates, and - much more to the point- was a close personal friend of very senior leaders of the Hezbollah. Mr Ezzedine turns out to be an "Abu Madoff", declaring himself bankrupt, after promising his trusting investors an astonishing 40 percent interest on their deposits - which, according to judicial officials in Lebanon, he eventually could not pay.

It now appears that Mr Ezzedine‘s tinancial collapse became inevitable after he wrotea $200,000 cheque to Hussein Haj Hassan, one of Nasrallah‘s closest political advisers and a Hezbollah member of parliament. The cheque bounced. The response to this within Hezbollah's bunkers can only be imagined. Many Muslims believe that bank interest is un-Islamic, which is why the Lebanese Shia put their money in businesses run by Salah Ezzedine, who was known as a "pious" man - an optional extra for all friends of the Hezbollah - and whose Haj pilgrimages had become an essential element of that fixed part of the Muslim calendar in Lebanon. Ezzadin, who acted as the investment manager of I l thousand citizens for a high monthly interest, managed to arrange his own and his family’s escape out of Lebanon.However, he secretly returned alone, while his family remained abroad, awaiting developments. Hezbollah's security apparatus, in cooperation with the Communication Ministry and with the help of databases, succeeded in locating him in the southern neighborhood, and at the end of the process he was detained, questioned,and then handed over to the Lebanese legal system.